The acceleration of production of A220 aircraft is finally materializing at Airbus. However, there is still a lot of work to do to bring this program out of the red within two years: the aircraft manufacturer must double the current rate.
“It will be very difficult,” said Richard Aboulafia, general manager of the AeroDynamics firm. The reality is that they depend on their suppliers. There are many other programs [like the A320 family] which have very ambitious growth targets. We will have to see what suppliers will prioritize, particularly among engine manufacturers. »
The assembly lines in Mirabel, in the Laurentians, and Mobile, in Alabama, were particularly able to step on the accelerator at the end of December, where 11 aircraft were delivered.
“What made this result [of 2023] possible is the installation of a pre-assembly line [in Mirabel] which is gaining maturity,” said the head of the Airbus commercial division, Christian Scherer, by videoconference with the media.
Still in deficit, the A220 – 25% owned by the Quebec state – will be able to start being profitable once it is possible to produce 14 aircraft per month in Mirabel and Mobile, says Airbus. Even though it only has two years left to achieve this objective, the European multinational is not deviating from its target.
“Are we [hopeful] to reach a cadence of 14? The answer is yes,” Scherer said, without offering further details.
Any delay risks having consequences for Quebec taxpayers, who have so far injected 1.7 billion into this program developed by Bombardier. By agreeing to reinject 380 million in 2022, Quebec was able to postpone until 2030 the moment when Airbus would buy back its stake in the A220. The longer the profits are delayed, the more the amount obtained by the State risks being reduced.
To reduce the time spent on each device on its assembly lines, the European giant inaugurated a pre-assembly line in Mirabel in 2022. This space is used in particular to install electrical wiring, floors and other modules in the fuselages which are then found on the assembly lines.
Despite improvements in the supply chain, tensions are still present, according to Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury. The multinational has more than 18,000 suppliers around the world. Despite the progress made last year, the challenge remains “just as big in 2024” for the A220, recognizes Airbus Canada’s head of communications, Annabelle Duchesne.
In the order book there are 600 aircraft to be delivered. Airlines interested in purchasing the A220 and other single-aisle aircraft from Airbus must be patient. Delivery slots are full until 2029.
This did not prevent Bombardier’s former C Series from ending 2023 on a good note with 65 new contracts during the last month of the year. The order for 40 aircraft from German carrier Lufthansa was widely publicized, but Airbus sold 11 examples of the A220 to two unnamed customers.
On December 29, Delta Air Lines also purchased 14 additional A220-300s. This will increase the number of aircraft that will ultimately be in the fleet of this important American company to 145.