THE TRIBUNE – You will celebrate your ten years at Airbus, six as CEO (2006-2012), then four as CEO. What is your assessment
FABRICE BERGIER – My work was done in continuity over the decade. Among the challenges we faced, I mention in particular the rebuilding of the A380 program and the launch of the A350 in a difficult environment for Airbus, but ruled since as one of those who were the best conduits. Meanwhile, Airbus has expanded internationally, including China and the United States, with the introduction of the assembly line in Mobile. Recent years have also been marked by significant commercial success, with over 4,000 net orders harvested during the last three years. This represents more than double the aircraft delivered during the same period.
The company she has changed?
Airbus has become a company fully integrated and international. At its inception, it was marked by internal rivalries, sometimes even at the level of top management.
What are your future challenges?
We must succeed the ramp-up production of the A320 family, especially the A320 neo, and that of the A350. But also continue the success, in due time, developments of the A350-1000, which is expected to enter service in 2017, and the A330 neo, which should be certified by the end of 2017. Finally, we must continue to transform Airbus operationally.
by using new technologies, including digital, in the development of programs and the production. This is a major axis on which rightly insists Tom Enders, Airbus President Group, for over a year. We are on long cycles that go by shortening. These new technologies can bring us a lot, especially to strengthen our competitiveness. In the manufacturing, for example, we test, for a year, prints in 3D and we are targeting digital continuity with the ability to control the entire chain, from aircraft design to delivery. We also want to focus on the analysis of larger data volumes in order to have a more detailed knowledge, but also more exhaustive, in-service aircraft or during flight testing.
What can the industry of the future?
Go to another level of excellence. New technologies will enable greater responsiveness in the production and likely to repatriate production in Europe.
Is it really possible to repatriate production in Europe?
Since technologies allow more flexibility and responsiveness in the production and optimize the design and manufacture of parts, the competitiveness gap related to salary size is reduced. I remain convinced, for example, that we will be able to produce in ten years large titanium parts with 3D printers and ALM Manufacturing Technology ( Additive Layer Manufacturing ). Although the manufacturing cost is higher, these pieces will be competitive because their design will consume far less titanium than a conventional design. Today, the ratio between the titanium used and the one kept in the workpiece is 1 to 10, the rest become chips. So there is still a lot of losses that will significantly reduce tomorrow with ALM technologies. The factory of the future is likely to give an additional paradoxically competitiveness to our plants.
Since the first delivery in December 2014, the ramp-up of the A350 is difficult. Is it realistic to maintain delivery targets that plane?
On a new aircraft including many new technologies, the ramp-up is difficult. We delivered 14 aircraft in 2015 and nine since the beginning of 2016. We therefore remains at least 41 to be delivered by December 31 to meet our target of at least 50 A350 deliveries this year. This goal remains a challenge because a number of our partners are experiencing difficulties.
These difficulties you have pointed earlier this year, including Zodiac, are not resolved?
the situation is improving but not enough to keep all of our commitments. Progress plans were launched, but late. It is unfortunate to lose time because the aircraft seats are delivered late or they do not have the required quality or that the toilets are not complete. It is difficult to accept when selling the products of about $ 200 million.
Are the challenges of the ramp-up of the A320 Family the same?
on the A320, the goal is to go from 42 to 60 aircraft per month by mid-2019. It’s less complicated than going from 1 to 14 or 14 to 50 as the A350, to the extent that our industrial partners on the A320 neo are already long. Except for the new Pratt & amp engines; Whitney who, although very powerful, experienced maturity problems in recent months. Only six A320 neo were delivered since the beginning of the year. Many planes are waiting for their engine and could not be delivered. The solutions to these problems have been defined and are tested on Lufthansa planes and Indigo are very satisfied with their performance. We will put in place from this summer. The problems are about to be resolved.
This is there enough to catch up in the first half?
Our goal is good to catch up during the second half of the year. This is achievable even if it remains tense. Many planes are just waiting for the engines. Moreover, certification in early June of CFM Leap engine (Safran / GE), our second source engines on this program will help to catch up. Furthermore, we deliver a little more classic A320 (CEO) than expected this year.
You have delivered 234 planes as late May. Keep your goal of 650 deliveries, all models for 2016?
Yes, we are maintaining. I admit, the end of the year promises to be very active in terms of deliveries!
How to strengthen the monitoring of subcontractors to avoid such delays?
it is our responsibility and our job to pull them up. Airbus made a lot of efforts, including involving industrial partners in the business concept extended from the development phase. This strategy has also been extremely successful on the A350 which, I repeat, it is paradoxical that the deliveries are blocked by a problem of seats or toilets. So the problem comes not necessarily from Airbus. The industrial partners must take responsibility, especially when it is not a matter of SMEs. However, I demand more anticipation to my teams, more work upstream with our subcontractors, and more responsiveness when is emerging challenges before it becomes a crisis.
We have to do much effort to the work entrusted to our partners is simple and clear. We also need to ensure that they implement the necessary means to achieve the objectives. This is generally the case.
Are changes in industrial organization?
We have much strengthened, particularly in the field of supply chain [supply chain management, note] . The entire industry needs to realize 100% that this is an industry like any other, there is not an aeronautical specificity to deliver late, due to the complexity of equipment or standard quality required. It would not be acceptable in the automobile. We sell products whose unit price is in the hundreds of millions. The aerospace industry must show greater rigor to achieve a high quality. Airbus has room for improvement, our partners as well.
Your model is different from that of SpaceX, based on significant organic production. Outsourcing of production is it not an obstacle to achieve a quality copy?
Outsourcing must not be a handicap with respect to product quality. Up to us to choose partners and support them in their development. We also need to be more demanding. It should not have a dogmatic industrial strategy. On the A350, our policy of make or buy was well balanced. I do not regret the choices that have been made to maintain internally a number of key activities and rest a little more broadly partners than in the past. It was never a question of integrating the production of seats or toilets, for example. Of course we could have done differently on some work packages, but it’s marginal. Finally, we had a good control of the development and production of the A350 through the concept of PLM [ Product Lifecycle Management or management of product life cycle, note] and the extended enterprise where all partners are working in real time with all the developers.
What programs who are preparing for the long term?
A new generation of aircraft that will replace the A320, will emerge around 2030. We are consistent in our analysis. This requires that we be able to “ripen” a number of innovative technologies with our partners to be ready to launch the development of the new aircraft. With 4500 A320 neo in our backlog, we have some time ahead of us.
As regards the engine, are you still in favor of the open rotor ?
We were one of the first to test the concepts of open rotor [open-rotor engine fast propellers contra, note] . Since most conventional engines have greatly improved. The open rotor remains an option, provided that itself improves in the same proportions. We need the new engines allow fuel efficiency gains of 20 to 25% compared to 2020 engines will be even better than today.
Boeing eyeing the B757 replacement market (200-300 seats), he called the “ middle of the market ” . Airbus is also interested he?
What our competitor says that there is a market, I do not dispute that, since we are the leader with over 50% market share . We cover the well with two aircraft: the A321 neo (200-240 seats), which has no real competitor in the family of the B737 MAX Boeing, insofar as it offers more seats, more comfort , greater range and lower fuel consumption. Our second product in this market segment is the A330 neo, which, too, will have no competitor, since it will be cheaper and just as effective as the B787. Boeing is interested in this market is one thing. Finding the right solution to compete with us is another. Imagine a new generation of aircraft produced in series before 2030 is unlikely.
In ten to fifteen years, he will be the duopoly Airbus / Boeing still going strong?
There will be a duopoly on the horizon of fifteen! China is developing since 2008 C919, a medium-haul aircraft that is supposed to be a direct competitor to the A320 and the B737. Russia develops, meanwhile, the MS21 in this aircraft category. And I do not forget newcomers like Bombardier, who want to enter the market for aircraft with more than 100 seats. We must prepare for an expanded competition with other actors. However, even if we are no longer duopoly that time, Airbus’ market share and Boeing will prevail. On the one hand because in these trades, the learning curve is difficult. Even with the use of new technologies, it is very difficult to develop aircraft, produce, maintain with a high level of readiness, and of course with a level of 100% security. And secondly, because Airbus and Boeing are constantly focus on innovation, commercial battle. It is not a duopoly where everyone looks and becomes overwhelmed by newcomers. It is a technological and commercial battle of every moment that makes the entry of new players difficult.
Can China really break into the international market?
Why would she not? It does in all other high-tech fields. We must not believe that the Chinese need other allies and partners Western manufacturers who are working hard for the success of the C919!
Alliances between aircraft manufacturers are they possible?
It’s hard to say. For its development, Airbus does not need strategic alliance. However, it would insult the future than to say that there never will be.
The current cycle high is the longest in history and some fear a reversal . Do you share this fear?
No. We are in a phase of growth of global air traffic of around 4 to 5% per year and even around 11% per year in China. This growth potential is destined to remain once the world GDP continues. We believe that in the next twenty years, airlines will need 32,000 new aircraft. So I do not turnaround and the potential is huge since the middle class in developing countries is increasing. Especially since air travel is a very competitive transportation through low cost and performance of the devices.
More than a reduction in traffic do not you fear that the fuel price drop and competition from second hand aircraft alter the purchasing behavior of airlines?
the drop in oil prices had a positive effect because it improves the financial health of airlines and gives them the means to buy new aircraft whose operation is more economical, regardless of the fuel price level. We have not seen movement of cancellation or deferral different control those recorded in previous years. Certainly in the case of the A320, we see that the current A320 (ceo), we thought he was going to die out gradually until early 2018, will be extended, possibly until 2020, in since many customers are interested in this device. But in general, companies are well aware that they will need new aircraft when the competition will be harder or when fuel prices will rise. They know that oil prices will not stay low forever and that is why we must order today. Especially since there is no funding problem. Remember that when a company buys A350, for example, is to receive after 2020 and operate for fifteen or twenty years after! They must see the long term.
What are the market trends?
There is a tendency for larger planes. In the segment of medium-haul aircraft, the A321 represented by example 15% of sales of the A320 family there ten years. Today it represents 30% and would reach 50% in the future. Domestic traffic will grow in countries like China or India, which will therefore need larger aircraft.
Speaking of larger aircraft, John Leahy, your sales manager militates for the earliest possible launch of a stretched version of the A350, which he named A350-2000, to face the B777X (400 seats), expected in 2020, which will replace the B777-300 ER? What do you think?
We have delivered 23 A350, we have not yet built the A350-1000, and we are already talking of a new version … When we have customers willing to sign an agreement or letter of commitment protocols, we will look at, but that is not the case. Again, the announcement of the launch of such a plane the next Farnborough Airshow in July seems optimistic. For us, Boeing launched the B777X, a stretched version of the B777-300 ER (370 seats), not because the market has moved to 400 seats, but because the addition of seats was the only way to display lower costs at the headquarters of the aircraft and to remain competitive against the A350-1000, a new generation much less fuel-efficient aircraft and lighter than the 777.
Are a- there always a place for the A380?
the A380 has suffered from a complicated industrial start there about ten years, and then, from the crisis 2008 of a market downturn phase and restructuring of airlines, which have increasingly turned to a drop in costs that strategy to a winning increased market share strategy. Today, it’s true, the market is difficult and controls fall moderately. As we fight to win new campaigns. To us to demonstrate that the introduction of the A380 in a company is not a risk in relation to the size of the plane, but an incredible opportunity to profitably take market share. If you listen to Tim Clark, CEO of Emirates, the A380 is the backbone of its success. When an airline knows fill this device is extremely economical. It has potential. I think, for example, the A380 began his career in China, whose companies are starting to grow very strongly on international markets.
How can you sell more?
This aircraft attracts passengers. To better show our customers and our future customers, we will launch this summer a site “IflyA380″ that will redirect passengers to the booking sites of companies that operate the A380. We tested this site with A380 customers, who are very interested. II show priority all destinations covered by the A380.
What about a neo A380 Emirates asked that?
The dialogue with Emirates was bracketed. The A380 neo is in itself a good idea, because the device has the potential to improve both in the field of engines as the rest of the aircraft. But it is to have a business case [structured proposal, note] which largely involves commitments from several clients, including the largest of them, Emirates. The conditions are not yet right for now. These discussions are postponed. Emirates boss has even raised the possibility of increasing its fleet with the current A380 …
Do you feel well in Airbus Group with the organization set up by Tom Enders?
the organization that was put in place is a good balance between the desire to seek synergies, justified when we see that the Airbus group is now focusing on trades of aviation (commercial, military and helicopters), and that allow divisions, including Airbus, to manage its business, its customers, its developments and productions. In a group like Airbus Group, there is necessarily debates. They can be exacerbated by the fact that Airbus represents 70% of total Group sales. It gives no right to Airbus to be arrogant, but it also gives homework to the group to ensure that Airbus can focus 100% on what we ask him to be the global leader in commercial aircraft. I think we have acquired a balance quite acceptable to achieve this.
Interview by Michel Cabirol, Fabrice Gliszczynski and Emmanuelle Durand Rodriguez in Toulouse
PARIS AIR FORUM, the appointment of aviation industry professionals and aerospace industry, will be held on Tuesday, June 21 at the Maison de la Chimie in Paris.