Hundreds of local engineers keen to work at new engineering facility are turned away

Airbus has opened its first engineering and design facility in the USA and is studying the possibility of setting up a production plant on that side of the Atlantic.

The centre in Wichita, Kansas, has been created by the Airbus UK division, which is responsible for wing design and manufacture. There are direct computer links between the Wichita office and the UK firm's design centre in Filton.

The Wichita arm already employs 60 engineers who are contributing several work packages for the wings of the A380 and the newly certificated A340-600, says Iain Gray, Airbus UK engineering director.

According to Gray, among the new ideas being tackled by the facility is the creation of wing skins with integral stringers by using high-speed machining - "something never done before", he says.

The new centre, on the doorstep of Boeing Wichita and three other aircraft manufacturers - Bombardier, Cessna and Raytheon - is set to take on more work and grow. More than 1,000 Wichita-area engineers applied for the original 60 vacancies. By year-end, Airbus will add 20 more local engineers.

Airbus chose Wichita for its first US engineering operation "because of the depth of engineering, talent, enthusiasm and expertise", says Gray. It was also cheaper than establishing a new facility in Europe or on the US East Coast and paying to relocate staff, he adds.

Airbus is also looking to establish a manufacturing presence in the USA - with Wichita being a logical and attractive candidate. "We need to get moving," says Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus North America. "Europe would like to see it operating within 10 years," he adds.

Airbus, which recently opened an engineering centre in Moscow in association with Kaskol, plans major expansion of its "offshore" offices. According to chief operating officer Gustav Humbert, the number of Airbus engineers employed outside the European Union (for example, in Japan, Russia, and the USA) could grow to 700, including 100-150 in Wichita.

Source: Flight International