Move over A320: Mobile final assembly line will produce larger A321 aircraft for Airbus


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MOBILE, Alabama – In a bid to meet rising demand for its larger aircraft, Airbus Group confirmed Tuesday to Reuters its final assembly line under construction in Mobile will produce the A321 jetliner instead of the previously announced A320.

Reuters reports Airbus Americas President Barry Eccleston told an audience in Seattle that the European planemaker is switching gears to allow the $600 million Mobile facility to accommodate growth in orders for the larger aircraft.

The Toulouse, France-based planemaker booked 311 A321 gross orders by Sept. 30, including 135 with the current engine option and 176 with the new engine option.

According to the Reuters report, the first Mobile-assembled A321– slated for delivery in 2016 – will be the current engine option, and Eccleston told the crowd A321neos will follow.

Although the A321 typically accommodates 185 passengers in a two-class configuration – including 16 first-class seats and 169 economy seats – a high-density configuration that expands that capacity to as many as 220 passengers is popular among charter and low-cost operators, the company said. By comparison, the A320 seats between 150 and 180 depending on cabin configuration.

By optimizing cabin space, increasing exit limits and incorporating a new cabin door configuration, however, the A321neo is expected to boost the aircraft’s maximum certified capacity to 240 seats without sacrificing their current 18-inch width.

Airbus is currently building its first aircraft assembly line on U.S. soil at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, expected to figure prominently in the company’s ability to efficiently fill the mounting backlog for the popular narrowbody planes. The $600 million facility is slated to come online in 2015, deliver its first Mobile-assembled aircraft the following year and employ about 1,000 people when it reaches full annual production of 40 to 50 aircraft by 2018.

In the Made in Alabama video below, Allan McArtor, Airbus Group Inc.’s chairman and chief executive officer, and Hoar Program Management President Mike Lanierprovided an on-site July 2014 update on the project and its progress.