Turbine and part of wing of an aircraft A320

The aircraft manufacturer is stepping up its commitment to the country at its Santo Tirso plant, where it expects to produce a quarter of its output in two years. Until then, it will hire more than a hundred people a year.

Airbus Atlantic will continue to increase production at its Santo Tirso plant, with Portugal expected to account for a quarter of the French aeronautics giant’s production by 2026. Until it reaches this goal, the multinational will continue to invest in the plant and strengthen its team, with plans to hire more than a hundred people a year until 2026, and is not ruling out the construction of a new building in Santo Tirso.

“25% of Airbus Atlantic’s production will be made in Portugal,” Rodolph Andrieu, director of control production and logistics (PC&L) at Airbus Atlantic Portugal, told ECO. According to Andrieu, most of the production is concentrated in the factory in France, where the sub-assemblies made in Tunisia, Morocco and Portugal are then sent.

With Airbus’ presence in Portugal growing at a good pace, Airbus Atlantic wants to have the first major investment phase in the country completed by 2026, four years after the official opening of the Santo Tirso facility, where it produces parts for the Airbus A320 and A350 families, in 2022.

The unit in the Ermida Industrial Zone has started producing fuselage sections and panels for the A320 and A350 family aircraft, for the time being the front part and the cargo door, but Airbus has been transferring production of other sections of the aircraft structure to Portugal. “In four years we will go from zero to 25%”. “The goal in Portugal is to manufacture almost 25% of all the sub-assemblies that are then delivered to the factory in France,” said Rodolph Andrieu.

To achieve this goal, the company plans to continue investing, both in machinery and equipment and in hiring people. “The ambition is to hire 100 people a year”, until reaching 550 to 600 workers in 2026, says the director of Airbus Atlantic Portugal, adding that “in 2023 we made 90 hires and this year [we will hire] 110”.

“In 2026 we will reach a phase of stability, of maturity,” he concluded, speaking to ECO on the sidelines of an event that brought together French investors and businesspeople at an event in Porto organized by the Portuguese-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Airbus Atlantic officially opened its facilities in the Ermida Industrial Zone in September 2022. This unit occupies an area of 20,000 square meters and represented an investment of close to 40 million euros. “The biggest investment was the construction of the building,” Rodolph Andrieu told ECO, adding that the company had to buy “machines and all the industrial equipment to make the aeronautical assembly”.

Despite this major investment in equipment, which was funded by Portugal 2020, Rodolph Andrieu admits that the biggest challenge for the company has been hiring, which involves hundreds of people. “Recruiting, training, attracting and keeping people is the hardest part. It’s more difficult than a technical challenge,” he emphasizes.

“Aeronautical operator jobs are almost non-existent in Portugal, especially in the north,” a difficulty that has forced the aircraft manufacturer to resort to in-house training. “90 to 95% of recruitment is going through this internal training,” he points out. “It’s a long-term investment.”

Airbus in Portugal

New unit on the table

Once the first phase of investment has been consolidated in two years’ time, Airbus intends to continue working on new projects – “these will be projects to double the assembly line” – and “possibly, if the group continues to double the assembly line, build a new building”. “But this is at a new stage,” admits the head of the French company in Portugal.

Rodolph Andrieu says, however, that nothing “has been decided yet” about the new building, “but the land allows it to be done, but first we have to demonstrate that we can reach 25% of production with all the quality and logistics objectives”.

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