Airbus and U.S.-based Spirit AeroSystems showed how European funding benefits workers on both sides of the Atlantic last week, as Spirit formally opened a new 500,000-sq-ft plant in Kinston, N.C., where employees will design and manufacture composite fuselage upper and lower shells and the front wing spar for the Airbus A350 XWB.
Spirit president and CEO Jeff Turner hosted Airbus president and CEO Tom Enders, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue and various community partners from around the region and state during a ceremony to mark the official opening. “Our cooperation with Spirit is an example of how Airbus is [building] its partnerships in the United States, both supporting jobs and contributing to the American economy,” Enders said.
Spirit expects employment at the facility to exceed 200 by the end of the year and grow to about 700 over the next few years on the Airbus work statement alone. Reaching the total employment goal of 1,000 will require placing additional work at the site. The U.S. company won a contract with Airbus in May 2008 to design and produce the A350 XWB's composite fuselage structure and front wing spar. Known as Section 15, the fuselage section will measure some 65 feet long and 20 feet wide and weigh nearly 9,000 pounds. The front wing spar, made of nearly 100-percent composite material, will weigh more than 2,000 pounds and measure some 105 feet long.
Plans call for Spirit to ship the fuselage components designed and manufactured in North Carolina across the Atlantic to the U.S. company's new facility in Saint-Nazaire, France. Workers there will assemble the fuselage part before preparing it for shipment to Airbus as Section 15. Spirit will send the front spar to its UK operations in Prestwick, Scotland, for integration into the wing leading edges before shipment to Airbus for final assembly.
Firm orders for the A350 XWB now stand at 530 from 33 customers worldwide. Airbus lays claim as the largest export customer of U.S. aerospace content. The company claims to spend more than 40 percent of its aircraft-related procurement in the U.S.–more than $10 billion per year–and support more than 180,000 jobs.