This past year, Airbus’ Columbus facility was featured in a National Geographic video series on manufacturing in America. The documentary series “Made in a Day,” which viewers can stream on Disney+, is about making different brands and products, from space rockets to electric guitars to whiskey. But it’s the episode on helicopters where the series gives viewers a look at Golden Triangle workers building the H125 at Airbus’ Columbus facility on Airport Road.
Since the plant’s opening in 2003, it has produced more than 14,000 helicopters for departments and corporations from the U.S. Army to individual law enforcement agencies around the country to NASA. The facility employs more than 250 workers locally and stayed open during most of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Erin Callender, head of communication from Airbus’ North American region, said Airbus representatives were “extremely pleased” to be included in “Made in a Day,” which gives viewers an insight into the facility’s operations and shows the parts and processes of the helicopters’ design and assembly.
“The National Geographic piece is a really good, comprehensive way to see from A to Z what we do when we’re manufacturing a helicopter,” Callender said.
The 22-minute episode gives facts and figures about the H125 (the facility also manufactures Lakoa helicopters for the U.S. Army, but those were not featured in the episode) and includes interviews with facility employees. Calendar said about 40 percent of the facility’s employees are veterans, a fact of which Airbus is extremely proud.
“We have really competent workers who are extremely dedicated and do a fantastic job of supporting customers and building helicopters out of Mississippi,” she said.
The facility saw other changes this year, including a new facility manager in Johannes Dienemann, who has worked for Airbus since 2007 when he worked with the company in France in 2007. Originally from Berlin, Germany, he moved to the U.S. in 2008 and has spent the last few years going between Airbus’ facilities in Columbus and Dallas. When he took the reigns for outgoing facility manager Mike Spears, he said he was happy to be in Columbus permanently.
“Now I get the opportunity to spend my time in Columbus and I’m excited about that,” Dienemann said when he started full-time at the facility in March. “It’s exciting what’s happening here and to be a part of it.”
Calendar said the COVID-19 pandemic has also made the past year “an interesting one” for Airbus, but said the facility remained open with only about a 10-percent drop in activity due to the pandemic and resulting economic downturn.
“We’ve stayed open since the beginning,” she said. “We’ve continued building helicopters, we’ve continued supporting all of our customers, especially since most of them are essential missions and essential business, so we’ve done everything we can to keep our employees safe so that we can keep our doors open.”