Rate expectations

Airbus has opened a fourth A320 production line in Hamburg featuring two seven-axis robots and mobile tooling platforms. Airbus

Airbus says it is getting back on track with A320 Family production rates. In the first half of 2018, the company delivered 239 examples of the aircraft (consisting of 129 A320ceos and 110 A320neos), and during a media event in London early in July, Airbus Commercial Aircraft President Guillaume Faury said both May and June saw Airbus deliver more A320neos than A320ceos for the first time.

Faury acknowledged “a very difficult situation” with A320neo deliveries due to supply issues with Pratt & Whitney PW110GJM geared-turbofan engines. As reported by AIR International earlier this year (see May, p92), P&W had to overcome a knife-edge seal problem in the engine’s highpressure compressor. An emergency airworthiness directive was issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency, leading to PW1100G-JMs returning to P&W for rework.

The consequence has been newly built aircraft have been parked as gliders in Toulouse after leaving the production line while they await engines. There were just over 100 such aircraft parked at the airfield at the end of May, according to Faury. During the briefing, he said: “We are late in deliveries compared to the commitment to our customers.

We are working very hard to get the aircraft on time as much as possible. The plan is to recover by the end of this year and be back on track as soon as we can.”

Faury said it was said it was “encouraging” to see these difficulties easing. The number of gliders was down to 86 by the end of June, he said, adding that a “backloaded recovery plan” is expected to see an upturn in deliveries in the second half of the year.

Airbus is still planning a large ramp up in A320 production from 50 to 63 aircraft a month to take place in 2019 and is studying further rate rises for the early 2020s.

Teal Group Vice-President Analysis Richard Aboulafia cautioned to AIR International that P&W has a challenge “to go from almost nothing to 1,000+ [engines] per year” to meet the planned rate of more than 60 A320s per month, “especially when there are many different versions of that engine”.

Airbus is modernising production and in June opened a fourth assembly line at its Hamburg facility. This features a high level of automation, with two seven-axis robots able to drill almost 80% of holes on the upper fuselage. There are also mobile tooling platforms that navigate autonomously with laser trackers, designed to speed up assembly and hit the ramp-up targets. Mark Broadbent