Mobile, Alabama (CNN)Just three years after Airbus broke ground on its Mobile, Alabama, factory, the company has reached a major milestone, delivering its first ever airliner assembled in the U.S.
Dubbed, “BluesMobile,” JetBlue’s new A321ceo airliner rolled out Monday in front of an enthusiastic crowd of employees, JetBlue customers, VIPs and locals.
“Today is aviation history,” said Jeff Martin, JetBlue executive vice president of operations.
Assembly line workers marched together with the University of South Alabama marching band chanting, “Here we go JetBlue, here we go!”
“We never thought we’d see Airbus airplanes being built in the U.S. in my lifetime,” said John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer — customers.
Airbus’ decision to begin rolling out single-aisle airliners in the backyard of its biggest competitor — U.S.-based Boeing — raised eyebrows in 2012.
The auxiliary power unit (APU) is also installed in this station and the installation of the cabin furnishing begins.
The nose cone and radome are added here and landing gear functions are checked.
Lighting, in-flight entertainment, and cabin pressurization systems are installed and tested here as well.
The aircraft finally entered the final phase / flight line station, where engines are installed, along with final testing before the aircraft returns outside and is sent to the paint shop.
Last October, Airbus announced plans to ramp up production of its A320 family of aircraft before the end of the decade. It was a move supported by record numbers of firm orders, amid strong global demand for the type.
Airbus expects to increase the rate to 52 planes per month by 2018, supported by its final production lines in Germany, France, China, and the United States.
Get set, ready… fly!
Back on February 24, the nearly completed BluesMobile rolled out from the final assembly line, and was sent to the paint shop for to receive the JetBlue livery.
The paint hangar has an area of 27,700 sq feet (2,574 square meters) and will be capable of painting all A320 family aircraft — A318, A319, A320 and A321s equipped with sharklets and NEO options.
The aircraft soared the skies for the first time last March 24, withtest pilots Mark McCullins and Bruce Macdonald, flight test engineers Thierry Cros and Nick Picconi, and ground test engineers/cabin specialists Alexander Gentzsch and Mike Johns.
The flight lasted three hours and 26 minutes, during which standard tests were performed on systems, engines and structure.
The aircraft climbed as high as 39,000 feet (11,887 meters), Airbus said. Pilots performed dynamic flight checks and electrical system tests as the jetliner ascended to 31,000 feet (9,449 meters).
‘Without Airbus, JetBlue wouldn’t be JetBlue’
“JetBlue received the honor of being the first U.S. delivery customer in large part to the partnership dating back to the beginning.” JetBlue EVP Martin said.
BluesMobile is JetBlue’s 29th A321, of which 13 are “mint” configured, he said. It’s the 130th A320 family aircraft to join the fleet.
“Without Airbus, JetBlue wouldn’t be JetBlue,” Martin said.
“The A321 core aircraft has been a success due to its lower seat costs and being a proven platform.” said Martin. To date, JetBlue’s A321 fleet has a 98% of dispatch reliability and averages 15 hours per day of utilization.
Aboard the delivery flight
AirwaysNews boarded Monday’s delivery flight, which was commanded by Capt. Rick Smith.
The flight’s First Officer was Capt. Bart Robert, JetBlue’s vice president of flight. Capt. Smith was joined on the flight deck by his father and wife, who flies as a flight attendant for JetBlue.
The aircraft was delivered with a 190-seat “core configured” layout, with new ergonomic B/E Aerospace Pinnacle seats.
In recent years, JetBlue has focused on keeping customers connected throughout their flights, including free gate-to-gate Fly-Fi high-speed Internet, high-definition seatback televisions, and in-seat power outlets with USB ports.
All of these features will be offered on this A321.
About the incorporation of this A321 to the fleet, Martin said the Fly-Fi and in-flight entertainment installation, which takes place at HAECO in Lake City, Florida, takes approximately 1-2 weeks.
Martin expects that in 14 days, the aircraft will enter revenue service.
He also announced that the first flight will start flying routes either at the airport in Orlando or Ft. Lauderdale.
Upon arrival inLake City,BluesMobile, tail number N965JT, the first Airbus airliner built in America — was immediately whisked into a hangar to begin its JetBlue career.