Every time a new aircraft programme is announced, the economic and industrial ripples spread throughout the world.
As production ramps up for the latest aircraft from Airbus, the A350 XWB which first flew in June 2013, the number of people joining the programme worldwide as direct and indirect suppliers grows almost daily. When it reaches its full production rate, this single aircraft will account globally for 34,000 direct and 68,000 indirect jobs, or 102,000 in total.
At the start of 2014, 12,000 people were already working full-time on the project even though the first deliveries are not scheduled until the end of 2014. Around 1,500 will be employed on the final assembly line in Toulouse once production reaches peak levels. But this is the final stage in a vast production chain which stretches around the world. The aircraft, like all modern planes, is a truly global product – so even though the company is headquartered in France for example, 40% of Airbus procurement spending on components and materials for all programmes goes to companies in the USA.
As well as adding jobs, skills and investments, the new aircraft will also boost cleaner production methods. Environmental criteria are important elements when selecting suppliers and environmental requirements are introduced in contractual agreements. This means more composite and fewer aluminium structures – advanced materials account for 53% of the aircraft – new paint with fewer solvents and more energy-efficient manufacturing processes. At the A350 XWB final assembly, 22,000m2 of solar panels will produce the equivalent of 55% of the total energy needs to power the production processes.