Economic Watch: Airbus final assembly line in Tianjin witnesses robust China-EU aviation cooperation

Updated: September 14, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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TIANJIN, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- With the completion of the layout of the new plants, the preparation work for the second line of the Airbus A320 Final Assembly Line Asia (FALA) in north China's Tianjin Municipality is in full swing.

September 2023 commemorates the 15th anniversary of the final assembly line's inauguration in September 2008, a milestone for Airbus' inaugural assembly line outside of Europe.

In the past 15 years, the final assembly line has been continuously upgraded and accelerated localization development, witnessing the deep cooperation between China and the European Union in the aviation industry.

"The FALA in Tianjin is an integral part of our global industrial system," said Alberto Gutiérrez, chief operating officer of Airbus.

Airbus has delivered more than 630 A320 family aircraft assembled at the FALA in Tianjin over the past 15 years. "Over the years, we have been witnessing the level of quality and capabilities at the system in Tianjin," Gutiérrez said.

He added that the FALA in Tianjin has the genes of both China and Europe since its establishment.

"It is realistic to local consumption, and we can avoid the costs by moving aircraft parts from one place to another. The key is to get the local support on-site," Gutiérrez said.

With the landing of the final assembly line in Tianjin, aircraft production enterprises have settled globally, giving strong support to Airbus.

For instance, a wing equipping and testing factory of the AVIC Xi'an Aircraft Industry Group Company Ltd. was built in the vicinity, allowing assembled and tested wings to be delivered directly to the final assembly line. The first pair of wings was delivered in February 2010.

More and more Chinese enterprises in the aviation industry chain cooperate with the Airbus FALA in Tianjin.

AVIC Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Co., Ltd. is one of the world's two suppliers of the A320 aircraft's rear boarding gate. AVIC Shaanxi Hongyuan Aviation Forging Company Ltd. produces titanium alloy forgings for Airbus' aircraft engine and wing connectors.

George Xu, CEO of Airbus China, said that the partnership between Airbus and its Chinese partners covers the entire industrial chain, from procurement and production to aviation service cooperation and aircraft recycling.

According to the data from Airbus, the company has about 200 suppliers in China. The total value of the industrial partnership between Airbus and the Chinese aviation industry reached approximately 1 billion U.S. dollars in 2020.

"We are extremely happy with our supply chain in China. It will support our further development. China is in our plans to help us reach the global production rate of 75 A320 family aircraft per month by 2026," Gutiérrez said.

The final assembly line took advantage of China's booming civil aviation industry over the years and reached many milestones.

In November 2021, Airbus announced the production capacity of the final assembly line would extend to the A321 aircraft. It was the first time this aircraft model, which is in high international demand, was produced at a final assembly line in Asia. To date, 21 A321 aircraft have been assembled and delivered here.

In addition, cooperation between Airbus and its Chinese counterparts extended from single-aisle aircraft to wide-body ones.

In September 2017, Airbus set up its first Wide Body Completion and Delivery Center outside Europe in Tianjin. By the end of August this year, the center had delivered 16 A330 family aircraft and 19 A350 family aircraft.

Airbus is also preparing to enhance the final assembly capacity for its A320 family aircraft, adding a second final assembly line in Tianjin, expected to be operational by the end of 2025.

By then, Airbus will have ten A320 family aircraft final assembly lines worldwide, including two in Tianjin, said Airbus.

"We are preparing the supply chain to absorb additional capacities. Those are key elements we want to be supported by our partners. We are confident to make it happen," said Michel Tran Van, COO of Airbus China, adding that Airbus will continue to increase its production capacity in Tianjin to better serve the Chinese market and the broader global market in the future.

The year 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. The bilateral economic, trade, and investment cooperation between China and the EU has maintained sound momentum.

Over the past 15 years, Airbus has seen its market share in China climb from about 20 percent to more than 50 percent, said the company.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, in the first half of 2023, China's civil aviation transport has returned to the level seen in 2019 before the COVID-19 outbreak.

As China's air transport market recovers, a massive demand is emerging.

Airbus announced a global market forecast that more than 40,000 new aircraft will be needed worldwide by 2042, of which more than 9,000 will go to China. "It is giving us the confidence that China is the right place to be," Gutiérrez said.

His confidence also stems from the stability and predictability of China's policies in civil aviation.

According to a five-year development plan of China's civil aviation industry, by 2025, the passenger transportation volume will reach 930 million passengers, and the cargo and mail transport volume will reach 9.5 million tonnes. The number of countries with China air routes will exceed 70.

Airbus has made enormous achievements in China over the past decades, and the company will continue to expand the Chinese market and deepen investment and cooperation, Gutiérrez said. "We will remain as steady a player in the Chinese market as possible."

Editor: Duan Jing