Airbus is ready to dot the Is and cross the Ts on an agreement with local authorities to build a new final assembly line for the A220 in Mobile, Alabama.
The European airframer, which acquired a majority stake in the A220 programme from Bombardier in July, expects to sign the agreement with the Mobile Airport Authority within the week, a senior Airbus official tells FlightGlobal at an event marking the first A220 delivery to Delta Air Lines in Montreal today.
Airbus plans to break ground on the final assembly line at adjacent to Mobile Downtown airport in 2019 after the "first of the year", with A220 production on-track to begin in 2020, they say.
Airbus and Bombardier announced plans in 2017 to create a Mobile assembly line for the A220, then known as the CSeries. At the time, Boeing and Bombardier were embroiled in a trade dispute. Boeing alleged damages from the 2016 sale by Bombardier of 75 CS100s to Delta at discounted prices, and was pushing US authorities to implement tariffs on the aircraft.
The Mobile facility, Airbus and Bombardier said, would circumvent such tariffs as the aircraft would be assembled in the USA.
Despite an initial recommendation of a nearly 300% tariff, the US International Trade Commission ruled against Boeing in January, paving the way to the tariff-free delivery to Delta from Montreal Mirabel airport today.
Delta, the A220's North American launch operator and largest customer to date, could begin taking aircraft from the planned Mobile facility as soon as late 2020, says the Atlanta-based carrier's chief executive Ed Bastian at the event.
"We prefer to see production coming out of Mobile as well [as Mirabel]," he says. "But for now, for the next two years, we're happy getting them out of Mirabel."
Delta anticipates four more A220-100 deliveries through the end of this year, and another 23-24 aircraft in 2019, says Bastian. All of those aircraft will be assembled at Mirabel.
The new A220 assembly line will join Airbus' existing A320 family line in Mobile, part of its growing manufacturing presence in the USA. It also has a helicopter assembly line in Mississippi.