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Airbus Americas chief sympathetic to Boeing’s battery plight

Airbus doesn’t wish Boeing any ill will, the chairman of Airbus Americas says.

In a speech Wednesday at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Allan McArtor calls lithium ion batteries "the way of the future" because they're half the weight of a typical aircraft battery but have twice the power.

"It's unfortunate that Boeing has found itself in that conundrum," McArtor says. "We sincerely hope that that gets resolved soon."

In February, Airbus switched the battery in its A350 from a lithium ion back to NiCd.

"We didn't want to subject our customers to any delay in service," McArtor says.

McArtor spoke about the final aircraft assembly line that will open in Mobile, Ala., for the A320 family. Assembly is planned to start in 2015 with first deliveries from the facility beginning in 2016.

Part of the reason Mobile was chosen as the assembly line’s location is the city’s deep water port designed to accommodate large ships, McArtor says.

“We’re very anxious to develop our supply chain in the U.S.,” he says. “We wanted something that would have a sustained activity in the U.S.”

Though there is a passenger to freighter conversion for the 320, he says the Mobile plant is not specifically set up for freighters.

There will be more activity when the airfreight market increases, McArtor says. He says he sees signs of improvement, but the growth is not yet sustained.

McArtor also discusses challenges within the aviation industry at the French American Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta’s general assembly meeting.

“One is energy – fuel prices. Fuel prices are rising,” he says. “Efficiency – we have to get more efficient with our systems…Traffic growth – we have to improve air traffic growth.”

McArtor also echoes a sentiment many in the air cargo industry voice: bring new talent into the fold.

“We have to capture the interest of young people right away,” he says.

That means curiosity about aviation should begin developing in a person during middle school. If a person isn’t interested by the time he reaches college, “we’ve lost them,” McArtor says.

Besides industry-wide issues, McArtor highlighted several projects Airbus is undertaking – including one with Honeywell called e-taxi, which would help aircraft taxi without using fuel. But his focus remains on the new Mobile plant and its effect on the Southeastern U.S.

“There will be a radius of economic activity,” McArtor says, “that will serve this developing aerospace sector.”