JetBlue’s first Airbus A220 nears completion in Alabama
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JetBlue’s first Airbus A220 will be made in America, and will be the first jet of the type to come off a new dedicated production line in Mobile, Alabama.
The aircraft is scheduled to be delivered to JetBlue later this year, according to the latest production schedule, and the airline plans to configure the plane to carry around 130 passengers in a 2-3 configuration.
While some A220s were already being built in Mobile, they were put together on a borrowed A320 production line. The JetBlue-bound airframe will be the first to roll out of a newly-expanded facility, dedicated to producing the smaller A220 line.
Airbus’ A220 is poised to become an even more important part of many airlines’ fleets — not just JetBlue’s — as the industry slowly rebounds from coronavirus.
Aviation experts have predicted it will take a number of years for passenger traffic to return to its pre-pandemic peak, meaning the A220’s position as a lower-capacity mainline jet makes it well-suited for the industry’s needs during the first phase of recovery.
In a call with investors earlier this month, Steve Priest, JetBlue’s chief financial officer, said he is “pleased” to be introducing an aircraft with such “spectacular” economics into JetBlue’s fleet. He added that the pandemic has not changed the niche that the A220 will fill for the airline.
Airbus announced the opening of a new 270,000 square-foot final assembly hangar Tuesday, completing its first dedicated A220 production line in the U.S.
“The expansion of our commercial aircraft production in Mobile to a second product line further solidifies Airbus’ standing as a truly global aircraft manufacturer, and confirms that Airbus is an important part of the American manufacturing landscape,” Paul Gaskell, head of the A220 program in Mobile, said in a statement. “This A220 assembly line will help satisfy the U.S. demand for the A220 aircraft.”
As if to prove Gaskell’s point, as airlines around the world have grounded large swathes of their fleet, most A220s remain on the schedule. For example, Delta — currently one of the world’s largest operators of the jet — has kept all of its A220s in the air, even as it has announced the retirement of whole other fleets, including its MD-80s and Boeing 777s. The big Boeing, of course, is not a competitor to the A220, though its retirement does underscore how the requirements for airlines’ fleets are rapidly changing.
JetBlue has 70 A220s on order, and after receiving its first later this year, expects to take seven more in 2021.
Featured image courtesy of Airbus.
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