First US-manufactured Airbus jet takes flight

Airbus A321 First Flight - Mobile, Alabama. Image courtesy of Airbus.

The first ever passenger jet manufactured by Airbus in the US has conducted its maiden flight this week.

The Airbus A321 was the first built for the European aerospace company at its US Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Alabama.

In a flight lasting just over 3 hours, the single-aisle medium-range passenger jet was tested on the performance of its internal systems, engines and structures.

Following several more weeks of test flights, the craft will then be delivered to its final customer, Jet Blue.

“We’ve come to an exciting milestone in the production of any aircraft, but this one is particularly special,” said Daryl Taylor, vice president and general manager of the Airbus US Manufacturing Facility.

“The Mobile team has worked hard, and I’m proud that their skill and talent have brought us to this moment. Together we are fulfilling the promise we made to the city of Mobile, the state of Alabama, and the Gulf Coast region—we’re creating a new center of commercial aircraft production in the U.S. This is just the first of many aircraft to come.”

State politicians also lauded Airbus’s achievement, and the positive effect this would have on the local community.

“Aerospace and aviation industries are extremely important to Alabama, and it is exciting to know soon JetBlue will receive its first A321 proudly made in Alabama,” said Alabama Governor Robert Bentley in a statement.

Airbus US manufacturing

Airbus first announced its plans to open US manufacturing operations in 2012, with construction beginning on its Mobile factory soon thereafter.

The factory itself, which reportedly cost around $600m, began operation in late 2015, able to produce Airbus A319, A320 and A321 jets.

When it reaches full production in 2018 the factory will able to manufacture 40 to 50 single-aisle aircraft per year. At the same time, Airbus claims it will provide the equivalent of 3,700 full-time jobs and contribute $400m to the state’s economy annually.

Alongside its new US Manufacturing Facility, Airbus also has aircraft factories in Germany, France and China. While final assembly is completely in these factories, many components and aerostructures and manufactured elsewhere, including in India.