Airbus believes that it could conceivably reach an A320 monthly production rate of 60 aircraft by around 2018.
The airframer has already committed to take the output to 50. Chief operating officer for customers John Leahy says that rates in excess of 60 are “justified”, given the backlog of the A320 and A320neo.
Leahy would not be drawn on a specific timeframe for a rate increase, referring only to a date past 2016.
But chief operating officer Tom Williams says that the period around 2018 would be a “sensible time”.
“If we’re going to go to rate 60 we’d have to go progressively,” he says, adding the Airbus has previously been “careful” on pacing.
Williams points out that the A320neo will be well into its production cycle by this date and that this means Airbus needs to ensure that the engine manufacturers – Pratt & Whitney and CFM International – will be able to cope with ramp-up of new technology employed in their PW1100G and Leap-1A powerplants.
“We have to make sure the engine guys can match those rates,” he says. “They have the biggest technical challenge to deal with.”
But he adds that the rate-increase assessment must also take into account second- and third-tier capabilities,the ability of suppliers to produce sufficient simple components. “You often find problems in areas you didn’t expect,” says Williams. “You have to get down into a real level of detail to manage that.”