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Manufacturing

First Alabama-made Airbus A321 makes initial test flight

MOBILE, Alabama – Airbus test pilots this morning completed the maiden flight of the company’s first Alabama-made A321 passenger jet, carrying out on a three-hour mission designed to evaluate the plane’s performance and systems.

The flight began shortly after 9:30 this morning from the airstrip at the Mobile Aeroplex, the site of Airbus’ new $600 million U.S. manufacturing facility. The A321, sporting the logo and colors of its eventual owner, JetBlue Airways, was returned to the Aeroplex around 1 p.m.

“We’ve come to an exciting milestone in the production of any aircraft, but this one is particularly special,” said Daryl Taylor, vice president and general manager of the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility. “The Mobile team has worked hard, and I’m proud that their skill and talent have brought us to this moment. Together we are fulfilling the promise we made to the city of Mobile, the state of Alabama, and the Gulf Coast region—we’re creating a new center of commercial aircraft production in the U.S. This is just the first of many aircraft to come.

Airbus posted updates on the test while it was under way over the Gulf of Mexico.


‘MAJOR MILESTONE’

Alabama officials welcomed the news of the flight as another important development for the state’s aerospace sector. The flight was also a long time coming: While Airbus announced plans for the Alabama manufacturing facility in 2012, the relationship between the state and the France-based aviation giant goes back more than a decade.

“It is a major milestone in the history of aviation manufacturing in Alabama to see the first Airbus aircraft produced in Mobile to schedule its first test flight,” Governor Robert Bentley said today.

“This test flight is standard procedure before delivering an aircraft to a customer. Aerospace and aviation industries are extremely important to Alabama, and it is exciting to know soon JetBlue will receive its first A321 proudly Made In Alabama,” he added.

The aircraft was flown today by test pilots Mark McCullins and Bruce Macdonald. They were accompanied on the flight by Flight Test Engineers Thierry Cros and Nick Picconi, and Ground Test Engineers/Cabin Specialists Alexander Gentzsch and Mike Johns.

The flight lasted 3 hours and 26 minutes during which tests were performed on systems, engines and structure performance.

RAMP UP

Airbus plans to deliver the aircraft tested today to JetBlue later this spring from the Alabama facility. Other A321s, destined for American Airlines, are already being assembled at the Mobile Aeroplex production center, which currently has around 300 workers.

By 2018, Airbus says the Alabama manufacturing facility will produce 40 to 50 A320 family aircraft per year, supporting around 1,000 jobs.

“The initial test flight of the first Alabama-made Airbus passenger jet is another exciting chapter in the partnership that Alabama has developed with Airbus,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“This is an inspiring accomplishment for the skilled workforce at the company’s Alabama manufacturing facility, and we know that there are many more impressive developments to come as Airbus ramps up production at the Mobile Aeroplex facility.”

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