Aeronautics: record orders for Airbus, prompting the need for increased production rates

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© Heos-Marine - Nicolas Job

With the presence of Airbus, the aeronautical field is a significant sector in the Atlantic France region. The company has recently secured major agreements, consolidating its position as a dominant player in the aeronautics industry. The plants in Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, and Montoir-de-Bretagne are preparing to increase their production.

The strategic placing of aeronautics in Atlantic France was highlighted by the recent creation of Airbus Atlantic, resulting from the merger of Airbus plants in the region with Stelia Aerospace. 

The Airbus group has a business volume of over €42 billion and employs 135,000 people worldwide, including nearly 6700 in Atlantic France which is home to three of the four Airbus sites in France. At the end of 2023, Airbus had a record order book of 8600 aircraft. The growth of this industry giant can be demonstrated by recent significant orders.

More than 1000 aircraft ordered during recent months

Airbus has demonstrated its dominance in the aviation industry by securing new deals with several companies lately:

  • The London-based low-cost airline EasyJet will purchase 157 A320neo family aircraft, including 56 A320neos and 101 A321neos. The company has also converted an existing order of 35 A320neos to A321neos.
  • Airbus has been selected by Turkish Airlines, the national flag carrier of Turkey, to fulfill a significant order of 220 medium and long-range aircraft, with an additional 135 options, resulting in a potential total of 355 planes.
  • IndiGo, an Indian company that has already ordered over 1230 A320 aircraft from Airbus, has made history by placing the largest order in civil aviation history, with a total of 500 new A320 aircraft. 
  • The German company Lufthansa has ordered40 A220-300 (plus the option of 20 others if needed) and 40 A320s.
  • The Irish company Avolon signed a contract for 100 A321neos. 
  • Cathay Pacific, from Hong Kong, ordered 6 A350 aircraft.

Three production sites in Atlantic France

Airbus has two production sites: one in Saint-Nazaire and one in the neighbouring city Montoir-de-Bretagne, representing 75 hectares overall. They employ over 3000 people who specialise in assembling, equipping, and testing the forward sections of A320 Family aircraft, as well as the forward and centre sections of the A330 and flagship A380 jetliners. The Saint-Nazaire plant also produces radomes that protect nose-mounted aircraft antennas.

In Nantes, on a site of 88 hectares, Airbus also employs more than 3000 individuals.  Here, they produce centre wing boxes for all Airbus commercial jetliners, along with air inlets on nacelles that equip the A350s and A380s, as well as the A320neo’s CFM International LEAP-1A, and the A330neo engines. The site also manufactures ailerons for A380s and A330sn and the A350 airliner’s belly fairing, as well as structural parts in composite material.

The new orders will have a direct impact on these factories, which will have to increase their production capacity. The current production rate of 50 A320s per month will have to be increased to 75 by 2026, in addition to the increase in the production of other models.

Innovative projects with Atlantic France partners

Airbus’ location in Atlantic France also enables the aeronautical group to carry out cutting-edge R&D projects with leading partners. This is for example the case with the cryogenic tank programme which is carried out at the Nantes ZEROe centre in partnership with the Cetim and the technological research institute Jules Verne.

IRT Jules Verne is also leading a project called Apply which aims to automate thermosetting prepreg fabrics using a robotic system. It joins together Airbus Operations, Airbus Atlantic, Daher, and the startup Innovamics. The project represents an investment of €2.3m over three years.

Florence Olivier: leading the future at Airbus Atlantic in Saint-Nazaire

Florence Olivier, an accomplished engineer in the aeronautical sector, has been appointed as the new leader of the Airbus Atlantic site in Saint-Nazaire. She is the first woman to hold this position. Her primary focus will be increasing production and maintaining Airbus Atlantic’s position as a leader in aeronautical technology. She will play a crucial role in implementing investments and developing advanced manufacturing techniques.

Download our guide on the aeronautics sector in Atlantic France

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