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Moton Field - The Southeast's Newest Aerospace Diamond Destination

Featured in Trade & Industry Development - May/June 2018 Edition, Pages 44-45

Best Aerospace Site

Leonardo DRS, maker of the T-100 Trainer, went looking for a location to manufacture the new T-100. After reviewing 143 sites, they settled on Moton Field.

Only a 15-minute flyover from Atlanta-Hartsfield, Moton Field is the new diamond of aerospace. Opportunities abound with 500 acres between the runway and I-85 available for aerospace development. Also on the planning board is a runway expansion to 8,000 feet with a devoted industrial taxiway and C-130 landing surface right on Interstate 85.

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Macon County Community Rallying Support for T-100 Bid

According to WSFA, the T-100 announcement is expected within the month. The T-100 is an advanced Air Force training jet, and the project would net hundreds of jobs. Watch the full news report by clicking the link below.

Click here to view the news report on the WSFA website.

Leonardo T-100 Factory Would Provide Massive Lift for Tuskegee

Tuskegee, AL - The Leonardo aircraft manufacturing facility that’s slated to be built in Tuskegee would have a vast economic impact across Macon County and beyond, according to key local officials supporting the project.

The global aerospace and defense firm’s plans to produce the T-100 jet trainerat Moton Field would create a ripple of new jobs and investments along the Interstate 85 corridor in eastern Alabama.

The company must first win a U.S. Air Force competition for the next-generation training aircraft, an effort that has galvanized communities across the region, said Joe Turnham, a strategic consultant for the Macon County Economic Development Authority.

“This will be a new economic anchor for this century, certainly for Macon County, and there will be tremendous coattail opportunities,” he said. “Leonardo officials are talking about building an aerospace footprint here, not just in final assembly but also in research and innovation.”

All of the activity would boost local revenue for the city, county and local schools.

Beyond Macon County, Turnham expects numerous opportunities for spinoff jobs and investments, at suppliers and support businesses connected to the aerospace industry. And then there are the retail, lodging, dining and other service prospects that naturally come with a large industrial project.

Turnham said Macon County has not had a major manufacturing project of this scope since Hanon Systems, a Tier 1 auto supplier to Hyundai and Kia, located in Shorter in 2003. That operation has had years of success, including five expansions.

“But Leonardo is bigger, with more employees and more capital investment, and it’s our first foray into aerospace here even though we have a great aerospace history,” he said.


Indeed, Moton Field is where the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military pilots, trained during World War II. The combat success of these pilots, known as the “Red Tails,” led the way to the desegregation of the U.S. military in the late 1940s and provided a major spark for the Civil Rights movement.

“I hope the Air Force understands that there’s not a better narrative for this T-100 project. Going to Moton Field shows diversity and inclusion, and it says so much to the American people, that everyone can participate in a project like this,” Turnham said.

Tuskegee Mayor Tony Haygood said he is excited about Leonardo’s plans for the city.

“This is a great opportunity for our city, and I look forward to the tremendous benefits that will allow us to rebuild our economic base and launch economic development to another level,” he said. “It will be a major impact on our city, as well as the whole county.”

Haygood compared the Leonardo project and its potential ripple effect to what the VA hospital did for the community when it was originally established for African-American veterans after World War I. Now serving all veterans as the East Campus of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, the Tuskegee facility is a major employer with a wide network of support businesses.

“I see the same possibility here for Leonardo. There will be a large number of skilled jobs. It will also open up a lot of opportunities for surrounding areas,” he said.


A similar transformational effect is expected for local schools and students.

“The impact of Leonardo and T-100 on Macon County Schools would be monumental, life-changing and energizing,” said Dr. Jacqueline Brooks, the system’s superintendent.

The project would allow the system to make its STEM programs more robust and create a feeder pipeline from kindergarten through college, partnering with Tuskegee University, in programs such as robotics, drone technology and more.

“We would be able to start an aviation academy to include an aviation pilot program, as well as an aviation mechanics program,” Brooks said. “The possibilities are endless and abound for us with the impact of such a project.”

Turnham said the cooperative nature of the project has been remarkable.

“It’s been one of the great experiences I’ve had in economic development,” he said. “The scale and scope of this project is so big, and we’re a community of less than 25,000 people. At one end, we’re on the edge of the Auburn/Opelika MSA, and on the other end is East Montgomery. We’ve leveraged regional assets all across the area and beyond so that we could really pull this off, both in recruitment and in how we’re going to fulfill the project with labor.”

That includes Alabama’s political leadership, the Alabama Department of Commerce, city and county governments, local chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, many alumni groups at Tuskegee University and even ministers across the area who held a prayer service for the success of the project.

Recruiters also have touted the clout of the engineering programs at Tuskegee University and Auburn University, as well as the community colleges in the region.

“We want our Tuskegee University engineering students to have something on the other end of their education. We want them to stay, really rebuild our middle class, fill vacancies in housing and increase the population in the school system,” Turnham said.

“We’re dreaming really big. We’ve just got to bring it totally home,” he continued. “Every day, we’re doing something grassroots, trying to maximize our assets. We really feel like this is a way that the economic development miracle of Alabama can happen not just in Huntsville, Mobile and Auburn, but it can happen in a place like Macon County.”

By Dawn Azok, Made In Alabama

Leonardo: Preparations for Alabama T-100 aircraft factory on track

VENEGONO, Italy — Executives of aerospace company Leonardo told an Alabama delegation touring an aircraft facility in Italy that preparations for a manufacturing operation in Tuskegee are on track to provide the T-100 next-generation jet trainer for the U.S. Air Force.

Leonardo invited the Alabama team, led by Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, to the Venegono Superiore factory for a detailed look at how the company manufactures an advanced trainer aircraft similar to the T-100 that is already in service in three countries.

On Wednesday, executives of Leonardo and its partners provided the Alabama group with an update on the T-100 project, which calls for the construction of a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with 750 workers at Moton Field, the historic home of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Guido Sibona, head of industrial engineering for the Leonardo Aircraft Division, outlined a series of project milestones leading up to the beginning of initial production in Tuskegee in 2022 if the Air Force selects the T-100 to replace its fleet of aging T-38 trainers.

The Air Force decision is expected in March 2018.

“We have a strong plan to transition production over to the U.S.,” Sibona told the Alabama group.

According to this timeline, construction at the Moton Field site would begin in July 2018, with final completion of the production campus coming in 2021.

Hiring for the Alabama manufacturing facility would commence near the start of 2020, with low-rate production of T-100 aircraft beginning there two years later, Sibona said.

Full-scale production is expected to begin in 2023.

Leonardo’s Venegono Superiore 300,000-square-meter manufacturing complex specializes in the production of military training aircraft, including the M-346, which will serve as the basis for the T-100.

A new trainer, the M-345, is under development there, and the facility hosts a ground-based integrated flight training system laboratory.

“This is really the place for training aircraft in Italy, and I think the most important site for training aircraft in the world,” Francesco Bernardi, head of business development and strategy for the Leonardo Aircraft Division.


During a tour of the manufacturing center, Alabama officials learned how Leonardo workers produce individual aircraft components such as wings and the forward fuselage. The Alabama group also saw training aircraft in the final stages of completion at the facility.

At the end of the tour, a recently completed M-346, destined for the Polish Air Force, raced down the facility’s runway and lifted off for a test flight that drew cheers from members of the Alabama delegation.

Tuskegee Mayor Tony Haygood said observing the work flow in Leonardo’s manufacturing facility brought into sharper focus what Macon County officials need to do to better prepare Moton Fields’ infrastructure for the T-100 plant, and into the kind of jobs that will be needed on the manufacturing line.

“We got a chance to really see and understand what is happening here,” Haygood said. “We saw first-hand how the assembly takes place and what types of training may be necessary, so we got a full understanding of how this is done and what the process looks like from beginning to end.”

The project would bring production of the Air Force’s trainer jet to the site where the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen received their training. The unit of African-American pilots, known as the “Red Tails,” flew fighter planes from bases in Italy during World War II.


Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the T-100 project represents a special opportunity for the company and its partners and for the regions around the airfield where the pioneering Tuskegee Airmen received their training.

“It’s really an opportunity to rekindle history in an area of our state that is known for breaking new ground and for breaking the color barrier, while setting high standards for performance,” Secretary Canfield said.

“That’s what we want to do – we want to set new high standard for performance. We’re behind this effort.”

Steve Pelham, chief of staff to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, said he was pleased to represent the governor and participate along with community leaders from Macon county in this economic develop trip to visit with leadership of Leonardo.

“Alabama has a rich history with the aviation industry and continues to be a global leader. As Alabama’s chief economic developer, the governor is very supportive of the potential partnership with Leonardo and has pledged the state’s full support if they are selected,” Pelham said.

“Creating new business investment such as Leonardo’s and creating 21st century jobs for Alabamians continues to be the governor’s highest priority,” he added.

At the conclusion of the tour, Leonardo’s Sibona presented Pelham with a model of a T-100 aircraft.

Leonardo DRS, the company’s U.S. unit, is leading the project to build the T-100 in Alabama. The M-346 base model has been selected as the jet training aircraft by the air forces of Israel, Singapore, Poland and Italy.

Other partners on the project are Honeywell Aerospace, which will provide the twin F124 turbofan engines for the T-100; and CAE, which will provide a sophisticated integrated training system for the aircraft.

The Venegono Superiore complex, which employs about 1,700 people, includes laboratories and a center for structural tests, a wind tunnel, and an airport for flight testing. It also specializes in the production of nacelles, the aerodynamic coverings of aircraft engines.

Workers at the production site have built more than 7,000 aircraft, including about 2,000 trainers that have been sold to over 40 countries.

The Alabama Department of Commerce has been pursuing the company’s jet training aircraft project since 2010.

By Jerry Underwood, Made In Alabama

Italian ambassador visits Tuskegee to support Leonardo T-100 project

TUSKEGEE, Alabama – Italian ambassador Armando Varricchio and Leonardo DRS Chief Executive William Lynn III on Monday visited the historic home of the Tuskegee Airmen, where the aerospace company wants to manufacture the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation trainer aircraft.

If Leonardo’s T-100 jet trainer is selected by the Air Force, the company plans to build a manufacturing facility at Moton Field, where the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen trained before being deployed to Italy in World War II. The project will create 750 direct jobs in Tuskegee.

Ambassador Varricchio said he was impressed by the community’s eagerness to see the T-100 project become a reality.

“I can tell you that is my first visit here, but it will not be my last,” he said during a lunch with community leaders. “I will spare no effort because we want Tuskegee to be not just a place of memory but a place of the future.

“Let’s move ahead,” he added. “Let’s work together.”


With an Air Force decision expected in the summer, Lynn said Leonardo DRS is prepared to launch the T-100 program quickly once the aircraft is selected. The Leonardo trainer is already being used by the air forces of Israel, Poland, Singapore and Italy, and it’s complemented by a sophisticated, integrated ground-based simulation system.

“It would create jobs all across the U.S,” Lynn said. “The engines would be built in Arizona. The training simulators would be built in Florida. We have suppliers in almost every state, so it would be thousands of jobs.”

Last November, Leonardo officials told an Alabama delegation visiting the company’s Italian manufacturing plant that preparations for the Tuskegee facility were on track.

After their Tuskegee visit, Varricchio and Lynn and a Leonardo team traveled to Montgomery for talks with Governor Kay Ivey and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, followed by a dinner.

“He’s getting to see firsthand that Alabama is open to business,” Governor Ivey told a WSFA television reporter.

Secretary Canfield has called the T-100 project a “gamechanger” for Tuskegee and Macon County.


Ambassador Varricchio said he sees the Leonardo project as a way to “connect the dots that are linking Italy and the United States.”

While in Tuskegee, the ambassador toured a museum dedicated the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were based at an airfield in Ramitelli during their stay in Italy.

“I was very moved walking around in the beautiful museum that was retracing the memory of those heroes, those brave men who are not forgotten in Italy,” he said. “What they did when they came to Italy, during those difficult times, that was the moment that bonds were created – and those bonds are more present that ever.”

Read an account of the ambassador’s Alabama visit.

By Jerry Underwood, Made In Alabama

Contact us

Joe Turnham
608 Dibble Street, Suite 7
Tuskegee, AL 36083