“Airbus can’t make the airplanes fast enough”

Featured Image: Airbus

The grounding of Boeing’s once most popular airliner, the 737MAX has hit the 9 month mark. Boeing’s knight in shining armor was tied to the ground in March of 2019 as a consequence of two deadly crashes that killed 346 people in total. The cause was outlined as a flaw in the software of a flight control system. When the jets were grounded, it sent ripples in the aviation world. Airlines that depended on the 737MAX were badly affected. Those who were awaiting deliveries were punched in the face. Globally, it cost millions of dollars. Some airlines demanded compensation, some expressed optimism and even ordered the airplanes amidst the groundings. In any case, Boeing’s problems continued to pile up.

Right now, the American aerospace giant is on the road to re-certify the famous jet with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The timeline that was given was end of 2019. But recently, that became impossible as the FAA said the process more thorough than we thought. This, and some other factors caused Boeing to cut down the production of the 737MAX for now.

Boeing’s media room stated:

“Throughout the grounding of the 737 MAX, Boeing has continued to build new airplanes and there are now approximately 400 airplanes in storage. We have previously stated that we would continually evaluate our production plans should the MAX grounding continue longer than we expected. As a result of this ongoing evaluation, we have decided to prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend production on the 737 program beginning next month.”

Boeing has hundreds of suppliers and contractors on the 737 MAX program. Even though Boeing won’t lay them off, there are fears of non-payment growing. In short, the problem only gets deeper and the famed narrow body jet is not out of the woods yet.

What does this mean for Airbus?

While on one end, Boeing continues to suffer from PR disasters and crises, Airbus continues to pile up orders. Especially on the front of Boeing 737’s arch nemesis, the A320.

Orders for the A320 continue to stack up in the dozens and while that may seem as all gold for Airbus, it’s not. The surge in demand for the A320 family, particularly the A321neo variant, means that Airbus can’t make the jets fast enough to meet then needs. While Boeing struggles with getting the 737MAX back in the air, Airbus is grappling with how to speed up production. Due to the apparent vacuum in the narrow-body market, the overall order mark for Airbus is expected to hit a whooping 1000 figure for 2019.

As mentioned before, the A321neo variants have seen an order frenzy. The versatility and range of the A321 means that airlines can replace even twin-aisle jets with them. Air Arabia placed a massive order consisting of A321’s just recently. European airlines are largely looking up to the neo’s as well as Asian markets.

Airbus, let’s say, isn’t equipped with meeting demands on this rate. It certainly isn’t up-to the challenge of the amazingly wide range of cabin options that it has to prepare for the diverse line of airlines that are ordering the airplane for different purposes. This, is a challenge for Airbus, and a vital one. It is necessary for it to consolidate its advantage over Boeing, but also to maximize return on the series itself. Airbus never expected this demand for the A321, which gained more than 370 orders.

Airbus itself indicated that the order delay won’t be sorted until 2021. Other than the A320, the A220 continues  to gain insane popularity among regional market players. Boeing has yet to answer that, that is of course, once it sorts its own issues.

Is Airbus really happy with the 737MAX production halt though?

Airbus Chief Commercial Officer, Christian Scherer thinks that the 737MAX halt hurts the aviation sector at large, and denied that Airbus stands to benefit from Boeing’s trouble.

“We’re in a growth industry,” Scherer said on a conference call with French aerospace journalists. “When you have one player that isn’t playing its part, it’s extremely destructive,” he added, referring to the balance of the aircraft market rather than Boeing’s efforts to get changes to the jet approved.

While that is the public statement, we really don’t know the private ones.

Is Airbus happy with the 737MAX grounding and production halt? That is unknown. What’s known is that Airbus now has an insane backlog of orders to cover, and it cannot handle it at this pace. Boeing’s challenge has somehow, become Airbus’ as well.


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