With the signing of a series of agreements on March 26 in Paris, Airbus and China have laid the foundation for extending their aviation-industry cooperation farther into the future.
The agreements were signed by Fabrice Brégier, Airbus president and CEO; and the Chinese parties involved in the cooperative efforts. The signings were witnessed by the French President Francois Hollande and visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In parallel, China Aviation Supplies Holding Company (CAS) and Airbus have also signed a general terms agreement (GTA) for the purchase of a total of 70 Airbus aircraft, including 43 Airbus A320-family jets and 27 Airbus A330 widebodies.
“We are going to celebrate 30 years of successful cooperation with our Chinese partners next year and I am proud that today we are strengthening the foundation for extending our successful cooperation into the future,” said Brégier.
“Our partnership with China, the mutual benefits we’ve explored, have been instrumental in furthering our global strategy, and we are honored to have China as an essential pillar in our global set-up,” added Brégier. “We are looking forward to providing top-performing aircraft from our Chinese assembly lines for many years to come.”
The cooperative agreements are aimed at strengthening the mutually beneficial cooperation between Airbus and the Chinese aviation industry in various fields.
These include promoting Tianjin, where Airbus’ existing Final Assembly Line China (FALC) for the A320 family is located, as an Asian Centre for Airbus; and upgrading industrial cooperation, in terms of both scale and level.
Airbus and its Chinese partners Tianjin Free Trade Zone and Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) have agreed to extend their existing FALC joint venture for an additional 10 years.
Phase II of the FALC joint venture will cover the period from 2016 to 2025. It will allow FALC to expand Airbus A320-family deliveries to the whole Asian region and will include final assembly of the Airbus A320neo family from 2017 onwards.
During Phase II, the capabilities of the Tianjin Final Assembly Line will be extended, according to Airbus.
Airbus and the Chinese parties will also invite additional major component suppliers to develop industrial projects in Tianjin, in order to support the development of the FALC and the formation of a competitive supply chain.
To accommodate the strong growth and ensure the sustainability of the Chinese commercial aviation industry, which is growing much faster than the world average, the future partnership is also designed to launch two other areas of cooperation.
One is to support the Civil Aviation Administration of China with the latest air traffic management technologies in order to boost the capacity of Chinese airspace.
The second area of cooperation is to drive research into developing regional sustainable jet-fuel production and other initiatives in order to reduce the Chinese aviation industry’s environmental footprint.
Airbus and its Chinese partners will also develop cooperation activities on Airbus widebody-production programs. Airbus and relevant Chinese parties will work towards demonstrating the interest in setting up a widebody aircraft completion center in China, an agreement which includes cooperation with AVIC on producing and installing widebody cabin interiors.
It is not clear yet if any of the 27 A330s covered in the GTA will be of the new Airbus A330-300 Regional version proposed by Airbus and planned for certification this year. However, it appears likely that the GTA does including some A330-300 Regional widebodies.
Airbus unveiled the A330-300 Regional in 2013 as an aircraft specifically tailored for short-to-medium-haul, high-density routes in China and within Asia. Such tailoring takes the A330-300 right back to its roots.
When the Airbus A330-300 was originally designed as a 212-tonne aircraft in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was primarily designed for medium-haul regional routes ‒ especially high-density markets within Asia.
Since then, Airbus has continuously developed the A330-300 as a longer-haul aircraft and the latest version ‒ 10 examples of which were recently ordered by Delta Air Lines ‒ has a maximum gross weight of 242 tonnes and will be able to fly non-stop segments of 6,100 nautical miles with a full payload.
However, Airbus is optimizing the A330-300 Regional to seat up to 400 passengers in a two-class configuration on missions of only 3,200 nautical miles or less.
According to Airbus, the A330-300 Regional will deliver cost savings through a reduced operational weight of around 200 tonnes and reduced-thrust engines.
The reductions in fuel burn per seat and maintenance costs allowed by these changes will result in an overall seat-mile cost reduction of 25 per cent compared with the latest long-range A330-300 variant, Airbus calculates.