The first new plane won’t roll off the assembly line at Airbus Mobile until 2016. In fact, construction of the new plant won’t even start until next year. But already, Airbus has a waiting list for the N320neo aircraft to be built here. Virgin America, based in San Francisco, with routes around the U.S. and Mexico, has put its name on the buyer list. The airline already flies 30 of the single-aisle aircraft.
While Alabama is full of compliments for the European aircraft maker, Airbus heard snippy words when it was denied membership in the Aerospace Industries Association lobbying group. In a Reuters report carried in the Chicago Tribune, the AIA president said the group wouldn’t accept members with foreign government ownership. The French government owns 15 percent of Airbus, and the company is trying to reach a similar deal with the German government.
“Remember, this is the Aerospace Industry Association of America. We go back to (U.S. aviation pioneers) Orville Wright and Glenn Curtiss, who founded this almost a hundred years ago, ” AIA President and Chief Executive Marion Blakey told Reuters. “We are here to represent the interests of the United States (industry) and we do not believe it’s appropriate for foreign governments to use AIA to lobby our own, ” she added.
The same day that decision was reported, the Tribune carried another Reuters story, in which Airbus executives upped their estimate of the coming commercial jet market.
Meanwhile, Airbus announced a $4 billion, 50-plane sale to China in late August, fueling speculation that the European consortium would extend its assembly line in China. And in mid-September the business world buzzed with news that Airbus parent EADS was in merger talks with British BAE Systems, which would create a $50 billion powerhouse rival for Boeing.
By Nedra Bloom