Written by: María Corina Roldán and Enrique Perrella
MIAMI – The first Airbus wide-body completion and delivery centre outside Europe has been inaugurated in Tianjin, China, complementing an already broad and worldwide footprint with assembly lines in Toulouse, Hamburg and Mobile.
The new completion center is built at the same location of the manufacturer’s current Tianjin assembly line for single-aisle A319 and A320 aircraft. With this location, Airbus will be catering the largest A330 customers in the world.
The construction of this Completion and Delivery Centre (C&DC) began in March 2016 with a ground-breaking ceremony hosted by Tianjin’s Vice-Mayor, Duan Chunhua, National Development and Reform Commission Vice-Minister, Lin Nianxiu, Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Bregier and Aviation Industry Corporation of China president Lin Zuoming.
The project is part of a joint venture between Airbus, Tianjin Free Trade Zone, and Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
This A330 C&DC will host cabin installation, aircraft painting, and production flight test activities, as well as customer flight acceptance and aircraft deliveries.
According to a note released by Airbus, over 150 Chinese Airbus C&DC staff members were trained in Toulouse to guarantee full compatibility with the manufacturer’s guidelines at the new China-based site. It is expected to see a further expansion of 250 workers that will strengthen this new operations center in China.
“The inauguration of our A330 C&DC in Tianjin, together with the first of many deliveries, marks a new milestone for Airbus’ international footprint and underlines the strong spirit of cooperation with our Chinese partners,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus COO and President of Commercial Aircraft.
“Wide-body aircraft completed in China is an Airbus and an industry first, which demonstrates our mutual commitment to a strong and growing Chinese aviation sector.”
Empty Cabins, Unpainted Aircraft transformed
The US$240 million center will receive empty, unpainted A330 aircraft previously assembled in France, which will then be transformed into final products as ordered by the customers.
The C&DC features a paint shop, a weighing hangar, and one main hangar with three aircraft positions, covering an area of 16,800m2. Its current capacity is set to deliver two aircraft per month by early 2019.
The inaugural ceremony was paired with an official delivery of the first European and Chinese-made A330 to Tianjin Airlines. The aircraft was assembled and equipped in Toulouse by Chinese and European staff and is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines. The airliner is equipped with 260 seats in a two-class configuration.
Forecasting the Chinese Market
According to Airbus, the A330-200/300 is the most popular wide-body aircraft in China. The manufacturer reports that there are about 200 A330s that are currently operated by nine Chinese airlines.
Airbus claims that it has a strong 61% market share in the long-haul sector in the country.
According to Eric Chen, President at Airbus China, the country’s airlines will need about 6,000 airliners over the next two decades, specifically for large carriers as a result of the increasing passenger traffic in China, where an expansion of 14% per year is forecasted.
Manufacturing competition in the region is also alive, with Chinese manufacturer COMAC launching its medium-haul C919, and Boeing opening up a new 737 assembly next year.
By the end of August 2017, the in-service Airbus fleet with Chinese carriers includes 1,484 aircraft, of which 1,282 belong to the A320 family, and 202 to the A330 family. To date, the A330 family has 1,700 orders.