Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) Airbus is extending its narrowbody-assembly line in Hamburg, anticipating nearly tripled production rates within three years. The German Airbus partner is to invest DM217 million ($130 million) up to the end of 1998 in the expansion.

The Airbus consortium this year is scheduled to deliver 129 narrowbody aircraft, including 47 A319s and 24 A321s to be assembled at Hamburg, and 58 Toulouse-built A320s. This is already a substantial increase over the 1996 total of 72 narrowbody deliveries, and will be followed by production of 173 aircraft in 1998 - of which 88 will be assembled at Hamburg - and 207 in 1999.

Three new stations are to be added to the existing A319/321 integrated production line at Hamburg from October, which will increase production capacity from about five to over nine aircraft a month, according to technical co-ordination chief Norbert Kosuch. With further expansion, Hamburg could produce up to 11 aircraft a month, he adds.

DASA Airbus still has hopes of persuading its French partner to transfer A320 production from Toulouse to Hamburg, turning it into the Airbus narrowbody centre. The German company argues that the modern integrated production line at Hamburg saves $1 billion on every 400 aircraft produced.

"There are essential possibilities to bring down costs by concentrating the three production lines. I think we have to find a solution within the restructuring process of Airbus Industrie," says DASA Airbus business development vice-president Peter Fornell. The restructuring of the consortium into an independent production company is now under discussion.

Fornell adds that, "from a strategic point of view", DASA Airbus must begin to look at a successor to the A320 family, predicting that US rival Boeing will be thinking about a new aircraft in this category to follow the next-generation 737 family.

The rush of orders has also frozen DASA's plans for workforce cuts, with 3,400 fewer jobs now to be cut up to the end of this year. The company expects cuts of only 500, bringing numbers to 13,900 by the year-end.

The manufacturer has cut its costs by one-third in the past five years, halved delivery times and trimmed its workforce by 40%.

Source: Flight International