Europe’s Airbus will join Boeing with a new aircraft factory in the South soon as the aerospace company breaks ground for a new airliner assembly plant in Mobile, Ala.
Groundbreaking for that $600-million factory is scheduled for April 8 at Brookley Aeroplex, a former military airfield adjacent to Mobile Bay.
The factory, which will produce Airbus A319, A320 and A321 single-aisle planes, will be the first aircraft assembly plant for Airbus in the U.S.
When the factory produces its first plane in 2016, its output will be about four planes a month.
That relatively modest output (Boeing’s Renton factory which produces the comparable Boeing 737 will be producing 42 aircraft a month) could be just the first step toward higher production.
Boeing established its first new commercial airplane assembly factory in North Charleston, S.C. three years ago. The factory produces Boeing 787s.
In picking the South for new aircraft plants, both Boeing and Airbus will have lower labor costs. The workers in North Charleston are not unionized, and the Mobile factory is likely to be non-union likewise. Boeing’s existing Puget Sound area aircraft plants and Airbus’s European ones are staffed with union workers.
Airbus has had its eye on Mobile for several years. It initially proposed building tanker aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and A330 Freighter at Mobile, but the Air Force awarded that contract to Boeing.
Mobile civic officials this month traveled to Hamburg, Germany, where Airbus has an airliner plant, to study its operations. The Mobile plant, which will employ some 1,500 production workers, will be a similar size to the Hamburg factory.
Meanwhile, Boeing is increasing its presence in the South. Just last week it told its information technology support staff that it plans to move some workers from the Puget Sound area to North Charleston. The company recently bought a large site and two office buildings adjoining its plant there for future expansion.