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New A220 program head announced as Airbus aims to trim losses

written by Hannah Dowling | May 11, 2021
An A220-300 with Airbus livery in flight. (Source: Airbus)

Airbus has announced the appointment of Benoit Schultz, a former senior internal supply chain executive, as the CEO of its Canadian operations, including the loss-making A220 regional jet program.

Schultz will replace outgoing Airbus Canada CEO Philippe Balducchi, who was the first to head up the A220 program following Airbus’ purchase of the Bombardier CSeries jet program in 2018.

Schultz was previously involved in tightening up the finances of the Canadian venture, and was most recently involved in management of Airbus’ global supply chain, serving as a senior vice president in the Airbus procurement office.

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Outgoing chief executive Balducchi intends to “pursue opportunities” outside of the company after spending more than 10 years at Airbus, including overseeing the integration of former Bombardier manufacturing plants into the Airbus network, and opening new US-based assembly lines.

The A220 program was struggling even before Airbus purchased the CSeries operations from Bombardier, particularly in light of tariffs imposed by the US authorities.

Bombardier also saw a heavy financial toll following the development of its CSeries jets, which ultimately saw its near-total exit from the aerospace market following its sale to Airbus.

The program has seen a boost in sales since the acquisition, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which customers saw a greater need for smaller jets with fewer seats.

However, despite this, industry sources still say that the European planemaker is yet to secure low enough prices from its suppliers for many of the plane’s components to make the program decidedly profitable, a task that will now be tackled by Schultz.

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The Canadian-designed jets seat up to 130 people, with a modern and lightweight design.

Powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared turbofans, the A220 family comprises two models – the smaller A220-100 and the larger A220-300, formerly Bombardier’s CS100 and CS300.

Earlier this year, Airbus increased the maximum range on its A220-300 by some 200 nautical miles by implementing a “paper change”.

Doing so ultimately increased the aircraft’s maximum take-off weight (MTOW) by one tonne to 70.9 tonnes.

The ability to carry said additional weight allows the aircraft to carry more fuel, which then extends its range.

As at 31 March 2021, Airbus had delivered a total of 152 of its A220 jets, with a current order backlog of 497.

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