Airbus Americas to relocate to Innovation Campus

Airbus Americas is partnering with Wichita State to include a building on the new Innovation Campus, University President John Bardo announced Tuesday.

The company will relocate to WSU from its location in downtown Wichita once the building is complete. Construction on the building is slated to start in May.

Part of the reason Airbus is moving to the Innovation Campus, Bardo said, is to help Wichita stay competitive in the aviation industry.

“The competition in aviation is growing, and for us to be relevant and for us to maintain a leadership role, it’s critical that the major players in aviation see us at the place they need to be,” Bardo said Tuesday at a news conference. “And to see us as the place that can help them be competitive and create that new generation of aircraft and support systems, that will allow them to be successful.”

History of Airbus in Wichita

Airbus Americas opened its office in Old Town on June 1, 2002. At the time, 30 engineers worked for the company in Wichita. The company was building around 200 airplanes a year, and sold about that many a year, said Barry Eccleston, president of Airbus.

Fast forward to 2014, the company sold 1,450 airplanes in Wichita, Eccleston said. In addition, the company has doubled production rates from 2002 and quadrupled its backlog.

Today, the company employs 400 engineers in Wichita.

“Airbus has enjoyed tremendous growth, but it wasn’t just because we built great airplanes and the market was kind to us, it was because a lot of people did a lot of hard work,” Eccleston said.

However, the company is looking to grow, Eccleston said. The company thinks of innovation as a culture, a mantra, within Airbus, and the company has thrived on innovation, he said. That is why the company has an interest in Innovation Campus.

The company takes eight years to develop new airplanes. Eccleston said that is way too long to build an airplane.

“The Innovation Campus, we hope, is going to show us ways we can short circuit, shortcut, the time it takes to develop our new products,” he said.

The partnership

The announcement of the partnership between WSU and Airbus was well-received by attendees of the news conference. Andy Tompkins with the Kansas Board of Regents said the vision is powerful.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the vision this project holds will raise the excellence of all faculty on this campus and will also raise the sights of our university system throughout the entire state,” Tompkins said.

Gov. Sam Brownback, who attended the announcement, said he looks forward to the partnership growing the aviation industry in Wichita.

“I see this as a great progression of growth and development of this continuing to be the aviation capital of the world,” Brownback said. “It’s a business you’ve always got to be innovating, you’ve always got to be changing, you’ve got to keep adapting.”

Bardo said the partnership building where Airbus will be housed will be one of about 10 to 12 buildings. He added that the Airbus building, which will be located near where Wheatshocker Apartments stood, is likely the only partnership building that will house one company.

Other partnership buildings could hold as many as four or five companies, Bardo said.

Funding for the partnership buildings will come from third parties, Bardo said, with the university pitching in around $900,000 for student spaces.

Bardo said construction for several of the Innovation Campus buildings will start this summer.

Ultimately, for Eccleston, the move to WSU is a smart one for the company.

“Moving here,” he said,” just makes damn good sense to Airbus.”