• A £350 million aerospace factory built for planemaker Airbus, was officially opened today by the Prime Minister

A £350 million aerospace factory built for planemaker Airbus, was officially opened today by the Prime Minister, The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair MP. The 83,500 square metre (over 900,000 square feet) facility, reckoned to be the largest factory built in the UK in recent years, has been constructed alongside the existing Airbus factory in Broughton, North Wales. To be known as the "West Factory," it has been built to house wing assembly for the double-deck, 555 seater A380 airliner as well as other aircraft manufacturing activity.

The Prime Minister said: "I am delighted to be asked to officially open the new West Factory and to see for myself the excellent work being done here at Airbus. The order book shows the commercial attraction of the world class product being made here. And is a powerful tribute to the dedication and commitment of the highly skilled workforce. I am delighted that the Government has been able to invest in that effort."

"This impressive new factory is creating 1,200 new jobs, in addition to the 5,000 already here, making a strong contribution to the local and national economy. I would like to welcome the long-term commitment Airbus is making to UK manufacturing."

Noël Forgeard, Airbus President and CEO said: "The opening of the West Factory at Broughton and the acceleration of A380 wing production is yet another step towards the A380's first flight in 2005. The double-decker is extremely important, not just for the continued success of the Airbus company, but also for the benefits it brings to the economy of the United Kingdom. The A380 programme secures and generates over 100,000 long-term jobs in the UK, and around 400 UK companies have already been awarded £7.5 billion worth of work on the programme. This is set to double to £15 billion over the life of the programme. As A380 begins to enter service with the airlines, the Airbus contribution to the UK's balance of payments will rise to more than £1.5 billion a year."

At more than 400 metres (1,310 feet) long, 200 metres (656 feet) wide and with a peak height of 35 metres (115 feet), the floor area of the West Factory is equivalent to 12 full size football pitches. At peak production, 1,200 people will work there, using leading edge manufacturing techniques to assemble and equip the wings. Once assembled, the wings will be delivered via specially commissioned barges and ships to the A380 final assembly line in Toulouse. At more than 36 metres long, the wings for A380 are the largest ever designed and built for a commercial aircraft.

To date, eleven customers have made 129 firm orders and commitments for the A380, which is the largest member of the Airbus family of aircraft and has a range of 14,800 kilometres/8,000 nautical miles. First deliveries to customers are scheduled for 2006.

A leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE SYSTEMS.