The first Airbus A321 built in Mobile took off for a test flight this morning, and landed safely to celebration.
“It was absolutely delightful that plane just lept off the runaway like it wanted to go flying,” said Mark McCullins, test pilot.
McCullins was part of a 6 person crew that took a plane out over the Gulf Coast and went through an exhaustive checklist to make sure the plane is safe for delivering. And it all went smoothly.
But the aircraft is still a few more checks away from having its keys handed over to JetBlue but it’s historic journey to get this far has helped to transform Mobile.
“Not only can we build airplanes, we’re going to build airplanes we’re going to build a lot of them in the future,” said Mayor Sandy Stimpson, City of Mobile.
The success of the flight also provided some affirmation for the aerospace and community leaders who’ve fought for the plant to be in Mobile.
“17 years we’ve been going to Europe and spreading our cards and trying to entice people to come to mobile,” said Burt Meisler, Mobile Airport Authority Board Chair.
Now Airbus already has orders set for the next 10 years.
” We’re building the weight up, so right now we’re doing one airplane a month, by the end of the next year 2017 we’ll be doing four a month then today will become routine, that’s what we want,” said Barry Eccleston, Airbus North America President, and CEO.
Airbus leaders like Eccleston are feeling confident those orders will continue to pour in for years to come.
“Airbus is truly a global company and of course now we’re here in the USA which is traditional been the home ground of our competition, now it’s our home ground as well,” said Eccleston.
And as Airbus’ deliveries ramp up, some in the aviation community are turning to what’s around Airbus.
” We have to build an aviation cluster here that’s a global competition, that creates the operational efficiency that makes us the only place in the world that Airbus can expand,” said Roger Wehner, Mobile Airport Authority Exec. Dir.
The first A321’s keys get handed over to JetBlue next month. The next seven deliveries after that will be for American Airlines.