Airbus is intending to open its latest final assembly line at Hamburg next month, advancing its preparation to hike the A320 monthly production rate to 60 in two years' time.
But commercial aircraft president Fabrice Bregier acknowledges that Airbus will have to continue parking engineless A320neo jets while the technical snags affecting Pratt & Whitney-powered aircraft are being resolved.
Speaking during an investor briefing on the sidelines of the Paris air show, Bregier said a production rate of 60 would not be a "peak" in 2019 but "sustainable for many years to go".
"If I could deliver 60 per month now, I'm sure I would find customers," he says, pointing out that Airbus still has a backlog of over 5,000 A320neos alone following lessor GECAS's order for 100 at the show.
But he says that "only" 48 were delivered over the first five months of this year, and that the company needs to deliver "twice as many" per month, for the remaining six or seven months, to reach its target of 200.
Bregier says the powerplant manufacturers are increasing production but that the ramp-up for Pratt & Whitney is "slightly more difficult".
"The challenge is more maturity," he says. "This means Pratt & Whitney will have to fix what I believe is the biggest challenge regarding maturity, which is the famous 'bearing 3 seal' which tends to be worn a bit too quickly.
"We have been testing upgrades of this seal which deliver what we expected, and Pratt & Whitney has started to equip new engines with this upgraded seal.
"We'll see, but we can be reasonably confident that the main constraint from an operational viewpoint will be off the table in a few weeks or a few months."
Bregier says Pratt & Whitney is likely to have a "much better" second half, as a result, but adds that Airbus is likely to produce around 30 aircraft which – like last year – the airframer had to park until suitable engines were available for installation.
Airbus will open the fourth A320 assembly line at its Hamburg Finkenwerder plant next month, he says, while the monthly production rate of the type at its new US plant in Mobile will reach four aircraft by the end of this year.
Source: Cirium Dashboard