Suppliers buoy A220 output outlook

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The SACI staff is working on an airframe part of Airbus A220 aircraft. [Photo/Xinhua]

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus said it would continuously increase the production rate of the A220 aircraft, a model to which Chinese manufacturers contribute the biggest chunk of work compared with other Airbus plane models.

The A220, a small single-aisle aircraft for the 100- to 150-seat short-haul market segment, is a complement to the A320 family of aircraft. It is also the only Airbus model to have seen a stable production rate since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Stated differently, other Airbus models' production rates declined in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Currently, Airbus manufactures five A220 aircraft a month. Next year, the monthly production rate is expected to reach six, and in about five years from now, the figure is foreseen reaching 14.

Chinese firms supply one-third of the airframe work of the A220, which has 15 suppliers in China. Five of them supply materials and parts. The other 10 suppliers are involved in assembly work, Airbus said.

SAC Commercial Aircraft International Ltd (SACI), a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp of China based in Shenyang, Liaoning province, Northeast China, is responsible for major airframe production of the A220, including forward fuselage, mid-fuselage, rear-fuselage, doors and tail cone. On Friday, it rolled out the 100th mid-fuselage it made for the A220.

Weighing about 4.6 metric tons and measuring up to 16 meters in length, the mid-fuselage is the largest part of an A220 aircraft.

"We have a long-term production rate increase plan with Airbus. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have managed to maintain stable production and our production rate growth plan will not be affected by the pandemic," said Deng Yudong, president of SACI.

"After decades of development, we are doing a good job in international supply chain management. We hope to support the assembly of the A220 with strong Chinese manufacturing capabilities," Deng said.

By 2025, the manufacturing base of SACI in Shenyang will be built into a smart factory, with the application of 5G networks, robots, and other intelligent production technologies being put into operation.

So far, the A220 has received about 650 orders from more than 25 carriers globally. The aircraft model, however, is not operated in China yet. Airbus said it is in discussions with some Chinese airlines and they have shown interest in the model.

Between 2015 and 2025, the government plans to build 136 new airports in the Chinese mainland, and 46 percent of the total will be built in western China, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Meanwhile, the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world's largest free trade agreement, has created more business opportunities for international and regional air travel markets.

"The A220 is a small single-aisle aircraft that will be ideal for secondary and regional routes," said Michel Tran Van, chief operating officer of Airbus China.

"Every A220 flying around the world has its airframes produced here in China. There are many reasons for Airbus to continue and expand cooperation with China, not only for quantity, but also for quality," he said.

Last year, the total industrial spend of Airbus' commercial aircraft business in China reached almost $1 billion, up about 60 percent compared to 2016, Airbus said.

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