Airbus officially opened its first final assembly line outside Europe today in front of official dignitaries and 600 guests gathered for the inauguration of the new A320 facility in Tianjin, China. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Party Secretary of Tianjin Zhang Gaoli, and Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders launched the joint venture between Airbus and a Chinese consortium comprising the Tianjin Free Trade Zone (TJFTZ) and China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC).
“The opening of the FALC [final assembly line in China] is an historic event for Airbus and for the aviation industry,” said Enders. “The first Airbus final assembly line outside Europe highlights the importance we attach to growing our partnership with China, one of the most important aviation markets today and certainly tomorrow.”
Six Chinese manufacturers have already begun making parts for Airbus aircraft, such as wing components, emergency-exit doors and assembly and transportation tools. Last year Airbus sourced $70 million worth of components and materials from Chinese companies. Airbus projects that by 2010 it will nearly triple that amount, to $200 million, before more than doubling again to $450 million by 2015.
Airbus started sending the first aircraft sections to the new A320 assembly line in Tianjin in late June, in time to maintain schedules that show launch customer Sichuan Airlines taking delivery of the first airplane by the end of June next year.
Airbus expects the final assembly line in China to increase the overall A320 production rate to 40 per month by 2010. The Chinese final assembly line will mainly produce aircraft for the Chinese market, where Airbus expects passenger traffic to grow fivefold in the next 20 years, resulting in a total demand total for 2,670 new passenger aircraft.
Separately, during today’s inauguration ceremonies, Enders and the head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Li Jiaxiang, signed an MoU on safety cooperation. The agreement covers a five-year cooperation program in the areas of rules and regulations training for Chinese aviation authorities, maintenance operation support for airlines, air traffic management (ATM) technologies and concepts and a “train the trainer” program for Chinese aviation institutes and universities. This MoU follows an earlier Safety Cooperation Agreement signed in 2002.