Airbus Suffers Assembly Setback In Mobile After Fire Suppression System Activates

Airbus’ shiny new manufacturing plant in Mobile, Alabama, has hit a snag already. It seems a fire suppression system was activated, causing fire-retardant foam to be sprayed all over the hanger and over the first A220-300 being assembled there. While no fire seems to have taken place, Airbus are thoroughly inspecting both the hangar and two aircraft in it for any signs of damage.

The factory is producing the A220. Photo: Airbus

What happened?

According to reporting by Flight Global, Airbus has had to close a hangar at the Mobile factory following activation of a fire suppression system. Although it is thought there was no actual fire, the planemaker is keen to ensure everything is OK, and is, therefore, conducting rigorous inspections of the hangar and of two aircraft inside it.

The assembly line in Mobile, Alabama
The Mobile factory also produces A320s. Photo: Airbus

The fire suppression system activated on the 13th September. Although this was some time ago now, the incident has only recently come to light. According to Wings Over Quebec, an Airbus statement was released which the site translated to read,

“On Friday 13 September, outside production hours, the fire suppression system was set on in one of the production support hangars of the company. Airbus manufacturing plant in Mobile, Alabama, United States. There was no indication of fire and no employee or contractor was injured.

“The hangar has been closed while evaluation teams at the site are trying to determine the cause of the system activation. Two aircraft that were in the hangar at the time the system activated are being evaluated. We are in direct contact with customers to keep them informed. These conversations are confidential and we cannot comment on possible changes to the production or delivery schedule at this time. “

Were any aircraft damaged?

Wings Over Quebec has dug into the situation and discovered that the first A220-300 which is under production there may have sustained damage. The aircraft was located at Wing Junction Station 2, and was covered by fire-retardant foam from the fire suppression system.

A Delta Air Lines Airbus A220
The A220 covered in foam is destined for Delta. Photo: Delta News Hub

Some of the foam is said to have entered the fuselage, which could have caused damage to avionics systems. Undoubtedly, Airbus will be thoroughly investigating and testing the components of this aircraft before continuing with the manufacturing process. This first one is slated to go to Delta Air Lines in the third quarter of 2020; it will be up to Delta to decide whether it still wants to take it or whether it will wait for number two to roll off the production line instead.

Airbus declined to comment any further on this situation.

Will this affect the A220 delivery schedule?

Airbus has worked hard to get the Mobile site off the ground. In 2017, it first mooted building a US A220 production site, and since then has been determined to get the Alabama plant up and running. Work officially started in August 2019 using workers trained in Mirabel, Canada, home to the original A220 production line.

The airline already assembled A320s at the Mobile facility and was on track to roll out its first A220 in Q3 next year. Although this incident is certainly a setback, it’s unlikely to have a major impact on the manufacturers delivery schedule. We’ll just have to wait and see.