HAMBURG — Tom Williams, Chief Operating Officer of Airbus, kicked off the company’s Innovation Days 2016 with several program updates. During his presentation, Williams remarked that aircraft deliveries have doubled in the last decade, and that Airbus is currently experiencing a 6% growth year over year.
The COO also highlighted that the company is enjoying a sound backlog, equivalent to 8 years at the current aircraft production rate, with over 400 operators worldwide.
Williams assured that Airbus remains firm in its goal to deliver 605 aircraft this year, despite the issues with external OEMs such as Pratt & Whitney (and its PW1000G power plant for the A320neo) and Zodiac (for the cabin fittings for the A350XWB), which have caused delays in the deliveries.
Airbus A320: A Resounding Success
Klaus Roewe, head of the A320 family aircraft program, stressed the resounding success of the A320neo. “In the first year, we sold over 1,000 aircraft, and five years later we have 4,515 firm orders from 82 customers, equivalent to a 60% market share.”
During the program update, Roewe stated that the initial results of the A320neo have been positive, achieving each objective, “including 15% reduced fuel burn, +5,000 nm, confirmed lower noise margin of -19db compared to Ch. 4, -50% NOx emissions, -15% CO2 emissions, shorter time to climb, and improved payload plus it’s 150kg lighter.” Deliveries in 2016 will be 50% ceo and 50% neo variants.
The A320neo shares a 95% commonality with its predecessor, the A320ceo. So far, six aircraft have been delivered (two to Lufthansa and four to IndiGo), which have logged about 2,200 revenue flight hours since the Entry Into Service. Teething issues -the startup time of the PW1100G engines and FADEC faults- are expected to be solved by this summer. So far, over two dozen engineless neos are waiting for the PW engines.
Meanwhile, the current flight test campaign is evolving as expected, with two Airbus A321-powered by CFM and PW engines- and two CFM-equipped A320neo. In the latter, 800 flight hours and 940 flights have been logged to date, and proposed fuel burn and range have been achieved.
Roewe highlighted that the production of the A320neo will benefit from “new processes, new tooling, machines, and skills management to boost production.” The executive announced plans to add a fourth final assembly line in Hamburg for single-aisle, besides a cabin furnishing station in Toulouse (thus avoiding ferry flights to Hamburg). Also, the company will add a new pulse line in Broughton for the production of wings.
The leveraging of new technologies, new inspection techniques–which include the use of drones for the external inspections of aircraft and an efficient mapping supplier, along with the use of tracking software in mobile devices–Airbus is readying its production ramp up of the A320 family aircraft, expected to reach a rate of 60 aircraft per month in 2019.
“Raising Production of A320neo to 60/month is enough for now. We’ve made studies to go higher, but no investment” Roewe said.
2016: A Demanding and Challenging Year for Airbus
Didier Evrard, Executive Vice President Programs gave an overall update of the programs. He stressed that 2016 is “a challenging year for all of us industrially for ramping up of programs. This is a question of speed and mindset for our organization and our supply chain.”
With regards to the A350 program, Airbus remains committed to deliver 50 aircraft this year, doubling the number of aircraft delivered to date (24). So far, only nine aircraft were delivered in 2016, including new operators such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
To date, over 40 A350-900s are in different completion stages at the Final Assembly Line in Toulouse. The Ultra-Long-Range (ULR) variant of the A350-900, to be delivered to Singapore Airlines, will take place in 2018.
Evrard acknowledged that the proposed target is ambitious, but he stated that, “The ramp up is there now. We know that there are challenges to meet the target, as the beginning of the year was disturbed by the lack of cabin equipment availability.”
In order to achieve the proposed goal, Airbus is implementing a “Summer Plan,” intended to “reach much higher level of throughput for 2nd half this year.” The plan comprises of opening an additional station 20 for cabin install and leveraging resources from the A330ceo as its line draws down, and thus catching up with the production. “The target remains absolutely achievable, but it will require a high level of effort.” Evrard said.
Since EIS, the A350-900 has opened 28 new destinations, transported over 2 million passengers and the fleet has logged 8,500+ flight cycles averaging 12+ hours of use.
In terms of reliability, the A350 reached an operational reliability of 97.8% in the last three months, with improving numbers as improvements on the A350 OPS Center and accelerated spare deployment are being implemented, thus reducing the Time to Get Fixed (TTGF).
The A350-1000 variant is on track for its first flight, planned later this Fall with deliveries commencing in the second half of 2017. Currently, all three aircraft are in the Final Assembly Line, the first (MSN 50) with a new six-wheel landing boogie fitted and another (MSN 59) is having the new RR Trent XWB-97 engines installed.
Meanwhile, the transition to the A330neo is also on track with the suppliers and sub-assemblies produced by Airbus. The first aircraft will assembled in the last quarter of 2016, with its first flight scheduled to take place in the first half of 2017. Evrard highlighted that the new A330neo Airspace cabin will offer an A350 cabin style with new fittings, which will allow to add 10 additional seats with Space Flex/Smart Lavatory options.
The new Beluga, based on the A330 platform, was also discussed. Evrard announced that the first flight is expected to take place in 2019, commenting that the aircraft “is the Airbus laboratory.”
The A380 status was also presented. Evrard commented that the industrial break-even for the program was reached the last year, while admitting that the company is having “challenges in finding operators with a small fleet who are concerned with risk.”
Nevertheless, Airbus continues adding incremental improvements to the double-decker, by introducing a new upper deck sidewall lining, which may add up to 10 new business class seats and a potential revenue of 6+ million dollars in annual revenue for operators.
New Technologies in Place
Ralph Maurer, Head of the A320 family aircraft paint shop, highlighted the new painting technologies aimed to save weight (up to 3 kilograms). New decoration methods for tail livery uses technology printing directly on the Vertical Tail Plane (VTP), with Thomas Cook Airlines as the launch customer.
Peter Sander, Head of Engineering, Technologies and Concepts, wrapped up the first day, presenting the 3D printing process, also called Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM), offering a completely new approach to the production of aircraft in the future. The combination of ALM and a bionic design will achieve up to 55% in weight saving, besides speeding up development.