Parts for the first two aircraft began arriving in June. A JetBlue Airways A321 will be the first aircraft to roll off the new final assembly line and is scheduled for flight tests to begin in the first quarter of 2016, with delivery following in the second quarter.
Right behind it is an American Airlines’ A321. Major components for both aircraft were shipped from Airbus’ Hamburg, Germany, factory to the Mobile Bay deep-water port about three minutes’ truck drive from the Airbus factory.
Both aircraft are ceos; the factory will transition to producing and delivering A320-family neos from the end of 2017 or early 2018. All aircraft from the Mobile site, which will eventually ramp up to producing four aircraft per month by early 2018, will go to North American customers.
During a media preview of the factory, the vertical tail plane of the first JetBlue aircraft was seen in the trans-shipment hangar, where most major European components first arrive.
The composite tail plane and main landing gear will be joined to the fuselage at station 35, one of four assembly stations in the main factory. The JetBlue fuselage is currently at station 40, where the wing is attached. The American Airlines’ fuselage is currently at station 41, the first station in the assembly line.
Some components, such as avionics, are flown rather than shipped to the factory, while engines from CFM international and Pratt & Whitney will be delivered direct from those companies’ US factories to Mobile.
Meanwhile, Sept. 14 will mark the official opening. Ceremonies will be led by Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders, Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Brégier, Airbus Group Inc. chairman and CEO Allan McArtor and Airbus Americas president Barry Eccleston. The heads of CFMI and Pratt will also attend as well as executives from some North American A320 customers.
Airbus announced in July 2012 that it would establish its first US factory in Mobile. The company has invested $600 million to develop the facility, which follows a factory template similar to A320 final assembly line factories in Hamburg, Germany, and Tianjin, China.
The company’s main factory, test facility and headquarters is in Toulouse, France. While the plan is to ramp up to a production rate of four aircraft per month, the facility is designed to be easily expanded to an eight-per-month capability, although no decision has been made on if or when that might occur.
The facility, as with all Airbus production sites and aircraft, will be EASA certified. The European certification authority is scheduled to begin its first audit next week, a process that will take about two weeks.
Airbus has hired two US test pilots who will be dedicated to the Mobile facility. The company has installed some 260 employees on the site, of which about 40 are from its European facilities. All the US employees have completed training in Europe. Combined with employees from sub-contractors, more than 1,000 jobs directly related to the factory have been created in Mobile.
(Karen Walker - ATWOnline News)