Airbus ramping up Tianjin production to meet demand

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am

China will be key to growth for Airbus in the Asia-Pacific region as a boom in mainland air travel and rising sales of its large business aircraft fuelled prospects for the European aircraft manufacturer, said an Airbus executive yesterday.

Christopher Emerson, senior vice-president and head of product strategy and market forecasts at Airbus, said the firm 'was on target to ramp up' production of its A319 and A320 passenger aircraft in Tianjin.

Airbus China spokesman Robin Tao said 36 aircraft would be delivered from the Tianjin assembly plant this year, up from 26 in 2010 and just 11 when the facility opened in 2009. Tao added the aircraft made in Tianjin would be delivered to a raft of mainland carriers including Shenzhen Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines.

Emerson gave no estimates for future Airbus sales in China, but said a total of 8,560 new passenger and freighter aircraft, worth US$1.2 trillion, would be delivered from all manufacturers in the Asia-Pacific region over the next 20 years. This comprised 5,200 single-aisle airplanes similar to the A320 or Boeing 737, plus 2,580 twin-aisle aircraft, such as the Airbus A330 and 780 and very large aircraft such as the A380.

Emerson said the Airbus forecasts took into account the impact of high-speed rail development on aviation as well as indigenously made aircraft such as the Comac C919.

Airbus spokesman Sean Lee confirmed China Southern would take delivery of the first of five A380s on order 'in the second half of this year'.

Indicating the importance of China, the Airbus forecasts showed a strong increase in passenger travel to and from mainland cities compared with other Asian rivals. In volume terms, expressed as revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), there were just three mainland cities in 2009 of more than five million RPK. But this would rise to six cities by 2029. Similarly the number of cities with an RPK of between one and five billion would climb to 21, up from nine in 2009.

This growth would fuel expansion of the air fleets. Emerson said the Asia-Pacific region would account for 33 per cent of all passenger aircraft deliveries over the next 20 years, ahead of Europe and North America which would each account for 23 per cent of deliveries. By comparison, the Asia-Pacific accounted for 26 per cent of deliveries between 1990 and 2009, behind both Europe and North America. Air traffic in the Asia-Pacific was also set to grow by 5.8 per cent a year between 2010 and 2029, compared with a global annual increase of 4.8 per cent.

Against this background, Airbus expanded its focus on the mainland business jet market after inking a deal with Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering for the firm to become an approved outfitter of executive jets such as the A318 Elite and the Airbus Corporate Jet.

China is the fastest-growing market for business jets for Airbus, said Francois Chagelle, vice-president for executive and private aviation. The plane maker has orders for 20 corporate jets of which eight would be in operation by the end of this month and four were being equipped and outfitted.

Growth trajectory

Aircraft orders are increasing as more mainlanders travel

The Tianjin assembly plant delivered 26 aircraft in 2010 but this year will produce this many planes: 36