Airbus has established its second North American engineering center with a modern and functional facility at Mobile, Ala., which expands on the highly successful U.S. engineering site operational since 2002 in Wichita, Kan.
Located adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile's Brookley Field, the new engineering center is performing interior design and definition work for the twin-engine A350 XWB, including cabin lighting, galleys, storage areas and lavatories, as well as loading systems for the jetliner's below-deck cargo holds.
The facility's two-story glass and metal building is conceived for engineering teamwork in mind – with low-walled working cubicles, informal meeting areas and whiteboards for the sharing of ideas.
"We designed everything for a teamwork-friendly environment to encourage group discussions, as well as collaboration and the exchange of ideas," said David L. Trent, Airbus North America's site director at the Mobile engineering center. "For example, we can easily create internal project-specific teams with our flexible Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol telephone network, as well as with the mobility of our computer system. When specific projects are completed, teams can be reassembled for their next tasks."
Current employment at the Mobile engineering facility is 32, which will grow to more than 80 by the end of 2007. The goal is to increase the staff to 150 engineers, with future expansion possible.
This newest U.S. installation builds on the excellent results of Airbus' first North American engineering center in Wichita, which opened five years ago with an initial 31 employees and subsequently peaked at a staffing of 200. Wichita began with wing design engineering support for the A380, and its success was followed by design integration work for the updated wing on high gross weight versions of the A340-600/500.
"We demonstrated our initial capabilities at Wichita with the A380, which led to us being given bigger responsibilities for the high gross weight A340," said William Greer, the vice president and general manager of Airbus North America Engineering. "Our U.S. team completed the A340 wing project on schedule and under budget, and we brought the design in below the weight target. This underscored the contributions that Airbus engineers in the U.S. can bring, and we are ready to provide our support on additional projects at both Wichita and Mobile."
The Wichita engineering staff works with Airbus' wing center of excellence in the United Kingdom. Engineers at Mobile are teamed with the Airbus cabin, cargo and customization center in Germany. The first employees for Mobile were hired in January 2006, and they spent six to eight weeks with their interior design colleagues in Hamburg. As the Mobile facility was being built at Brookley Field, these U.S. engineers returned to Wichita for an initial familiarization phase, followed by their start-up of cabin interior work. Transfer of the employees and their computer infrastructure from Kansas to Alabama occurred in December, with the new facility becoming operational in January.