Aiming for U.S. market, Airbus delivers first U.S-made jetliner
By Alwyn Scott and Tim Hepher
(Reuters) - Airbus AIR.PA delivered its first U.S.-made jetliner on Monday to JetBlue Airways JBLU.O, a key step in efforts to win market share from rival Boeing Co BA.N.
Airbus' first U.S.-built plane, the largest A320-family jet known as the A321, rolled out before a large crowd at the new $600 million factory in Mobile, Alabama, a site that was an empty field three years ago.
"We are so honored to be the first delivery here," JetBlue Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes said at the handover ceremony.
The plant employs about 600 people and is expected to attract a network of suppliers in the Mobile area. So far, major parts are shipped from Europe, except engines, which are U.S.-made and shipped from their suppliers, General Electric Co GE.N and Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp UTX.N, Airbus said.
The plant holds strategic and symbolic significance for the European plane maker. It ends an era in which Boeing was the only U.S.-based maker of such large commercial airplanes and it adds to Airbus' industrial capacity as the world's largest plane makers race to boost production through the end of the decade.
Being "U.S.-built" is not a decisive factor in aircraft sales but “it certainly doesn't hurt to become part of the infrastructure,” Airbus sales chief John Leahy told Reuters.
Airbus plans to notch up global A320 output to 60 a month in 2019. Boeing plans to lift output of its competing 737 planes to 57 a month the same year. Both build 42 a month currently.
The Alabama plant also shows Airbus' growing global industrial base. Modeled on an Airbus plant in Hamburg, Germany, the Mobile facility is the company's fourth assembly plant for single-aisle jets after Hamburg, the French city of Toulouse and the Chinese industrial port of Tianjin. Continued...