MOBILE, AL (WLOX) - Another significant milestone was reached Friday at the Airbus plant in Mobile. The manufacturer delivered an A321 aircraft to Delta Airlines.
It is the 15th passenger jet built at the Brookley Field plant since it opened in 2015, and the first plane Airbus Mobile built for Delta.
Airbus officials say they have more than 370 workers at their Mobile, AL plant. More than 85 percent of those workers either live in Mobile or neighboring towns in Mississippi and Florida.
"The first Airbus A-321 manufactured for Delta Airlines, right here in Mobile, Alabama," announced plant manager, Daryl Taylor, at the delivery ceremony.
The company says five percent of its workforce is from Mississippi. That means the Airbus employee roster includes about 15 workers with Mississippi addresses.
Airbus spent $600 million to turn what was the Brookley airfield into an aircraft manufacturing facility. A New York Times article published just before the Airbus plant opened in 2015 said investing in Mobile and the Gulf Coast offered Airbus an opportunity to expand its customer base in the lucrative American market. In Mobile, Airbus will make the latest, most fuel-efficient planes.
"It's great to see these airplanes being manufactured in a neighboring state. A stone's throw away from our hometown in Atlanta, Georgia," said Delta Vice President, Greg May.
At its September 2015 opening, Airbus executives said while much of the focus for the economic impact has been centered on Mobile, the economic impact of the manufacturing plant would extend well across the city limits into other states as well.
Airbus CEO Allan McArtor told the crowd, "Our suppliers, when they think about coming close to us here in Mobile, are looking at sites in Mississippi, as well as the panhandle in Florida. So, this is going to be an economic boom for everybody."
Several Airbus executives returned to the Gulf Coast plant Friday to officially deliver the A321 to Delta. The vice president of Airbus Americas says it's good to know Delta won't have to rely on going to Europe to enhance its growing fleet of Airbus aircraft.
"Now being able to produce them here in Mobile, and have Delta not only as the regional partner, but the airline of choice in the South. Us being the airline manufacturer of choice in the South. Versus that Charleston location, we welcome this," said Bob Lekites.
The general manager of the Mobile plant says the biggest challenge is consistency.
"Repetition of continuing to build extra aircraft at a quicker pace. But the team here has shown time and time again now that they can hit their mark. The learning of the team is fantastic," said Taylor
The Airbus A321 can seat nearly 200 passengers and will be used for long domestic flights. Airbus anticipates delivering four aircraft per month from the Mobile plant by the end of next year.