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Archive for Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Airbus’ first U.S. wing-design firm opens in Wichita

June 12, 2002

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— It's no mystery why Airbus put a wing-design facility in Wichita, a top executive with the company said.

With the city's broad aviation and aerospace heritage and presence, "there's a wealth of talent in this community," said Allan McArtor, Airbus North America Holdings chairman. "This is where the aeronautical engineers are."

On Monday, Airbus executives and employees, along with city, state, chamber of commerce and congressional officials, celebrated the opening of Airbus' center in Wichita its first U.S. design and engineering facility.

After a year of planning, engineers began working in March. About 60 engineers all from the Wichita area with an average of 20 years' experience now work at the Old Town site. By year's end, Airbus expects that number to grow to about 80.

The site has the potential to expand. Bill Greer, vice president for Airbus North America Engineering, has taken options on space on each side of the office, a converted warehouse at 213 N. Mead Ave. And its information-technology systems also have room for growth.

With the options, the facility has room for 240 employees.

"Our vision in engineering is that Wichita will play a key part" in other eventual product developments, said Iain Gray, vice president of engineering in Bristol, England.

Engineers primarily work on development of the wing of the A380, a 555-seat widebody.

The plane is scheduled to enter commercial service in 2006. Airbus has orders for 97 aircraft.

In particular, Wichita engineers perform the development work on the top skin panel, the wing ribs, fuel systems installation and structural test provisioning, Gray said.

Wichita engineers also perform structural compliance work for the wing of the A340-600.

The engineers, who all have undergone training in the United Kingdom, work with engineers in Airbus' headquarters in Europe. Because of the difference in time zones, engineers are performing development work nearly 24 hours a day, the company said.

In fact, two clocks on the wall show the current time in Wichita and the time in Bristol.

David Hall, a design engineer, joined Airbus after stints with Raytheon Aircraft Co., Bombardier Aerospace and, most recently, as a contract engineer at Boeing Wichita. Hall, who was going to lose his job with Boeing as the company reduced employment, said he likes Airbus' small-office atmosphere and its management style.

In addition, he said he enjoys working on the massive A380 program.

"I've worked on big aircraft before, but nothing of this magnitude," Hall said.

When asked how he feels about being in a community dominated by Boeing Wichita, the city's largest employer, McArtor noted that Airbus shares the commercial aerospace market with Boeing roughly 50-50.

"So we think we've got equal rights to the community," he said.

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