At a capacity-crowd event attended by approximately 2,000 invitees, area residents and others, the final assembly line’s creation was hailed as a “game-changing” development in Airbus’ relationship with the United States – where it already is the largest export partner for the country’s aerospace industry, and has evolved as a major aircraft supplier to its customer airlines.
Outlining the new facility’s significance were guest speakers that ranged from the top executives of a major U.S. A320 airline operator and a key avionics supplier for Airbus to a young Mobile student who spoke about opportunities in her community that will be created with the final assembly line.
JetBlue Airways CEO and President David Barger gave his perspective on how Airbus’ $600 million investment in the new Alabama industrial site is viewed by its U.S. customers: “It demonstrates the level of Airbus’ commitment of being close to its important American operator base for A320 aircraft.” He also announced that JetBlue will receive the very first A320 from the Mobile final assembly line – which is targeted for delivery in 2016.
Another speaker was Clay Jones, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at U.S. avionics manufacturer Rockwell Collins, who described Airbus’ creation of the A320 facility in Alabama as a true industrial milestone for the U.S. aerospace sector. “Although this is a very special day for the people of Mobile, it is also a very special day for Rockwell Collins and all of the companies that support Airbus, because I believe it marks a transformation of Airbus as a valued trans-Atlantic customer into a closer industry partner,” he said.
Victoria Corob, a student at Clark-Shaw Magnet School in Mobile, spoke about the aspirations that many young people in the U.S Gulf Coast region may be able to realize as the result of Airbus’ new A320 facility. “Airbus’ growth here means that, if I keep working hard, I can achieve my dreams and might even be able to look forward to a future with an exciting and rewarding aerospace career…right here in Alabama,” she said.
The participants at today’s ceremony all agreed on the impressive size and scope of Airbus’ A320 Family final assembly line installation at Brookley Aeroplex, which is located five miles from downtown Mobile. The facility will incorporate 53 acres (215,000 square meters) of buildings, aprons and roadways in a 116 acre site – with Airbus also holding option for future potential expansion on an adjacent 116-acre plot of land.
Mobile will join the three existing Airbus final assembly facilities that currently build A320 Family aircraft: its original location at Toulouse, France, which was supplemented by a site in Hamburg, Germany; and subsequently followed by the latest at Tianjin, China.
The benefits of Airbus’ strategy to be in close proximity with customers at key locations worldwide is illustrated by its experience in China, where the company’s presence – including the A320 final assembly operations at Tianjin that started in 2008 – has been accompanied by a more than doubling of its share in the fast-growing Chinese air transport market.
All four A320 Family final assembly lines will be kept busy for years, as Airbus has sold more than 9,400 of these single-aisle jetliners to date – with a current backlog of nearly 3,900 remaining to be delivered. The new Alabama facility will be able to build the A319, A320 and A321 – beginning with their ceo (current engine option) versions, then transitioning to the neo (new engine option) variants when these even more fuel-efficient aircraft enter production.
Currently, more than 800 A320 Family aircraft are operating in U.S. airline fleets, with 19 customers based in the country. During the next 20 years, the U.S. market will have an estimated sales potential for some 4,600 airliners in the category covered by Airbus’ A320 Family – making it the world’s largest such market.
The new Mobile final assembly line not only provides a strategically-located industrial facility in North America and a new aviation center of excellence for the U.S. Gulf Coast region, it also will generate increased work throughout the Airbus production and its worldwide supply chain.
“It represents the real transformation of Airbus into a truly global company,” said Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Brégier in his concluding remarks at today’s groundbreaking. “While Airbus has deep European roots, we have always seen ourselves as citizens of the world. This is why we have already been present in the United States through our partnerships and our employees since our very beginning 40 years ago. But now, when operations begin here at this Mobile Assembly Line, we will be manufacturing aircraft in Asia, in America, and in Europe – and if you allow me not to be too humble, thanks to Mobile, Alabama, the sun will never set on Airbus.”
For more information on the groundbreaking ceremony, read the press release