The Skies Are Clearing for Aerospace Assembly
In April, Airbus began constructing a new, state-of-the-art assembly plant in Mobile, AL. Production at the $600 million facility is set to begin in 2015, with the first aircraft delivery in 2016. At full capacity, the plant is expected to employ 1,000 people and produce up to 50 airplanes in 2018.
For Airbus, the plant can’t open soon enough. The No. 2 planemaker booked 241 orders in July, bringing its order book to a record 5,109 jets. The backlog is equal to about seven years of sustained production.
Not to be outdone, Boeing is sitting on top of a record order backlog of 4,757 aircraft valued at $339 billion. With the Dreamliner program back on track, Boeing hopes to push 787 production beyond 10 aircraft per month and 737 production to 42 month.
Overall, the global aerospace and defense industry is continuing its growth in the wake of the worldwide financial crisis. According to consulting firm AlixPartners, the aerospace and defense industry grew by 6.8 percent in 2012. This was up from 2011’s sales growth of 5.5 percent. Commercial aerospace companies represent the strongest segment of the industry. They are expected to deliver more than 1,300 jets worldwide in 2013—a record for the industry—and new orders continue to roll in.
If aerospace OEMs are doing well, their suppliers are, too:
- In August, Aveo Engineering, which makes LED lighting for aircraft, announced that it will invest $7.5 million to build a new assembly plant in northeastern Florida. The plant is expected to employ 300 people.
- In July, Triumph Aerospace Systems announced that will spend more than $2 million to expand its assembly plant in Wichita, KS, creating 100 new jobs
- In June, GE Aviation broke ground for a new factory in Asheville, NC, to make components for jet engines. The factory could employ more than 340 people within five years.
- In June, GKN Aerospace opened a new 24,000-square-foot assembly plant in Phoenix to make nacelles for jet engines.
What do you think? Will the aerospace industry continue to soar? Or is there turbulence ahead? What technologies will make a difference in the design and production of aerospace assemblies? Share your thoughts.