Steffen Weyer visited America for the first time Tuesday afternoon, receiving his visa just last Thursday.
Weyer, a journalist in Germany for dpa-AFX, toured the Columbus Airbus facility as a part of the North American Airbus Tour. He was one of more than 30 European journalists and Airbus representatives worldwide who visited the facility.
“It’s interesting to see how they’re built here and how they’re organized,” Weyer said.
Weyer said the Airbus facility in Hamburg, Germany largely produces airplanes, whereas the Columbus facility produces helicopters. He added he had no idea how large the facility or impact the Columbus Airbus branch was for the community.
“It is a very small city, but it seems that a company like Airbus comes here offers education and possibilities for people to stay here,” Weyer said. “I see that there is a effect when you see the employees talk about it. It seems that there’s something positive for the region but I don’t know the region.”
The Airbus North American tour started with the Canadian facility on Monday, Columbus on Tuesday and the Mobile, Alabama facility on Wednesday. The tour was orchestrated to educate those internationally of the Airbus presence outside of the European sector. Vice President of Military Affairs, Scott Tumpak, said Airbus is no longer just a European company with strong and growing roots in North America.
Veronique Creissels, head of communication at the France Airbus location, also toured the facility Tuesday afternoon. During her first visit to Columbus, she said the facility surprised her from the get-go.
“It’s quite impressive here,” Creissels said.
The tour began in the manufacturing facility, with helicopters lined along the floor in different stages of completion. Each Airbus employee works on specific stations: mechanical assembly, installing wiring, navigation systems and safety testing. Before the helicopters can be assembled, the process starts in a meticulously quiet and clean room: the electrical backroom. In this room, employees print the wiring for the aircrafts and lay the wires on a board. Once the wires are laid out, they organize and wire the dashboard.
Bobby Stewart, who started working for Airbus in 2011, initially worked in the paint shop. Throughout his tenure, he advanced to the electrical room. Stewart lays out more than six miles of wiring installed in the helicopter dashboards.
“I set up the wires for the aircrafts,” Stewart said. “This is for an aircraft black box. It was difficult at first, but they trained me up and I’m blessed they did.”
Airbus is an international company with nearly 25,000 employees worldwide, including four locations in America. The Columbus location opened in 2006 and has nearly 200 employees who manufacture two to three Lakota Helicopters each month for the U.S. Army. About 1,100 pilots per year are trained to fly the Lakota UH-72A helicopter. Other than the Lakota aircraft, the Columbus facility also manufactures H125 aircrafts and completes customizations for aircrafts. The Columbus facility produces up to 80 aircrafts a year.
Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Golden Triangle Development LINK, credited Airbus with the manufacturing success in the region.
“I can’t tell you how that decision changed this region,” Higgins said. “I don’t know if we could have attracted Steel Dynamics or Paccar if it weren’t for (Airbus).”