The contest between Airbus and Boeing to sell airliners to China entered new territory this week when the European consortium said it could turn out completed A350s as well as A330s from its newly opened delivery line in Tianjin.
The news of this escalation in intent came from Fabrice Brégier, the Airbus chief operating officer, in this Bloomberg report and in broadcast videos, and underlines for the two jet making rivals the near certainty that China will be the largest customer for their respective families of commercial jets in the very near future.
Airbus already has a very successful single aisle A320 family final assembly line in conjunction with PRC partners in Tianjin, and has more recently opened a similar facility at Airbus America in Mobile, Alabama.
The new wide body Tianjin facility that was officially opened this week is a completion rather than final assembly line, but their common rationale involves adding significant finished product value to components designed and largely built in Airbus’s plants in Toulouse and Hamburg.
In a statement Airbus said: Airbus has inaugurated its A330 Completion and Delivery Centre (C&DC) in Tianjin, China, taking additional steps in the expansion of its global footprint and strategic partnership with China. At the same time, the first A330 to be delivered from the C&DC was handed over to Tianjin Airlines.
Located at the same site as the Airbus Tianjin A320 Family Final Assembly Line and the Airbus Tianjin Delivery Centre, the A330 C&DC covers the aircraft completion activities including cabin installation, aircraft painting and production flight test, as well as customer flight acceptance and aircraft delivery. Some 150 Chinese staff members of the C&DC were trained by Airbus experts in Toulouse.
The new plant is composed of paint shop, weighing hangar and one main hangar with three aircraft positions covering an area of 16,800m2.The A330 C&DC in Tianjin will employ more than 250 people and is ready to deliver two aircraft per month by early 2019.
“The inauguration of our A330 C&DC in Tianjin, together with the first of many deliveries, marks a new milestone for Airbus’ international footprint and underlines the strong spirit of cooperation with our Chinese partners,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus COO and President of Commercial Aircraft. “Wide-body aircraft completed in China is an Airbus and an industry first which demonstrates our mutual commitment to a strong and growing Chinese aviation sector.”
By the end of August 2017, the in-service Airbus fleet with Chinese carriers included 1,484 aircraft, comprising 1,282 A320 Family and 202 A330 Family. The A330 is the most popular wide-body aircraft in China operated by nine PRC airlines.
The all new A350 line up includes the current -900 model, which is larger than the A330-300 model and similar to Boeing’s 777-200 models in capacity, and a soon to enter service -1000 version which is pitched as a hi-tech replacement for aging fleets of 777-300ERs.