“Earthbound people say the sky is the limit, ” said Airbus Group Chairman and CEO Tom Enders. “But the sky is not our limit. It is our home. For the aerospace and aviation industry, Mobile is now our home.”
Enders led the inaugural celebration of the $600 million Airbus final assembly line in Mobile Sept. 14. The 210, 000-square-foot facility is the European aerospace firm’s only commercial aircraft assembly line in the U.S. More than 200 people are working in the plant, which expects to employ 1, 000 people at full production.
The ceremony was a joyous occasion, in stark contrast to the day four years earlier when Mobile was rocked with disappointment. In 2011, the city’s billion dollar high-hopes Airbus aircraft tanker deal was pulled by the U.S. government and given to Boeing in Seattle.
“Opposition can be quite adamant and strong, ” Enders added, referencing the failed tanker contract. But he added, “Defeat may serve as well as victory and this is the case here. While we lost the tanker deal, we found true partnership in this community, the state and its neighboring states. We believed we could build the best aircraft in the world right here in Mobile. You have the talent and tenacity to do it.”
In the highlight of the event, Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier joined Mobile site employee, Ryane Dedeaux, a 27-year-old tool room worker, in applying a decal on the first aircraft set to roll off Mobile’s assembly line. The decal reads “This aircraft proudly made in the U.S.A. by the worldwide team from Airbus.”
Speaking at the event, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said, “We are proud Airbus planes will have ‘Made in Alabama, ’ on them.” Addressing Airbus officials, the governor added, “We take pride in what we have accomplished. I am convinced Airbus made the right decision in locating in Mobile and we will help make your company successful.”
With tax incentives of about $150 million, Airbus announced its plans to assemble the A320 family of aircraft in Mobile on July 2, 2012. Company and local officials broke ground for the facility at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley April 8, 2013.
The first major component assemblies arrived on June 21, 2015 and production began in July. By August 2017, Airbus is projected to produce four jet aircraft a month and its first customer delivery is set for JetBlue Airways in summer 2016.
Interviewed after the ceremony, a smiling former Gov. Bob Riley, noted, “Good things come to those who wait. I believe this is one of the most transformational things that has happened in Alabama in the last 40 years.”
“What the state has seen in the automobile manufacturing sector we will see now in aviation, ” Riley added.
Speaking before the ceremony, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson pointed at the massive fuselage flanking the audience, and said, “In June, when those aircraft parts were delivered to Mobile, I felt like a kid in a candy store.” And he added, “Today it feels like Christmas.
Text by Emmett Burnett