Boosting rates

The first A321neo for low-cost carrier Primera Air, OY-PAA (msn 8145), departs Hamburg. Airbus is assessing the potential of ramping up A320 production to up to 70 jets a year.

Airbus is considering further increasing A320 family production rates. The European manufacturer currently turns out around 55 jets a month from its four final assembly lines for the aircraft in Toulouse, Hamburg, Tianjin and Mobile. It has committed to raising output to 60 aircraft per month in 2019, but in its Q1 earnings the company said a feasibility study is underway assessing an increase to 70 a month. Some reports have suggested an interim rate rise to around 63 a month in the 2019– 2020 timeframe is also under review. Boeing, too, intends to hike output of its rival 737, which is built at a rate of 47 a month. The company plans to increase production to 52 a month this year, before ramping-up again to 57 a month in 2019.

The supply chain’s ability to handle further rate rises is a major consideration. Delivery delays of CFM International LEAP engines and technical problems with Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1100G turbofans have led to the accumulation of parked, engineless A320neos in Toulouse. Philippe Petitcolin, Chief Executive of CFM shareholder Safran, recently questioned whether the supply chain can meet further major rate rises in the short term, saying: “We are not in a position to commit ourselves to higher volumes’.

However, the bulging orders backlogs for single-aisles (more than 6,000 A320-family aircraft and more than 4,600 737-family jets by early May) is likely to mean both manufacturers will continue to seek ways to further maximise output to boost revenues.

Mark Broadbent