Airbus could reverse its decision to cease production of the A300-600 Freighter, because of increasing demand for cargo capacity and continuing indecision over the launch of the A330-200F.
Airbus announced in March that it would close down the assembly line of the A300 - its original product - in mid-2007, but now confirms it has held preliminary talks with suppliers about reversing that plan. However, it insists no decision has been taken yet.
Airbus had said it would close the A300 assembly line in mid-2007
The closure plan came as the backlog (all for freighters) had fallen to fewer than 15 aircraft following UPS Airlines' decision to drop most of its outstanding orders in favour of a deal for 10 A380s.
But with the A300 backlog now at six aircraft and production running out at one unit a month, Airbus executive vice-president programmes Tom Williams says there have been "some people knocking on the door" for potential A300 orders, which has prompted Airbus to "hold talks with suppliers to see what would be required to relaunch production".
Speaking to Flight International in Paris at last week's A350 XWB launch briefing, Williams said: "If someone came along and said they'd order 50, then we'd put it back into production."
Other than the A380F, the A300-600F is the only new-build freighter in Airbus's product line-up, and although it has been intending to launch an all-freight version of the A330-200 to replace the A300, it is yet to firm up the plans.
Williams says that Airbus has "booked memorandums of understandings" with customers for the initial A330-200 positions it is offering at the end of 2009, and "has reserved a block of A330 production capacity" after that. But despite demand for the new freighter, Airbus has so far baulked at formally launching the A330-200F and taking firm orders for it.
Sources say this may be because the A330 passenger model's replacement - the A350 - will enter service several years later than planned when the A330-200F was first touted. The airframer wants to ensure it does not restrict supply of passenger A330s as it bridges the gap to the A350's introduction.