The Airbus A330, racking up orders almost a decade longer than envisaged

Orders and commitments to up to 75 A330s for China’s airlines are being reported in France as a step closer to Airbus setting up a wide-body completion factory in the PRC.

This would compliment the single-aisle A320 final assembly line at Tianjin, which went into operation in 2008, and underlines the global airliner manufacturing and assembly ambitions of the European consortium.

But seen on its own, this latest order for the A330 also extends the production life of a design that has proven much longer than Airbus or its competitor Boeing had thought possible until a few years ago. That longevity arises from a series of performance enhancements and much lower manufacturing costs.

The A330 continues to take orders off the Boeing 787 Dreamliner family at the lower range and capacity end of the  twin aisle market.  (And it also has wider seats in its eight across cabin compared to nine across Dreamliners.)

The best report at hand comes from Reuters in Paris, which includes comments from Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Brégier that support the relationship between this particular order and the likelihood of the long planned completion factory for wide-bodies in China.

The  essential different between ‘completion’ and ‘final assembly’ is that the incomplete A330s will be flown to China for the finishing touches, while the A320s that are rolled out of Tianjin in a joint venture with China are assembled from sections of the single aisle jet that are shipped there from Europe.

The A330 completion work will be similar to the fitting out of A380s at Airbus in Hamburg after they have been assembled in Toulouse.

Airbus and Boeing have completely different approaches to offshoring in airliner production. Airbus will design, fund and make sections of airliners that it may assemble abroad. Boeing did risk and profit sharing funding in its 787 project with offshore partners for the design and manufacture of components it then imported for final assembly in America.

In a separate development, the RAAF has confirmed a contract for two more A330 based Multi Role Tanker Transport or MRTT jets to join the five it now operates under the KC-30A designation.

These will be conversions of two former Qantas A330-200s  by Airbus Defence and Space in Spain, and will be delivered in 2018.

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