The Airbus A220 US Alabama Assembly Plant Gets First Parts

The first major parts of Airbus’s A220 arrived at the manufacturer’s Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Mobile, Alabama yesterday (20/06).

A220 digital mock up in flight
A220 cockpit and aft fuselage have arrived at Airbus FAL in Alabama. Photo: Airbus press release

Writing for Alabama Newscenter, Michael Tomberlin reports on the arrival of the first batch of major component assemblies at Airbus’s FAL. The influx represents yet another milestone in the manufacturer’s US logistical operations; the A220’s FAL is located at the same “Aeroplex” facility in which the A320 Family are assembled.

Airbus said the first of the A220’s MCAs consists of the aft fuselage and cockpit.

In tandem with Mobile’s new output, production is to be stepped up at the company’s Canadian Mirabel plant. By the middle of the next decade, Airbus expects to see an assembly rate of 10 per month of the type from Mirabel and four from Mobile.

Although the facility in Mobile will not be completed until 2020, assemblage of the now upgraded A220 will begin within the next two months. Completed aircraft are first scheduled for Delta Air Lines between the end of 2019 and the middle of 2020. The American airline has 95 aircraft on order of both the A220-100 and A220-300 types.

Worldwide, the total number of A220s on order is in excess of 500, according to Airbus.

CSeries / A220

The advent of Mobile falls in the same week as the Paris Air Show. The show saw Airbus receive orders and memoranda of understanding for almost 400 aircraft. The number is substantially more than the various promises received by rival firm Boeing.

The biggest A220 order (50) was received from Air Lease Corporation.

Delta Airlines A220 in flight
Delta now has 95 of the A220 type on order, according to Airbus. Photo: Airbus press release

That plane with our Airbus brand, with our support, our procurement and our sales is a game-changer,” Jeff Knittel, Airbus’s U.S. chief told The Seattle Times.

The new factory represents a shot in the arm for Canadian designer Bombardier as well as Airbus.

Bombardier had previously asked Boeing to assist with the production of its languishing CSeries. But Boeing rejected a deal due to concerns it had about production overruns and delays. The U.S. manufacturer then tried to lobby the U.S. Government to impose duties on imports of the jets.

After taking a 50% stake in the company’s CSeries program in 2017, Airbus renamed the type the A220-100 and -300.

Why Alabama?

Due to longstanding wrangles with Boeing over military contracts from 2008 until 2011, Airbus knew it would need to work hard to secure a foothold in the States. It needed to gain high-level political influence to win future contracts. In particular, it had its sights set on those contracts pertaining to the lucrative commercial market.

In 2012, it announced that it would create a plant at which it could assemble its A320.

Airbus CEO Tom Enders
Tom Enders has no regrets about the setting up of a second plant in Alabama. Photo: Airbus press release

Industry insiders suggest that the high cost of transporting major parts to Mirabel and Mobile, which Airbus admits is not economical, is thus footed for the benefit of political rewards rather than commercial ones. The manufacturer’s spreading of production across many locations maximizes local and central political support.

The model already works to Airbus’s advantage in Europe. Here component parts are built in the UK, Spain, France and Germany and then brought together at the company’s FAL in Toulouse.

Airbus confidence at an all-time high

The growing threat posed by the joining of hands between Boeing and Embraer is of little concern to Airbus’s CEO Tom Enders. Despite the potential viability of Embraer’s E-Jet E2 he is confident of his company’s buoyancy. According to Bloomberg, Enders said that the final assembly of the A220 in the U.S., “is a vital selling point for most U.S.-based customers,”

It’s sometimes hard to predict the future, but it didn’t take a genius to anticipate the Boeing-Embraer tie-up. We’re helped by the fact that we have by far the best aircraft in the A220.”