First A220's unique assembly path

The first Airbus A220 jetliner built in the United States, an A220-300, will be
delivered to Delta Air Lines in the third quarter of 2020

David Tortorano
August 2019

The first A220 jetliner being built in the United States will have an interesting path to
completion. While initial assembly is being done in the A320 building, by the time it’s
fully assembled it will roll out of a new A220 building.

The first Mobile-made A220, an A220-300 passenger jet that will be delivered to
Delta Air Lines in the third quarter of 2020, will have this unusual background
because Airbus began production of the jetliner in early August before completion of
the A220 production facilities.

The first team of A220 employees began work at Airbus’ Mobile, Alabama-based
production facility following their return from on-the-job training in Mirabel, Quebec,
Canada, where the A220 program and primary final assembly line are located.

“The expansion of our commercial aircraft production in Mobile to a second product
line, with 400 additional jobs to support it, further solidifies Airbus’ standing as a truly
global aircraft manufacturer, and confirms without a doubt that Airbus is an important
part of America’s manufacturing landscape,” said Airbus Americas Chairman & CEO
C. Jeffrey Knittel.

“With Mobile, and our production network in Asia, Canada and Europe, we have
strategically created a worldwide industrial base to better serve our customers.”

“We're extremely excited to start with the new team and the growth that we have on
site. I think that's a key message that needs to go across,” said Paul Gaskell, head of
the A220 FAL (final assembly line) project and A220 Operations Mobile. “We've only
been operational three, four years and already we're doubling in size. That’s just an
unbelievable story.”

The first plane
The first A220 being built in Mobile has an unusual assembly method. Airbus is
producing the first few aircraft within some current A320 aircraft buildings, as well as
the newly-built support hangars.

The first step in the process, the fuselage work, is being done by A220 workers at an
A220 station right next to the A320 station in the A320 final assembly line building.

“We started several months ago installing the station tooling for the A220 next door
to our A320,” said Gaskell during a July 26 phone interview. He said it’s the only
A220 station in the A320 FAL.

"We're starting production in already existing facilities for the first station so we're
building along side our A320 line, and the follow-on stations are being assembled
right now and are very close to completion,” Gaskell said in late July.

“What we have, certainly in the fuselage station, we have room to put another
fuselage station next to it. So that's what we're doing in the 320 FAL, so we're
building the fuselages next to each other, and then once we start putting the wings
on etc., that is what we're doing in the new flight line hangars that are basically
almost complete,” he said.

All the workers putting together the plane are A220 workers. Many of them are new
hires, and some transferred over from the A320 line. Most of the workers have been
up to Mirabel for on-the-job-training.

The first plane will be finished by the second or third quarter of 2020. This plane is
taking longer to build than subsequent ones, but by the middle of the next decade,
the Mobile A220 operation will produce between 40 and 50 A220 aircraft per year,
Gaskell said.

“It sounds an awful long time but you have to remember it's all brand new tooling …
they're brand new people that had a learning curve so we expect normally to take
four or five times longer than we would when we're at full rate."

Daryl Taylor, Vice President and General Manager of the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing
Facility, said Aug. 14 that the original A320 facility had room for growth, according to

“The capacity that is in here in the facility, the existing organization, has allowed us to
start the 220 at a faster pace than we did the 320,” Taylor said. “And also very
clearly it's permanent tooling, it's permanent methods, it's just in temporary locations.
It's not a temporary way to build the aircraft. That's a key factor.”

Second line
Airbus announced plans for the addition of A220 manufacturing in Mobile in October
2017. Construction on the main A220 hangar and other support buildings for the new
A220 began at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley at the beginning of this year.

The first large aircraft components for the first A220 were delivered in June to the
Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility. The major component assemblies (MCAs) are the
aft fuselage and cockpit, which arrived by truck.

“With the arrival of these assemblies, A220 production in Mobile will shortly become a
reality,” Gaskell said at the time. “The arrival of these MCAs is taking place almost
four years to the day from when our first A320 MCAs arrived. It’s amazing to see how
much we’ve grown over that time, and an exciting time for Airbus, Mobile and

Wings, vertical and horizontal tail planes, tail cones and landing gear arrived later.

Hiring for A220 and A320 production is continuing. Part of that effort involves
sending Airbus officials to areas with high levels of aerospace personnel to lure them
to Mobile.

In November 2018, Airbus named HPM as its program manager for planning, design
and construction of its new A220 assembly line. HPM also was responsible for the
expansion of Airbus' current facilities to accommodate the expected increase in A320
series production.

HPM, with offices in Birmingham, Huntsville, Auburn and Mobile, Ala., Atlanta, Dallas
and Tampa, worked with Airbus in Mobile more than a decade ago with the Airbus
Engineering Center. It was also program manager for the A320 series production
facility, which was completed in 2015.

Airbus and its 12,000th
In May 2019, Airbus marked the delivery of the 12,000th aircraft in its 50-year
history. The A220-100, assembled in Mirabel, Canada, was delivered to U.S.-based
Delta Air Lines. It was the 12th A220 delivered to Delta since the carrier received its
first A220 in October 2018.

The A220 started scheduled service with Delta in February 2019. Delta is the first U.
S. airline to operate the A220 and the largest A220 customer, with a firm order for 90

Since Airbus and Bombardier finalized an arrangement for Airbus to lead the A220
program July 1, 2018, ground was broken in January 2019 in Mobile, Ala., for the
construction of a second A220 final assembly line..

Airbus delivered its first aircraft, an A300B2 to Air France, in 1974. In 2010, Airbus
handed over its 6,000th aircraft, 36 years after its first. It took Airbus nine years to
double that number, reaching 12,000th Airbus aircraft delivery.

Airbus Canada Limited Partnership marked its first anniversary on July 1, 2019, one
year after Airbus became the majority partner in the A220 aircraft program. Highlights
of this first anniversary include orders and commitments signed for more than 230
A220s, the ground-breaking for a new A220 manufacturing facility in Mobile, and
expansion at the Mirabel facility.

Airbus Canada has delivered more aircraft in its first year than the total delivered up
to July 1, 2018, when it took the lead of the program. In total, the A220 ends the first
year of Airbus leading the program with a firm order book of over 500 aircraft, plus
80 additional commitments announced at this year’s Paris Air Show. In 2019, Airbus
is also celebrating the 35th anniversary of its presence in Canada.

Delta ups orders
In June at Le Bourget, France, Delta ordered five additional A220-100 aircraft,
bringing to 95 the total number of orders placed, including both the A220-100s and

The airline is the first to select the new increased maximum takeoff weight option for
its entire fleet from 2020. Airbus announced in May that it would increase the
maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) for the A220. The new MTOW will increase the
maximum range capabilities.

Delta placed an initial order for 75 of the A220 jetliners in 2016 and booked an
additional 15 in December 2018. With this latest order, Delta’s orders total 45 A220-
100s and 50 A220-300s.

Delta’s A220-100s are produced in Mirabel, Québec, Canada, while the A220-300s
will be built at a new U.S. assembly plant being built in the Alabama port city. The
A220 assembly line is adjacent to the existing Airbus A320 assembly facility.

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2018 it
generated revenues of $71 billion and employed a workforce of around 134,000.
Airbus offers a range of passenger airliners, tanker, combat, transport and mission
aircraft, civil and military helicopters and is one of the world’s leading space


Airbus executive has a homecoming of sorts

One of Airbus’ top global executives, Chief Operations Officer Michael Schoellhorn,
said he liked what he saw on his first visit to the company’s manufacturing operation
in Mobile, Ala.

Schoellhorn, a German, was announced as COO in February. He was in Mobile  Aug.
14 to look at the U.S. manufacturing facility and said that his visit to Alabama was
“some sort of a homecoming as well.”

In the 1980s, while serving in the German military, he spent about a year stationed at
Fort Rucker in Southeast Alabama, training as a helicopter pilot. Speaking to media
on Wednesday in Mobile, he said that experience had given him a lasting
appreciation for the American South, leading him to spend part of his career with
Bosch in Charleston, S.C.

“I met with people today and walked the shop floor,” Schoellhorn said. “I am extremely
excited to see our guys here and what they have accomplished in only four years.
They have a really can-do attitude.” He said that pushing ahead with A220 assembly
and site construction simultaneously did create challenges, but it also provided a
business advantage.

“Yes, it's temporary in nature,” he said of the arrangement. “It has enabled us to also
win business by being able to ship to our U.S. customers as early as they wanted. It
is something that I think was well mapped out, but by the same token it's not the final

Airbus officials said that the Mobile plant now directly employs about 800 people, not
counting employees of other companies who work on-site in support roles. That 800
is expected to grow to around 1,100 by the end of the year and could hit 1,500 in a
few years when both assembly lines are running at capacity.

- Condensed from, Aug. 14, 2019
Underwritten in part by: