Monday, June 11, 2012
Planemaker Airbus celebrated its 10th anniversary in Wichita. What started as a small engineering shop in Wichita’s Old Town neighborhood a decade ago has seen tremendous growth. Airbus is also investing with hopes Wichita will grow more of its own engineers.
Some in Airbus thought the establishment of its engineering center as a ‘test case.” Judging from the growth over the decade, local engineers passed the test with flying colors.
“This is the heartland of aviation,” says Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor. “The people of Wichita embrace aerospace and in return have embraced Airbus.”
Airbus opened its engineering center in Wichita in 2002 with 27 engineers working on the Airbus A-380 wing. What Wichitans might not fully appreciate is how radical it was for the European-based company to establish a facility outside Europe. European unions strongly contest any outsourcing of work, something the first Airbus Wichita General Manager Bill Greer explains.
Greer, now retired, says, “And just like Wichita doesn't like to outsource outside the country, Europeans don't like it either. So we really needed to prove that we needed to be here.”
And prove they did. Engineers demonstrated their value to Airbus, proven by a 600 percent growth in employment due to all the added work assignments sent here.
Airbus used the occasion to announce a partnership with United Way, Wichita schools, and WSU to encourage Wichita students to study Aerospace Engineering. The Airbus Foundation is putting up $250,000 to connect at-risk students with engineering mentors.
Airbus Americas President and CEO Barry Eccleston says, “Through mentoring and tutoring and flying experiences and more we want them to learn to dream bigger.”
And perhaps, someday a student inspired to get into engineering by the Airbus investment will be a new hire here.
Airbus says it has no interest in Boeing’s Kansas facility, but the planemaker says it does expect to get some good employees from Boeing’s decision to close its Wichita plant by 2013 and send work to 3 other states.