Assembly footprint growing

David Tortorano
April 2019

Slowly but surely, this region is becoming a hotbed for aircraft assembly. First there
was the Fire Scout unmanned system in Moss Point, Miss., then the A320 jetliner
assembly line in Mobile, Ala., and soon the A220, also in Mobile.

But go two hours west of New Orleans along Interstate 10 and work is underway on a
helicopter assembly line at the Lafayette (La.) Regional Airport.

Swiss company Kopter Group chose the 14.7-acre site to assemble the SHO9. The
company will make a $4.2 million capital investment to modify and equip the 84,700-
square-foot helicopter assembly building that was the former Bell Helicopter facility. It
will lease the state-funded building.

Kopter will have 120 employees and will begin hiring later this year, with formal
helicopter assembly activity and deliveries scheduled to begin in 2021. Production
will ramp up to an anticipated annual volume of 100 helicopters by 2025.

Suppliers include Kaman, Garmin, Parker Aerospace, Collins Aerospace, and
Honeywell. U.S.-sourced components will represent at least 50 percent of the aircraft

Meanwhile, in Alabama, HPM of Birmingham, which is managing all aspects of the
design and construction of the new A220 assembly complex at the Mobile Aeroplex -
as well as the expansion of the current A320 facilities - selected several design-build
teams for the projects.

BL Harbert International of Birmingham teamed with the design firm FSB to handle
design-build services for four additional hangar bays. Completion date is 3Q 2019.

H.O. Weaver and Sons of Mobile was chosen to for site preparation, including
creation of access routes and installation of security fencing, ramps, and signage.

Brasfield & Gorrie of Birmingham teamed with design firm BRPH of Huntsville for
design-build services for the building of the new A220 final assembly line and existing
logistic center expansion. Completion is targeted for mid-2020.

The first employees of the new Airbus A220 assembly line reported for work in
March. The employees will get a month of training locally then will go to Mirabel,
Quebec, Canada, to train for three months with workers on the A220 assembly line
there, the only other location building the jetliner.

In other news from the Mobile Aeroplex, the new downtown Mobile airport is just a few
weeks away from opening. The new $6 million, 22,000-square-foot terminal being
built on Michigan Avenue will have five ticket counters. There are also plans to
expand at the end of summer. The first passenger flight is slated for next month.

Commercial flights are primarily at Mobile Regional Airport, but the Mobile Airport
Authority is in the process of shifting the flights to the downtown location.

Speaking of airports, how about a spaceport? the Hancock County Port and
Harbor Commission has decided to seek a spaceport license for Stennis International
Airport (HSA), just outside NASA’s Stennis Space Center in the town of Kiln.

RS&H Inc., which previously did a feasibility study, was commissioned to complete an
application to obtain a Launch Site Operator License from the Federal Aviation
Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

The FAA has developed regulations that enable airports to host operations of
reusable launch vehicles that take off and land like aircraft. Several kinds of such
vehicles are currently under development.

The license application will establish regions over the Gulf of Mexico where the
launches could be conducted safely and ensure the airport has the infrastructure
required to support those launch operations.
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