Airbus To Expand Kansas Facilities

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Airbus North America has expanded to a second engineering facility in Kansas, saying it is adding about 100 jobs as it snaps up aerospace engineers laid off from U.S.-based aircraft makers.

Wichita has long touted itself as the nation's aircraft capital for its concentration of plane makers. Cessna Aircraft Co., Boeing Co., Spirit AeroSystems, Hawker Beechcraft and Bombardier Inc. -- along with dozens of suppliers -- all have plants in Wichita.

"There is a great work force there and quite frankly we are sort of taking advantage of the fact that some other companies in town have been cutting back," said Airbus spokesman Clay McConnell, referring to Wichita as a "center of excellence" for aerospace engineering.

McConnell said he could not address why other plane makers are scaling back when Airbus is expanding, but credited the company's programs and innovation for its growth.

Airbus had 200 full-time employees and contractors in Wichita at the beginning of the year, and plans to expand to 300 workers with the addition of a second facility in the city, he said. The vast majority of the new jobs will be for aerospace engineers, although a few administrative jobs will be added.

The company has had an engineering center in Wichita since 2002 working on wing design and repair, primarily on its A360, A380 and A330 freighter models. It plans a ribbon-cutting ceremony next Thursday for its new facility.

"The reality is the engineering work that has been done in Wichita since 2002 has really gotten a very strong reputation within the company," he said. "They are recognized for doing really good work. If they weren't, we wouldn't have the opportunity to grow that operation."

Airbus' parent, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., is bidding against Boeing for the contract to build 179 tankers for the Air Force, under a contract that could be worth roughly $35 billion.

If Boeing gets the bid, some of the modification work is expected come to the company's Wichita plant. If EADS wins the bid, the majority of the work would go to Mobile, Ala., McConnell said. He could not say how much, if any, tanker-related work would come to Wichita.

"Irrespective of the tanker, we are in Wichita and growing and anticipate being there for a long, long time," he said.

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