Some call Airbus a primarily French company. And there is some truth to that – after all, the manufacturer’s main airport and assembly site are located in Toulouse, France (TLS). TLS is also home to the departure destination of many Airbus’ test flights, including the first one it ever has done, when the Airbus A300 took off on its maiden voyage into the skies in 1972.

At the same time, Airbus is a multi-national company in every sense of the word, as Europe is not the only continent where aircraft, named using the A3XX formula, are assembled and shipped off to customers. Plants in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada, Mobile, Alabama, United States and Tianjin, China are all the second home of Airbus.

However, what does each individual plant do and manufacture?

Airbus A300 and A310

The first Airbus aircraft that started it all, the A300 and its little brother, the A310, were assembled in Toulouse, France.

Different components had to be shipped or brought in using lorries, taking up too much time for the company to complete an aircraft. A solution was found to bring aircraft parts using another aircraft – a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser-based Aero Spacelines Super Guppy. From that point forward, Airbus brought in parts using three channels – air, road and water.

The starting point of the A300 parts was several locations across Europe:

Its wings were built in the United Kingdom, by a company called Hawker Siddeley. The aircraft’s aft and forward sections of the fuselage were constructed in Germany and the tail was constructed by engineers in Spain. General Electric provided the GE CF6, while Pratt & Whitney gave the PW JT9D and PW4000 engines as options to power the first Airbus aircraft. Both General Electric and Pratt & Whitney are located in the United States.

The A300 was completed in Airbus’ Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Toulouse, France.

Rest of the family

As time went on and the European aircraft manufacturer designed its next jet, the A320, its popularity amongst airlines pushed Airbus into opening a new FAL in Hamburg, Germany. The first aircraft that rolled out of the plant in Germany was Manufacturer Serial Number (MSN) 364 A321 in 1993 and was used as a testbed. In 1998, Airbus delivered the same MSN 364 frame to Onur Air, a Turkish operator that still flies the aircraft to this day, registered TC-ONS.

However, most of the final assembly is still based in Toulouse, France. Wide-body aircraft, namely the A330, A350 and A380 are completed in the French city. Narrow-body aircraft are assembled in Mobile (A220 and A320), Mirabel (A220) and Tianjin (A320) in addition to two plants in Europe, located in Toulouse and Hamburg.

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But production sites, where parts are made, are scattered across Europe. For example, in Germany, there are four different plants:

In Hamburg, in addition to the final assembly of the A320, the manufacturer also equips and completes A380 fuselage sections, including cabin furnishing and painting of the Super Jumbo. Rear fuselage sections of the A330 and A350 are also manufacturer and equipped in North Germany.

Bremen is one of the two plants responsible for wing design and manufacturing in Airbus’ eco-system. In the German city, high-lift systems for wings is designed and manufactured for all Airbus aircraft.

Stade is home to another Airbus factory, where vertical tailplanes for every product on the manufacturer’s list is produced. Carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) parts, like flaps or spoilers for such aircraft as the A320 or the A330 are also manufactured here, including pressure bulkheads for the A330 and A380 and the upper wing shell for the A350.

The last German site is Buxtehude, another city near Hamburg. The factory responsible for electronic communication and cabin management systems onboard the aircraft.

French factories

Nevertheless, France remains an Airbus stronghold. The engineering, design, various testing processes, including flight tests are located. Four more sites are scattered across the south European country:

In Toulouse, Airbus engineers and designs, tests structures, and conducts flight testing from the main facility in the city. The Beluga fleet is also based here. Another site in Toulouse, Saint-Eloy, produces engine pylons (parts that connect engines with the wings).

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In Saint-Nazaire, in the west of France, the plant equips and tests front and center fuselage sections for every Airbus aircraft.

The Nantes factory produces and assembles center wing boxes for every jet in the family. The plant is also responsible for Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic parts that are used in structural assembly. Here, Airbus manufactures radomes that protect radars onboard the aircraft, ailerons for the A330 and the A380, air inlets for the A320neo, A350 and Airbus A380.

UK and Spanish sites

In the United Kingdom, Airbus has only two factories: one in Broughton, Wales, the other in Filton.

In Broughton, the site is responsible for the wings of the entire family of aircraft, from the A320 to the A380, including the manufacturing, assembly and equipping. Filton, meanwhile, designs and tests wings, landing gears and fuel systems.

Lastly, in Spain, there are three crucial manufacturing sites for the European company:

Getafe is responsible for the manufacturing of fuselages using metallic and advanced composite materials, building and testing horizontal tailplanes for all Airbus jets. In addition, the central Spain-based plant builds the rear fuselage, tail cone and main landing gear doors for the A380 and the rear fuselage of the A350.

Illescas, around half an hour by car south of Getafe, focuses on producing composite aeronautical components, especially large-scale and oddly shaped parts, like the lower cover of the A350’s wing. Furthermore, the site manufactures stabilizers, rudders and spars, sections of rear fuselage and landing gear parts for the Super Jumbo and some rear fuselage sections and internal skin of the wing of the A350.

The third site in Airbus’ Spanish division is in Puerto Real that is responsible for assembly of various moveable surfaces like the rudders and the spars for every aircraft built by the European manufacturer. Puerto Real also ships out large structural components, including the horizontal tail and the belly fairing of the A380 and the A350 XWB’s horizontal tailplane boxes.

Thus, this concludes the long list of manufacturing sites of Airbus. To sum up, Airbus commercial aircraft are manufactured in:

·         Germany (four sites);

·         France (four sites);

·         United Kingdom (Broughton and Filton);

·         Spain (Getafe, Illescas, Puerto Real).

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