Lines of cars snaked under the giant American flag held aloft by the turntable ladders atop two fire trucks at the entrance to Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex. Traffic slid past long-time tenants like ST Aerospace Mobile, took a 90-degree turn and followed the centerline of the old Air Force runway.
Leaving cars behind, the thousands of people streamed between rows of Azalea Trail Maids and past the Excelsior Band into the massive tent — a generous mix of city officials, local business leaders and the generally curious summoned by automated calls from Mayor Sam Jones on the city’s news and weather alert line.
The festive crowd cheered as a parade of dignitaries talked about the groundbreaking nature of the Airbus plant, interspersed with local folks who have special reasons for welcoming the plant — an employment agency owner anticipating new people and new jobs, the builder saying that the plant is just the start, as 600 employees will need 600 houses whose occupants will need new schools and more, an eighth grader who said the new plant gives her generation dreams for the future.
And JetBlue CEO Dave Barger, with his company’s “Blue Yorker” in the background for all the festivities, won ringing applause with an announcement that his airline has already put dibs on the first plane slated to roll off the new Airbus assembly line in 2016.
Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier rounded out the ceremony, saying that once the Mobile line opens, “we will be making aircraft in Asia, in the U.S. and in Europe. The sun will never set on Airbus.”
Thousands of photographs memorialized the officials as they turned ceremonial shovel loads of earth. And in the background hovered the earthmoving equipment, ready to move in for the big job as soon as the party was cleared away.
The assembly line will be Airbus’ first in the U.S. and is slated to turn out four of the company’s single-aisle A319, A320 and A321 aircraft per month.
Text by Nedra Bloom