|Conference touched on many topics
There is a chance that the joint venture that will build the A220 will grow in Mobile
beyond what’s currently planned if the demand for the plane is there...
MOBILE, Ala. - It was near the end of the Southeast Aerospace and Defense
Conference in Mobile back in June that Rob Dewar, at the time vice president and
general manager of Bombardier Aerospace, sat down to talk to Gulf Coast
A lot has happened since. Bombardier and Airbus finalized the agreement to set up a
partnership with Airbus the majority partner. The plane is now called the A220, and
Dewar is no longer with Bombardier. Instead, he is the head of customer services
and engineering of the CSeries Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP), the entity that
manufactures and sells the jetliner. And things will move only faster from this point.
It was Dewar who said during the conference - and first reported by the Gulf Coast
Aerospace Corridor daily news feed - that ground would be broken this year for the
assembly line to build the jetliner at the Mobile Aeroplex.
“So typically it takes about a year to do from groundbreaking to having the building
completed, about 12 months. That’s the experience we had in Mirabel (Quebec)
when we did from groundbreaking to finishing the building it was exactly 12 months.
… We would expect a similar timeline here.”
Some Airbus facilities will be used by the partnership to finish the planes.
“Of course it’s going to be based on the capacity that’s available but right now based
on the capacity that they have, what we can do jointly at least for the next few years,
we can share the paint shop and the delivery center can be shared,” he said.
The other six stations in the assembly process will be done at the dedicated final
assembly line north of the A320 assembly line at the Mobile Aeroplex. He expects the
first plane to be delivered in mid-2020.
Both the CS100 and the larger CS300 will be built in Mobile because they have a
common process. The only difference is that the 300 has a longer center fuselage,
but the tooling is moveable.
“We'll be starting with the CS300 and then based on market demand we can build the
100 here as well,” said Dewar. The plan is to build four planes each month and have
400 workers, but that could change.
“It really depends on market demand. We do see a very increasing market demand.
So this site is meant primarily for the U.S. and the U.S. is about a third of the total
market. So of 6,000 we see roughly 2,000 aircraft will be required, so if we win like 60
percent of that or more than 50 (percent) you're talking 1,000 or 1,200 aircraft , so
you can see there is an opportunity that we could grow further from where we are
today,” he said.
Have people expressed interest in working for the company?
“Absolutely. It’s high-tech, it’s the latest technology in commercial aviation and so for
people it’s a great opportunity to learn this technology, to be at the leading edge and
great-paying jobs,” Dewar said.
Is he concerned about finding qualified workers?
“Of course the employees are super important, right, and in the end they're doing all
the work and the quality and the standards are super important . We do believe that
we can attract because it is an attractive product to work on but it is always, or
course, always a challenge to hire the right skilled people,” he said.
Just as Airbus brought a team of Mobile workers to Hamburg to learn the assembly
process, a team from Mobile will be brought to Mirabel, headquarters for the
partnership and home of the other assembly line, “so they can start the learning
Is he excited about what’s happening?
“So you can see that in the body language I'm super excited. The program we started
with three people back in April of 2004, so it’s been a long and demanding,
challenging journey and to know now that we have like a solid foundation, a great
product and now we have a partner that basically can ensure the success of the
program, for me is very rewarding,” he said.
That initial group of three has grown to 2,400 people.
At the time of the interview, the new name for the CSeries had not yet been revealed,
but he did say that the aircraft would be integrated into the Airbus family. In July the
newly renamed A220 was revealed at the Airbus delivery center in Toulouse, France.
Dewar said there are many advantages for integrating it into the Airbus family. Airbus
will be able to offer aircraft from 100 seat up to 600, 700 seats, which he said is
“unique in the industry.”
Building the plane in Mobile also promises to turn the Alabama city into the fourth
largest jetliner manufacturing center in the world, and second largest in North
America by 2021. That was revealed at the conference by Daryl Taylor, vice
president and general manager of the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility. He said the
new assembly line marks a new chapter for the complex.
One of the key topics at the conference was the transformation of manufacturing
through advanced technologies, from robots to additive manufacturing and more.
Airbus shortly before the conference inaugurated a fourth A320 series production
line in Hamburg, Germany. It’s designed to help Airbus ramp production - from 50 to
60 per month - of the single-aisle jetliner to deal with an eight-year backlog.
The new state-of-the-art production line utilizes two seven-axis robots to work
alongside human workers. The robots, named Luise and Renate by workers, will help
to drill over 2,000 holes to join the two halves of the fuselage together. They can drill
80 percent of holes on the upper side of the sections.
The robots form part of a new final assembly line where the fuselage and wings are
transported by automated moving tooling platforms, rather than being lowered by
cranes onto fixed jigs, and where dynamic laser tracking is used to perfectly align
Klaus Roewe, head of the A320 series program, told reporters in Hamburg that
around one-third of the new technologies on the new final assembly line could
potentially be transferred to other lines in Hamburg, France, China, and the United
States - i.e., Mobile. The Mobile assembly line now produces four A320 aircraft each
The assembly line was created by Nova-Tech Engineering of Lynnwood, Wash.
OEMs vs MROs
There was also talk about the move of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) into
the aftermarket, a challenge to maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities.
The MRO industry is expected to continue to grow until 2028, with the value set to
rise globally to $114 billion. OEMs see the aftermarket as a revenue source, so are
pushing in-service support contracts.
Larger MROs are able to go head-to-head with the OEMs because of their labor
pools and capabilities. Companies such as ST Engineering Aerospace and HAECO
do as much airframe maintenance work as the other top 10 global MRO providers
combined, according to Aviation Today.
Brian Prentice, a partner of Oliver Wyman, said at the conference that airline
customers will determine the outcome. Airlines want a safe, reliable and nimble
service provider for their aircraft, and the aftermarket developed to be responsive to
About 115 participants from 10 countries attended the Leeham Co./Airfinance
Journal conference June 25-27 at the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel.
■ ■ ■