Airbus is a European aircraft manufacturer. For most of its history, Airbus has produced its planes around Europe, most notably in France, Germany, Spain, and the UK. However, that has changed. In 2015, Airbus opened a factory in Mobile, Alabama, USA. The factory will be the major assembly and delivery site for Airbus commercial aircraft orders in the United States. It will serve as one of four final assembly and delivery locations for the A320 family.
Now, the Mobile location gets to see its hard work on the A320 put to use. The factory has delivered its first A320, built for low-cost airline Spirit Airlines. The aircraft is the 37th overall delivery since the facility began production in 2015. However, the first 36 orders were of A321 aircraft, making this delivery a milestone for the factory.
Executives from Airbus and Spirit were present for a ceremony in Spirit’s $32 million hangar and maintenance facility at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The plane is set to enter service this fall.
“Airbus has reached another milestone in Mobile: delivery of the first A320 to be produced in the United States,” said Bob Lekites, Executive Vice President-Customers, Airbus Americas. “Without a doubt, the A320 family of aircraft meets the reds of our North American airline customers, and the 36 A321s already delivered from the US have an extra special meaning for those airlines and their passengers. We’re pleased to be celebrating this milestone with a great partner, Spirit Airlines.”
“Spirit Airlines is honored to receive the first Airbus A320 made in America,” said Ted Christie, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Spirit Airlines. “Our 106th aircraft, 650NK, will join Spirit’s growing Fit Fleet, the youngest and most fuel-efficient in the country. This new aircraft shows our commitment to delivering the cleanest, state-of-the-art aircraft to our customers as we continue to offer the lowest fares in the industry.”
Spirit, a Florida-based low-costs carrier (LCC), operates an all-Airbus fleet. They took their first plane built at Mobile last year, an A321. This new plane is Spirit’s 106th aircraft, of which half are now A320s.
The A320 family is the world’s best selling single-aisle aircraft. It comprises four models, including the A318, A319, A320, and A321. The planes can hold 150 passengers in a standard two-class configuration or 180 in a high-density, single-class configuration. (Spirit has 182 seats in its aircraft.) At the time of writing, the family has 13,200 orders; 7,700 aircraft have been delivered.
NK650 isn’t the first recent milestone delivery for Spirit. Last October, Spirit the the first US airline to take delivery of an A320neo outfitted with Pratt & WHitney PurePower Geared Turbofan engines, which use less fuel, run quieter, and produce fewer emissions.
Spirit says that new A320 deliveries are part of its plans for long-term growth. Over the next five years, the LCC is expecting capacity growth of 15% to 18.5% annually, according to officials in an August 16 investor’s presentation. It’s planning to add at least 125 new routes in that time period.
With the new planes, Spirit will also need a lot of new pilots. It’s locked in federally mediated contract negation with unionized pilots who say that their benefits and pay are not on par with their counterparts at other airlines.
Airbus announced its plan to build a single-aisle assembly line In Mobile in 2012, breaking ground for the facility in April 2013. Airbus plans to deliver four aircraft per month from the Mobile plant by the end of this year.
The Airbus plant is one of the largest employers in Alabama. Besides workers in the plant, Airbus reports that additional jobs have been created due to new factories of Airbus suppliers opened nearby. Airbus says that 85% of the plant’s employees are from the Gulf Coast region, and about ⅓ of the employees are US military veterans.