On Monday, Airbus and Delta Air Lines celebrated a milestone on a Brookley complex with several significant building sites.
Most of the work zones were not visible from where corporate leaders, government officials, and a few dozen employees celebrated Delta’s 100th Alabama-built A320-family airplane. But Airbus’s abundant evidence of boom-time construction established the atmosphere.
“I’m starting to get really comfortable in Alabama,” said Airbus Americas chairman and CEO Jeff Knittel. “I may move here. The Wall Street Journal said this is the place.” (That paper recently claimed that coastal Alabama’s reduced cost of living was luring Floridians).
“Preach it,” said U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl.
Delta senior VP of government relations Heather Wingate stated Delta operates around 400 Airbus planes. Airbus also assembles several A220-class planes in Mobile, so more than a quarter were made there.
More coming. Airbus management announced a year ago that Mobile will get a third Final Assembly Line. Like the first line, it will manufacture A320-family planes. Airbus plans to increase single-aisle, twin-engine aircraft manufacturing to meet demand. China’s A320 FAL is getting a second line.
Knittel stated, “When you look back on where we were 5-10 years ago, I don’t think anyone could have imagined what we are doing here. Today in Mobile? I’ve mentioned increase in facilities and staff. From 50 to 100 staff, this site today has 1,600 and will shortly have over 2,000.
After the ceremony, Knittel told reporters he expects 300 or 400 new hires “in the coming year” and 1,000 “over time.”
Delta, Airbus, and local politicians were smitten. The Mobile site’s expansion has “really been a function of a great cooperation, federal, state and local,” according to Knittel. I’ve never seen a more aligned, helpful bunch. Helping is rare. And this group.”
“You’re such an amazing partner for us,” Knittel told Delta.
“It’s very proud,” Wingate remarked. “We value our Airbus partnership.”
Many praised Mobile Airbus workers.
Britt stated, “I got to walk through and watch you all a couple of months ago and I was blown away.
Carl said Mobile’s workforce was attracting people. “I sell you every day,” he continued. “We’re talking to other companies, your family, your commitment. Our culture. We chat about Airbus and Mobile workers since we’re family.”
He informed the workers that Boeing was the Goliath whose supporters laughed at producing aircraft in Mobile. “You’re David. “You got the rock,” he said. “Goliath has a sore chin, and we’re just starting with him. We knocked him down, we’ll finish him.”
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson suggested Mobile might produce 20 jetliners a month once the additional facilities open in 2025. Airbus’ strategy includes “cushion,” Knittel added.
Knittel said the Mobile facility will produce four A220s each month, eight A320s on the current line, and eight more on the new line within a few years.
We’re expanding globally to fulfill market demand. “Mobile is so important because the U.S. market is growing,” Knittel added. “We won’t max out the lines. Global demand matters. We’re padding to fulfill more clients’ demands. We’ll see how many planes we make. Building production capabilities is distinct from building airplanes.”
FlightWorks, the Airbus-state museum and training center, was a plus for Knittel.
“We are educating young people today for the future of aviation and, frankly, other industries,” Knittel added. “Other states want to copy it.”