Photo | Daniel Anderson
An Airbus A320 at the final assembly line in Mobile.
As trade talks continue to be prickly between the United States and Canada, a deal between two international companies will pay dividends for Mobile. Airbus announced last week that its agreement with Canada-based Bombardier to build a new a series of aircraft in Mobile will become official on July 1.
“This is our industrial home,” Mobile plant manager Daryl Taylor said during a media event June 11. “It means there will be a new facility.”
The announcement means the deal to build the CSeries aircraft at a second final assembly line cleared regulatory hurdles, including a challenge from U.S. company Boeing that Bombardier was using government subsidies to illegally dump CSeries aircraft into the market.
The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in favor of Bombardier and prevented the U.S. Commerce Department from slapping punitive tariffs on the aircraft. Boeing announced earlier this year it would not appeal the ruling.
The new final assembly line will employ about 400 people, Taylor said.
“Additional capacity has always been a goal of our economic development team,” David Rodgers, vice president of economic development for the Mobile Area Chamber, said. “Since the initial Airbus [final assembly line] opened in 2015, more than 20 aerospace companies have located to Mobile. We’re looking forward to continuing to see additional investment here as we work to grow our aerospace cluster.”
While good for Mobile, the announcement is also welcome news for Airbus. Both the A320 family of jets and Bombardier’s CSeries are single-aisle aircraft, which adds to an already popular product line.
“Clearly we see it as a strategic alignment,” Taylor said. “It’s a great addition.”
Bombardier delivered 17 CSeries aircraft in 2017 and the production will continue to ramp up, according to the statement. Plans are to more than double the number of deliveries in 2018.
With the CSeries’ demonstrated in-service performance and the finalization of this partnership, the parties expect increased demand to support a second CSeries facility in Mobile dedicated to supplying U.S.-based customers. The CSeries is positioned to capture a large percentage of the estimated 6,000 aircraft needed in this market segment over the next 20 years, according to the statement.
“This partnership extends our commitment to Québec and to all of Canadian aerospace, and we are very glad to welcome so many CSeries teammates into the extended Team Airbus,” Airbus CEO Tom Ender said in the statement. “The strength of the entire Airbus organization will be behind the CSeries. Not only will that enable this outstanding aircraft to fulfill its market potential, but we are convinced the addition of the CSeries to our overall aircraft product offering brings significant value to Airbus, our customers and shareholders.”
Due to the early closing of the partnership, the terms of this plan will be updated according to the following schedule: Bombardier will fund the cash shortfalls, if required, during the second half of 2018, up to a maximum of $225 million, up to a maximum of $350 million in 2019 and up to a maximum aggregate amount of $350 million over the following two years, according to an Airbus statement.
First delivery to Hawaiian
Members of the Airbus manufacturing team said “aloha” to their newest delivery — an A321neo aircraft — and in so doing acknowledged three firsts.
The June 11 announcement marked the Mobile facility’s first delivery to Hawaiian Airlines, its first production of a neo, or “new engine option,” aircraft and the first A321 built in Mobile with a Pratt & Whitney engine.
Jon Snook, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Hawaiian Airlines, said the neo aircraft have demonstrated better range and fuel efficiency than the airline’s legacy jets. Snook said the company has three neo aircraft in the fleet already, allowing Hawaiian to open up more routes along the West Coast. As for receiving the newest plane from Mobile, Snook said he was pleased.
“It’s great that we get to be a part of the industrial future of the city,” he said.
The newest addition to the Hawaiian fleet will be named Wiliwili after a tree indigenous to the island chain. The tree was used to build the first surfboards.
“ … All of our aircraft are named for Hawaii’s flora and fauna,” Snook said.
The delivery marks the first neo aircraft built in Mobile, but it won’t be the last, Taylor said. While the company’s original engine option will continue to be built, the market for neo aircraft will continue to expand because of its lower emissions and increased range.