Monday, 2 July 2012

Airbus Confirms US A320 Family Final Assembly Line

As expected, Airbus has today announced that it will be opening a $600 million Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Mobile, Alabama - the first Airbus plant in the United States.

Set to open in 2015, the new plant will directly employ 1,000 American workers to build Airbus' popular A320 Family of aircraft, the first of which is expected to fly in 2016. By 2018, Airbus hopes to be building up to 50 jets a year at the plant.

"The time is right for Airbus to expand in America" Fabrice Bregier, Airbus President and CEO said, adding "The US is the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world - with a projected need for 4,600 aircraft over the next 20 years - and this assembly line brings us closer to our customers!"

The plant, the second A320 FAL outside of Europe (the other in Tianjin China), brings the competition for new orders to the doorstep of arch-rival Boeing. Whilst both manufacturers enjoy a roughly 50/50 even split in single aisle aircraft sales, Boeing has the upper hand in the US with an 80% share - something Airbus hopes will change now their planes are built on American soil.

Airbus saw massive demand for its A320neo Family of aircraft immediately after they were launched in December 2010, however a lack of available delivery slots has seen orders slow, allowing Boeing to gain ground in recent months with their competing 737MAX. Opening a new assembly line in the US will enable Airbus to increase production rates considerably, giving airlines more opportunity to order the fuel saving NEO or 'New Engine Option' variants, which promise to reduce fuel burn and increase range.

However, news of the US Factory has seen a growing concern in France where Airbus has its Headquarters and an A320 FAL. The unions there want Airbus to provide guarantees on jobs and production work. "We will be vigilant to make sure they are not robbing Europe to pay the United States" said Gilbert Plo, a spokesman for the French Christian Workers' Confederation (CFTC).

Photo Credit: Airbus
Interestingly, although Airbus have said large parts (fuselage sections & wings etc) will be shipped into Mobile, Alabama by boat, we may eventually get to see the introduction of an A330 or A340 based Beluga Super Transporter in order for Airbus to supply the new US FAL. Airbus has already done the renderings for such a plane. What do you think? Add a comment below!

Photo Credit: Airbus

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