Airbus to assemble single-aisle aircraft in U.S. state of Alabama

Front fuselage section for first flyable A350 arrives in Toulouse

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Although U.S. economic news (particularly political news) has revolved around the phenomena of outsourcing (i.e., sending jobs out of country, to Mexico and overseas, to China) and the evidence of a more recent trend toward resourcing (bringing those jobs back to the U.S.), domestic economic observers were cheered recently by a significant instance of what might be called insourcing: Airbus (Toulouse, France) announced on July 2 that it will establish a manufacturing facility in the U.S. to assemble and deliver A319, A320 and A321 aircraft. Located at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala., it will be the company’s first U.S.-based production facility. Airbus stressed that the assembly line is part of its strategy to enhance Airbus’ global competitiveness by meeting the growing needs of its customers in the U.S. and elsewhere. Construction of the assembly line will begin in summer 2013, with aircraft assembly planned for 2015 and 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,” says Fabrice Brégier, Airbus president and CEO. “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.”

Airbus already has a presence in Alabama and operates an engineering center in Mobile as well as an Airbus Military customer services operation that supports U.S. Coast Guard aircraft. In addition, Airbus has operations in Wichita, Kan., Ashburn, Va., Miami, Fla., and a regulatory and government liaison office in Washington, D.C., collectively employing more than 1,000 people. Airbus says the new Mobile assembly line, together with associated functions, should double that, creating as many as 1,000 new, high-skill jobs.

Two weeks later, the company reported that it had delivered the front fuselage section for the first flyable A350 XWB (MSN1) to the Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Toulouse. The 21m/69-ft long composites-intensive structure arrived fully equipped with systems from the Airbus site in Saint-Nazaire, France, aboard the Airbus Beluga transport aircraft. The A350 XWB front fuselage section will be mounted in a giant assembly jig for mating with other sections.

HPC previously reported that the late arrival of “some key composite and detailed parts” had pushed first delivery until early 2014 (visit http://short.compositesworld.com/gq2pj2vn). At HPC press time, however, entry into service was moved into the second half of 2014, due mainly to the extra time required for implementation of the automated drilling process for the plane’s wings.
 

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