Airbus is heading into an active 2011 as the company targets key milestones that include the startup of final assembly for its new-generation A350 XWB jetliner, the initiation of A400M military airlifter series production, the beginning of deliveries for A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports, and a possible decision on further ramp-ups in the A320 Family’s production rate.
Speaking to journalists at the annual New Year’s press conference in Toulouse, France, on January 17, president and CEO Tom Enders said Airbus will build on another year of strong results in 2010, during which it logged new orders for 644 jetliners.
Airbus’ commercial backlog rose to 3,552 aircraft at year-end, bolstered by the 2010 bookings for 452 A320 Family aircraft, 90 A330/A340s, 70 A350s and 32 A380s. In addition, the Airbus Military division logged orders last year for 15 CN235 and six C295 tactical transports – bringing its backlog to 247 aircraft.
Enders said the A350 XWB jetliner is in a strong commercial position after two strategic wins during 2010 with United Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways – which were supplemented with orders from Air China and TAM-Linhas Aereas, bringing total bookings to 583 from 36 customers. Following the startup of component and sub-subsystem manufacturing last year, A350 XWB final assembly is scheduled to start in late 2011 at a state-of-the-art facility in Toulouse.
The A400M program made significant progress in 2010, setting the stage for an imminent launch of series production with this large military transport. Four test aircraft have logged a combined total of more than 1,000 flight hours, and civil certification of the A400M is planned before the end of 2011.
Enders added that 2011 will be an important year for the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), which was developed as a new-generation military aerial refueling platform. Preparations for deliveries of Australia’s first two A330 MRTTs are in their final phase, to be followed by the handover of initial aircraft to two other customers in 2011: the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia. The A330 MRTT also is competing to recapitalize the U.S. Air Force’s aerial refueling fleet, with a decision expected in the coming months.
Airbus decided in 2010 to ramp up its A320 Family output to a new tempo of 36 monthly, and this rate was achieved at year-end, Enders said. Airbus intends to reach a tempo of 40 per month in the first quarter of 2012, and is investigating even higher production rates of 42, or even 44 monthly, he explained.
Significant improvements in A380 production were achieved last year, with the rate for this very large jetliner increasing to more than two per month in 2011 on its way to three monthly in 2012. Two new operators will be added in 2011 when Korean Air and China Southern Airlines receive their initial A380s.
Enders said Airbus anticipates delivering from 520 to 530 commercial jetliner deliveries in 2011, along with the delivery of more than 20 military aircraft this year.