airbus production

Airbus Factory



fitter assembly worldwide
runway insulation short on people
ceiling catch up competition
roll out in charge administration
refine regulate coworker
cargo keep up underway
install crop up cabin pressure
panel thick skin hold your own






The final assembly of an Airbus 320, a medium-range passenger jet used by hundreds of airlines worldwide.

Thirty-six-year-old Heike Otto heads one of the three production lines. She has a team of mechanics, electricians and fitters.

Heike Otto: “I’ve heard that you’re catching up pretty fast, even though you are short on people.”

She studied business administration.

Heike Otto: “I used to do customer service in an office. I wondered where the products came from. I always wanted to go into production, and I’ve fallen in love with it.”

Managing a team of 230 coworkers is not an easy task.

The pressure is enormous.

Production has to be cost effective without making compromising on quality.

Heike Otto: “Get ready for tomorrow. Does everyone know what to do?”

She’s responsible for keeping operations going.

Heike: “Every two-and-a-half days, we have to roll out a finished airplane out of Line One. And to keep up, in spite of all the problems that can crop up, you have to work together with all the contact people to find quick solutions.”

To keep up with the international competition, Airbus has to keep developing and refining their models.

Generally, four aircraft types are assembled in Hamburg, Germany’s main production site with a runway of its own and some thirteen thousand workers.

Among those workers is mechanic Sandra Muller.

Right now work is underway in the cargo hold of an A-330.

Sandra Muller, Mechanic: “Right now, I’m installing one of the outlet valves. These valves are in both cargo holds: one in front of the wing and one behind it.

They regulate the cabin pressure.”

It’s not easy to get a job with Airbus: thousands of people apply each year.

Sandra Muller is 23. She was accepted because of her good grades.

She had set her sights on a technical occupation.

Only 14% of Airbus’s staff are women.

Sandra Muller, trained as an aircraft mechanic: “I’m like a little princess here. I get along with everyone.

We kid around . . . but sometimes you have to have a thick skin; my coworkers often still act like little boys.

But if you can hold your own, it’s a lot of fun here.”

Back to the Airbus 320’s final assembly.

The side and ceiling panels have to be in by the end of the day.

The fitters work on the insulation before putting in about 150 seats.

Heike Otto takes management seminars regularly.

It’s important for her to know how to communicate effectively.

Heike Otto: “I like working with the people here. I like the coworkers who’ve got their hearts in the right place. And wear it on their sleeves.

I like the production of airplanes; and their technology.

It’s fun to make things possible that would otherwise be impossible.”

Heike Otto has been in charge of the final assembly line here for more than a year now.

And that adds up to about 90 completed aircraft.

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1. Heike Otto majored in engineering at university. True or false?

2. Did she start working in production? Why did she transfer from customer service to production? What are her responsibilities?

3. How long does it take to assemble an Airbus 320? How many workers does Heike supervise?

4. Is there a lot of competitive pressure? How does Airbus remain competitive? How many models does the Hamburg production site produce?

5. Airbus is a great company to work at. Is this right or wrong? How did Sanda get hired? Does she enjoy her job?

6. Only men work on the assembly floor. Yes or no? What percent of the employees are female?

7. Do many people want to work at the Airbus factory?

8. Has Heike’s education ended or is it continuous? Why is it important for her?


A. Does you country produce or manufacture airplanes or airplane components?

B. Many people would like to work in an aircraft plant. What do you think? Would you like to work in aviation?

C. There are female employees and managers in my company. Yes or no?

D. Are people flying more on airplanes? Are more people buying and flying private airplanes? Who are these people?

E. What will happen in the future regarding aviation?

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