Sept, 13, 2015, (c) Leeham Co., Mobile (AL): The first two A321ceos are on the Final Assembly Line (FAL) at the new Airbus plant here in Mobile (AL).
JetBlue is scheduled to take the first delivery in the second quarter next year, followed by an A321ceo for American Airlines by the end of next year.
The slow pace reflects the need to certify every step of the assembly process, which begins nest week with an audit by Europe’s EASA, through the learning curve necessary for a new facility and training the hundreds of employees initially hired.
By the end of next year, Airbus plans to be assembling A320ceos at the rate of four per month, the initial target for this first manufacturing facility on US soil. The plant has the capacity to produce eight a month.
In the first of several briefings over two days, Airbus provided an international group of journalists the first
look at the completed facilities.
Airbus currently has 116 acres, with 56 acres developed with the “trans-shipment” building, the assembly plant, paint hangar, testing facilities and the delivery center. Airbus has another 116 acres for expansion.
For Airbus, this new facility is the culmination of nearly a decade-long effort to established a footprint on US soil that started with the controversial, and ultimately, ill-fated bid to win a contract to sell 179 aerial refueling tankers to the US Air Force. Boeing eventually won the contract, and for a time, it appeared Airbus’ plans for the Mobile plant were dead.
But from this, the effort to assemble the A320 family here evolved, said Troy Wayman, vice president of economic development for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.
Timo Zaremba, manager of Product Quality for the A320 Mobile plant, said EASA, the European regulatory agency, will be responsible for certifying the Mobile plant, its operations and flight testing even though this is on US soil where the US Federal Aviation Administration has jursidiction.
Because of the reciprocal agreement between EASA and the FAA, and because Airbus (as a European airplane company) is regulated by EASA, the European agency will be the authority.
The audit begins next week and will last for two weeks, a major milestone in certifying the plant and its operations.
Airbus said there are currently 260 employees at the plant, including 40 ex-pats. When the plant goes to rate eight, about 1,000 people will be employed here. US employees were trained for 6-9 months at Airbus facilities in Europe.
Airbus didn’t have an estimate of the indirect job numbers currently benefiting from the direct employment. In Washington State, home of Boeing, the ratio is about 2.5 to one.
Wayman, the Chamber of Commerce official, said that so far there hasn’t been an influx of supplier jobs, nor does he expect a significant number any time soon, noting it takes years for the supply chain to follow the manufacturing site. There is plenty of room around the Airbus plant at the former Brookley Air Force Base, which closed in 1969, now in civilian use. FedEx has a facility here. Honeywell of the US and MAAS Aviation from Dublin opened facilities here. Honeywell provides all power plant electric, gas and water facilities. MAAS paints the airplanes in 6-8 days, depending on the complexity of the livery.
The A320 fuselage, wings and components continue to be manufactured overseas and are shipped via ocean freight to Mobile, where there is a deep water port. The components are trucked to the plant four miles away and received in the trans-shipment building before being moved to the assembly plant. The assembly lines are “flow” lines vs moving lines.