Alabama Aviation Rides High in Paris

The first shipment of components for the new Airbus A220 — an aft fuselage and cockpit — arrived at the Airbus plant in Mobile Thursday. Assembly of the first Mobile-built A220 is slated to begin within the next couple of months. Airbus is building a second final assembly line for the A220, next door to its A320 line at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. Photo courtesy of Airbus

Springtime in Paris brought a bounty of aviation news to Alabama. Government officials at the Paris Air Show this week brought home news of new and expanding aviation and aerospace suppliers, while north Alabama’s Boeing and south Alabama’s Airbus notched up aircraft sales.

To cap off the week, the first major components for Airbus’ new A220 final assembly line arrived in the Port City on Thursday.

Airbus, which has an A320 final assembly line in Mobile and is building an A220 line next door, announced sales of its brand new A321XLR — 50 to American Airlines and 32 to Indigo Partners, followed by sales of varieties of its 320 neo option (one of the products of the Mobile plant) to JetBlue, China Airlines, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic and others. In total, the company signed agreements for 595 airplanes.

Boeing, which has a major space presence in north Alabama but builds its commercial jets in Washington and South Carolina, has been in an aircraft sales drought since March, when its 737 Max was grounded. But the U.S. company announced the sale of 30 787 Dreamliner aircraft to Korean Air — with a list price of $6.3 billion — and then a sale of 200 of its 737 Max planes to UK-based International Airlines Group (IAG), with several other smaller orders, for a total of some 234 planes.

Moreover, during the Air Show, Airbus and Lockheed Martin affirmed their interested in pursuing the U.S. Air Force refueling tanker contract. Airbus first talked about building planes in Alabama in pursuit of the tanker contract with partner Northrop Grumman in 2011; when that deal fell through, the European aviation giant built a commercial jet assembly line here instead.

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At the state level, Gov. Kay Ivey and her team met with executives from the world’s biggest aerospace firms — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies and more — discussing four potential projects and five existing ones that could bring 1,600 or more jobs to Alabama’s burgeoning aviation and aerospace sector.

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