Airbus commercial aircraft president Guillaume Faury has hailed the company's performance in delivering 800 aircraft during 2018, despite enduring what he describes as "a very painful year".
Faury describes 2018 as having been "the year of crossover" from the A320ceo to the narrowbody family's Neo models. Airbus made a combined 626 deliveries, split between 386 of the re-engined version and 240 legacy models.
Having struggled with its Neo production ramp-up amid supply-chain issues primarily linked to the supply of the aircraft's Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan engine option, Faury says Airbus experienced "a year with a lot of headwind and industrial difficulties".
Speaking at an Airbus Group reception in London on 9 January, Faury confirmed that the company has finished equipping a sub-fleet of more than 100 A320neo-family aircraft which had been manufactured while still awaiting delivery of their PW1100G engines. This has cleared a backlog of what had been internally nicknamed "gliders", described by Airbus chief executive Tom Enders at the same event as "a pretty ugly sight".
"We completed in the second half of the year the vast majority of these airplanes, and we are back to normal," says Faury. "The engine manufacturers have recovered to a very large extent, compared to the first-half-of-the-year situation," he adds, also referring to CFM International's Leap-1A powerplant. "It allowed us to deliver a number of single-aisle airplanes roughly in the order of magnitude of what we were targeting." However, he notes: "The profile has been very painful – we hope not to have a similar situation again."
Other highlights last year included the delivery of 93 A350s, with Faury hailing the company's significant ramp-up of production on the widebody twin.
While conceding that "the Boeing team has done a good job on the long-range" sector in order terms over recent years, Faury says: "We are looking forward to the years to come with our product range – the A350, which is gaining a lot of support from the customer community and a lot of credibility, and the A330neo. I think the future is ours."
With Airbus having delivered 127 commercial aircraft in December and secured orders for 392 during the same month, Faury is eyeing the need to have "a more balanced production" in the future. Noting that last year included high disruption caused by its A320neo-family ramp-up and engine supply "crisis", he says: "We are looking forward to improve the situation in 2019. But it's not something that will be completely different in terms of profile; I anticipate that we will continue to have an imbalance between H1 and H2 – I hope to a smaller extent."
While its receipt of net orders for 747 aircraft during 2018 marked a significant decline from the 1,109 units recorded the previous year, and a book-to-bill ratio of less than one, Faury points out that its total was achieved following a "slow start". Its backlog at the end of 2018 stood at 7,577 aircraft: a year-on-year rise of 312. This was in part due to the inclusion of the A220 programme, after Airbus acquired control of the former Bombardier CSeries product in July.
Despite the large scale of the order backlogs currently held by Airbus and Boeing, Faury says: "I think we will continue to see large orders – we see a demand which is stronger than ever."