Here’s a question: when is a year not really a year? When it comes to making airplanes, the answer is all in the math.
As the market keeps demanding more and more airplanes, we here at Boeing keep upping our production rates to make sure the supply meets that demand. Last week, Airbus followed by announcing a rate increase for the A330 family (since the A340 is no longer being mentioned, I guess it is unofficially out of production).
But beware of how production rates are calculated. There are some major differences between Boeing and Airbus.
Boeing factors down time into production. In other words, down time is absorbed. But at Airbus, down time isn’t factored into the equation. Each year, Airbus loses about a month of work on its wide-body production and about half a month on its single-aisle planes. But they don’t account for that missed time in their production rates.
Here’s an example. We recently announced that our 777 production rate will increase to 8.3 a month in 2013. Airbus has now followed by increasing its wide-body plane production to 10 a month in 2013, which you may assume works out to 120 planes a year. But if you factor in the lost month of work, the real number is 110.
8.3 x 12 (months) = 99.6 planes a year
Airbus A330 family
10 x 11 (months) = 110 planes a year
On the single-aisle side, production of our 737 will jump to 38 a month in 2013. Airbus plans to increase single-aisle production to 40 a month in 2012. If you factored in the half month of lost work, what you’d expect to be 480 ends up really being 460.
38 x 12 (months) = 456 planes a year
Airbus A320 family
40 x 11.5 (months) = 460 planes a year
Next-Generation 737s on the production line in Renton.
It really is like comparing apples and oranges. Or maybe oranges and lemons. I’m not saying the way we calculate the rate is better—it’s just different.