MIAMI — Airbus will raise production rates of its popular A320 family narrow-body jet to 46 per month by the second quarter of 2016. The move reflects continued strength in the single-aisle aircraft market.
The company announced the decision to increase production on Wednesday. Before reaching the 46 jet mark, the European aerospace firm will reach an intermediate level of 44 airplanes per month in the first quarter of 2016. It currently produces 42 jets per month across three assembly sites located in China, France, and Germany.
A fourth plant, currently under construction in Mobile, Alabama in the US, is expected to come online in 2016. Airbus says the plant will contribute two airplanes per month through its first year, before reaching its four per month target in 2017. The company’s Hamburg and Toulouse plants will both experience temporary surges of one additional aircraft per month in 2016 to 24 and 16 respectively, before dropping back to current levels in 2017 as Mobile reaches full speed.
Responding to continued orders and success the company has already been driving up production levels since 2010, when it was making 36 airplanes per month. It reached the current 42 in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Related, the uptick in production reflects a desire to produce and push out existing current generation A320 orders before its next generation A320neo program enters full swing by late 2015. The company maintains an existing backlog of over 4,200 airplanes split between the two versions, over half of which are neos.
It also reflects continued confidence in the single-aisle airplane market, which Airbus has been dominating. The A320neo has captured 60% of the market, according to Airbus, for a total of 2,610 orders to date. The company also recently forecasted a need for 10,000 jets in the coming decades, the majority of which will be single-aisle narrowbodys.
Its primary competition has been Boeing’s 737, which has likewise seen production rates on the rise as backlogs linger and Airbus keeps the pressure on. Boeing recently began producing the 737 at 42 jets per month, an impressive feat given it only has one assembly plant for the airplane, located in Renton, Washington. It will eventually crank out 47 737s per month in 2017, up from 31 in 2010.
At around the same time the Renton factory hits its 47/month jet stride in 2017, Boeing’s evolutionary 737 MAX is expected to enter service. The airplane, a direct response to Airbus’ NEO program, recently locked in orders from Thai budget carrier Nok Air, Singapore’s Silk Air, and Indian carrier Jet Airways, but still lags far behind the A320 in total order count with just under 1,900.
The company also produces a militarized version of the jet, the P-8, at the same facility. Janes Defense reported on Tuesday that the airplane will begin full-rate production at a rate of sixteen frames for year through 2019.