Feature: Airbus seeks full lifecycle cooperation with Chinese suppliers

(Xinhua) 13:24, February 04, 2024

TIANJIN, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has strengthened its foothold in China by partnering with additional Chinese suppliers in areas spanning aircraft component production, assembly, delivery, and maintenance.

In the almost four decades since the debut of the first Airbus aircraft in China, collaboration between Airbus and the Chinese aviation industry has rapidly intensified.

The layout design for the new plants has been finalized, and preparations for the second line of the Airbus A320 Family Final Assembly Line Asia (FALA) in north China's major industrial port city of Tianjin are in full swing. The line is scheduled to commence operations by the end of 2025.

Juan Tubio, general manager of FALA, said that FALA has been key to Airbus' global industrial strategy.

"We are very satisfied with the setup and the ecosystem that we have established here and the existing partners that we are working with," he said, adding that Airbus Tianjin has assembled and delivered more than 660 A320 family aircraft.

"After Airbus' first final assembly line outside Europe was put into operation in Tianjin in 2008, we were closer to our customers. To further reduce the costs and enhance the efficiency of FALA, we accelerated our development of a localized supply chain layout in China," said George Xu, CEO of Airbus China.

Therefore, more "Chinese elements" can be found on an Airbus aircraft, from brackets, clips and cabin seats to aircraft fuselage sections, wings, and doors.

The establishment of FALA in Tianjin has attracted other aircraft-related enterprises to set up operations nearby, providing robust support for Airbus.

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, shortening transportation time by 60 days from shipping by sea from Britain.

Avic Chengdu Industrial Aircraft is one of the key suppliers of single-aisle aircraft cabin doors for Airbus; AVIC SAC Commercial Aircraft the primary supplier of the fuselage sections and cabin doors of the A220 series aircraft; and Harbin Hafei Airbus Composite Manufacturing Center the exclusive supplier of the vertical tail fin of the A350 series aircraft.

Wang Shuifu, chairman of XIZI UHC, a Chinese private enterprise that has cooperated with Airbus for over 10 years, said that over 3,000 Airbus aircraft worldwide are now flying with components manufactured by XIZI.

To date, Airbus has over 200 suppliers in China. The total value of the industrial cooperation between Airbus and the Chinese aviation industry reached approximately 1 billion U.S. dollars in 2020.

Airbus has also encouraged international suppliers to cooperate with China, prompting many European suppliers in the aerospace industry to settle in. Figeac Aero, GKN Aerospace and Chemetall have already expanded their branch factories in China.

And Shandong Nanshan Aluminum and Figeac Aero, a French subcontractor of aeronautical equipment, have set up a joint venture to produce metallic parts for aircraft.

"The joint-venture has played its part in the global aviation supply chain. It is an epitome of the win-win cooperation between China and France," said Richard Kolhmann, general manager of the joint-venture Nanshan Figeac Industry.

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

As for innovation, a new research center, inaugurated in Suzhou in east China's Jiangsu Province last April, will focus on research related to the future hydrogen infrastructure for aviation, as well as advanced manufacturing, electrification and future cabins.

On customer services, Airbus has set up its first aircraft lifecycle service center outside Europe in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu to provide parking, storage, maintenance, upgrading, modification, dismantling and recycling services for all types of aircraft.

Cooperation between Airbus and its Chinese partners covers the entire industrial chain, from procurement and production to aviation service and aircraft recycling.

"We are extremely happy with our supply chain in China. It will support our further development," said Airbus Executive Vice President Alberto Gutierrez.

The year 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France. Bilateral economic, trade, and investment cooperation has maintained sound momentum.

"Airbus is committed to being a role model in bridging high-tech and aviation cooperation between two sides," Xu said.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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