The French aircraft giant Airbus has announced it will open a commercial-jet assembly line in Mobile, Ala., for its single-aisle A320 planes.
Construction in 2013, Plane Deliveries 2016
Construction of the plant is set to begin in mid-2013, with aircraft deliveries scheduled to begin in 2016. Airbus says that by 2018, it expects to be turning out 40 to 50 planes annually.
The assembly line will provide a needed boost to the local and U.S. economy – early projections are that it will cost $600 million dollars and employ 1,000 people.
Airbus Challenges Boeing
However, some analysts see greater significance in the fact that this is the first time that America’s own Boeing Co. will be challenged on its home turf. The giant U.S. aircraft maker currently enjoys a monopoly on building “large civil planes” in North American and according to media reports, Airbus today has only a 20 percent share of the U.S. market for single-aisle planes. The new Alabama-based Airbus plant would certainly give it greater proximity to the lucrative U.S. market.
However, as Graeme Wallace, a technology executive in the air travel industry notes, “Much if not all of the predicted growth in air travel is in Asia,” adding that, “You’ve got to ask what it is that Airbus is hoping to achieve from opening a plant in the U.S., if perhaps it is something government related.”
A320: International Hybrid
The A320 is already something of an international hybrid: wings are built in the UK, cockpits in France and the fuselage in Germany and the tail section in Spain. In the new Alabama plant, these components would come together to form the finished plane.