Airbus to continue with Tianjin ramp-up plan

Toulouse
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Airbus is continuing with plans to increase production at its new Chinese assembly line, but the target of four aircraft a month could be revised if demand from the country's airlines softens.

"We're still pursuing the plan to ramp-up output at Tianjin to four aircraft a month, but that's based on the expectation that we'd load an equal amount of aircraft into the European final assembly lines," said Airbus programmes chief Tom Williams, speaking during a briefing at Toulouse today.

Airbus, which late last year shelved plans to expand single-aisle output, is not ruling out cutting production rates if the global economic crisis bites hard and Williams says that the assembly lines in Europe and China would "share the pain".

"The Tianjin ramp-up plan is very much dependent on the volume of aircraft we're going to be selling in China because we want to be able to match the output of the Tainjin line with the output in Europe for Chinese consumption," he says.

The airframer has a contingency plan ready should output cuts be implemented, says Williams. "What I say to my guys is: 'We hope for the best but prepare for the worst'."

Williams says Airbus has a "stratification of the build plan so we understand what we would have to do at each step if we had to come down [in output]".

He says this encompasses examining flexibility in each of Airbus' manufacturing areas, starting with overtime and shift-working, and then subcontracting and work that Airbus has offloaded that it could potentially bring back in.

Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy dismisses the pressure from leasing customers, like International Lease Finance, to cut single-aisle output to avoid a glut as a ploy to keep their own supply strong but reduce others': "When [ILFC boss] Steve Udvar-Hazy tells me I should cut production I say: 'Fine, how many aircraft do you want to defer?' - and he says, 'None'."