Airbus is preparing its Saint Nazaire assembly site to manufacture parts for the new A321XLR plane. The planemaker will invest 60 million euros in developing an assembly line dedicated to A321XLR production. Work on the line is expected to begin in June 2021, with plans to go live by summer 2022.
Airbus adapts its production facility
After the cessation of A380 production at the Saint Nazaire site, Airbus plans to add a new production line dedicated to A321XLR production. With surplus space now available, the new assembly line will be the 5th at the Saint Nazaire facility. Presently, the site has four active production lines for A320-family planes dedicated to the aircraft’s central and front sections.
The new production line will build the front-end fuselage of the A321XLR. Many employees previously deployed on A380 production lines will now be working on the A321XLR. With the addition of the new line, A320-family production is touted to reach 90 planes per month. Before the COVID crisis, the rate stood at 63 aircraft a month.
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Advanced robotics will be installed
The 60 million euros investment includes the installation of robotics, which will significantly improve efficiency and operating costs. This was previously difficult to implement at the Saint Nazaire facility. According to Vincent Le Claive of the CFE-CGC, “at Saint Nazaire, the current lines are now obsolete and it is difficult to put robotics in place.”
However, with plenty of space freed up after A380 production ceased, the planemaker now has the opportunity to integrate advanced industrial robotics into the line. The Saint Nazaire site, which employed over 3,200 workers, has had to cut 386 jobs. However, with the recent announcement, many of these jobs will be saved. Vincent Le Claive goes on to note,
“…this shows that management believes in a rebound in the sector and that, for this, a certain number of investments must be made without delay.”
The future of the A321XLR
Under current projections, the A321XLR is expected to go into service by 2023. The arrival of the efficient, long-range plane couldn’t come at a better time, with the COVID crisis likely to bog down demand for air travel for many years to come. While the COVID crisis may have hampered production efforts, Airbus remains optimistic about sticking to this timeline. A spokesman told Aero.de:
“As planned, we are preparing for the A321XLR to go into service in 2023.”
Over 450 A321XLR planes have been ordered so far by 22 airlines and two leasing companies. Preparations for the plane’s production have been underway at Airbus’ Toulouse and Hamburg facilities since the beginning of 2020. The A321XLR has been heralded as a game-changer for the aviation industry, offering a range of 4,700NM and up to 20% more efficiency than the A320neo.
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