Airbus

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Airbus SAS
Type Subsidiary
Industry Aerospace
Founded 18 December 1969 (as Airbus Industrie)
2001 (as Airbus SAS)
Founders Bernard Lathière, Roger Béteille, Henri Ziegler
Headquarters Blagnac, France
Key people Fabrice Brégier and Tom Enders
(Chief Executive Officers)
Gunter Butschek
(Chief Operating Officer)
Products Commercial airliners (list)
Revenue Increase €33.10 billion (FY 2011)[1]
Net income Increase €1.597 billion (FY 2008)
Employees 63,000[2]
Parent Airbus Group (formerly EADS)
Subsidiaries
Website www.airbus.com

Airbus SAS (/ˈɛərbʌs/, French: [ɛʁbys] ( ), German: [ˈɛːɐbʊs], Spanish: [ˈerβus]) is an aircraft manufacturing division of Airbus Group (formerly European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company). Based in Blagnac, France, a suburb of Toulouse,[3][4] with production and manufacturing facilities mainly in France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, the company produced 626 airliners in 2013.

Airbus began as a consortium of aerospace manufacturers, Airbus Industrie. Consolidation of European defence and aerospace companies in 1999 and 2000 allowed the establishment of a simplified joint-stock company in 2001, owned by EADS (80%) and BAE Systems (20%). After a protracted sales process BAE sold its shareholding to EADS on 13 October 2006.[5]

Airbus employs around 63,000 people at sixteen sites in four countries: France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Final assembly production is based at Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; Seville, Spain; and, since 2009 as a joint-venture, Tianjin, China.[6] Airbus has subsidiaries in the United States, Japan, China and India.

The company produces and markets the first commercially viable fly-by-wire airliner, the Airbus A320,[7][8] and the world's largest passenger airliner, the A380.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Airbus Industrie began as a consortium of European aviation firms to compete with American companies such as Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed.[9]

While many European aircraft were innovative, even the most successful had small production runs.[10] In 1991, Jean Pierson, then CEO and Managing Director of Airbus Industrie, described a number of factors which explained the dominant position of American aircraft manufacturers: the land mass of the United States made air transport the favoured mode of travel; a 1942 Anglo-American agreement entrusted transport aircraft production to the US; and World War II had left America with "a profitable, vigorous, powerful and structured aeronautical industry."[10]

"For the purpose of strengthening European co-operation in the field of aviation technology and thereby promoting economic and technological progress in Europe, to take appropriate measures for the joint development and production of an airbus."

Airbus Mission Statement[11]

In the mid-1960s, tentative negotiations commenced regarding a European collaborative approach. Individual aircraft companies had already envisaged such a requirement; in 1959 Hawker Siddeley had advertised an "Airbus" version of the Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 Argosy,[12] which would "be able to lift as many as 126 passengers on ultra short routes at a direct operating cost of 2d. per seat mile."[13] However, European aircraft manufacturers were aware of the risks of such a development and began to accept, along with their governments, that collaboration was required to develop such an aircraft and to compete with the more powerful US manufacturers. At the 1965 Paris Air Show major European airlines informally discussed their requirements for a new "airbus" capable of transporting 100 or more passengers over short to medium distances at a low cost.[11] The same year Hawker Siddeley (at the urging of the UK government) teamed with Breguet and Nord to study airbus designs. The Hawker Siddeley/Breguet/Nord group's HBN 100 became the basis for the continuation of the project. By 1966 the partners were Sud Aviation, later Aérospatiale (France), Arbeitsgemeinschaft Airbus, later Deutsche Airbus (Germany) and Hawker Siddeley (UK).[11] A request for funding was made to the three governments in October 1966.[11] On 25 July 1967 the three governments agreed to proceed with the proposal.

In the two years following this agreement, both the British and French governments expressed doubts about the project. The MoU had stated that 75 orders must be achieved by 31 July 1968. The French government threatened to withdraw from the project due to the concern over funding development of the Airbus A300, Concorde and the Dassault Mercure concurrently, but was persuaded otherwise.[14] Having announced its concern at the A300B proposal in December 1968, and fearing it would not recoup its investment due to lack of sales, the British government announced its withdrawal on 10 April 1969.[11][15] Germany took this opportunity to increase its share of the project to 50%.[14] Given the participation by Hawker Siddeley up to that point, France and Germany were reluctant to take over its wing design. Thus the British company was allowed to continue as a privileged subcontractor.[10] Hawker Siddeley invested GB£35 million in tooling and, requiring more capital, received a GB£35 million loan from the German government.[14]

Formation of Airbus Industrie[edit]

Airbus A300, the first aircraft launched by Airbus

Airbus Industrie was formally established as a Groupement d'Intérêt Économique (Economic Interest Group or GIE) on 18 December 1970.[14] It had been formed by a government initiative between France, Germany and the UK that originated in 1967. Its initial shareholders were the French company Aérospatiale and the German company Deutsche Airbus, each owning a 50% share. The name "Airbus" was taken from a non-proprietary term used by the airline industry in the 1960s to refer to a commercial aircraft of a certain size and range, for this term was acceptable to the French linguistically. Aérospatiale and Deutsche Airbus each took a 36.5% share of production work, Hawker Siddeley 20% and the Dutch company Fokker-VFW 7%.[11] Each company would deliver its sections as fully equipped, ready-to-fly items. In October 1971 the Spanish company CASA acquired a 4.2% share of Airbus Industrie, with Aérospatiale and Deutsche Airbus reducing their stakes to 47.9%.[11] In January 1979 British Aerospace, which had absorbed Hawker Siddeley in 1977, acquired a 20% share of Airbus Industrie.[16] The majority shareholders reduced their shares to 37.9%, while CASA retained its 4.2%.[17]

Development of the Airbus A300[edit]

Main article: Airbus A300
Eastern Air Lines was Airbus's first customer in the American market, ordering the Airbus A300 B4

The Airbus A300 was to be the first aircraft to be developed, manufactured and marketed by Airbus. By early 1967 the "A300" label began to be applied to a proposed 320 seat, twin engined airliner.[11] Following the 1967 tri-government agreement, Roger Béteille was appointed technical director of the A300 development project.[18] Béteille developed a division of labour which would be the basis of Airbus' production for years to come: France would manufacture the cockpit, flight control and the lower centre section of the fuselage; Hawker Siddeley, whose Trident technology had impressed him, was to manufacture the wings;[19] Germany should make the forward and rear fuselage sections, as well as the upper centre section; the Dutch would make the flaps and spoilers; finally Spain (yet to become a full partner) would make the horizontal tailplane.[18] On 26 September 1967 the German, French and British governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding in London which allowed continued development studies. This also confirmed Sud Aviation as the "lead company", that France and the UK would each have a 37.5% work share with Germany taking 25%, and that Rolls-Royce would manufacture the engines.[10][18]

In the face of lukewarm support from airlines for a 300+ seat Airbus A300, the partners submitted the A250 proposal, later becoming the A300B, a 250 seat airliner powered by pre-existing engines.[11] This dramatically reduced development costs, as the Rolls-Royce RB207 to be used in the A300 represented a large proportion of the costs. The RB207 had also suffered difficulties and delays, since Rolls-Royce was concentrating its efforts on the development of another jet engine, the RB211, for the Lockheed L-1011[14] and Rolls-Royce entering into administration due to bankruptcy in 1971.[20][21] The A300B was smaller but lighter and more economical than its three-engined American rivals.[22][23]

"We showed the world we were not sitting on a nine-day wonder, and that we wanted to realise a family of planes…we won over customers we wouldn’t otherwise have won...now we had two planes that had a great deal in common as far as systems and cockpits were concerned."

Jean Roeder, chief engineer of Deutsche Airbus, speaking of the A310[17]

In 1972, the A300 made its maiden flight and the first production model, the A300B2 entered service in 1974;[24] though the launch of the A300 was overshadowed by the similarly timed supersonic aircraft Concorde.[25] Initially the success of the consortium was poor,[26] but orders for the aircraft picked up,[27][28] due in part to the marketing skills used by Airbus CEO Bernard Lathière, targeting airlines in America and Asia.[29] By 1979 the consortium had 256 orders for A300,[25] and Airbus had launched a more advanced aircraft, the A310, in the previous year.[17] It was the launch of the A320 in 1987 that guaranteed the status of Airbus as a major player in the aircraft market[30] – the aircraft had over 400 orders before it first flew, compared to 15 for the A300 in 1972.

Transition to Airbus SAS[edit]

Airbus A340 introduced in 1993
Airbus A330 introduced in 1994

The retention of production and engineering assets by the partner companies in effect made Airbus Industrie a sales and marketing company.[31] This arrangement led to inefficiencies due to the inherent conflicts of interest that the four partner companies faced; they were both GIE shareholders of, and subcontractors to, the consortium. The companies collaborated on development of the Airbus range, but guarded the financial details of their own production activities and sought to maximise the transfer prices of their sub-assemblies.[32] It was becoming clear that Airbus was no longer a temporary collaboration to produce a single plane as per its original mission statement, it had become a long term brand for the development of further aircraft. By the late 1980s work had begun on a pair of new medium-sized aircraft, the biggest to be produced at this point under the Airbus name, the Airbus A330 and the Airbus A340.[33][34] In the early 1990s the then Airbus CEO Jean Pierson argued that the GIE should be abandoned and Airbus established as a conventional company.[35] However, the difficulties of integrating and valuing the assets of four companies, as well as legal issues, delayed the initiative. In December 1998, when it was reported that British Aerospace and DASA were close to merging,[36] Aérospatiale paralysed negotiations on the Airbus conversion; the French company feared the combined BAe/DASA, which would own 57.9% of Airbus, would dominate the company and it insisted on a 50/50 split.[37] However, the issue was resolved in January 1999 when BAe abandoned talks with DASA in favour of merging with Marconi Electronic Systems to become BAE Systems.[38][39][40] Then in 2000 three of the four partner companies (DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, successor to Deutsche Airbus; Aérospatiale-Matra, successor to Sud-Aviation; and CASA) merged to form EADS, simplifying the process. EADS now owned Airbus France, Airbus Deutschland and Airbus España, and thus 80% of Airbus Industrie.[32][41] BAE Systems and EADS transferred their production assets to the new company, Airbus SAS, in return for shareholdings in that company.[42][43]

Development of the A380[edit]

Main article: Airbus A380

In mid-1988 a group of Airbus engineers led by Jean Roeder began working in secret on the development of an ultra-high-capacity airliner (UHCA), both to complete its own range of products and to break the dominance that Boeing had enjoyed in this market segment since the early 1970s with its 747.[44] The project was announced at the 1990 Farnborough Air Show, with the stated goal of 15% lower operating costs than the 747-400.[45] Airbus organised four teams of designers, one from each of its partners (Aérospatiale, DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, British Aerospace, CASA) to propose new technologies for its future aircraft designs. In June 1994 Airbus began developing its own very large airliner, then designated as A3XX.[25][46][47] Airbus considered several designs, including an odd side-by-side combination of two fuselages from the Airbus A340, which was Airbus's largest jet at the time.[48] Airbus refined its design, targeting a 15% to 20% reduction in operating costs over the existing Boeing 747–400. The A3XX design converged on a double-decker layout that provided more passenger volume than a traditional single-deck design.

Five A380s were built for testing and demonstration purposes.[49] The first A380 was unveiled at a ceremony in Toulouse on 18 January 2005, and its maiden flight took place on 27 April 2005. After successfully landing three hours and 54 minutes later, chief test pilot Jacques Rosay said flying the A380 had been "like handling a bicycle".[50] On 1 December 2005, the A380 achieved its maximum design speed of Mach 0.96.[49] On 10 January 2006, the A380 made its first transatlantic flight to Medellín in Colombia.[51]

Airbus A380, the largest passenger jet in the world, entered commercial service in 2007.

On 3 October 2006, CEO Christian Streiff announced that the reason for delay of the Airbus A380 was the use of incompatible software used to design the aircraft. Primarily, the Toulouse assembly plant used the latest version 5 of CATIA (made by Dassault), while the design centre at the Hamburg factory were using the older and incompatible version 4.[52] The result was that the 530 km of cables wiring throughout the aircraft had to be completely redesigned.[53] Although no orders had been cancelled, Airbus still had to pay millions in late-delivery penalties.[52]

The first aircraft delivered was to Singapore Airlines on 15 October 2007 and entered service on 25 October 2007 with an inaugural flight between Singapore and Sydney.[54][55] Two months later Singapore Airlines CEO Chew Choong Seng said that the A380 was performing better than both the airline and Airbus had anticipated, burning 20% less fuel per passenger than the airline's existing 747-400 fleet.[56] Emirates was the second airline to take delivery of the A380 on 28 July 2008 and started flights between Dubai and New York[57] on 1 August 2008.[58] Qantas followed on 19 September 2008, starting flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles on 20 October 2008.[59]

Expansion and sale of BAE stake[edit]

In 2003, Airbus and the Kaskol Group created an Airbus Engineering centre in Russia, which started with 30 engineers and since has emerged as a model of success for Airbus’ globalisation strategy. It was the first engineering facility to open in Europe outside the company’s home countries. Equipped with state-of-the-art communications equipment and linked with Airbus engineering sites in France and Germany, the facility performs extensive work in disciplines such as fuselage structure, stress, system installation and design. In 2011, the centre employs some 200 engineers who have completed over 30 large-scale projects for the A320, the A330/A340 and the A380 programmes. Russian engineers also performed more than half of all design work on the A330-200F freighter, with its activity related to fuselage structure design, floor grids installation and junctions design. The centre currently is involved in the A320neo Sharklets design development and numerous design works for the A350 XWB programme.[60]

On 6 April 2006 plans were announced that BAE Systems was to sell its 20% share in Airbus, then "conservatively valued" at €3.5 billion (US$4.17 billion).[61] Analysts suggested the move to make partnerships with U.S. firms more feasible, in both financial and political terms.[62] BAE originally sought to agree on a price with EADS through an informal process. Due to lengthy negotiations and disagreements over price, BAE exercised its put option which saw investment bank Rothschild appointed to give an independent valuation.

In June 2006 Airbus was embroiled in significant international controversy over its announcement of further delays in the delivery of its A380. Following the announcement the value of associated stock plunged by up to 25% in a matter of days, although it soon recovered afterwards. Allegations of insider trading on the part of Noël Forgeard, CEO of EADS, its majority corporate parent, promptly followed. The loss of associated value was of grave concern to BAE, press described a "furious row" between BAE and EADS, with BAE believing the announcement was designed to depress the value of its share.[63] A French shareholder group filed a class action lawsuit against EADS for failing to inform investors of the financial implications of the A380 delays while airlines awaiting deliveries demanded compensation.[64] As a result EADS chief Noël Forgeard and Airbus CEO Gustav Humbert announced their resignations on 2 July 2006.[65]

On 2 July 2006 Rothschild valued BAE's stake at £1.9 billion (€2.75 billion), well below the expectation of BAE, analysts, and even EADS.[66] On 5 July BAE appointed independent auditors to investigate how the value of its share of Airbus had fallen from the original estimates to the Rothschild valuation; however in September 2006 BAE agreed to the sale of its stake in Airbus to EADS for £1.87 billion (€2.75 billion, $3.53 billion), pending BAE shareholder approval.[67] On 4 October shareholders voted in favour of the sale,[68] leaving Airbus entirely owned by EADS.

2007 restructuring[edit]

On 9 October 2006 Christian Streiff, Humbert's successor, resigned due to differences with parent company EADS over the amount of independence he would be granted in implementing his reorganisation plan for Airbus.[69] He was succeeded by EADS co-CEO Louis Gallois, bringing Airbus under more direct control of its parent company.

On 28 February 2007, CEO Louis Gallois announced the company's restructuring plans. Entitled Power8, the plan would see 10,000 jobs cut over four years; 4,300 in France, 3,700 in Germany, 1,600 in the UK and 400 in Spain. 5,000 of the 10,000 would be at subcontractors. Plants at Saint Nazaire, Varel and Laupheim face sell off or closure, while Meaulte, Nordenham and Filton are "open to investors".[70] As of 16 September 2008 the Laupheim plant has been sold to a Thales-Diehl consortium to form Diehl Aerospace and while the design activities at Filton have been retained, the manufacturing operations have been sold to GKN of the United Kingdom.[71] The announcements resulted in Airbus unions in France and Germany threatening strike action.[72]

2011 A320neo record orders[edit]

At the 2011 Paris Air Show, Airbus received total orders valued at about $72.2 billion for 730 aircraft, representing a new record in the civil aviation industry. The A320neo ("new engine option") model, announced in December 2010, received 667 orders, which, together with previous orders, resulted in a total of 1029 orders within six months of launch date, also a new record.[73]

Civilian products[edit]

Airbus A320, the first model in the A318, A319, A320 and A321 range of airliners
Airbus A340-600, a long-range four-engine wide-body airliner

The Airbus product line started with the A300, the world's first twin-aisle, twin-engined aircraft. A shorter, re-winged, re-engined variant of the A300 is known as the A310. Building on its success, Airbus launched the A320, particularly notable for being the first commercial jet to utilise a fly-by-wire control system. The A320 has been, and continues to be, a great commercial success. The A318 and A319 are shorter derivatives with some of the latter under construction for the corporate business jet market as Airbus Corporate Jets. A stretched version is known as the A321. The A320 family's primary competitor is the Boeing 737 family.[74]

The longer-range widebody products, the twin-jet A330 and the four-engine A340, have efficient wings, enhanced by winglets. The Airbus A340-500 has an operating range of 16,700 kilometres (9,000 nmi), the second longest range of any commercial jet after the Boeing 777-200LR (range of 17,446 km or 9,420 nautical miles).[75] All Airbus aircraft developed since then have cockpit systems similar to the A320, making it easier to train crew. Production of the four-engine A340 was ended in 2011 due to lack of sales compared to its twin-engine counterparts, such as the Boeing 777.[76]

Airbus is studying a replacement for the A320 series, tentatively dubbed NSR, for "New Short-Range aircraft".[77][78] Those studies indicated a maximum fuel efficiency gain of 9–10% for the NSR. Airbus however opted to enhance the existing A320 design using new winglets and working on aerodynamical improvements.[79] This "A320 Enhanced" should have a fuel efficiency improvement of around 4–5%, shifting the launch of an A320 replacement to 2017–2018.

In 24 September 2009 the COO Fabrice Bregier stated to Le Figaro that the company would need from €800 million to €1 billion over six years to develop the new aircraft generation and preserve the company technological lead from new competitors like C919,[80] scheduled to operate by 2015–2020.[81]

In July 2007, Airbus delivered its last A300 to FedEx, marking the end of the A300/A310 production line. Airbus intends to relocate Toulouse A320 final assembly activity to Hamburg, and A350/A380 production in the opposite direction as part of its Power8 organisation plan begun under ex-CEO Christian Streiff.[82]

Airbus supplied replacement parts and service for Concorde until its retirement in 2003.[83][84]

Product list and details (date information from Airbus)
Aircraft Description Seats Max 1st flight Production ceased
A300 2 engines, twin aisle 228–254 361 1972-10-28 2007-03-27 (561 built)
A310 2 engines, twin aisle, modified A300 187 279 1982-04-03 2007-03-27 (255 built)
A318 2 engines, single aisle, shortened 6.17 m from A320 107 132 2002-01-15
A319 2 engines, single aisle, shortened 3.77 m from A320 124 156 1995-08-25
A320 2 engines, single aisle 150 180 1987-02-22
A321 2 engines, single aisle, lengthened 6.94 m from A320 185 236 1993-03-11
A330 2 engines, twin aisle 246-300 406–440 1992-11-02
A340 4 engines, twin aisle 239–380 380-440 1991-10-25 2008-09 (A340-200)
2011-11-10 (all other variants, 377 built)[76]
A350 2 engines, twin aisle 270–350 550 2013-06-14
A380 4 engines, double deck, twin aisle 555 853 2005-04-27
VIP aircraft Airbus A330 of Qatar Amiri Flight taxiing on Zagreb airport.

The Airbus Corporate Jets markets and modifies new aircraft for private and corporate customers. It has a model range that parallels the commercial aircraft offered by the company, ranging from the A318 Elite to the double/triple-decked Airbus A380 Prestige. Following the entry of the 737 based Boeing Business Jet, Airbus joined the business jet market with the A319 Corporate Jet in 1997. Although the term Airbus Corporate jet was initially used only for the A319CJ, it is now often used for all models, including the VIP widebodies. As of December 2008, 121 corporate and private jets are operating, 164 aircraft have been ordered, including an A380 Prestige and 107 A320 family Corporate Jet.[85]

Military products[edit]

Main article: Airbus Military

In the late 1990s Airbus became increasingly interested in developing and selling to the military aviation market. Expansion in the military aircraft market is desirable as it reduces Airbus' exposure to downturns in the civil aviation industry. It embarked on two main fields of development: aerial refuelling with the Airbus A310 MRTT and the Airbus A330 MRTT, and tactical airlift with the A400M.

The first A400M in Seville on 26 June 2008

In January 1999 Airbus established a separate company, Airbus Military SAS, to undertake development and production of a turboprop-powered tactical transport aircraft, the Airbus Military A400M.[86][87] The A400M is being developed by several NATO members, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey, and the UK, as an alternative to relying on foreign aircraft for tactical airlift capacity, such as the Ukrainian Antonov An-124[88] and the American C-130 Hercules.[89][90] The A400M project has suffered several delays;[91][92] Airbus has threatened to cancel the development unless it receives state subsidies.[93][94]

Pakistan placed an order for the Airbus A310 MRTT in 2008, which will be a conversion of an existing airframe as the base model A310 is no longer in production.[95] On 25 February 2008 it was announced that Airbus had won an order for three air refuelling Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, adapted from A330 passenger jets, from the United Arab Emirates.[96] On 1 March 2008 it was announced that a consortium of Airbus and Northrop Grumman had won a $35 billion contract to build the new in-flight refuelling aircraft KC-45A, a US built version of the MRTT, for the USAF.[97] The decision drew a formal complaint from Boeing,[98][99] and the KC-X contract was cancelled to begin bidding afresh.[100][101]

Orders and deliveries[edit]

Aircraft Orders Deliveries In operation
A300
561
561
268
A310
255
255
124
A318
79
79
68
A319
1510
1416
1409
A320
7079
3737
3532
A321
2266
969
964
A330*
1342
1112
1098
A340*
377
377
345
A350
750
0
0
A380
318
139
139
Totals
14537
8645
7947

* All models included.

Data as of end August 2014. [102]

Competition with Boeing[edit]

Airbus is in tight competition with Boeing every year for aircraft orders although Airbus has secured over 50% of aircraft orders in the decade since 2003.[103]

The following figure presents the annual orders for and deliveries of aircraft produced by Airbus and Boeing, respectively, since 1989:[104][105][106][107][105][108]

  Airbus orders
  Airbus deliveries
  Boeing orders
  Boeing deliveries


Airbus won a greater share of orders in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, Airbus achieved 1111 (1055 net) orders,[109] compared to 1029 (net of 1002) for the same year at rival Boeing[110] However, Boeing won 55% of 2005 orders proportioned by value; and in the following year Boeing won more orders by both measures. Airbus in 2006 achieved its second best year ever in its entire 35-year history in terms of the number of orders it received, 824, second only to the previous year.[111] In August 2010, Airbus announced that it was increasing production of A320 airliners, to reach 40 per month by 2012, at a time when Boeing is increasing monthly 737 production from 31.5 to 35 per month.[112]

Regarding operational aircraft, there were 7,264 Airbus aircraft operational at April 2013.[103] Although Airbus secured over 50% of aircraft orders in the decade since 2003, the number of Boeing aircraft still in operation at April 2013 still exceeded Airbus by 21% because Airbus made a late entry into the market, 1972 vs. 1958 for Boeing; this lead is diminishing as older aircraft are progressively retired.

Though both manufacturers have a broad product range in various segments from single-aisle to wide-body, their aircraft do not always compete head-to-head. Instead they respond with models slightly smaller or bigger than the other in order to plug any holes in demand and achieve a better edge. The A380, for example, is designed to be larger than the 747. The A350XWB competes with the high end of the 787 and the low end of the 777. The A320 is bigger than the 737-700 but smaller than the 737–800. The A321 is bigger than the 737–900 but smaller than the previous 757-200. Airlines see this as a benefit since they get a more complete product range from 100 seats to 500 seats than if both companies offered identical aircraft.

The first Airbus A350 XWB on its maiden flight.

In recent years the Boeing 777 has outsold its Airbus counterparts, which include the A340 family as well as the A330-300. The smaller A330-200 competes with the 767, outselling its Boeing counterpart in recent years. The A380 is anticipated to further reduce sales of the Boeing 747, gaining Airbus a share of the market in very large aircraft, though frequent delays in the A380 programme have caused several customers to consider the refreshed 747–8.[113] Airbus has also proposed the A350 XWB to compete with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, after being under great pressure from airlines to produce a competing model.[114][115]

Subsidy conflicts[edit]

Boeing has continually protested over "launch aid" and other forms of government aid to Airbus, while Airbus has argued that Boeing receives illegal subsidies through military and research contracts and tax breaks.[116]

In July 2004 former Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher accused Airbus of abusing a 1992 bilateral EU-US agreement providing for disciplines for large civil aircraft support from governments. Airbus is given reimbursable launch investment (RLI), called "launch aid" by the US, from European governments with the money being paid back with interest plus indefinite royalties, but only if the aircraft is a commercial success.[117] Airbus contends that this system is fully compliant with the 1992 agreement and WTO rules. The agreement allows up to 33 per cent of the programme cost to be met through government loans which are to be fully repaid within 17 years with interest and royalties. These loans are held at a minimum interest rate equal to the cost of government borrowing plus 0.25%, which would be below market rates available to Airbus without government support.[118] Airbus claims that since the signature of the EU-US agreement in 1992, it has repaid European governments more than U.S.$6.7 billion and that this is 40% more than it has received.

Airbus argues that the military contracts awarded to Boeing, the second largest U.S. defence contractor, are in effect a form of subsidy, such as the controversy surrounding the Boeing KC-767 military contracting arrangements. The significant U.S. government support of technology development via NASA also provides significant support to Boeing, as do the large tax breaks offered to Boeing, which some people claim are in violation of the 1992 agreement and WTO rules. In its recent products such as the 787, Boeing has also been offered direct financial support from local and state governments.[119]

In January 2005 the European Union and United States trade representatives, Peter Mandelson and Robert Zoellick respectively, agreed to talks aimed at resolving the increasing tensions.[120][121] These talks were not successful with the dispute becoming more acrimonious rather than approaching a settlement.[122]

WTO ruled in August 2010 and in May 2011 that Airbus had received improper government subsidies through loans with below market rates from several European countries.[123] In a separate ruling in February 2011, WTO found that Boeing had received local and federal aid in violation of WTO rules.[124]

International manufacturing presence[edit]

Main Airbus factory in Hamburg, Germany
Main Airbus factory in Getafe, Seville airport, Spain

Airbus has several final assembly lines for different models and markets. These are:

Airbus, however, has a number of other plants in different European locations, reflecting its foundation as a consortium. An original solution to the problem of moving aircraft parts between the different factories and the assembly plants is the use of "Beluga" specially enlarged jets, capable of carrying entire sections of fuselage of Airbus aircraft. This solution has also been investigated by Boeing, who retrofitted 3 of their 747 aircraft to transport the components of the 787. An exception to this scheme is the A380, whose fuselage and wings are too large[125] for sections to be carried by the Beluga. Large A380 parts are brought by ship to Bordeaux, and then transported to the Toulouse assembly plant by the Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit, a specially enlarged waterway and road route.

Airbus opened an assembly plant in Tianjin, People's Republic of China for its A320 series airliners in 2009.[126][127][128] Airbus started constructing a $350 million component manufacturing plant in Harbin, China in July 2009, which will employ 1,000 people.[129][130][131] Scheduled to be operated by the end of 2010, the 30,000 square meter plant will manufacture composite parts and assemble composite work-packages for the A350 XWB, A320 families and future Airbus programmes. Harbin Aircraft Industry Group Corporation, Hafei Aviation Industry Company Ltd, AviChina Industry & Technology Company and other Chinese partners hold the 80% stake of the plant while Airbus control the remaining 20%.[132]

North America is an important region to Airbus in terms of both aircraft sales and suppliers. 2,000 of the total of approximately 5,300 Airbus jetliners sold by Airbus around the world, representing every aircraft in its product line from the 107-seat A318 to the 565-passenger A380, are ordered by North American customers. According to Airbus, US contractors, supporting an estimated 120,000 jobs, earned an estimated $5.5 billion (2003) worth of business. For example, one version of the A380 has 51% American content in terms of work share value.

Plans for a Mobile, Alabama aircraft assembly plant were formally announced by Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier from the Mobile Convention Centre on 2 July 2012. The plans include a $600 million factory at the Brookley Aeroplex for the assembly of the A319, A320 and A321 aircraft. It could employ up to 1,000 full-time workers when operational. Construction began on 8 April 2013, and will become operable by 2015, producing up to 50 aircraft per year by 2017.[133][134]

Environmental record[edit]

Airbus has committed to the "Flightpath 2050", an aviation industry plan to reduce noise, CO2, and NOx emissions.[135]

Airbus was the first aerospace business to become ISO 14001 certified, in January 2007; this is a broader certification covering the whole organisation, not just the aircraft it produces.[136]

Biofuel[edit]

Airbus has joined Honeywell and JetBlue Airways in an effort to reduce pollution and dependence on oil. They are trying to develop a biofuel that could be used by 2030. The companies propose supplying almost one third of the world's aeroplane fuel needs without affecting food resources. Algae is viewed as a possible alternative energy source because it absorbs carbon dioxide during its growth, and because its use will not affect food production. However, algae and other vegetation-based fuels are still just experiments, and fuel-bearing algae has been expensive to develop.[137] Airbus recently operated the first alternative fuel flight on a mixture of 60% kerosene and 40% gas to liquids (GTL) fuel in one engine. It did not cut carbon emissions, but it was free of sulphur emissions.[138] Alternative fuel was able to work properly in Airbus' aeroplane engine, demonstrating that alternative fuels should not require new aeroplane engines. This flight and the company's long term efforts are considered big strides towards environmentally friendly aeroplanes.[138]

Export credits[edit]

According to Patrick Crawford of the UK's Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), "Historically, the three European Export Credit Agencies that support Airbus have covered about 17% of that company's total sales. In 2009–10, reflecting the increased constraints on bank liquidity across the world, that proportion rose to 33%. ECGD guarantees represented by Airbus deliveries grew to 90% of the value of business underwritten and 83% of numbers of facilities. Nearly 50% of these Airbus deliveries were powered by UK aero-engines (supplied by either Rolls-Royce or IAE)." [139]

Airbus aircraft numbering system[edit]

The Airbus numbering system is an alpha numeric model number followed by a dash and a three digit number.[140]

The model number often takes the form of the letter "A" followed by a '3', a digit, then followed normally by a '0', for example A380. There are some exceptions such as: A318, A319, A321 and A400M. The succeeding three digit number represents the aircraft series, the engine manufacturer and engine version number respectively. To use an A320-200 with International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500-A1 engines as an example; The code is 2 for series 200, 3 for IAE and engine version 1, thus the aircraft number is A320-231.

An additional letter is sometimes used. These include, 'C' for a combi version (passenger/freighter), 'F' for a freighter model, 'R' for the long range model, and 'X' for the enhanced model.

Engine codes[edit]

Code Manufacturing company
0 General Electric (GE)
1 CFM International (GE/SNECMA)
2 Pratt & Whitney (P&W)
3 International Aero Engines (R-R, P&W, MTU, Kawasaki, Mitsubishi, and Ishikawajima-Harima)
4 Rolls-Royce (R-R)
6 Engine Alliance (GE and P&W)

See also[edit]


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Bibliography[edit]

  • Congressional Research Service (1992). Airbus Industrie: An Economic and Trade Perspective. U.S. Library of Congress. 
  • Heppenheimer, T.A. (1995). Turbulent Skies: The History of Commercial Aviation. John Wiley. ISBN 0-471-19694-0. 
  • Lynn, Matthew (1997). Birds of Prey: Boeing vs. Airbus, a Battle for the Skies. Four Walls Eight Windows. ISBN 1-56858-107-6. 
  • McGuire, Steven (1997). Airbus Industrie: Conflict and Cooperation in U.S.E.C. Trade Relations. St. Martin's Press. 
  • McIntyre, Ian (1982). Dogfight: The Transatlantic Battle Over Airbus. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-94278-3. 
  • Thornton, David Weldon (1995). Airbus Industrie: The Politics of an International Industrial Collaboration. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-12441-4. 

External links[edit]

Key Airbus publications