Ripples Of The Ramp-up

Airbus and Boeing have both clarified production schedules until the end of this decade, but plenty of uncertainty remains about the impact of rate increases.

A320 and 737 output, for instance, will rise from a current 42 per month each, to 60 for Airbus and 57 for Boeing in 2019 – an unprecedented amount.

Leaving aside the question of whether demand will bear those numbers, the ramp-ups also pose challenges to the aviation aftermarket, especially when expanded production accompanies new technology.

Cabin equipment often proves a major bottleneck, with Airbus missing its target for A350 production last year due to problems with supplier Zodiac Aerospace.

These delays can ripple out, as suppliers focus their energies on meeting OEM demand, sometimes to the detriment of other customers such as MRO shops and airlines.

“The phase in of the A350 showed that it is difficult to perform the initial provisioning of home bases due to the very long lead times of the OEMs,” says a spokesman for Lufthansa Technik.

Last year American Airlines dropped Zodiac as a supplier for its 787-9 business-class seats after several Dreamliners were delayed due to missing equipment.

Boeing itself suffered severely during development of the 787 due to an over-extended supply chain that it failed to monitor effectively.
The OEM has since overcome those deficiencies, but not before it was forced to buy out Vought, a major airframe component supplier.

Determined to avoid another embarrassment, in late 2015 Boeing dropped GKN as a supplier for a 737 MAX thrust reverser component due to fears it couldn’t meet the narrowbody’s aggressive production target.

“We have said for some time we are learning lessons as we go, and we are building on our experience with 787 production to ensure that our suppliers are prepared to support future rates,” says Boeing spokesman Doug Alder.

To find out more about the challenges and wider impact of aircraft ramp-ups, pick up the next issue of Inside MRO.

TAGS: Airframes
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