By Bjorn Fehrm
12 January 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Airbus held its annual press conference in Paris today against a backdrop of record 2015 deliveries. The year that went past was consequently a good one for Airbus. Orders were at a record high for the third year in succession and deliveries exceeded previous years for the 13th year in succession.
But the Airbus sky wasn’t totally cloud free; the large A380 only got sales by having ANA mop up the mess after Japan’s Skymark bankruptcy and production of the new A350 was hindered by a sole source lavatory supplier.
The result was that Airbus missed two 2015 delivery targets, the 15 per year for A350 (delivered 14) and the 2016 delivery of the first A320neo. The latter was because of “paperwork issues” related to certain things being “late to finish” ahead of certification.
Deliveries and sales
Airbus broke its 2014 delivery record by six aircraft to record 635 delivered aircraft for 2015. Of these, 491 were A320s, 103 A330s, 27 A380s and 14 A350s. The company expects to break this record again this year with a minimum of 650 aircraft delivered during 2016.
Sales were above 1.5 times times deliveries for the third year in a row at 1,036 net orders. 879 of these were for A320, over 100 were for A330ceo, 50 for A330neo, 16 for A350 and three for A380. The A380 order was for an “undisclosed major airline” but it is an official secret that this was ANA taking over the 3 A380 produced for Japan’s bankrupt Skymark.
The A320 program is noteworthy for continued strong orders, both ceo and neo. Production will not increase during 2016 as this is a year of production transition from ceo to neo. Airbus expect deliveries to accelerate during 2017/2018 and to reach 60 (or even 63 according to Airbus COO customers John Leahy) in 2019 when the production should have switched to 100% neo units.
The delay of the first A320neo delivery to January this year was due “things being late for certification,” according to Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier, making the necessary “in service fault-finding documentation not being ready in time.” Delivery to Lufthansa is now expected “in the next two weeks.”
The second sales results, which pleased Airbus, was for the A330. The production rate was previously reduced to six a month from 10, to avoid producing white tails during the ceo to neo transition. Rate 6 six is now secured by A330ceo orders from China and Saudi Arabia. Leahy joked he is now trying to get production people to increase the level to seven or eight per month again. With 140 new A330neo orders, the confidence in the variant is increasing. A330neo detail design is finished and parts production has started for FAL entry in Q4. Certification and first delivery is on track for Q42017.
Leahy mentioned that the A330ceo is still much in demand thanks to a rise in capabilities by the increase of take-off weight to 242t. He is now lobbying engineering to take that up to 245t.
Airbus has had issues with its supply chain and could therefore not fulfill a target production rate of 15 aircraft for 2015. A major problem was with a single supplier, Zodiac. It is the sole supplier of A350 lavatories and an important supplier of seats.
Despite significant efforts from Airbus, Zodiac had not be able to correct issues in their supply of sole source items in the A350’s interior catalog. This has brought things to a level where Bregier singled out Zodiac as the sole supplier that had not been able to live up to their commitments during 2015 despite significant efforts from Airbus and repeated escalations. As a consequence Airbus has deselected Zodiac from the A330neo’s interior catalog.
The in-service experience of the 15 A350, which was delivered in late 2014, “has been according to expectation,” said Bregier. Airbus believes it will reach an A350 in service reliability of better than 98.5% for 2016. Deliveries for the year is expected to surpass 50 units with a ramp to over 100 units for 2018.
Development of the A350-1000 variant is on track for a Q42016 first flight with mid-2017 delivery. Bregier said things are going to plan and he could already confirm the performance of the aircraft as meeting specifications.
Airbus delivered 27 A380s during 2015. That level of production was sufficient for Airbus to stop losing money on delivered aircraft. Airbus also booked three new orders from a “new major airline customer” during 2015 as described before.
Airbus is still pursuing larger orders for the A380 but “these take time to mature,” according to Leahy. In the meantime, efforts are underway to lower the production costs so that “cost break even will be just above 20 units per year,” according to Bregier.