MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Hurricane Sally interrupted an important milestone for a relatively new Mobile industry–Airbus. The company celebrated five years of production in Mobile on September 14th at a time when Sally was bearing down on the Gulf Coast. COVID-19 also prevented the company from celebrating with a big event. But after five years in Mobile, there have been a lot of changes and growth for the company’s only final assembly lines in the U.S.
From the announcement last year with the groundbreaking for a second assembly line for the new A-220 aircraft—back to the roll out of the very first aircraft from the original A-320 assembly line, Airbus knows how to celebrate almost as well as they know how to build airplanes.
Then came the five year anniversary of its presence in Mobile in 2020.
“This has been a very different year for us all,” said General Manager Daryl Taylor. “2020 really wasn’t going to look like this–we were going to have many opportunities to celebrate–opening of new facilities.”
The biggest of those was the second assembly line. The A-220 is now being produced after a deal with Bombardier.
“We started in August of last year so we’ve been going just over a year,” said Paul Gaskell, who heads up the A-220 program. “And we have got to the stage where we are ready to deliver.”
Two of the smaller, regional airplanes are ready to be delivered to customers–more are on the way. Things might have gone a little faster if not for the pandemic.
“COVID has not hit just one location, it’s hit every location,” said Taylor. “Clearly we’re an industry that has been severely, severely impacted.”
The pandemic affected airlines which trickled down to Airbus facilities in Hamburg, Germany, Toulouse, France, and Tianjin, China as well as Mobile. Production at the Mobile FAL was shut down for three weeks in April. But through it all the company managed to keep the number of employees at a thousand. Airbus is taking similar steps as many other companies to reduce the risk of exposure among employees.
Since Airbus came to Mobile, it has put the city on the map in the world of aviation.
“If your city isn’t named Toulouse, Hamburg or Seattle–it’s Mobile,” said Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
Over five years, the University of South Alabama estimates the company has had an economic impact on Mobile and Baldwin Counties of $1.1B and the creation of some 12 thousand direct and indirect jobs.
As of August, Airbus has produced more than 180 A320 aircraft from its Mobile assembly lines for companies like Jet Blue, Delta, and American.
Taylor said, “What it’s meant is more than 60 million passengers have flown more than 500 million miles on over 400 thousand flights for an A320 aircraft built right here in Mobile, Alabama.”
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