Airbus confirms A320 assembly site in Alabama

Airbus confirmed Monday its plan to establish an A320 aircraft assembly site in Mobile, Ala.

The announcement is being webcast on Airbus’ website.

The A320 jet factory will cost about $600 million to build and will employ 1,000 workers. Airbus expects to be building four A320s monthly at the site by the end of 2017.

Airbus workers in Mobile will assemble both Airbus’ existing A320 jet family as well as the A320 new engine option, or A320neo, jets.

Local politicians in Alabama said Airbus’ new facility will create jobs throughout the Gulf Coast. Leaders from Florida and Mississippi joined in the celebration Monday.

Also joining in congratulating Airbus on its new site were community leaders from Ohio and Wichita, Kan.

“Wichita, the Air Capital of the World, benefits greatly also, as our world-class supply chain is ready and able to support their new facility,” Suzie Ahlstrand, Interim President, Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, said in a statement. “We look forward to this new growth potential.”

In France, Airbus’ unions pressed the jet maker guarantees the new line wouldn’t steal jobs from European unions.

“We will be vigilant to make sure they are not robbing Europe to pay the United States,” said Gilbert Plo, a union delegate told Reuters.

Last week, rival jet maker the Boeing Co. used Airbus’ pending announcement to lash out at Airbus over illegal subsidies.

Airbus was joined on Monday in Mobile by representatives of several airlines including American, Frontier and Virgin America.

At a press conference after the announcement, Airbus officials emphasized that opening a site in the U.S. was a “strategic” move, which will bring the European company closer to North American airlines and could improve the company’s chances to increase defense business with the U.S. government. Last year, Airbus’ parent company, EADS, lost a multi-year battle for a contract to supply the U.S. Air Force with aerial refueling tankers, which would have been assembled in Mobile. Boeing ultimately won that $35 billion deal.

Airbus provides further details on the Mobile site on its website. The jet maker also outlines the history of Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex site here.

For more on Airbus’ decision, read the Associated Press’s report from Mobile.

Here’s Airbus’ press release:

In a major strategic announcement today, Airbus said it will establish a manufacturing facility in the United States to assemble and deliver A320 Family aircraft. Located at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Alabama, it will be the company’s first U.S.-based production facility. Airbus stressed that the assembly line, which will create jobs and strengthen the aerospace industry, is part of its strategy to enhance Airbus’ global competitiveness by meeting the growing needs of its customers in the United States and elsewhere.

The facility in Alabama will assemble the industry-leading family of A319, A320 and A321 aircraft. The company said construction of the assembly line will begin in summer 2013. Aircraft assembly is planned to start in 2015, with first deliveries from the Mobile facility beginning in 2016. Airbus anticipates the facility will produce between 40 and 50 aircraft per year by 2018.

“The time is right for Airbus to expand in America,” said Fabrice Bregier, Airbus President &CEO at the announcement today in Mobile. “The U.S. is the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world – with a projected need for 4,600 aircraft over the next 20 years – and this assembly line brings us closer to our customers. Mobile is now becoming part of Airbus’ global production network, joining our successful and growing assembly lines in Hamburg, Toulouse and Tianjin.”

“This decision is great news for our industry partnerships in the U.S., and it supports Airbus’ strategy on several fronts,” continued Bregier. “This facility creates new manufacturing jobs and further enhances the partnership between Airbus, its suppliers and their employees – a very large percentage of which are located here in the United States. We and the supplier partners with whom we work will be establishing a new aerospace center of competency in a region that has endured great difficulty in recent years.

“When Airbus aircraft take to the skies, our pride and workmanship will soar along with them,” Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said.  “We owe thanks to so many people who helped make this effort a success.  This project will create 1,000 stable, well-paying jobs that the people of this area need and deserve.  Alabama has the best workforce you’ll find anywhere in the U.S.  Airbus has recognized all that this state can offer expanding industries, and the company is making a significant new investment in Alabama.  Airbus and its parent company, EADS, have been great citizens of Alabama for years now, and we are excited to build on our wonderful relationship.”

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby said, “I would like to congratulate Airbus for choosing Mobile as the location for their first aircraft assembly operation in the United States. This new state-of-the-art facility builds upon the significant investments Airbus has already made in the United States, and it is only natural that they would seek to tap into Alabama’s top-notch workforce in doing so. Mobile has long been a hub for world class shipbuilding and it will now become a critical node for the U.S. aerospace industry as well. The effects of this decision will reverberate far beyond Alabama, however, as the entire country will benefit from having both global commercial aircraft manufacturers building planes on U.S. soil.”

“The announcement of a new Airbus manufacturing plant in Mobile is wonderful news for our community, for our state, and for America,” commented U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions. “The plant, along with construction work and other related activities, will ultimately create several thousand jobs and inject millions of dollars into the local economy. This contract is a testament to the incredible skill and dedication of Alabama’s workers and an affirmation that Alabama is one of the premiere sites in the world to do business. Manufacturing is vital to a healthy economy, and I share in the excitement that these fine aircraft will be built by our workers in our state.”

“Today’s announcement is a powerful and optimistic statement – both for Airbus and for the people of Mobile and the Gulf Coast,” said U.S. Congressman Jo Bonner (1st District, Alabama). “As Airbus plants the flag deeper in American soil, they are showing tremendous confidence that their industry-leading aircraft can become an even bigger part of the U.S. market in the coming years. And the people of Alabama are excited and naturally honored, once again, to stand on the world stage with a transformational opportunity that represents not only hundreds of new jobs, but limitless possibilities for the future.”

“This is a real game changer for Mobile County and the whole region,” said County Commission President Connie Hudson. “Mobile joins very select company as one of just a few communities in the world capable of manufacturing high-tech, large commercial aircraft. We couldn’t be more proud of this development, more thankful to Airbus for their partnership, or more excited for the future.”

“It has been a long road and a lot of work, but we’re elated to bring this project to reality in Mobile,” said the city’s Mayor, Sam Jones. “Mobile has a winning team – city, county, state, national and business leaders who have put a lot of energy and dedication into this project. Their efforts have resulted in a victory for our city – today and well into the future. Ours is a city of great, unlimited potential.”

Airbus already has a strong and growing presence in Alabama and throughout the United States. In Alabama, the company operates an Engineering Center in Mobile – also located at Brookley Aeroplex and employing more than 200 engineers and support staff – as well as an Airbus Military customer services operation supporting U.S. Coast Guard aircraft. In addition, Airbus operates an Engineering Center in Wichita, Kansas; an aircraft Spares Center in Ashburn, Virginia; a Training Center in Miami, Florida, and a regulatory and government liaison office in Washington, D.C. Subsidiary Metron Aviation, a leading provider of advanced Air Traffic Management (ATM) products and services, is based in Dulles, Virginia. Airbus’ headquarters for the Americas are located in Herndon, Virginia. All together, Airbus’ U.S. facilities currently employ more than 1,000 people.

The company said that the new Mobile assembly line, together with associated functions, should create as many as 1,000 new high-skilled jobs.

Airbus’ assembly line in Mobile will add to existing production capabilities by other EADS companies in the United States. For example, American Eurocopter manufactures helicopters at facilities in Columbus, Mississippi and Grand Prairie, Texas, while Cassidian Communications has an assembly plant in Temecula, California.

Airbus is the largest export customer for the U.S. aerospace industry. Since 1990, the company has spent $127 billion with U.S. suppliers – $12 billion last year alone.

Airbus partners with hundreds of US suppliers in more than 40 US states, and the company’s expenditures in the U.S. support more than 210,000 American jobs.

Airbus is the leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive family of airliners on the market, ranging in capacity from 100 to more than 500 seats. Over 11,500 Airbus aircraft have been sold to more than 470 customers and operators worldwide and more than 7,200 of these have been delivered since the company first entered the market in the early seventies. Airbus is an EADS company.

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