Airbus breaks ground in Alabama

The Boeing Co.’s biggest rival took a big step Monday toward building airplanes in the United States, breaking ground on a manufacturing facility in Alabama.

“In about two years we will start assembling the first airplane here in Mobile,” said Fabrice Brégier, president of Airbus.

Brégier spoke at a ceremony to mark the groundbreaking of Airbus’ A320 final assembly line in Mobile. The event was webcast live.

Airbus intends to deliver the first A320 assembled in Mobile in 2016 to JetBlue.

Officials from Airbus’ parent company, EADS, were first interested in setting up a factory in Mobile for the company’s A330-based aerial refueling tanker. EADS lost a long battle with Boeing in early 2011 for a contract supplying the U.S. Air Force with tankers.

Mobile Mayor Sam Jones called that loss discouraging but said Airbus and EADS were “consistently supportive” of the idea that Mobile eventually would be home to a jet manufacturing facility.

EADS CEO Tom Enders said the confidence he has in the people in the Mobile region was as important as the business case in establishing the A320 line in Alabama.

“The support we’ve been getting over here … is second to none,” Enders said.

Airbus already has an engineering center in Mobile, which employs 200 people. At full production, the Mobile site will build four A320s monthly and employ 1,000 people.

“When this assembly line opens, we will be the only one to assemble aircraft in Asia, the Americas and Europe,” Brégier said.

“Thanks to Mobile, the sun will never set on Airbus.”

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