Coronavirus Impacts Aerospace Manufacturing In China

Credit: Airbus

FRANKFURT—The coronavirus outbreak is beginning to affect aerospace manufacturing with several Western manufacturers temporarily closing down facilities in China.

Most importantly, Airbus decided to extend the Chinese New Year holidays for workers in its Tianjin plant and therefore has stopped final assembly of A320 family aircraft at the site. Tianjin is currently producing six aircraft per month, 10% of Airbus’ global monthly single-aisle production rate of 60. 

Airbus China is “observing Chinese government requirements for staff to work from home and is facilitating with IT equipment so employees from all locations, including Tianjin, do not need to travel to work where possible,” the company said in a statement. “With regards to the business impact, China domestic and worldwide travel restrictions are posing some logistical challenges. The Tianjin Final Assembly Line facility is currently closed. Airbus is constantly evaluating the situation and monitoring any potential knock on effects to production and deliveries and will try to mitigate via alternative plans where necessary.”

The disruption could not come at a worse time for Airbus as it is still far from having recovered from production delays incurred at its main single-aisle site in Hamburg, Germany. Wizz Air CEO József Váradi told Aviation Daily that its A321neos are routinely arriving six months behind schedule as a result, severely impacting the airline’s network planning. Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said in late 2019 that it will take Airbus into 2021 to get back onto a reliable schedule.

Airbus plans to increase output at its Mobile, Alabama assembly line to seven per month in 2021 and global production to 63 at the same time.

Safran Group is also affected. The company has extended vacations for its 2,500 workers in China until the beginning of next week, for now. Boeing has a 737-completion center in Zhoushan, but that is already impacted by the MAX production halt. 

Jens Flottau

Based in Frankfurt, Germany, Jens is executive editor and leads Aviation Week Network’s global team of journalists covering commercial aviation.