Mobile’s Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility earned its wings on a hot June Sunday, as city officials, company workers and invited guests celebrated the arrival of an airplane in five big pieces.
After years in the works, the June 18 shipment marked the first significant aircraft parts delivery to Airbus’ 116-acre, $600 million complex near downtown Mobile. The major component assemblies (MCAs) arrived by cargo ship from Hamburg, Germany, docked at APM Terminals at the Port of Mobile, off-loaded unto five flatbed trucks and were treated like rock stars.
“This day and event is huge, ” beamed Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, inspecting a strapped-down jet fuselage. “It ranks up with every major accomplishment of the city’s history. It is that big.”
Airbus officials emphasized that the parts arriving in Mobile for final assembly are a global collaboration, including wings produced in the UK, rear fuselage section made in Germany, tail cone produced in Spain and forward fuselage section from France. The horizontal (from Spain) and vertical (from Germany) stabilizers also were on board. The first aircraft set for production is an A321ceo destined for delivery to JetBlue in 2016.
After a June 21 welcoming ceremony for invited guests, the public lined the five-mile dock-to-Airbus route as enormous aviation parts became Mardi Gras floats.
The arrival and delivery occurred almost three years after the project was first announced. “Since July 2012, Airbus and the city of Mobile have been anticipating the day when aircraft production would begin in Mobile, ” noted Ulrich Weber, vice president – Airbus Final Assembly Line, Mobile. “The vision was there. With the arrival of these assemblies and this special first convoy, we hope everyone can see without doubt that the vision has become reality.” The company broke ground in Mobile in April, 2013.
Airbus established its Mobile presence to assemble and deliver A319, A320 and A321 aircraft to meet the growing needs of its customers in the United States and elsewhere. It is the company’s first U.S.-based production facility and the fourth in the network, which includes Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany, and Tianjin, China.
The company’s goal is to produce four aircraft a month by 2018. Airbus Mobile currently has approximately 160 employees with plans to hire more.
Weber thanked his new Mobile employees who spent two months in Hamburg, Germany, learning “the Airbus way.”
“I know it’s not easy being away from families, far away, for a long time, ” Weber noted, speaking at the June 21 ceremony. “But it is necessary to learn the business and learn the Airbus way.”
Mobile’s aviation industry history dates to the 1930s.
Text by Emmett Burnett