Airbus has cut the ribbon on a new A320 family aircraft production line at its Hamburg, Germany facility.
Hamburg joins existing A320 final assembly lines at Toulouse, France; Tianjin, China; and Mobile, United States.
Airbus Commercial Aircraft president Guillaume Faury officially opened the new facility on June 14 amid 500 invited guests, staff and media.
“The inauguration of our latest, most modern A320 production line opens a new chapter in efficient, digital aircraft manufacturing,” Faury said in a statement.
“With these new technologies we are building our aircraft more efficiently, a key enabler for higher production rates. I would like to thank the teams, who pushed this newest Airbus production standard from concept to reality.”
The addition of a fourth assembly lines comes as Airbus prepares to boost the production rate of its A320 narrowbody family to 60 aircraft a month by mid-2019, from about 50 aircraft a month currently.
Airbus said the Hamburg line featured two seven-axis robots, named Luise and Renate, for automated fuselage drilling that were able to drill almost 80 per cent of holes on the upper side of the sections, which would improve the ergonomic working environment.
“The robots also drill with higher accuracy to ensure a constant level of production quality resulting in less rework. Furthermore, the new line features an innovative layout and the use of mobile tooling platforms that navigate autonomously with laser trackers,” Airbus said.
The design of the facility also ensured that all required materials would be within three metres of works stations as part of efforts to have a more efficient working environment.
These technologies could also be transferred to other Airbus production lines around the world, the company said.
In addition to the final assembly line, Airbus said its A320 Hamburg facility will also include a modernised delivery centre with more customer areas, more efficient delivery processes and increased hospitality services.
As of May 31 2018, Airbus’s single aisle backlog stood at 6,077 aircraft, according to its website.
Good progress being made with Airbus A320neo engine issues
The A320neo program has been hampered by engine issues that have delayed deliveries of some aircraft to airline customers and required existing operators to conduct inspections of engines already in service.
Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G geared turbofan is one of two engine options available to A320neo customers, alongside the CFM International LEAP-1A.
In early February, Airbus said an issue had been identified on a limited number of recently-delivered Pratt & Whitney GTF engines affecting the high pressure compressor aft hub.
Meanwhile, there have also been some maturity issues on batches of the LEAP-1A engine.
Airbus chief commercial officer Eric Schulz said recently the engine manufacturers were on track in terms of their recovery plans.
“We are in consistent dialogue with the engine manufacturers,” Schulz told reporters on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Sydney on June 4.
“And I would say we are reassessing every day based on their deliveries where we stand.
“I think this gives us a challenging ride because for a period of time we’ve had less engines than we wanted but so far they are sticking to their recovery plan.
“Are we a hundred per cent relaxed? No we are not. We are concerned because of course it is a big steep learning curve to get through but so far they are delivering what they committed to.”
Schulz said the technical understanding of these issues had “progressed well”.
“Our engine partners are facing two issues. One is as soon as they discover technical problems, understand these technical problems and then fix them,” Schulz said.
“And then the second issue they face, which is the same issue as we face, which is to ramp up.
“That’s the double challenge which is making things sometimes difficult.”
Locally, the Qantas Group has 99 LEAP-powered A320neos on order for its Jetstar low-cost carrier operations. In February, Qantas announced Jetstar would receive the first of 18 long-range A321neoLRs from mid-2020.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand has ordered 13 A320neo family aircraft – comprised of six A320neos and seven A321neos – powered by the PW1100G and due for delivery from late calendar 2018.