New Plane, New Jobs Planned for Mobile

Top brass from Airbus Americas and Bombardier Inc. flew into Mobile today to introduce the Bombardier C-Series aircraft and talk about the new investment and jobs they plan here as soon as this year, providing they can clear regulatory hurdles.

“We hope to see the deal close in the second half of this year, ” said Jeff Knittel, chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas.

When it closes, the firms anticipate an investment of $300 million in Mobile with an increase of 400 to 600 jobs, he added.

Chairman emeritus Allan McArtor, who was the face of Airbus as the international firm moved into Mobile six years ago, said the partnership of Airbus and Bombardier “is another example of the solid commitment of Airbus to manufacturing in the United States and in particular, in Mobile, Alabama.

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“This is our industrial home; this is where we come to grow, ” McArtor said.

Knittel added that the plan is to build four Bombardier C-Series per month in a new final assembly line adjacent to the Airbus facility, and possibly increase Airbus A320 family production from four per month to six or more.

Alain Bellemare, president and CEO of Canadian-based Bombardier, said the C-series aircraft represents a new generation of single-aisle aircraft, with anticipated sales of 6, 000 or more over the next 20 years.

Bombardier’s sale of planes to Delta Airlines last year brought complaints from rival Boeing, a massive import tax and a quick announcement of joint venture plans between Airbus and Bombardier — though both companies say that wasn’t the impetus for their plans.

More than 50 percent of the Bombardier aircraft components are made in the U.S. already, Bellemare said. And all officials said they expect even more suppliers to move to the Mobile Aeroplex in support of the new craft.

“The commercial magnet of Brookley Field would be doubled, ” McArtor said.

The C-Series plane is a good companion to the Airbus A320 family, all officials said.

The C-Series, with 100 to 150 seats, can be used when an airline moves into a new market. As the market matures and demand increases, they can move up to the bigger Airbus single-aisle options. McArtor said the two firms expect their customer airlines will want both varieties, not either or, so they expect a competitive advantage from having both options.

Meet the C-Series Bombardier

  • The C-Series aircraft has been designed for passenger comfort and operating efficiency.
  • From the flight deck with larger graphic displays and a side stick that gives pilots more space to the human-sized lavatories and overhead bins that hold three carry-ons plus three laptops the aircraft is roomier. 
  • People are bigger than they used to be — on average 25 pounds bigger — so seats are wider (and the middle seat is wider than the aisle and window seats). Windows are half again the size of most competitors and the aisle is 20 inches wide, so two people can pass each other.
  • Fuel savings are achieved with aerodynamic design, lightweight components, fuel-efficient engines and redesigned elements such as electric brakes instead of heavier hydraulic versions.

Read more in the April issue of Business Alabama.

Text by Nedra Bloom // Photo by Mike Kittrell

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