Airbus A320 decision to benefit SA


A decision by planemaker Airbus to increase its output of A320 aircraft from 32 to 34 aircraft a month from December will benefit the company’s South African suppliers.

Airbus says the decision, announced this morning, is driven by continuing demand and a record backlog, now in excess of some 2300.

A spokesman says the move is a fillip for Aerosud in Centurion (manufactures wing, fuselage and cabin components for the A320 family) and Cape Town-based Cobham Omnipless (manufactures radio antennae for Airbus).

Tom Williams, Executive Vice President, Programmes, says leading economic indices and business confidence indicators are showing an upward trend again. “We see this reflected in the continuing solid demand for our eco-efficient products and our robust backlog. Thanks to our proactive order book management we have been able to keep production stable during the year of the downturn, but now it is definitely time to think ahead,” he says. “Aviation is a long-term growth industry. With our prudent decision we will be ready when the market recovers.”

Airbus delivered a total of 498 aircraft in 2009, including 402 A320 of all types, both new company records for a single year. The company target for deliveries in 2010 is to remain at a similar level to 2009.

The A320 family, which includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321, is recognised as a benchmark single-aisle aircraft family. More than 6500 Airbus A320 family aircraft have been sold and nearly 4200 delivered to more than 300 customers and operators worldwide, making it the world’s best selling commercial jetliner ever.

SA trade and industry minister Rob Davies last month said aerospace and defence formed part of a cluster of industries that his department believed has “the potential to develop long-term advanced capabilities”. Also in this group is nuclear technology and advanced materials manufacture: titanium, nanotechnology, advanced composites and bio-ceramic applications.

As a consequence, the aerospace and defence sector was among a range of industries cherry-picked by the South African government as part of its new three year Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP). The sector has previously been so graced, leading government to invest in the Airbus Military A400M airlifter programme as well as the Centurion Aerospace Village.

Announced by late last week, the plan, dubbed IPAP2, builds on the National Industrial Policy Framework (NIPF) and the 2007/08 IPAP. “It represents a significant step forward in scaling up our efforts to promote long term industrialisation and industrial diversification beyond our current reliance on traditional commodities and non-tradable services,” Davies told Members of Parliament.