Airbus has announced the opening of its Chinese completion and delivery plant for A330 jets, as it eyes a greater foothold on the world's fastest growing aviation market.
The aerospace giant, which marked the occasion with the delivery of the first A330 jet from the new plant to Tianjin Airlines, said it hopes bolstering its presence there could help shore up demand for its wide-body jets. Airbus said the A300 was the most popular wide-body aircraft in China, with nine airlines using it.
The centre, which is a joint venture between the Aviation Industry Corporation of China and Tianjin Free Trade Zone Investment Company, will cover cabin installation, aircraft painting and production flight tests.
Airbus has already had a final assembly line for single-aisle A320 jets in Tianjin since 2008.
The new centre will employ more than 250 people, with Airbus saying it will be ready to deliver two aircraft a month by early 2019.
“The inauguration of our A330 C&DC [completion and delivery centre] in Tianjin, together with the first of many deliveries, marks a new milestone for Airbus’ international footprint and underlines the strong spirit of cooperation with our Chinese partners,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus' chief operating officer and president of commercial aircraft.
Wide-body aircraft completed in China is an Airbus and an industry first which demonstrates our mutual commitment to a strong and growing Chinese aviation sector.
Airbus' rivalry with Boeing is likely to heat up in the Chinese market too: in March Boeing announced it was setting up of its first overseas factory in the country.
Boeing and Chinese aviation manufacturer Commercial Aircraft of China (Comac) are working on the Boeing 737 completion centre.
According to Airbus' latest global market forecast, China will be a big driver for growth, with domestic traffic set to become the world's biggest market.
The International Air Transport Association has forecast that the country will become the world's largest aviation market in terms of passengers by 2024, trumping the US.