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Airbus to build 1st US assembly plant

Keywords: Tags  aerospace, airbus, alabama, boeing, A320, 737, Fabrice Bergier, Frank Haflich

NEW YORK — Airbus SAS will build its first American production facility in Mobile, Ala., as it seeks to gain a larger share of the U.S. market for single-aisle airliners.

In what it called a "major strategic announcement," the French aircraft manufacturer said this week that it will assemble its A319, A320 and A321 aircraft at the planned facility in Mobile, which will employ about 1,000.

The A320 line is a direct competitor of Chicago-based Boeing Co.’s 737, which is assembled in Renton, Wash. Boeing started producing 787s at its own southern plant in North Charleston, S.C., this year.

Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. NV (EADS), expects to start construction of the Mobile line next summer, with aircraft assembly beginning in 2015. The first delivery from Mobile is due in 2016. Airbus anticipates the facility will produce between 40 and 50 aircraft per year by 2018.

"The time is right for Airbus to expand in America," said president and chief executive officer Fabrice Brégier. He noted that the United States is the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world, with a projected need for 4,600 aircraft over the next 20 years, "and this assembly line brings us closer to our customers."

Brégier emphasized that the Mobile facility would become part of Airbus’ "global production network," joining assembly lines in Hamburg, Germany; Toulouse, France; and Tianjin, China.

Airbus’ ties with Alabama go back a few years to when the European company was in a fierce battle with Boeing to replace an aging fleet of KC-135 military tankers. Airbus received strong support from state lawmakers, but the contract—valued at an estimated $34 billion—was ultimately awarded to Boeing in early 2011.

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