Airbus to Hire 400 British Engineers Amid Boeing’s Struggles

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Airbus is set to hire 400 engineers at its wing manufacturing plant in Broughton, Wales, as it seeks to expand its lead over Boeing in the competitive single-aisle jet market.

This move comes as Boeing grapples with ongoing issues surrounding its 737 Max aircraft.

The additional staff will be pivotal in transforming the Broughton plant’s West Factory, previously used for A380 superjumbo wings, into a production line for the popular A320neo model. The site, spanning an area larger than 10 football pitches, is central to Airbus’s plans to increase A320 output from an average of 48 units per month last year to 75 by the end of 2026.

Jerome Blandin, Airbus’s head of global wing production, noted that the new production line will be less automated than the latest A320 wing line, which opened seven years ago. This adjustment may result in a more labour-intensive process.

This ramp-up in production will help Airbus address its six-year manufacturing backlog for the A320 and accommodate new orders. It is expected to intensify pressure on Boeing, which has slowed its build rates to manage the safety crisis surrounding its 737 Max, the chief competitor to the A320.

Broughton, which employs around 5,000 people, serves as Airbus’s primary UK manufacturing site. Another facility in Filton, Bristol, focuses on design, engineering, and support, employing about 3,000 staff.

The recruitment drive follows Airbus’s addition of 1,100 staff in Britain last year across various divisions, including defence and space. This expansion contrasts sharply with pre-Brexit concerns when former CEO Tom Enders warned that a no-deal Brexit could force Airbus to relocate wing production outside the UK.

Blandin highlighted the challenge for Broughton to keep pace with the demands of Airbus’s A320 assembly lines in Toulouse, Hamburg, Alabama, and China, while continually refining the production process for the traditional metal wing. “We will see a level of improvement and better efficiency on the new production line in terms of how we put the product together,” he said.

Airbus has already increased A320 wing capacity at Broughton’s original East Factory site, which dates back to 1939. Production now operates round the clock in a three-shift pattern, with efforts to reduce the six to seven weeks required to manufacture a wing.

The last major expansion of A320 manufacturing at Broughton occurred in 2016, with the opening of a fully automated production line that increased capacity by 26 aircraft wingsets per month to the current 63. The new line will adopt a hybrid approach, blending robotics and time-saving equipment with more flexible production techniques.

The West Factory is expected to start production next year, with the site currently being cleared of A380 equipment and new production jigs being constructed by Spanish engineering firm MTorres. Additionally, two paint shops at Broughton, which also handles wings for the A330 and A350, are being expanded to accommodate the increased workload.

Broughton could gain hundreds more jobs if Airbus secures a £1.2 billion helicopter order to replace the ageing RAF Pumas, having promised to assemble them at the Chester site.