Airbus expects the supply chain crisis gripping the global aerospace industry to last until next year as suppliers struggle to ramp up production as the world emerges from the pandemic.
Guillaume Faury, chief executive of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, said the crisis would not be resolved in the next two or three months.
“We guess, a year as an order of magnitude. We find it hard to believe that in two years it will not be settled. It’s not unusual. It’s just the depth and breadth of what’s going on [which] is more than we have seen in previous crises,” Faury told the Financial Times at the Farnborough Air Show.
Like other global manufacturers, including US rival Boeing, Airbus is grappling with shortages of raw materials, electronic components and other parts.
“It’s bad everywhere… Global supply chains are having real difficulty operating normally and it’s not just an aerospace problem,” Faury said, adding that for the industry the constraints were also happening. “at the time of the request”.
Other challenges, he added, included industry-wide labor shortages, as well as rising inflation and energy costs.
Airbus is working on contingency plans to ensure that its main manufacturing operations in Europe can continue to operate in the event of a power shortage this winter.
In Germany, the government has asked large industrial users to prepare for a possible cut in gas supplies from Russia.
Faury said the group was exploring options to reduce energy consumption, including asking some people to work from home again.
“We also have ideas for working in sequence differently to reduce the peak energy needed.” He added that the company was starting to talk to governments to explore options and offer adaptations.
In the supply chain, engine deliveries have been a particular problem, he said.
Airbus now has 26 “gliders” – planes that have been built but are stored without engines. This is a particular problem for Airbus, which plans to increase production of its best-selling A320 family of aircraft to 75 per month by 2025, with an interim target of reaching 65 per month by by the middle of 2023, compared to about 50 currently.
Faury said he believed the company was “at the bottom” of the problem, but expressed frustration with engine manufacturers. “Not all engine builders started early enough to restart, despite what we told them. Some of them waited too long.
CFM International, the joint venture between Safran and GE, and Pratt & Whitney, which both supply A320 engines, had however signaled that they were back on track, he said, adding that he expected that Airbus would run out of gliders by the end of the year.
In separate interviews, Olivier Andriès, CEO of Safran, and Greg Hayes, CEO of Raytheon, the US group that owns Pratt & Whitney, both acknowledged the problems.
Andries said the industry has “gone from an unprecedented demand shock in 2020 to an unprecedented supply shock today.”
“When the traffic started to come back in the summer of 2021, the [plane makers] asked us to back up – speed up like hell,” he added, noting his focus for now is on recovery and meeting the targets in 2023.
Hayes told the FT that the company had, as expected in February, finished the first half of the year with around 70 engines behind schedule. “We finished around 70 behind and we have a path to recovery, but it took a lot longer and more resources than we thought.”