Aviation: Airbus' record year
Airbus had delivered 800 commercial airliners to 93 customers by the end of 2018, a record for the firm and 11% up on its previous highest total of 718 in 2017. Throughout last year, the European manufacturer handed over 20 A220s, 626 A320-family aircraft, 49 A330s (including the first three A330neos), 93 A350s and 12 A380s. Airbus' issued guidance that it would deliver 800 aircraft last year and just met the target, thanks to a bumper December when more than 100 new aircraft were accepted by customers.
Airbus now produces narrow-bodied aircraft in Toulouse, France (A320 family); Hamburg, Germany (A320 family); Tianjin, China (A320 family), Mobile, Alabama, USA (A320 family) and Montreal, Canada (A220). The Chinese facility has just completed final assembly of its 400th airframe, while the 100th aircraft has rolled out of the factory in Alabama. Hamburg now has four production lines for A320-family aircraft and Airbus is on target to meet its aim of producing 60 of the type each month later this yeare. Widebodied production continues to be focused on Toulouse with some completion work taking place in Hamburg, while an assembly line for A220s will open in Mobile next year. Particularly notable in 2018 were commitments for A220s - 60 from jetBlue Airways, 60 from US-based start-up Moxy, and another 15 for Delta Air Lines adding to its previous order for 75 of the type.
A320 in the ascendancy
Last year was the first in which A320neo deliveries outpaced those of the earlier A320ceo family, indicating that supply of new-generation engines for the neos is easing. A330 production declined but will see a limited resurgence as more A330neos are delivered in 2019, while output of the widebodied twin-engined A350 also increased with almost 100 being delivered last year. Airbus produced only 12 A380s last year, all for Emirates. The backlog for the double-decker is 87 although the status of orders for 20 from leasing firm Amadeo, three for Accord and eight for Qantas are in some doubt. That leaves 53 deliveries to Emirates and three for Japan's All Nippon Airways. Twelve A380s will be completed in 2019, after which production reduces to eight and then six per annum. Absent any further orders, production could cease towards the middle of the next decade (2025-2026).
Guillaume Faury, President Airbus Commercial Aircraft said that "despite significant operational challenges, Airbus continued its production ramp-up and delivered a record number of aircraft in 2018. I salute our teams around the globe who worked until the end of the year to meet our commitments."
Airbus customers also committed to 747 net orders (new orders minus cancellations) during the year, somewhat down on 2017 when 1,107 aircraft were added to its backlog. However, having taken on the A220 (formerly Bombardier C-Series) program in mid-2018, Airbus still increased the outstanding firm commitments it holds for new aircraft from 7,265 (at the end of 2017) to 7,577.
Production of the wide-bodied A350 increased during 2018. (Airbus)
Guillaume Faury added: "I am equally pleased about the healthy order intake as it shows the underlying strength of the commercial aircraft market and the trust our customers are placing in us."
Even allowing for production rate increases from Airbus and Boeing's current combined output of around 1,600 jets per year, with backlogs of 7,577 and 5,873 airframes respectively, the two firms will be fulfilling existing orders until the middle of the 2020s - and that doesn't account for new orders that already starting to roll in.
Text © The Aviation Oracle