The very last wings of the Airbus A380 will roll out of the UK’s Broughton factory in the first half of this year. As the program inches towards cessation, employees at the giant factory await news of their fate. Airbus says it has not yet made a decision on Broughton, but hopes to redeploy existing workers on other product lines.
The end is nigh
Like the approaching apocalypse, the end of the A380 production continues to creep towards us relentlessly. While Airbus has earmarked 2021 as the end of the line for the giant jumbo, it’s already making plans for what happens next.
Just last week, we heard how Airbus would repurpose its A380 assembly line in Toulouse to accommodate the A321. But that’s not the only place the A380 is made. In fact, construction of the A380 takes place across some 16 sites, from Puerto Real in Spain to Hamburg in Germany.
Back when Airbus announced the end of the A380 program, it estimated some 3,000 to 3,500 jobs could be affected as a result of the shutdown. At least 200 of these are in the UK, reports the BBC, many at the site in Broughton where the giant wings of the A380 are made.
The final wings
According to North Wales Live, the very last wings for the A380 will be built during the first half of 2020. With only ANA’s third A380 to be delivered (which clearly has its wings already) and another eight to go to Emirates, there are likely only a handful of wings left to be made.
When the final wings roll out, production in that part of the factory will end. With the news of the repurposing at Toulouse ringing in their ears, employees at Broughton have been hopeful that a similar solution would be found for them.
North Wales Live asked as much of Airbus, and a spokesperson responded,
“Today’s A321 FAL announcement for Toulouse is not linked to, nor sets any precedent for the Broughton plant. We are still to define a future use for the West Factory, and are discussing options as part of the site strategy.”
Although there will be no more A380 wings built in Broughton, the demand for both the A320 family of aircraft, the popular A350 line and the A330neos is incredibly strong. Airbus has a backlog of almost 7,500 aircraft, so it’s likely the manufacturer will be keen to make use of its facility at Broughton to bolster the supply of parts for its other aircraft.
The importance of Broughton
Broughton a historic facility, having been founded in 1939 as a shadow factory for the Vickers Wellington and the Avro Lancaster. When the war ended, De Haviland took over the space for production of the Comet and the Mosquito. Today, the site employs more than 6,500 people and produces wings for the entire Airbus family, apart from the Chinese A320s and the A400M.
When Airbus opened the A380 plant at Broughton, it was the largest factory to be built in the UK for a long time. Built at a cost of £350m, the plant is the size of 12 football pitches and, when production was at its peak, could accommodate some 1,200 employees.
When the cancellation of the program was announced, the BBC reports CEO Tom Enders as saying,
“It needs to be evaluated. It’s clear we make a lot of wings in Britain and a few wings for the A380. Hopefully, we can redeploy a significant number of our employees there and re-use also the infrastructure.”
Hopefully, that is precisely what they’ll do, and employees can find a new role making wings for other Airbus planes.