Airbus Industrie (Toulouse, France) announced on Jan. 14 that it will establish an A330 Freighter aircraft final assembly line (FAL) in Mobile, Alabama, if Northrop Grumman (supported by Airbus’s parent company, EADS) receives the order to build aerial refuelling tankers from the United States Air Force. If established, the FAL would mark an important step forward for U.S. aerospace production, as it would be one of the first new commercial aircraft assembly facilities built in the U.S. in more than four decades, as well as the first Airbus manufacturing facility in the U.S.
“Our pledge to build A330 Freighters in Mobile is a significant expansion of our current commitment to Alabama and the U.S., and is part of our larger plan to internationalize Airbus,” said Tom Enders, president and CEO of Airbus. “It would broaden the base of current and potential business in Mobile and firmly establish the Gulf Coast region as a center of aerospace excellence.”
The A330F FAL would be part of a large-scale industrial site, employing more than 1,000 people, already planned should the Northrop Grumman KC-30 advanced tanker cargo aircraft team receive an order to modernize the U.S. Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker fleet. An A330F production line would add hundreds more jobs. Airbus already has an Engineering Center in Mobile, which is slated to employ 150 people by 2009.
Enders added, “Final assembly of A330 Freighters in Mobile is conditional on a KC-30 tanker for one reason: simple economics. The dollar-euro exchange rate makes it advantageous for us to expand our operations in the United States. While it would be difficult to overcome the cost of building a final assembly line in the U.S. strictly for commercial aircraft, it would make good economic sense to invest the incremental cost of expanding the facility that would already exist for assembling tanker aircraft.”
The new FAL would be Airbus’ seventh U.S. facility and would be a significant part of Airbus’ worldwide aircraft production network. Aircraft sections would be delivered to Mobile from their respective production facilities elsewhere in the world, assembled into the final freighter aircraft and delivered to customers from Mobile. Construction on the FAL could begin this year, depending on the tanker decision timing.
Airbus is a leading aircraft manufacturer whose customer focus, commercial know-how, technological leadership and manufacturing efficiency have propelled it to the forefront of the industry. Airbus has sold more than 8,100 aircraft since it first entered service in 1974. The company’s modern and comprehensive product line is comprised of five highly successful families of aircraft ranging from 100 to 525 seats.