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Airbus keeps Alabama assembly line on track despite heavy floods

Two historic rainstorms last April flooded Airbus’ partially-built factory rising in Mobile, Alabama, but will not delay the start of production in less than 12 months, says Airbus Americas president Barry Eccleston.

The April storms transformed the A320 final assembly hall at Brookley Field into a “large swimming pool”, Eccleston says, with enough water to fill six Olympic-sized pools.

Addressing the British American Business Council conference in Seattle on 28 October, Eccleston was likely referring to two massive storms that struck the Gulf Coast region on 29 April and 30 April. The National Weather Service estimates that up to 58.4cm (23in) of rain fell in the area over the two-day period.

Despite the flooding, Airbus still plans to inaugurate Station 40 in the final assembly hall in slightly less than 12 months, Eccleston says. Station 40 is the assembly position where Airbus mates the wings to the fuselage. The first A321 assembled at the factory will be delivered in 2016, with production rising to four aircraft per month in 2017.

Construction of the Mobile complex began in July 2013 as the final piece of a decade-long industry expansion by Airbus in the USA. Airbus had previously established engineering centres in Wichita, Kansas, and Mobile, which now employ about 800 engineers working on commercial aircraft programmes.

Asked whether Airbus would consider establishing a third engineering centre in Seattle, Eccleston replied it is unlikely in the short-term. The majority of the engineering work needed to support the A350-900 and A350-1000 is already done, he says, so Airbus does not need to hire hundreds of more engineers.

A Seattle engineering centre would only be considered if Airbus launches a major new development programme, he says, adding that Airbus also would consider other locations in the USA.

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