MOBILE, Alabama — We can go way, way back if you like. Say, the early 18th century. Airbus — both the company and the concept — would not be invented or even dreamed of for some time. But the roots of France’s claim on the economic fortunes of Mobile can be traced that far. It was here in 1710 that the local regent of Louis XIV ruled the Louisiana Territory, a responsibility that eventually passed to a more suitable town located at the mouth of the Mississippi River called New Orleans. The legacy of France’s early rule over Mobile lives on in the names of the streets — Dauphin and Royal, for example — and in the local drawl (it’s “mo-BEEL”, not “MO-bil”).
Three centuries later, Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex will become the home of Airbus manufacturing on US soil, and perhaps the beginning of a more dramatic strategic shift for the Franco-German airframer. (Read our full analysis here.)
To conserve space, we’ll fast forward our timeline to the very beginning of this century, with the first contact between Airbus and Mobile officials.
2002 – As Airbus opens an engineeringcentre in Wichita, North American chairman Allan McArtor discusses opening aMobile site with then-US Representative Sonny Callahan, an Alabama Repbulican.
7 April 2004 – Airbus announces newfacility to support US Coast Guard training centre in Mobile.
5 May 2005 – In bid for USAF tankercontract, Mobile named among four finalist sites for A330-based tankermodifications
22 June 2005 — EADS selects Mobile as A330tanker modification centre
2007 – Airbus opens an engineering centrein Mobile.
14 January 2008 – Airbus commits toestablish an A330 Freighter aircraft final assembly line in Mobile, conditionedon if the Northrop Grumman/EADS North America KC-30 bid wins the USAF tankercontest.
29 February 2008 – Northrop/EADS team winsUSAF tanker contract, prepares to open A330F final assembly line in Mobile.
19 June 2008 – Government AccountabilityOffice finds errors in bidding process, urges USAF to overturn contract andstart a new competition.
1 October 2009 – Airbus establishes MROcenter at Mobile regional airport to support US military C-212 and CN-235s,plus US Coast Guard HC-144s.
24 February 2010 – USAF releases newrequest for proposals for KC-X tanker contract.
24 February 2011 — EADS loses second tankercompetition to Boeing, but notes “this is one business opportunity among manyfor EADS in the United States”.
2 July 2012 – Airbus commits to build $600million final assembly centre for A320s in Mobile.
Early 2013 – Airbus plans ground-breaking ceremonyfor A320 final assembly complex
2015 – First A320 to be inducted intofinal assembly centre
2016 – First delivery of an A320scheduled to a US customer
2017 – Mobile FAL expected to reach peak rate of between 40 and 50 A320sper year