Airbus is confident that demand for its single-aisle family of planes will return in the near future. To help meet that demand the company announced this week that it is resuming work to modernize the A320 family final assembly line facility in Toulouse. The updated, digitally-enabled A320/A321 final assembly line (FAL) will replace one of the original Toulouse A320 lines.
The company initially announced plans to convert the former A380 production space to an A321-capable line in January 2020. That effort was quickly suspended as the COVID-19 pandemic shook the global economy to its core. With a recovery on the horizon, however, Airbus decided to move forward with the efforts. The company now expects the line to be operational by the end of 2022.
Airbus believes a “market recovery [is] in sight” and sees a “potential return to pre-COVID production rates for single-aisle aircraft between 2023 and 2025.” This aligns with reports earlier this week that the company was asking suppliers to be ready to support an 18% increase in A320-family output by the end of 2022.
Airbus currently produces 40 aircraft per month on these lines. The company delivered 34 A320 family planes to customers in April 2021.
Production is expected to rise to 45 by the end of 2021 and then to 53 the following year. The company previously peaked at 60 frames produced per month in 2020, with intentions to reach 63.
Expanding A321 options
Currently only the Finkenwerder (Hamburg) and Mobile, Alabama sites offer capacity for completion of A321s. As single-aisle demand generally trends towards larger aircraft the option to add a third location is a key part of Airbus’s strategy. The company expects the upgraded facility will “improve the working conditions, the overall industrial flow as well as the quality and competitiveness.”
Hamburg will retain one bit of exclusivity, at least for now. The A321XLR is expected to enter service in 2023, with production handled exclusively at the German site. One factor contributing to that assembly location is the integrated rear center fuel tank. That tank is produced by Premium AEROTEC, an Airbus subsidiary based in Augsburg, Germany.
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