FARNBOROUGH: Alabama keeps fingers crossed over oil-spill impact

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State of Alabama officials are keeping their fingers firmly crossed that the region's aerospace industry will remain unaffected by the BP oil spill, and that EADS will win the US Air Force's KC-X tanker contract and bring much-needed jobs to Mobile.

Troy Wayman, vice-president of economic development at the Mobile area Chamber of Commerce, says the devastating oil slick caused by the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April has so far "had no detrimental impact on the aerospace industry".

He adds: "The only fear is if it affects shipping for raw materials, but I don't see that happening. I'm confident aerospace will be an industry that is insulated from the impacts of the oil spill." However, Wayman is concerned that the oil slick could have an impact on "the perceived quality of life here" and may impede the ability to recruit qualified aerospace employees to the region.

 © Airbus Military

While the fingers of Wayman's right hand remain crossed for aerospace to escape the after-effects of the oil spill, he is also crossing the fingers of his left hand in the hope that EADS's bid for the KC-X tanker will be successful. He says the US government's decision to overturn the contract award to EADS and Northrop Grumman was "heartbreaking", but is confident that EADS's new, standalone bid will be selected over the Boeing bid, which he describes as "just a Powerpoint presentation at this time".

EADS plans to locate its manufacturing facility for the tanker at Brookley Field in Mobile, creating more than 1,000 jobs for the region. "The project would be not only the crown jewel of our aerospace industry but also a game-changer for the region," says Wayman. "It's a price shoot-out and we're standing shoulder-to-shoulder with EADS."

The State of Alabama will be using its exhibit at the show to promote Brookley Field as a "unique asset" of its aerospace industry. "We'll be specifically targeting folks connected with the tanker project as well as other projects not related to the tanker," says Wayman.