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Airbus' assembly line ready for int'l customers

Updated: 2012-06-06 10:40
By Wang Wen ( China Daily)

Airbus' assembly line ready for int'l customers

An employee operates a forklift at the production facility of Airbus (Tianjin) Final Assembly Co Ltd in Tianjin. The assembly line will complete its 100th A320 family aircraft and deliver it to its customer before the end of September. [Photo/China Daily] 

Airbus (Tianjin) Final Assembly Co Ltd, Airbus SAS' only final assembly line outside Europe, said it is ready for customers from outside China, three years ahead of schedule.

The monthly output of the final assembly line, also known as FALC, will also be increased from three to four Airbus A320 family aircraft by December.

The A320 family includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321, and FALC is capable of assembling all members of the family apart from the A321.

FALC, a joint venture involving Airbus, China Aviation Industry Corp and Tianjin Free Trade Zone, will deliver an A320 to AirAsia Group - its first foreign customer, in December.

The airplane was one of ICBC Financial Leasing Co's orders for 42 A320s last year, but it will be delivered directly to AirAsia, which will operate the aircraft.

"FALC used to think about delivery to overseas airlines from 2015, since we should meet domestic needs first. But now we have the capability. So why not?" said Jean-Luc Charles, general manager of FALC.

As the assembly line's production rate is increasing, more customers could get A320 family aircraft from Tianjin, he said.

The 88th A320 family aircraft assembled by FALC was delivered to Shenzhen Airlines Co Ltd on Tuesday, the 10th aircraft delivered to the carrier from Tianjin.

"Shenzhen Airlines is very happy to receive the aircraft from Tianjin and it is a milestone both for the assembly line and our airline," said Li Youqiang, chief accountant of Shenzhen Airlines, half of whose fleet is made up of Airbus aircraft.

The Tianjin assembly line also will complete its 100th A320 family aircraft and deliver it to its customer before the end of September.

"We will receive the large parts of the 100th aircraft on June 12," Charles said.

FALC's target is to deliver 38 A320 family aircraft to customers this year, with the number due to rise next year as its production rate increases.

The production rate is always a challenge for major aircraft manufacturers as they are under constant pressure from airlines to cut delivery times.

Airbus (Tianjin) Delivery Center Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus, said it is working on increasing its production rate.

"We will reduce the period from the current five days to three or four days," said Nigel Varley, general manager of the delivery center.

Employees working on the assembly line are also very important in increasing the production rate, Charles said.

FALC currently has more than 400 employees, and the number of foreign employees will be cut to 25 by July.

"The assembly line must be operated by local employees," Charles said. It takes five years to train assembly line workers, he added.

A total of 11 Chinese airlines now operate 87 A320 family aircraft assembled in Tianjin.