Challenges from United States-based manufacturers to a proposed partnership between Airbus and Bombardier are “still possible,” Airbus Americas Chairman Emeritus Allan McArtor told a gaggle of reporters Tuesday as officials announced more specifics about a deal that would lead to the construction of a second final assembly-line facility in Mobile.
Most recently Boeing challenged Bombardier over allegations the Canadian company used government subsidies to dump its C-Series aircraft into the American market. However, the U.S. International Trade Commission found in favor of Bombardier and deemed Boeing had not been injured as a result of the allegations.
“That was a big victory for this team you see up here,” McArtor said, joined by a panel of officials from Airbus and Bombardier.
Boeing officials have been vocal in the past about its beef with Bombardier, with a Boeing adviser telling the Economist magazine “strangling the baby in the pram may prove rather convenient.”
Airbus and Bombardier have entered into a partnership to build the C-Series single-aisle aircraft at a second final assembly line in Mobile. Barring any regulatory issues, officials expect approval of the partnership to be granted by the second half of this year. From there, construction of the second final assembly line would begin “as soon as possible,” said Bombardier President and CEO Alain Bellemare.
“This is very exciting,” he said. “You’re going to see a U.S.-built aircraft for the U.S. market.”
While officials stressed that plans between the two companies are still being finalized, Jeff Knittel, chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas, said the collaboration could result in about 600 new jobs and a new $300 million investment at the Brookley Aeroplex.
“The joint venture beings together the power of two terrific companies,” he said.
Those figures include 400 jobs at the proposed C-Series final assembly line and roughly 200 jobs at the Airbus final assembly line once it expands to build more than four planes per month.
The shipping of components for the C-Series final assembly line will be very similar to what Airbus does now. While components for the jets will arrive from all over the world, roughly 50 percent of those parts will be manufactured in the U.S., according to Philippe Balducchi, head of the C-Series Integration Project.
The officials felt confident the partnership could lead to greater U.S. sales for both companies as the single-aisle market expands. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has ordered 70 C-Series jets and worked with Airbus on its A320 line.
The A320 series and the C-Series are very complementary, Bellemare said. The C-Series, which has 100 to 150 seats, can be offered to customers first for new routes. Customers can then move to the A320 series once a new route is established, McArtor said, meaning the jets will not compete with one another.
The C-Series final assembly line will stand parallel to the current Airbus final assembly line just to the north, McArtor said. The presence of a second final assembly line is also expected to attract more suppliers.
“With this, the commercial magnet of Brookley will be literally doubled,” he said. “I would think you’d find a lot of suppliers even more motivated to locate here.”
The Airbus footprint currently has about 160 acres that are not being used, Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility Vice President and General Manager Daryl Taylor said. With the construction of the second final assembly line and expansions to other buildings, he said, the footprint would need to be expanded slightly.
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