THE A220 AND BREXIT
The two photos shown above were taken at the Short Brothers Facility in Belfast and show the fabrication of the A220 wing.
At the present time (pending the development of an additional production line to the existing Airbus A320 plant at Mobile Alabama) the A220 assembly facility in Canada receives basically all parts of the aircraft from distant foreign suppliers. The wings, engine nacelles, and composite empennage structures are all manufactured at Short Brothers’ facility in Belfast, which is the capital of Northern Ireland.
Short Brothers (“Shorts”) has been designing and manufacturing aircraft since 1908 and it was the world’s first company to make production aircraft. Shorts was bought outright by Bombardier in 1989.
The total production distribution for the A220 is complex. Shenyang Aircraft Corporation of China builds the center fuselage. The aft fuselage and cockpit is manufactured in Quebec Canada, while the final assembly is in Montreal. Other major suppliers include Rockwell Collins for most of the avionics, Alenia Aeronautica of Italy for the composite horizontal and vertical stabilizers, Parker Hannifin and United Technologies of the US, and Liebherr Aerospace of Germany. The engines are Pratt & Whitney PW1500G’s.
The production line at Mirabel Montreal is required by the Airbus contract to remain online until at least 2041. The Mobile production line is scheduled to make its first delivery in 2020. The production rate at Mobile is scheduled to top off at 8 per month while Mirabel is scheduled to achieve 10 per month. Given that there are already three significant orders by U.S. buyers (JetBlue, Delta, and David Neeleman) it is unclear how these orders will be split between Mirabel and Mobile.
As Brexit comes to a conclusion, Northern Ireland will be departing the EU along with the UK itself. This development is one of the major unanswered questions of the Brexit negotiations. An even more troubling development is how Airbus itself will change and adapt to Brexit. [Airbus is a European Corporation, partially owned by the governments of France, Germany, and Spain. It is registered in the Netherlands and its stock trades in Germany, France, and Spain.] Airbus CEO Tom Ender has been quoted in the July 29 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology as saying “A hard Brexit would be catastrophic….the effects….would be enormous.” Importantly, Mr. Enders said that “…certification of thousands of parts would be in question overnight.” Thus the scheme of having Belfast continue to manufacture the critical parts of the A220, such as the wing, leads to very critical uncertainties. At the very least, if the Belfast production line has to be terminated and replaced, this will bring significant difficulties to the program. Beyond that because of Brexit, Airbus itself is heading into uncertain territory, which likely will affect the market for its new aircraft such as the A220.
3/6/2021 08:26:23 am
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