The first fuselage sections for Airbus’ maiden “Made in America” aircraft have arrived in Alabama, but the company’s workforce has been working quietly for months getting ready to launch assembly at Airbus’ new, $600 million facility in Mobile.
Airbus reports that more than 100 members of its Alabama workforce have spent up to six months at the company’s manufacturing centers in Hamburg, Germany, and Toulouse, France, for training and skill development before assembly begins in Mobile.
Production work is expected to begin in a few weeks, now that the major components arrive arrived overnight at the Port of Mobile for the first Alabama-made aircraft – an A321ceo bound for JetBlue. That initial customer delivery is expected in 2016.
Altogether, Airbus said it has hired 280 people for the operation at the Mobile Aeroplex, with the number expected to rise to 1,000 as the facility reaches full production.
“I think the opportunity for the Americans who are on the job training in Hamburg today, the opportunity is to learn a broad set of skills,” says Ulrich Weber, vice president of the Airbus A320 family assembly line in Alabama. “This is our philosophy of having people skilled not only for one particular piece of work but for a broader range.”
AIDT, a division of the Alabama Department of Commerce that functions as the state job-training agency, has assisted Airbus with pre-employment screening and training services at a new, $7 million center established at the Aeroplex. So far, AIDT has held more than 130 classes for hourly and salaried workers.
Airbus said many of those hired so far have experience working in the U.S. aviation industry, particularly in the defense sector. Others were recruited at jobs fairs staged at military bases.
In a new video, several new members of the Airbus Alabama workforce hires talk about their experience at the company’s European facilities. Jennifer Milligan is one of them, and she says she is eager to get started assembling aircraft at the company’s only U.S. manufacturing facility.
“My mom has blasted over Facebook to all her friends that I work at Airbus, that I am in Germany and I am doing so great,” Milligan says. “My dad is the same way. And every time I talk to them they say ‘I am so proud of you.’ I’m very excited. I can’t wait to get back home and produce the first aircraft in the U.S., I think it will be great, a great feeling.”
The Alabama plant will be one of only two Airbus manufacturing centers outside of Europe, with the other being in Tianjin, China.
Now that the major components for the first Alabama-made Airbus aircraft have arrived at the Port of Mobile, the city is planning to mark with occasion with a parade. The components will be transported from the port to the Airbus facility at Mobile Aeroplex on Sunday.
“The transit from the port to the FAL (final assembly line) is a huge milestone,” Roger Wehner, executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority, operator of the Aeroplex, said this week at the Paris Air Show.