Airbus breaks ground in Mobile, JetBlue to receive first A320

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Airbus and local officials broke ground on the airframer's new A320 family final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama, today, with JetBlue Airways slated to take delivery of the first aircraft from the plant.

"Building an A320 family assembly line in Mobile is truly ground breaking for Airbus," says Fabrice Brégier, president and chief executive of Airbus, at the event. "When this assembly line opens, we will be the only one to assemble aircraft in Asia, the Americas and Europe."

Construction of the facility at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex will take two years with aircraft assembly beginning in 2015. Production capacity will be between 40 and 50 A319, A320 and A321, and the new A320neo family, aircraft by 2018.

David Barger, chief executive of New York-based JetBlue, says that the airline "plans to be the first" to take delivery of an aircraft from the assembly line in 2016, at the facility's ground breaking.

JetBlue is the largest operator of the A320 in the USA with 127 of the type, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database. It has firm orders for 14 A320s, 40 A320neos and 30 A321s.

Airbus has been vague about which airline would take delivery of the first aircraft, only divulging that it would be a US-based customer. American Airlines and Virgin America were also considered front-runners.

American is not currently an operator of the A320 family but has orders for 130 A319s and A321s, and 130 A320neo family aircraft. The first A319s will be delivered in the third quarter.

Virgin America has 10 A319s and 43 A320s, with firm orders for 29 A320s and 30 A320neos, according to Ascend.

Barry Eccleston, president and chief executive of Airbus Americas, told Flightglobal in February that the decision on the first delivery would likely be finalised by the third quarter.