Kennedy Brown is excited to start a career at Airbus, as one of the company’s newest Flightpath 9 apprentices.
“Going to college was not an option for me,” Brown said in front of a large group at Bishop State Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center. “Airbus made it possible to start my career.”
Brown and the other local apprentices seated at the facility in downtown Mobile on Monday are entering the workforce at a time when Airbus will need them the most, as the aircraft manufacturer announced a plan to add a third final assembly line (FAL) for commercial jets in the Port City.
- Jeffrey Knittel, chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas, told the crowd the company’s new 350,000-square-foot facility would be a second FAL dedicated to the production of A320. The other FAL assembles the A220. The new facility would bring Airbus’ total buildout of facilities within the Brookley Aeroplex to 2 million square feet. In addition to constructing the extra facility, Knittel confirmed the company would hire 1,000 new workers to staff it.
“Production of the airplanes will start in the beginning of 2025, driven by customers and demand right here in the U.S.,” he said.
Knittel thanked the “political establishment” of the state for the support over the last decade, since the company announced plans to bring its first A320 FAL to Mobile in 2012.
“Governor (Kay Ivey), this is a wonderful state to do business in and (Mobile) Mayor (Sandy Stimpson) this is a wonderful city,” Knittel said. “We look forward to a wonderful future.”
The announcement comes after Airbus received a report indicating a strong first quarter and an increase in demand. The additional FAL is needed to help the company reach an increase in production for the plane builder, from an estimated 50 commercial planes per month expected by 2025 to 75 planes per month.
“These Q1 results reflect a solid performance across our commercial aircraft, helicopter defense businesses,” Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said in a statement. “Our 2022 guidance is unchanged, even though the risk profile for the rest of the year has become more challenging due to the complex geopolitical and economic environment. We see continuing strong growth in commercial aircraft demand driven by the A320 family.”
The company is on pace to reach a commercial aircraft production rate of 65 per month by 2023. The company delivered 142 commercial aircraft in the first quarter of this year.
Stimpson told the crowd former Mayor and current state Rep. Sam Jones caught his eye as he was making his way up to the podium. It reminded the current mayor of the first announcement almost a decade ago.
“It was July 3, 2012, when Airbus made a similar announcement that it was coming to Mobile,” Stimpson said. “Mayor Jones, I know you had to be the happiest mayor in Alabama on that day. Well, now I’m the happiest mayor in Alabama.”
Stimpson thanked Ivey, Airbus and the rest of “Team Mobile” for working together to bring this to fruition.
“We’re so fortunate we have relationships in place to help make this happen,” he said.
These partnerships and Airbus’ most recent announcement will make Mobile the fourth largest producer of commercial aircraft in the world, Stimpson said.
“We’ll be the fourth largest in the world,” he said. “They’ll talk about Toulouse, France, Hamburg (Germany), Seattle and, most importantly, they’ll talk about Mobile.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey applauded the strength of the state’s workforce as one reason why Airbus keeps expanding in the state and city.
“The continued growth we see here is a testament to the strength of the workforce,” she said. “If you want the job done, call Alabama, plain and simple.”
Daryl Taylor, vice president and general manager at Mobile’s FAL sites, looked at the fresh batch of Flightpath 9 apprentices and congratulated them. He said he too had been an apprentice before working his way up and had originally chosen community college as a way to experience upper-level education after high school.
“I can’t tell you how personally excited I am for this,” he said. “I know the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center will be training and up-training Airbus employees for years to come.”
Taylor also thanked the Mobile community, which rallied around the company after it lost out on the first tanker contract, but opened up the A320 FAL instead.
“You all rallied around us when we were bringing in the first FAL,” he said. “Thank you for your continued support.”
Taylor said Airbus has produced 300 planes since the first FAL opened and the new FAL looks to more than double the company’s operations in Mobile.
As production is doubled, skilled workers will need to be ready to take the jobs offered at Airbus. That’s where Bishop State Community College and its new manufacturing training facility comes in. Interim President Lawrence Brandyberg said the “state-of-the-art” building will help the manufacturer train prospective and current employees.
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