Airbus Starts Building First A220s in Mobile

 - August 5, 2019, 10:48 AM
Airbus's A320 assembly site in Mobile, Alabama, now also hosts production of the A220. (Photo: Airbus)

Airbus has begun manufacturing the A220 at its U.S. assembly site in Mobile, Alabama, the company announced Monday. The first team of A220 production workers began work at the plant following their recent return from on-the-job training in Mirabel, Quebec, site of the A220 program and primary final assembly line.

Airbus announced plans for the addition of A220 manufacturing in Mobile in October 2017, when it confirmed its intention to buy the then-Bombardier C Series program. Construction began in January on the main A220 flowline hangar and other support buildings at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, adjacent to where Airbus builds A320s for the U.S. market. The company said it will produce the first few aircraft within some current A320 family buildings and newly built support hangars. It plans to deliver the first U.S.-made A220—an A220-300 destined for Delta Air Lines—during next year’s third quarter. The European manufacturer expects the facility will produce between 40 and 50 A220s per year by the middle of the next decade. 

Airbus’s announcement in 2017 that it would build A220s—or the airplanes that then carried the C Series designation—in the U.S. came soon after the U.S. Commerce Department’s preliminary ruling to impose up to 300 percent worth of tariffs on Bombardier’s sale of 75 CS100s to Delta Air Lines at the behest of Boeing. The duties would have effectively disqualified the C Series from sale in the U.S., removing the biggest market from Bombardier’s available pool of potential customers. The eventual manufacture of the C Series in the U.S, therefore, would have theoretically removed that barrier to sale there.

However, the issue became moot when, in January 2018, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that the C Series did not compete directly with the Boeing 737 Max 7, thereby negating the original rationale for the tariffs. Insisting that the tariff threat did not amount to the sole reason for building the plant in Mobile, Airbus nevertheless went ahead with the plans even though tariffs would not apply to airplanes built in Canada either.

“The expansion of our commercial aircraft production in Mobile to a second product line—with 400 additional jobs to support it—further solidifies Airbus’s standing as a truly global aircraft manufacturer, and confirms without a doubt that Airbus is an important part of America’s manufacturing landscape,” said Airbus Americas CEO Jeffrey Knittel. “With Mobile, and our production network in Asia, Canada, and Europe, we have strategically created a worldwide industrial base to better serve our customers.”

Airbus claims to have spent $48 billion with hundreds of U.S. suppliers in more than 40 states over the past three years, amounting to a level of support that the company says has translated into more than 275,000 American jobs. Airbus facilities in the U.S. include engineering centers in Kansas and Alabama; a major training facility in Florida and soon one in Colorado; materials support and headquarters in Virginia; a think tank (A3) in California; a drone data analysis business (Airbus Aerial) in Atlanta, Georgia; helicopter manufacturing and assembly facilities in Texas and Mississippi; and a satellite manufacturing facility (OneWeb) in Florida.