The first A320 aircraft assembled outside Europe at the Airbus Final Assembly Line China (FALC) in Tianjin, China, completed its first flight on May 18, a little more than a month before scheduled first delivery to Dragon Aviation Leasing customer Sichuan Airlines. The milestone flight came amid aggressive moves to spark a recovery of China’s airline industry with direct government funding and loans. Most recently, Hainan Airlines said it plans to issue 3 billion yuan ($440 million) worth of new shares to its two largest shareholders in exchange for state funding. Hainan said it will use 2.05 billion yuan ($300 million) of the proceeds to repay bank loans and the remainder to supplement its working capital. China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines have already received state funding totaling some 13 billion yuan ($1.9 billion).
After taking off from Tianjin International Airport at 10:42 a.m. for the airplane’sfirst flight, Airbus vice president production flight tests Harry Nelson and experimental test pilot Philippe Pellerin flew the aircraft for four hours, 14 minutes.
The FALC organization plans to deliver the second Tianjin-manufactured A320 to Hainan Airlines. The remaining nine A320-family airplanes scheduled for delivery this year will go to Hainan, Shenzhen Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, according to Airbus. Chinese customers have ordered more than 700 aircraft from Airbus, mostly from the A320 family.
Airbus expects production to reach four A319s/A320s per month in Tianjin by the end of 2011.