How long does it take to assemble an Airbus A380?
Airplanes are not built like cars where after completion, they are showcased at dealership to attract prospective buyers. For larger commercial airplanes, airlines place an order first and then wait for the airplanes to be manufactured, custom modifications completed, inspected by the airline and then delivered. It is a bit complicated process.
However, one of the A380s Emirates ordered, was manufactured and delivered in 80 days:
Emirates are celebrating having their fiftieth Airbus A380 in service with the release of footage showing how 800 workers across Europe came together to build the biggest passenger jet in the sky in just 80 days.
The timeline to build out each component of an Airbus A380 and the final assembly of the components are two different things. I will focus on final assembly.
Once all the parts are available, the time it takes for the final assembly the fuselage, the wings and other components in the jig at Station 40 is about a week. Add to that an additional month for testing the assembled components, customization and painting before delivering the plane to a customer.
When the assembly line is working at full speed, Airbus can deliver about 30 A380 planes a year, doing so in 2012 and 2014. In 2018, the assembly line is working at a significantly reduced output of 12 planes per year (1 per month) to keep the plane in production for as long as possible in hopes that additional orders will be placed to extend the life of the platform.
Good luck figuring out the timeline of how long it takes to assemble the individual components like the cockpit, the engines, the wings, 330 miles of wiring, you get the idea. The reason it's hard to determine things like the timeline for the wiring is that much of the wiring is done before the components are installed together into one physical unit.
Demand for the large airplanes can vary significantly month-to-month and year-to-year, and the manufacturers adjust their production rate to match demand.
Typical rates for the biggest airplanes are about 1 a month, while planes like the extremely popular Boeing 737 can be produced around 42-47 a month! (Source: Boeing)
Manufacturing large airplanes takes hundreds of people on the assembly line. The variations in production rate are managed by changing the staffing levels on the assembly line. When planes are in high demand, more people and more shifts are added to make planes faster. When demand is low, shifts and individuals may be laid off to slow production.
Of course, no one wants to be constantly hiring and firing skilled assembly line workers, so carefully managing the backlog of orders, the expected rate of future orders, and the number of people working is crucial to keeping employment relatively stable. Management wants to produce planes as fast as their customers need them, but not so fast that they have to layoff large numbers of people when a single airplane order is missed.
With a fully staffed line working fast, large planes can be produced, start-to-finish, in less than 2 months. Typically, however, the biggest planes take around 6 months to make.