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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 March 2008, 08:47 GMT
More jobs 'likely' at wings plant
KC-45A plane
The order is for 179 KC-45A aircraft
More jobs are expected to be created at Airbus's Flintshire plant after the company struck a 20bn contract with the US Air Force.

The future of the plant's current 7,400 staff was secured with the announcement that they will build wings for a fleet of 179 in-flight refuelling aircraft.

Brian Fleet, a former Broughton apprentice who is now an Airbus senior vice president, said it was "highly probable" more staff would be needed.

More orders are expected to follow.

Mr Fleet said the 179 KC-45A planes were part of a fleet of 500 aircraft which the US Air Force was expected to want to replace in the near future.

If these other contracts were awarded to Airbus, they would be worth around 100bn, he said - which would be good news for the industry in north Wales.

Brian Fleet
It's unbelievable that the US Air Force will be flying with Welsh wings
Brian Fleet, of Airbus

He said the company was already in the process of recruiting more staff to cope with Airbus's programme, which was expanding even before the announcement of the US Air Force contract .

Now, Broughton was likely to need even more workers before 2009 to help with the US Air Force order, which is due in 2010 and 2011, Mr Fleet said.

"It's great news for the Broughton factory, especially this coming on the weekend of St David's Day," he added.

"It couldn't come at a better time. It's unbelievable that the US Air Force will be flying with Welsh wings."

Mr Fleet said the factory, which currently employs 7,400 staff and an additional 1,500 support staff, such as caterers and cleaners, was staking its claim as the hub of the Welsh economy and as a centre of excellence recognised around the world.

Mid-air refuelling of US jet
The aircraft will refuel US planes in mid-air

He said the factory was also providing skills and careers for young people in the area.

"I started as an engineering apprentice at Broughton at 18 in 1974 and the company trained me over the years. I am now a senior vice president of Airbus and head of the wing and pylon centre of excellence," he said.

"That's the great thing about Broughton. It provides opportunities for local people to have a full career and vocation, something they can immerse themselves in."

Robin Southwell, chief executive of Airbus's parent company EADS UK, said the US Air Force deal secured their place in the lucrative military market, following previous orders from the RAF and Australian Air Force.

"This is a very big order, many billions of pounds, the order will last for quite a few years and we hope to get other orders on top of this," he told the BBC news website.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones, who is also minister for economic development and transport, said the US Air Force contract was "another vote of confidence in the skills of the workforce at Broughton.

European group EADS and the US's Northrop Grumman beat US firm Boeing to build the fleet of aircraft, which will be assembled at a site in Alabama.

It is understood US manufacturer Boeing, which had been favourite to win the contract, is expected to appeal against the decision.

However, UK Business Secretary, John Hutton said job cuts, announced last February, would still go ahead the Airbus plant at Filton near Bristol, despite the announcement.

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