Flight_International 28Jan2020

(Jacob Rumans) #1


flightglobal.com 28 January-3 February 2020 | Flight International | 15

Stealthy 5GAT has
ambitious targets
Defence P


ne year ago, Airbus execu-
tives in Canada laid out
broad strokes of a plan to make
the A220 a commercial success.
Chief among the company’s
goals: to boost A220 production,
land sales with major airlines,
reduce costs and, ultimately,
make the aircraft profitable.
Twelve months on, the pro-
duction rate is up and several
major airlines have signed signifi-
cant sales agreements.
However, the degree to which
the airframer has achieved cost
and profitability goals remains
unclear. But Airbus Canada chief
executive Philippe Balducchi in-
sists the A220 programme is pro-
gressing as expected.
“The journey to get the cost
down has started [and] is on [a]
good track,” Balducchi said at a
15 January event in Montreal
during which Air Canada un-
veiled its first A220-300. He adds
that Airbus expects to achieve
more cost reductions “in the
coming months and year”.

“We are on the normal path of
an aircraft programme at this
stage,” he says.
In January 2019, six months
after Airbus acquired the A
programme from Bombardier, Bal-
ducchi set out his A220 goals at a
media event in Montreal.
He pledged to make the A
profitable and said his team had
initiated a broad cost-cutting effort
that included seeking concessions
from suppliers. The team would
also work to improve production
efficiency, partly by adopting Air-
bus’s processes on the A220.

Balducchi now says the air-
framer aims to reduce the A220’s
costs by 20%, but declines to dis-
close more details or say whether
the A220 is closer to profitability.
“We have been progressing on
the cost reduction. We have had
significant progress with some
suppliers. Some are still under
discussion,” Balducchi says.
Financials aside, the A220 pro-
gramme has gained momentum
under Airbus. Since acquiring the
programme, then called the
CSeries, from a struggling Bombar-
dier in mid-2018, Airbus has land-


A220 gains lift under new ownership

Airbus flags sales successes since adopting narrowbody as efforts towards cutting cost and boosting output continue

Carrier heralds arrival of aircraft that ‘almost did not make it’

Air Canada revealed its first
Airbus A220-300 to reporters and
business partners on 15 January,
the day before it placed the
Quebec-made twinjet into
revenue service.
Executives described the
A220’s introduction as a victory
for Canadian industry, noting that
the Montreal-based airline is the
first carrier in the country to
acquire the small narrowbody.
They also insist the A220 will
help transform Air Canada’s
network by driving down costs
and enabling it to launch
previously untenable routes.
“The arrival of a new aircraft is
always a major event for an air-
line... The A220, especially so,”
says Air Canada chief executive
Calin Rovinescu. “The capacity
and range of the A220 will open

new markets. It will allow us to
expand our already extensive
North American network and
support our global strategy.”
Air Canada operated its first
revenue A220 flight on 16 January
between Montreal and Calgary.
In total, the carrier has ordered
45 A220-300s, equipped with 137
seats in a two-class layout. It will
use them partly to replace 14
Embraer 190s scheduled for
divestiture by year-end.
Powered by Pratt & Whitney
PW1500G geared turbofans, the
A220-300s will burn 20% less fuel
per seat than the E190s, says Air
Canada vice-president of
network planning Mark Galardo.
“This aircraft fits Air Canada’s
needs almost perfectly,” he says.
The A220-300’s 3,350nm
(6,200km) range theoretically

makes transatlantic passenger
flights possible. But, due to op-
erational limitations, Air Canada
has no intention of seeking the
extended twin-engine operations
approvals needed for such
flights, Galardo says.
Weight restrictions on transat-
lantic and transpacific flights
would significantly limit passen-
ger counts – perhaps to as few as
40 – effectively making transoce-
anic A220 flights a “luxury niche”
product, he says.
Rovinescu calls the A220 “a
product of innovation, of risk, of
disrupting the market, of staying
power” – a nod to the many strug-
gles, financial and legal, that the
original manufacturer Bombardier
faced when developing the twin-
jet. “The aircraft programme al-
most did not make it,” he says. ■

Air Canada

Air Canada received its first
-300 in December 2019

ed significant new orders – the
types of sales Bombardier so badly
needed. The Airbus-led deals
include: 60 A220-300s to Air
France-KLM, 70 A220-300s to Jet-
Blue Airways, and 60 jets to former
JetBlue founder David Neeleman’s
US start-up, known as Moxy.

Balducchi also notes that Airbus
has secured A220 commitments
from major aircraft lessors Air
Lease Corporation and Nordic
Aviation Capital.
At the time it was acquired by
Airbus, the programme had
logged some 406 orders, which
by the end of 2019 had risen by
47% to 595 aircraft.
Airbus has made progress
boosting production, having de-
livered 48 A220s in 2019. By com-
parison, the Montreal site shipped
33 A220s in 2018 and 17 in 2017.
Airbus also opened a second
A220 assembly line in Mobile,
Alabama, in 2018, which will de-
liver its first aircraft this year.
Balducchi declines to say how
many A220s Airbus expects to
produce in 2020, but notes that by
mid-decade it expects to build 14
per month: 10 in Montreal and
four in Mobile.
Balducchi insists supply chain
issues are no longer stifling Air-
bus’s ability to get A220s off the
assembly line. “Right now we are
following a normal, pretty aggres-
sive ramp-up,” Balducchi says.
“There is nothing holding us
back... It is a normal part of ma-
turing [the] industrial system.” ■
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