Airbus’ A320 Family final assembly line at Mobile, Alabama will build on the success of two other aircraft production programs in the United States with its EADS parent company, both located at a purpose-built helicopter center of excellence created in the neighboring state of Mississippi.
Demonstrating its capability to bring the build-up of modern, competitive aircraft from European production sites to America, EADS’ Eurocopter division has assembled hundreds of UH-72A Lakota and AS350 AStar helicopters to date at a state-of-the-art Columbus, Mississippi facility adjacent to Golden Triangle Regional Airport.
The UH-72A Lakota is built for the U.S. Army, using a full-scale final assembly line established at Columbus by Eurocopter’s U.S. subsidiary – American Eurocopter. This activity was in-sourced from Germany, where the helicopter’s original EC145 version has been in long-term production for customers worldwide.
More than 200 Lakotas have been delivered to the U.S. Army since 2006, with all provided on schedule and on budget – making this program one of the most successful major acquisitions in the military service’s history. The U.S. Army plans to acquire 346 of the twin-engine rotorcraft through 2016, with five additional helicopters ordered – and already provided – to the U.S. Navy.
“EADS has done exactly what it promised to do for such a major task as bringing UH-72A production to the United States, as every Lakota we receive today is 100 percent built in Columbus, Mississippi,” one U.S. Army program manager said. “Not only does this support our military, it supports our nation’s industrial base as well.”
Also assembled at the Mississippi facility is Eurocopter’s single-engine AS350 AStar helicopter – with this long-term activity in-sourced from the company’s production operation in France.
Among the 200-plus Mississippi-built AS350 AStars delivered from Columbus since 2005 are helicopters provided to such law enforcement and homeland security agencies as the U.S. government’s Customs and Border Protection agency, the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety. Civilian customers receiving these “made in the U.S.” helicopters include air tour operators Papillon Helicopters and Sundance Helicopters, along with Air Methods for its nationwide network of emergency medical airlift services.