Roewe says Airbus will be paying a lot of attention to quality and maturity introducing management tools, such as advanced quality product planning, a concept taken from the automotive industry. Risk assessment and failure mode analysis also will play an important role in the preparation and ramp-up of final assembly.
A maturity officer will be part of the chief engineer’s office.
Pylon parts will be the first NEO components to be built. Also the PW1100G-JM engine is to perform its first ground run later this month and it is expected to fly on a testbed by the end of this year, Roewe says.
To limit risks, Airbus plans to produce parts, components and subsections at a fast rate even before the first delivery, although it will only have a single-digit number of production aircraft ready before entry-into-service of the first unit, which is scheduled to enter Qatar Airways’ fleet.
The flight test program for the A320NEO will be performed by four aircraft, two each with the different engine types. The A319NEO and the A321NEO flight tests will be undertaken with only two aircraft each.
The flight test aircraft are to be followed by a number of “pre-series” jets that will be identical to the real production aircraft. Airbus plans a linear ramp-up of production to a rate of 44 aircraft a month in 2018. According to Roewe, output of the current A320 family versions is being reduced as the NEO rate increases.
Overall narrowbody production is to stay more or less stable, meaning production of the current version A320s will end in 2018.
Airbus currently builds 40 narrowbodies a month and plans to increase output to 42 by October. The manufacturer has considered increasing this production rate further, but has recently decided not to go forward with that plan.
Roewe says the NEO initially will only be produced in Europe, but final assembly could also move “elsewhere” at a later stage. Airbus currently has an A320 final assembly line in Tianjin, China, but the contract with the Chinese partner companies expires in 2016, just as the NEO arrives. Negotiations are ongoing to extend the line and if that is happening “the NEO would automatically come into the play,” Airbus China President Laurence Barron said earlier this month.
Airbus also is expected to eventually build the NEO at the new Mobile, Ala., A320-family final assembly line that was announced just days before the opening of the Farnborough air show.