Airbus SAS
Type Subsidiary
Industry Aerospace
Founded 1970 (as Airbus Industrie)
2001 (Airbus as SAS)
Headquarters Blagnac, France
Key people Thomas Enders, Bernard Lathière, John Leahy, Fabrice Brégier
Products Commercial airliners (list)
Revenue increase €27.45 billion (FY 2008)[1]
Net income increase €1.597 billion (FY 2008)
Employees 52,000[2]
Parent EADS
Subsidiaries Airbus Military

Airbus SAS (English pronunciation: /ˈɛərbʌs/, French: [ɛʁbys] ( listen), German: [ˈɛːɐbʊs], Spanish: [airˈβus]) is an aircraft manufacturing subsidiary of EADS, a European aerospace company. Based in Blagnac, France, surburb of Toulouse,[3][4] and with significant activity across Europe, the company produces around half of the world's jet airliners.

Airbus began as a consortium of aerospace manufacturers, Airbus Industrie. Consolidation of European defence and aerospace companies in 1999 and 2000 allowed the establishment of a simplified joint-stock company in 2001, owned by EADS (80%) and BAE Systems (20%). After a protracted sales process BAE sold its shareholding to EADS on 13 October 2006.[5]

Airbus employs around 52,000 people at sixteen sites in four European Union countries: France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain. Final assembly production is at Toulouse (France), Hamburg (Germany), Seville (Spain) and, since 2009, Tianjin (People's Republic of China).[6] Airbus has subsidiaries in the United States, Japan, China and India.

The company produced and markets the first commercially viable fly-by-wire airliner, the Airbus A320,[7][8] and the world's largest airliner, the A380.




Airbus Industrie began as a consortium of European aviation firms to compete with American companies such as Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed.[9]

While many European aircraft were innovative, even the most successful had small production runs.[10] In 1991, Jean Pierson, then CEO and Managing Director of Airbus Industrie, described a number of factors which explained the dominant position of American aircraft manufacturers: the land mass of the United States made air transport the favoured mode of travel; a 1942 Anglo-American agreement entrusted transport aircraft production to the US; and World War II had left America with "a profitable, vigorous, powerful and structured aeronautical industry."[10]

"For the purpose of strengthening European co-operation in the field of aviation technology and thereby promoting economic and technological progress in Europe, to take appropriate measures for the joint development and production of an airbus."

Airbus Mission Statement[11]

In the mid-1960s, tentative negotiations commenced regarding a European collaborative approach. Individual aircraft companies had already envisaged such a requirement; in 1959 Hawker Siddeley had advertised an "Airbus" version of the Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 Argosy,[12] which would "be able to lift as many as 126 passengers on ultra short routes at a direct operating cost of 2d. per seat mile."[13] However, European aircraft manufacturers were aware of the risks of such a development and began to accept, along with their governments, that collaboration was required to develop such an aircraft and to compete with the more powerful US manufacturers. At the 1965 Paris Air Show major European airlines informally discussed their requirements for a new "airbus" capable of transporting 100 or more passengers over short to medium distances at a low cost.[11] The same year Hawker Siddeley (at the urging of the UK government) teamed with Breguet and Nord to study airbus designs. The Hawker Siddeley/Breguet/Nord groups HBN 100 became the basis for the continuation of the project. By 1966 the partners were Sud Aviation, later Aérospatiale (France), Arbeitsgemeinschaft Airbus, later Deutsche Airbus (Germany) and Hawker Siddeley (UK).[11] A request for funding was made to the three governments in October 1966.[11] On 25 July 1967 the three governments agreed to proceed with the proposal.

In the two years following this agreement, both the British and French governments expressed doubts about the project. The MoU had stated that 75 orders must be achieved by 31 July 1968. The French government threatened to withdraw from the project due to the concern over funding development of the Airbus A300, Concorde and the Dassault Mercure concurrently, but was persuaded otherwise.[14] Having announced its concern at the A300B proposal in December 1968, and fearing it would not recoup its investment due to lack of sales, the British government announced its withdrawal on 10 April 1969.[11][15] Germany took this opportunity to increase its share of the project to 50%.[14] Given the participation by Hawker Siddeley up to that point, France and Germany were reluctant to take over its wing design. Thus the British company was allowed to continue as a privileged subcontractor.[10] Hawker Siddeley invested GB£35 million in tooling and, requiring more capital, received a GB£35 million loan from the German government.[14]

Formation of Airbus Industrie

Airbus A300, the first aircraft launched by Airbus.

Airbus Industrie was formally established as a Groupement d'Interet Économique (Economic Interest Group or GIE) on 18 December 1970.[14] It had been formed by a government initiative between France, Germany and the UK that originated in 1967. The name "Airbus" was taken from a non-proprietary term used by the airline industry in the 1960s to refer to a commercial aircraft of a certain size and range, for this term was acceptable to the French linguistically. Aérospatiale and Deutsche Airbus each took a 36.5% share of production work, Hawker Siddeley 20% and Fokker-VFW 7%.[11] Each company would deliver its sections as fully equipped, ready-to-fly items. In October 1971 the Spanish company CASA acquired a 4.2% share of Airbus Industrie, with Aérospatiale and Deutsche Airbus reducing their stakes to 47.9%.[11] In January 1979 British Aerospace, which had absorbed Hawker Siddeley in 1977, acquired a 20% share of Airbus Industrie.[16] The majority shareholders reduced their shares to 37.9%, while CASA retained its 4.2%.[17]

Development of the Airbus A300

Eastern Air Lines was Airbus's first customer in the all-important American market, ordering the Airbus A300B4.

The Airbus A300 was to be the first aircraft to be developed, manufactured and marketed by Airbus. By early 1967 the "A300" label began to be applied to a proposed 320 seat, twin engined airliner.[11] Following the 1967 tri-government agreement, Roger Béteille was appointed technical director of the A300 development project.[18] Béteille developed a division of labour which would be the basis of Airbus' production for years to come: France would manufacture the cockpit, flight control and the lower centre section of the fuselage; Hawker Siddeley, whose Trident technology had impressed him, was to manufacture the wings;[19] Germany should make the forward and rear fuselage sections, as well as the upper centre section; the Dutch would make the flaps and spoilers; finally Spain (yet to become a full partner) would make the horizontal tailplane.[18] On 26 September 1967 the German, French and British governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding in London which allowed continued development studies. This also confirmed Sud Aviation as the "lead company", that France and the UK would each have a 37.5% workshare with Germany taking 25%, and that Rolls-Royce would manufacture the engines.[10][18]

In the face of lukewarm support from airlines for a 300+ seat Airbus A300, the partners submitted the A250 proposal, later becoming the A300B, a 250 seat airliner powered by pre-existing engines.[11] This dramatically reduced development costs, as the Rolls-Royce RB207 to be used in the A300 represented a large proportion of the costs. The RB207 had also suffered difficulties and delays, since Rolls-Royce was concentrating its efforts on the development of another jet engine, the RB211, for the Lockheed L-1011[14] and Rolls-Royce entering into administration due to bankruptcy in 1971.[20][21] The A300B was smaller but lighter and more economical than its three-engined American rivals.[22][23]

"We showed the world we were not sitting on a nine-day wonder, and that we wanted to realise a family of planes…we won over customers we wouldn’t otherwise have we had two planes that had a great deal in common as far as systems and cockpits were concerned."

Jean Roeder, chief engineer of Deutsche Airbus, speaking of the A310[17]

In 1972, the A300 made its maiden flight and the first production model, the A300B2 entered service in 1974;[24] though the launch of the A300 was overshadowed by the similarly timed supersonic aircraft Concorde.[25] Initially the success of the consortium was poor,[26] but orders for the aircraft picked up,[27][28] due in part to the marketing skills used by Airbus CEO Bernard Lathière, targeting airlines in America and Asia.[29] By 1979 the consortium had 256 orders for A300,[25] and Airbus had launched a more advanced aircraft, the A310, in the previous year.[17] It was the launch of the A320 in 1981 that guaranteed the status of Airbus as a major player in the aircraft market[30] – the aircraft had over 400 orders before it first flew, compared to 15 for the A300 in 1972.

Transition to Airbus SAS

Air Algérie Airbus A330-200 landing in Montréal-Trudeau

The retention of production and engineering assets by the partner companies in effect made Airbus Industrie a sales and marketing company.[31] This arrangement led to inefficiencies due to the inherent conflicts of interest that the four partner companies faced; they were both GIE shareholders of, and subcontractors to, the consortium. The companies collaborated on development of the Airbus range, but guarded the financial details of their own production activities and sought to maximise the transfer prices of their sub-assemblies.[32] It was becoming clear that Airbus was no longer a temporary collaboration to produce a single plane as per its original mission statement, it had become a long term brand for the development of further aircraft. By the late 1980s work had begun on a pair of new medium-sized aircraft, the biggest to be produced at this point under the Airbus name, the Airbus A330 and the Airbus A340.[33][34]

Airbus A330, a new aircraft introduced in 1994

In the early 1990s the then Airbus CEO Jean Pierson argued that the GIE should be abandoned and Airbus established as a conventional company.[35] However, the difficulties of integrating and valuing the assets of four companies, as well as legal issues, delayed the initiative. In December 1998, when it was reported that British Aerospace and DASA were close to merging,[36] Aérospatiale paralysed negotiations on the Airbus conversion; the French company feared the combined BAe/DASA, which would own 57.9% of Airbus, would dominate the company and it insisted on a 50/50 split.[37] However, the issue was resolved in January 1999 when BAe abandoned talks with DASA in favour of merging with Marconi Electronic Systems to become BAE Systems.[38][39][40] Then in 2000 three of the four partner companies (DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, successor to Deutsche Airbus; Aérospatiale-Matra, successor to Sud-Aviation; and CASA) merged to form EADS, simplifying the process. EADS now owned Airbus France, Airbus Deutschland and Airbus España, and thus 80% of Airbus Industrie.[32][41] BAE Systems and EADS transferred their production assets to the new company, Airbus SAS, in return for shareholdings in that company.[42][43]

Development of the A380

In mid-1988 a group of Airbus engineers led by Jean Roeder began working in secret on the development of an ultra-high-capacity airliner (UHCA), both to complete its own range of products and to break the dominance that Boeing had enjoyed in this market segment since the early 1970s with its 747.[44] The project was announced at the 1990 Farnborough Air Show, with the stated goal of 15% lower operating costs than the 747-400.[45] Airbus organised four teams of designers, one from each of its partners (Aérospatiale, DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, British Aerospace, CASA) to propose new technologies for its future aircraft designs. In June 1994 Airbus began developing its own very large airliner, then designated as A3XX.[25][46][47] Airbus considered several designs, including an odd side-by-side combination of two fuselages from the Airbus A340, which was Airbus's largest jet at the time.[48] Airbus refined its design, targeting a 15 to 20 percent reduction in operating costs over the existing Boeing 747–400. The A3XX design converged on a double-decker layout that provided more passenger volume than a traditional single-deck design.

Five A380s were built for testing and demonstration purposes.[49] The first A380 was unveiled at a ceremony in Toulouse on 18 January 2005, and its maiden flight took place on 27 April 2005. After successfully landing three hours and 54 minutes later, chief test pilot Jacques Rosay said flying the A380 had been "like handling a bicycle".[50] On 1 December 2005, the A380 achieved its maximum design speed of Mach 0.96.[49] On 10 January 2006, the A380 made its first transatlantic flight to Medellín in Colombia.[51]

Airbus A380, the largest passenger jet in the world, entered commercial service in 2007.

On 3 October 2006, CEO Christian Streiff announced that the reason for delay of the Airbus A380 was the use of incompatible software used to design the aircraft. Primarily, the Toulouse assembly plant used the latest version 5 of CATIA (made by Dassault), while the design centre at the Hamburg factory were using the older and incompatible version 4.[52] The result was that the 530 km of cables wiring throughout the aircraft had to be completely redesigned.[53] Although no orders had been cancelled, Airbus still had to pay millions in late-delivery penalties.[52]

The first aircraft delivered was to Singapore Airlines on 15 October 2007 and entered service on 25 October 2007 with an inaugural flight between Singapore and Sydney.[54][55] Two months later Singapore Airlines CEO Chew Choong Seng said that the A380 was performing better than both the airline and Airbus had anticipated, burning 20% less fuel per passenger than the airline's existing 747-400 fleet.[56] Emirates was the second airline to take delivery of the A380 on 28 July 2008 and started flights between Dubai and New York[57] on 1 August 2008.[58] Qantas followed on 19 September 2008, starting flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles on 20 October 2008.[59]

Sale of BAE stake

On 6 April 2006 plans were announced that BAE Systems was to sell its 20% share in Airbus, then "conservatively valued" at €3.5 billion (US$4.17 billion).[60] Analysts suggested the move to make partnerships with U.S. firms more feasible, in both financial and political terms.[61] BAE originally sought to agree on a price with EADS through an informal process. Due to lengthy negotiations and disagreements over price, BAE exercised its put option which saw investment bank Rothschild appointed to give an independent valuation.

In June 2006 Airbus was embroiled significant international controversy over its announcement of further delays in the delivery of its A380. Following the announcement the value of associated stock plunged by up to 25% in a matter of days, although it soon recovered afterwards. Allegations of insider trading on the part of Noël Forgeard, CEO of EADS, its majority corporate parent, promptly followed. The loss of associated value was of grave concern to BAE, press described a "furious row" between BAE and EADS, with BAE believing the announcement was designed to depress the value of its share.[62] A French shareholder group filed a class action lawsuit against EADS for failing to inform investors of the financial implications of the A380 delays while airlines awaiting deliveries demanded compensation.[63] As a result EADS chief Noël Forgeard and Airbus CEO Gustav Humbert announced their resignations on 2 July 2006.[64]

On 2 July 2006 Rothschild valued BAE's stake at £1.9 billion (€2.75 billion), well below the expectation of BAE, analysts, and even EADS.[65] On 5 July BAE appointed independent auditors to investigate how the value of its share of Airbus had fallen from the original estimates to the Rothschild valuation; however in September 2006 BAE agreed the sale of its stake in Airbus to EADS for £1.87 billion (€2.75 billion, $3.53 billion), pending BAE shareholder approval.[66] On 4 October shareholders voted in favour of the sale,[67] leaving Airbus entirely owned by EADS.

2007 restructuring

On 9 October 2006 Christian Streiff, Humbert's successor, resigned due to differences with parent company EADS over the amount of independence he would be granted in implementing his reorganisation plan for Airbus.[68] He was succeeded by EADS co-CEO Louis Gallois, bringing Airbus under more direct control of its parent company.

On 28 February 2007, CEO Louis Gallois announced the company's restructuring plans. Entitled Power8, the plan would see 10,000 jobs cut over four years; 4,300 in France, 3,700 in Germany, 1,600 in the UK and 400 in Spain. 5,000 of the 10,000 would be at sub contractors. Plants at Saint Nazaire, Varel and Laupheim face sell off or closure, while Meaulte, Nordenham and Filton are "open to investors".[69] As of 16 September 2008 the Laupheim plant has been sold to a Thales-Diehl consortium to form Diehl Aerospace and the operations at Filton have been sold to GKN of the United Kingdom.[70] The announcements have resulted in Airbus unions in France planning to strike, with German Airbus workers possibly following.[71]

2011 A320neo record orders

At the 2011 Paris Air Show, Airbus received total orders valued at about $72.2 billion for 730 aircraft, representing a new record in the civil aviation industry. The A320neo ("new engine option") model, announced in December 2010, received 667 orders, which, together with previous orders, resulted in a total of 1029 orders within six months of launch date, also a new record.[72]

Civilian products

Airbus A320, the first model in the A318, A319, A320 and A321 range of airliners
Airbus A340-600, a long-range four-engine wide-body airliner

The Airbus product line started with the A300, the world's first twin-aisle, twin-engined aircraft. A shorter, re-winged, re-engined variant of the A300 is known as the A310. Building on its success, Airbus launched the A320 with its innovative fly-by-wire control system. The A320 has been, and continues to be, a great commercial success. The A318 and A319 are shorter derivatives with some of the latter under construction for the corporate biz-jet market (Airbus Corporate Jet). A stretched version is known as the A321 and is proving competitive with later models of the Boeing 737.[73]

The longer-range widebody products, the twin-jet A330 and the four-engine A340, have efficient wings, enhanced by winglets. The Airbus A340-500 has an operating range of 16,700 kilometres (9,000 nmi), the second longest range of any commercial jet after the Boeing 777-200LR (range of 17,446 km or 9,420 nautical miles).[74] The company was the first to use fly-by-wire flight-control technologies as well as a full glass cockpit when it first used these technologies on the A320 in the late-1980s. All Airbus aircraft developed since then have cockpit systems similar to the A320, making it easier to train crew.

Airbus is studying a replacement for the A320 series, tentatively dubbed NSR, for "New Short-Range aircraft".[75][76] Those studies indicated a maximum fuel efficiency gain of 9–10% for the NSR. Airbus however opted to enhance the existing A320 design using new winglets and working on aerodynamical improvements.[77] This "A320 Enhanced" should have a fuel efficiency improvement of around 4–5%, shifting the launch of a A320 replacement to 2017–2018.

In 24 September 2009 the COO Fabrice Bregier stated to Le Figaro that the company would need from €800 million to €1 billion over six years to develop the new aircraft generation and preserve the company technological lead from new competitors like C919,[78] scheduled to operate by 2015–2020.[79]

In July 2007, Airbus delivered its last A300 to FedEx, marking the end of the A300/A310 production line. Airbus intends to relocate Toulouse A320 final assembly activity to Hamburg, and A350/A380 production in the opposite direction as part of its Power8 organisation plan begun under ex-CEO Christian Streiff.[80]

Airbus supplied replacement parts and service for Concorde until its retirement in 2003.[81][82]

On 10 November 2011, Airbus ended production of its four-engine A340 due to lack of sales compared to its twin-engine counterparts, such as the Boeing 777.[83]

Product list and details (date information from Airbus)
Aircraft Description Seats Max 1st flight Production ceased
A300 2 engines, twin aisle 228–254 361 28 October 1972 27 March 2007 (561 built)
A310 2 engines, twin aisle, modified A300 187 279 3 April 1982 27 March 2007 (255 built)
A318 2 engines, single aisle, shortened 6.17 m from A320 107 117 15 January 2002
A319 2 engines, single aisle, shortened 3.77 m from A320 124 156 25 August 1995
A320 2 engines, single aisle 150 180 22 February 1987
A321 2 engines, single aisle, lengthened 6.94 m from A320 185 220 11 March 1993
A330 2 engines, twin aisle 253–295 406–440 2 November 1992
A340 4 engines, twin aisle 239–380 420–440 25 October 1991 A340-200: September 2008
All other variants: 10 November 2011 (375 built)[83]
A350 2 engines, twin aisle 270–350 550 2012 (scheduled)
A380 4 engines, double deck, twin aisle 555 853 27 April 2005

Military products

In the late 1990s Airbus became increasingly interested in developing and selling to the military aviation market. Expansion in the military aircraft market is desirable as it reduces Airbus' exposure to downturns in the civil aviation industry. It embarked on two main fields of development: aerial refuelling with the Airbus A310 MRTT and the Airbus A330 MRTT, and tactical airlift with the A400M.

The first A400M in Seville on 26 June 2008.

In January 1999 Airbus established a separate company, Airbus Military SAS, to undertake development and production of a turboprop-powered tactical transport aircraft, the Airbus Military A400M.[84][85] The A400M is being developed by several NATO members, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey, and the UK, as an alternative to relying on foreign aircraft for tactical airlift capacity, such as the Ukrainian Antonov An-124[86] and the American C-130 Hercules.[87][88] The A400M project has received several delays;[89][90] Airbus has threatened to cancel the development unless it receives state subsidies.[91][92]

Pakistan placed an order for the Airbus A310 MRTT in 2008, which will be a conversion of an existing airframe as the base model A310 is no longer in production.[93] On 25 February 2008 it was announced that Airbus had won an order for three air refuelling Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, adapted from A330 passenger jets, from the United Arab Emirates.[94] On 1 March 2008 it was announced that a consortium of Airbus and Northrop Grumman had won a $35 billion contract to build the new in-flight refuelling aircraft KC-45A, a US built version of the MRTT, for the USAF.[95] The decision drew a formal complaint from Boeing,[96][97] and the KC-X contract was cancelled to begin bidding afresh.[98][99]

Competition with Boeing

Airbus is in tight competition with Boeing every year for aircraft orders. Though both manufacturers have a broad product range in various segments from single-aisle to wide-body, their aircraft do not always compete head-to-head. Instead they respond with models slightly smaller or bigger than the other in order to plug any holes in demand and achieve a better edge. The A380, for example, is designed to be larger than the 747. The A350XWB competes with the high end of the 787 and the low end of the 777. The A320 is bigger than the 737-700 but smaller than the 737–800. The A321 is bigger than the 737–900 but smaller than the previous 757-200. Airlines see this as a benefit since they get a more complete product range from 100 seats to 500 seats than if both companies offered identical aircraft.

Airbus A350 XWB concept on Etihad Airways livery.

In recent years the Boeing 777 has outsold its Airbus counterparts, which include the A340 family as well as the A330-300. The smaller A330-200 competes with the 767, outselling its Boeing counterpart in recent years. The A380 is anticipated to further reduce sales of the Boeing 747, gaining Airbus a share of the market in very large aircraft, though frequent delays in the A380 programme have caused several customers to consider the refreshed 747–8.[100] Airbus has also proposed the A350 XWB to compete with the fast-selling Boeing 787 Dreamliner, after being under great pressure from airlines to produce a competing model.[101][102]

There are around 5,102 Airbus aircraft in service, with Airbus managing to win over 50 per cent of aircraft orders in recent years. Airbus products are still outnumbered 3 to 1 by in-service Boeings (there are over 4,500 Boeing 737s alone in service). This however is indicative of historical success – Airbus made a late entry into the modern jet airliner market (1972 vs. 1958 for Boeing).

Airbus won a greater share of orders in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, Airbus achieved 1111 (1055 net) orders,[103] compared to 1029 (net of 1002) for the same year at rival Boeing[104] However, Boeing won 55% of 2005 orders proportioned by value; and in the following year Boeing won more orders by both measures. Airbus in 2006 achieved its second best year ever in its entire 35 year history in terms of the number of orders it received, 824, second only to the previous year.[105] In August 2010, Airbus announced that it was increasing production of A320 airliners, to reach 40 per month by 2012, at a time when Boeing is increasing monthly 737 production from 31.5 to 35 per month.[106]

Orders and deliveries

2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989
European Union Airbus 1231 574 271 777 1341 790 1055 370 284 300 375 520 476 556 460 326 106 125 38 136 101 404 421
United States Boeing 495 530 142 662 1413 1044 1002 272 239 251 314 588 355 606 543 708 441 125 236 266 273 533 716
Sources 2011: Airbus net orders until October 31 <>
Boeing net orders until November 16 <>
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989
European Union Airbus 418 510 498 483 453 434 378 320 305 303 325 311 294 229 182 126 124 123 138 157 163 95 105
United States Boeing 387 462 481 375 441 398 290 285 281 381 527 491 620 563 375 271 256 312 409 572 606 527 402
Sources 2011: Airbus deliveries until October 31 <>
Boeing deliveries until October 31 <>

Orders and deliveries, by product

Civil airplanes 2010 Deliveries 2010 Orders 2010 Backlog Historical Deliveries ending Dec 2010
European Union Airbus United States Boeing European Union Airbus United States Boeing European Union Airbus United States Boeing European Union Airbus United States Boeing
single aisle 1010 707
single aisle 1831 727
single aisle 401 A320 376 737 416 A320 486 737 2418 A320 2186 737 4728 A320 6637 737
single aisle 1049 757
widebody 12 767 3 767 50 767 561 A300
255 A310
994 767
widebody 87 A330
4 A340
74 777 47 A330
1 A340
46 777 354 A330
4 A340
253 777 750 A330
350 A340
910 777
widebody 0 A350 0 787 78 A350 -4 787 583 A350 847 787 0 A350 0 787
widebody 18 A380 0 747 32 A380 -1 747 193 A380 107 747 41 A380 1418 747
Total 510 462 574 530 3552 3443 6685 13849
Boeing (1957) and Airbus (1972) until 31st December, 2010

Sources : Wikipedia pages and Analysis: Airbus’s late push sees off Boeing - again

Subsidy conflicts

Boeing has continually protested over "launch aid" and other forms of government aid to Airbus, while Airbus has argued that Boeing receives illegal subsidies through military and research contracts and tax breaks.[107]

In July 2004 former Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher accused Airbus of abusing a 1992 bilateral EU-US agreement providing for disciplines for large civil aircraft support from governments. Airbus is given reimbursable launch investment (RLI), called "launch aid" by the US, from European governments with the money being paid back with interest plus indefinite royalties, but only if the aircraft is a commercial success.[108] Airbus contends that this system is fully compliant with the 1992 agreement and WTO rules. The agreement allows up to 33 per cent of the programme cost to be met through government loans which are to be fully repaid within 17 years with interest and royalties. These loans are held at a minimum interest rate equal to the cost of government borrowing plus 0.25%, which would be below market rates available to Airbus without government support.[109] Airbus claims that since the signature of the EU-U.S. Agreement in 1992, it has repaid European governments more than U.S.$6.7 billion and that this is 40% more than it has received.

Airbus argues that the military contracts awarded to Boeing, the second largest U.S. defence contractor, are in effect a form of subsidy, such as the controversy surrounding the Boeing KC-767 military contracting arrangements. The significant U.S. government support of technology development via NASA also provides significant support to Boeing, as do the large tax breaks offered to Boeing, which some people claim are in violation of the 1992 agreement and WTO rules. In its recent products such as the 787, Boeing has also been offered direct financial support from local and state governments.[110]

In January 2005 the European Union and United States trade representatives, Peter Mandelson and Robert Zoellick respectively, agreed to talks aimed at resolving the increasing tensions.[111][112] These talks were not successful with the dispute becoming more acrimonious rather than approaching a settlement.[113]

WTO ruled in August 2010 and in May 2011 that Airbus had received improper government subsidies through loans with below market rates from several European countries.[114] In a separate ruling in February 2011, WTO found that Boeing had received local and federal aid in violation of WTO rules.[115]

International manufacturing presence

The main Airbus factory in Toulouse is located next to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport. (43°36′44″N 1°21′47″E / 43.61222°N 1.36306°E / 43.61222; 1.36306)
Main Airbus factory in Hamburg, Germany

Airbus has several final assembly lines for different models and markets. These are:

Airbus, however, has a number of other plants in different European locations, reflecting its foundation as a consortium. An original solution to the problem of moving aircraft parts between the different factories and the assembly plants is the use of "Beluga" specially enlarged jets, capable of carrying entire sections of fuselage of Airbus aircraft. This solution has also been investigated by Boeing, who retrofitted 3 of their 747 aircraft to transport the components of the 787. An exception to this scheme is the A380, whose fuselage and wings are too large[116] for sections to be carried by the Beluga. Large A380 parts are brought by ship to Bordeaux, and then transported to the Toulouse assembly plant by the Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit, a specially enlarged waterway and road route.

North America is an important region to Airbus in terms of both aircraft sales and suppliers. 2,000 of the total of approximately 5,300 Airbus jetliners sold by Airbus around the world, representing every aircraft in its product line from the 107-seat A318 to the 565-passenger A380, are ordered by North American customers. According to Airbus, US contractors, supporting an estimated 120,000 jobs, earned an estimated $5.5 billion (2003) worth of business. For example, one version of the A380 has 51% American content in terms of work share value. A plant will be built in Mobile, Alabama for KC-45A, A330-200MRTT and A330-200F production.[117]

Airbus opened an assembly plant in Tianjin, People's Republic of China for its A320 series airliners in 2009.[118][119][120] Airbus started constructing a $350 million component manufacturing plant in Harbin, China in July 2009, which will employ 1,000 people.[121][122][123] Scheduled to be operated by the end of 2010, the 30,000 square meter plant will manufacture composite parts and assemble composite work-packages for the A350 XWB, A320 families and future Airbus programs. Harbin Aircraft Industry Group Corporation, Hafei Aviation Industry Company Ltd, AviChina Industry & Technology Company and other Chinese partners hold the 80 percent stake of the plant while Airbus control the remaining 20 percent.[124]

Environmental record

Airbus has joined Honeywell and JetBlue Airways in an effort to reduce pollution and dependence on oil. They are trying to develop a biofuel that could be used by 2030. The companies think they can almost cover one third of the world's airplane fuel need. A plan to create a biofuel that won’t affect food resources is the proposal. Algae is a possible alternative because it absorbs carbon dioxide, and it will not affect food production. However, algae and other vegetation are still just experiments, and algae is expensive to develop.[125] Airbus recently had the first alternative fuel flight. It ran on 60 percent kerosene and 40 percent gas to liquids (GTL) fuel in one engine. It did not cut carbon emissions, but it was free of sulphur emissions.[126] Alternative fuel was able to work properly in Airbus' aeroplane engine, so alternative fuels should not cause a need for new aeroplane engines. This flight and the company's long term efforts are considered big strides towards environmentally friendly aeroplanes.[126]

Export credits

According to Patrick Crawford of the UK's Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), "Historically, the three European Export Credit Agencies that support Airbus have covered about 17 per cent of that company's total sales. In 2009–10, reflecting the increased constraints on bank liquidity across the world, that proportion rose to 33 per cent. ECGD guarantees represented by Airbus deliveries grew to 90 per cent of the value of business underwritten and 83 per cent of numbers of facilities. Nearly 50 per cent of these Airbus deliveries were powered by UK aero-engines (supplied by either Rolls-Royce or IAE)." [127]

Employment data

Workforce by sites

Airbus site¹ Country Workforce
(Toulouse, Colomiers, Blagnac)
France 16,992
(Finkenwerder, Stade, Buxtehude)
Germany 13,420
Broughton, Flintshire, Wales UK 5,031
Bristol (Filton), England UK 4,642
Bremen Germany 3,330
Madrid (Getafe, Illescas) Spain 2,484
Saint-Nazaire France 2,387
Nordenham Germany 2,086
Nantes France 1,996
Albert (Méaulte) France 1,288
Varel Germany 1,191
Laupheim Germany 1,116
Cadiz (Puerto Real) Spain 448
Washington, D.C. (Herndon, Ashburn) USA 422
Beijing PRC 150
Wichita USA 200
Mobile, Alabama USA 150
Miami (Miami Springs) USA ?
Seville Spain ?
Moscow Russia ?
Tianjin PRC planning
Harbin PRC 1,000 (opening by end-2010)
Bangalore, Karnataka India 180
Total 56,966+

(Data as of 31 December 2006)

¹ Name of the urban/metropolitan area appears first, then in parenthesis are the exact locations of the plants

Airbus aircraft numbering system

The Airbus numbering system is an alpha numeric model number followed by a dash and a three digit number.[128]

The model number often takes the form of the letter "A" followed by a '3', a digit, then followed normally by a '0', for example A380. There are some exceptions such as: A318, A319, A321 and A400M. The succeeding three digit number represents the aircraft series, the engine manufacturer and engine version number respectively. To use an A320-200 with International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500-A1 engines as an example; The code is 2 for series 200, 3 for IAE and engine version 1, thus the aircraft number is A320-231.

An additional letter is sometimes used. These include, 'C' for a combi version (passenger/freighter), 'F' for a freighter model, 'R' for the long range model, and 'X' for the enhanced model.

Engine codes

Code Manufacturing company
0 General Electric (GE)
1 CFM International (GE/SNECMA)
2 Pratt & Whitney (P&W)
3 International Aero Engines (R-R, P&W, Kawasaki, Mitsubishi, and Ishikawajima-Harima)
4 Rolls-Royce (R-R)
6 Engine Alliance (GE and P&W)

See also


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  • Congressional Research Service (1992). Airbus Industrie: An Economic and Trade Perspective. U.S. Library of Congress. 
  • Heppenheimer, T.A. (1995). Turbulent Skies: The History of Commercial Aviation. John Wiley. ISBN 0-471-19694-0. 
  • Lynn, Matthew (1997). Birds of Prey: Boeing vs. Airbus, a Battle for the Skies. Four Walls Eight Windows. ISBN 1-56858-107-6. 
  • McGuire, Steven (1997). Airbus Industrie: Conflict and Cooperation in U.S.E.C. Trade Relations. St. Martin's Press. 
  • McIntyre, Ian (1982). Dogfight: The Transatlantic Battle Over Airbus. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-94278-3. 
  • Thornton, David Weldon (1995). Airbus Industrie: The Politics of an International Industrial Collaboration. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-12441-4. 

External links

Key Airbus publications

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