Quiet jet promises big impact


Two jetliner assembly lines and a growing MRO footprint likely to make the
Mobile-Pensacola area of the I-10 corridor an attention-grabber for the
international aerospace industry...

David Tortorano
February 2019

MOBILE, Ala. - The new passenger jet that took off from New York Feb. 7 for the first
revenue flight of an A220 for a U.S. airliner was “startlingly quiet,” according to a
Bloomberg report.

In another, a reporter for Business Insider took an A220 flight from New York to
Boston and back to see if it would live up to all the hype. After detailing the features
in the cabin, the writer came to this conclusion: “If I had the choice, I’d take the A220
all day, every day.”

A pretty nice endorsement.

While the jet may be quiet, it’s likely the last word you would use to describe the
fanfare that occurred in Mobile during the Jan. 16 groundbreaking of the A220 final
assembly line, the second in North America. The finale included a fireworks display
over the acreage where the A220 FAL will be built.

Some 700 invited guests turned out at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley for the
ceremonial groundbreaking for the $300 million A220 final assembly line. Speakers
talked about the significance of the assembly line for Mobile, the region and the
company.

What’s becoming increasingly clear is that the Mobile-Pensacola portion of the I-10
aerospace corridor is a hotspot for commercial aviation. In addition to the two jetliner
assembly lines in Mobile, just 60 miles away in Pensacola there’s a growing
maintenance, repair and overhaul footprint (see page 6), which combined with Mobile’
s own MRO activities makes the area a magnet for suppliers. In the next few years
the two cities will be looking to fill some 2,000 aerospace jobs.

Dignitaries on hand for the event included Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Airbus Chief
Executive Officer Tom Enders. In addition to politicians, representatives from Delta
Air Lines, JetBlue Airways and startup airlines Moxy were on hand. All those airlines
plan to receive U.S.-made A220s.

The Mobile groundbreaking capped a three-day media tour involving some 30 mostly
trade journalists. During the tour, Airbus executives stressed that the company
remains on track in efforts to cut A220 production costs, boost production and land
new customers, according to FlightGlobal.

At the groundbreaking, Airbus chief executive Tom Enders defended the Mobile plan,
saying a U.S. A220 site makes sense in an age of protectionism and nationalism.
Besides, the United States is the single largest A220 market.

Enders and other Airbus officials also tied the A220 plant to Airbus’ broader goal of
expanding its U.S. footprint.

The Mobile facility will begin producing planes later this year, and will eventually have
the capacity of four A220s a month. By that time, the site in Mirabel, Canada, will be
capable of building 10 aircraft per month for a combined annual rate of 168 aircraft,
according to FlightGlobal.

When the line is completed, Mobile at that point will be the fourth largest jetliner
assembly center in the world. The first delivery is expected in 2020.

Preparatory work on the site began prior to the ceremonial groundbreaking. By the
first week in February, steel beams were put in place for support buildings for both
the A320 and A220 production lines.

Airbus has already begun the hiring process, seeking its first candidates to fill
manufacturing positions for the new line. Positions include aircraft
structure/installation mechanics, installers for aircraft cabin furnishings and aircraft
electricians.

As part of the recruiting effort, Airbus along with hiring partner AIDT, are looking to
tap into the region’s large veteran population. They scheduled open houses for Feb.
19 at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and Feb. 28 at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.
Airbus is looking for ex-military, Guard, Reserve and active duty personnel interest in
working for the aerospace giant.

Successful candidates for all positions will participate in several weeks of training at
AIDT in a combination of classroom and on-the-job training. Some candidates will
also have on-the-job training in Mirabel, where the planes are currently being built.

Production on the first aircraft begins in Q3 2019. In addition to the positions for the
new A220 production facility, Airbus is also hiring for similar production positions in its
current A320 production facility.

In total, Airbus expects to hire some 600 to 700 new employees over the next couple
of years. Airbus Americas Chief Executive Jeff Knittel said he believes Airbus will be
able to fill the need for workers.

Details have begun to emerge on the incentives that will be offered to Airbus as it
builds a new jet assembly line in Mobile, including $4 million in cash from the city of
Mobile and an equal amount from Mobile County, according to al.com.

Customers
In April 2016, the A220 scored a huge win by nabbing Delta as a customer. The U.S.
airline giant ordered 75 109-seat CS100 jets for delivery between 2018 and 2021,
according to Motley Fool.

Delta has ordered two versions of the jet, with the current, smaller version seating
109 passengers and the larger 130. Delta expects all 90 of the A220s it has ordered
to be delivered by the end of 2023.

Delta likes the aircraft's potential to reduce its unit costs. It touts it as the most
efficient small jet in history. It has also noted that the A220, which gained its current
name after Bombardier transferred a majority stake in the program to Airbus in the
face of severe business headwinds, has wider seats than competing jets, and that
provides a more comfortable ride for Delta’s customers.

Delta received its first four A220s in late 2018, and launched its first revenue flights
from Boston, Dallas and New York, in highly contested business routes at large hubs.
In July more cities will be added to the list. Bloomberg reported that the new jet is
startlingly quiet on takeoff.

The presence of the new jets in large markets may force other carriers to consider
A220 orders of their own, especially if they are using cramped 50-seat regional jets.
Airbus has a good chance at landing a deal to sell A220s to Spirit Airlines, already a
large Airbus customer.

The plane
The A220 is the smallest member of the Airbus line of passenger jets and is the
former Bombardier CSeries. Airbus took over majority interest in the program under
an Airbus/Bombardier partnership.

Airbus estimates that in the next two decades airlines worldwide will need 7,000
aircraft with 100 to 150 seats. The A220, which the company says burns 20 percent
less fuel per seat than other comparably sized aircraft, would be a formidable
competitor.

The A220 began life as Bombardier's CSeries. While its larger rivals focused on
making improvements to their existing models, the Canadian jet maker took a big risk
by developing a clean-sheet design that could offer unmatched performance.

Bombardier launched the CSeries on 31 July 2008, but has struggled to get
customers. Airbus has owned the A220 for a little over seven months, having
acquired it for nothing from a desperate Bombardier in July 2018. The A220s two
primary customers are Delta and JetBlue.

Delta purchased A220s from Bombardier, prior to the partnership with Airbus. In
trying to win the JetBlue deal, it was competing with the Embraer E195-E2. In the end,
it was with Airbus in control that JetBlue went with the A220. JetBlue's deliveries are
due to begin in 2020.

The cabin offers LED lighting, generous legroom, headroom, oversize windows and
bins, as well as broadband internet and seatback screens. It has two-by-three
seating in economy, meaning fewer middle seats. All of the plane's seats will be wider
than the industry average. It also has two rear lavatories, one with a window.

Two Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engines power the A220. The East Hartford,
Conn., company has been involved in the project since 2007, when Bombardier
Aerospace selected the PW1000G to power the plane.

Pratt & Whitney’s estimates it burns 20 percent less fuel, reduces noise by 75
percent, and cuts nitrogen emissions by 50 percent, while also providing a significant
improvement in operating costs compared to current-generation planes.
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