Airbus on Tuesday celebrated a pair of milestones at its commercial aircraft production facility in Mobile, Alabama, announcing the official inauguration of production activities in its newly built final assembly line hangar and the start of assembly of the first U.S.-built A220 for JetBlue.
The new 270,000-sq-ft hangar, capable of accommodating assembly of both A220-100 and A220-300 aircraft, has officially opened for business after an 18-month construction project. It houses five primary assembly stations where workers attach major airframe component assemblies for a completed aircraft in a flowline process. Airbus began producing A220 aircraft in Mobile in August 2019 using space in an existing A320 final assembly line hangar, and newly built support hangars. With the completion of the new hangar, the Airbus production site in Alabama has doubled in size.
Airbus recently welcomed the first component assemblies destined to become an A220 for JetBlue into the new hangar. JetBlue will become the second customer that takes an A220 from Mobile, following Delta Air Lines. JetBlue expects to take delivery of the first U.S.-made A220 during this year’s fourth quarter.
“The team is excited to start working in their new facility and to welcome a new customer,” said Airbus president of A220 USA Paul Gaskell. “It’s a strong endorsement from JetBlue in this challenging time,” said Paul Gaskell, president of A220 USA and head of A220 Program in Mobile.
Airbus officially broke ground on the Mobile plant in January 2019 and began building the first A220s there last August.
Airbus’s announcement in 2017 of its purchase of Bombardier’s C Series program and plans to build what would become known as the A220 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. The duties, requested by Boeing, 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.