First Airbus Jet Flies From Alabama Plant


Airbus’ new Mobile, Alabama, plant completed its first jet last week, commemorating the milestone with a maiden flight of the A321 that will go to JetBlue. The $600 million plant, which Mobile announced in 2012, began operations last fall as Airbus’ first U.S. manufacturing site. The site, which Airbus expects to help fill demand for its A320 series of airliners in the coming decades, marks a victory after Mobile’s struggle to win a major aviation employer. The city lost a bid to build military refueling tankers under a previously proposed Airbus contract. The company’s biggest rival, Boeing, won that $35 billion contract in 2011 and is developing the KC-46 tanker for the Air Force at its base in Seattle.

However, just as Mobile and localmedia celebrated the completion of the plant’s first Airbus, Boeing suffered a setback in the tanker program. The Pentagon said last week Boeing is likely to miss its August 2017 deadline to complete 18 of the aircraft for the Air Force, according to a Bloomberg report. The new estimate is now March 2018, which could mean penalties and cost overruns that would be borne by Boeing. The first flight of the KC-46 took place in September 2015 and has since completed aerial refueling tests. The testing is behind schedule, according to Bloomberg’s report, and while the Pentagon reported “low confidence” in Boeing completing its order by August of next year, the company maintains it’s still working to meet the deadline.