On November 6, 2019, Airbus announced that it has signed a “Memorandum of Understanding on the Further Development of Industrial Cooperation” with China.
Outlined in the MoU is Airbus’ plan to expand its Tianjin facility by increasing the production rate of A320 series aircraft as well as by adding the capability to complete and deliver A350s.
Airbus’ Increasing Presence in Tianjin
With China being one of the fastest growing markets for air travel – and with Airbus having a large number of customers in the region – the company opened an Airbus A320 family final assembly line (FAL) in Tianjin back in 2008.
In 2017, an Airbus A330 Completion and Delivery Center (C&DC) started operations at the same site as well.
The new MoU, signed by He Lifeng, Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China and Guillaume Faury, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus outlines the future expansion plans of Airbus at its Tianjin facility. The latter commented that:
We attach great importance to our long-term strategic partnership with China and its aviation industry. Airbus is committed to serving this growth sector with the diverse portfolio it has to offer and we are committed to working with our Chinese partners to shape the future of the industry.
Considering the importance of the new plans, Xi Jinping, the President of China and Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, were present at the signing as well.
Airbus’ plans at the Tianjin facility include:
- Increasing the production rate of A320 series aircraft up to six a month by the end of this year
- Expanding capabilities of its C&DC to include A350 aircraft by the second half of 2020
The increased production rate of A320 series – which will be double of that of the facility’s original plan – will help Airbus achieve its goal of producing 63 such aircraft per month globally in 2021.
The airframer also assembles the type in Toulouse (France), Hamburg (Germany), and Mobile (United States).
Adding A350 capabilities to the C&DC will allow Airbus to get the aircraft fitted with cabins as well as painted in China. It will also allow for the A350s to go through production flight testing as well as customer acceptance flights and delivery in Tianjin. Airbus plans to deliver the first A350 finished in China by 2021.
Currently, only Airbus’ main Toulouse production facility has the capability.
With China being one of the largest air travel markets in the world – and still growing – expanding its presence in Tianjin seems like a natural next step for Airbus in the country.
Since opening the A320 series final assembly line in 2008, Airbus delivered about 450 aircraft made in China to both Chinese customers as well as customers from other countries in the region.
Considering that Airbus forecasts that more than 7,500 new aircraft will be required in China over the next 20 years, chances are we might see further expansion in Tianjin later on as well.
First, however, Airbus will have to increase the A320 series production rate and add the A350 delivery capability while maintaining the highest possible quality standards.