From Rockets to Autos: Panalpina Expects to See More Use for the Giant Antonov 124

Today, a delivery for Huntsville’s aerospace industry.

Tomorrow, overly large, very heavy crucial parts and pieces for Alabama’s growing automotive manufacturing industry.

Workers show the huge space available to fly cargo in the giant Antonov-124. (Eric Schultz / Huntsville Business Journal)

As North Alabama’s automotive manufacturing industry takes off, so are heavy air freight cargo planes likely to soar in and out of the Port of Huntsville’s intermodal cargo center – and we mean really, really big birds such as the Russian Antonov 124, the second largest commercial cargo plane in the world.

In recent weeks, an Antonov sat for the first time alongside Panalpina’s Boeing 747–8 freighter at Huntsville International Airport.

While Panalpina operates Boeing 747-8 contour freighters out of Huntsville four times a week on a fixed schedule, the Antonov provides ad hoc flights on demand from Point A to Point B from just about anywhere in the world. At least, up until now, it only flies into Huntsville a couple times a year for special, overly large deliveries, primarily for the aerospace industry.

Matthias Frey, senior vice president and global head of the Panalpina Charter Network, said that is about to change.

“Manufacturing is among Panalpina’s most important industry verticals,” he said. “Automotive has become a growing priority for us in the state of Alabama and we expect it to get even bigger as they begin installing the assembly lines at the Mazda Toyota plant, and as automobiles begin rolling off that line.”

Frey said Panalpina’s Alabama delegation foresee a growing need for heavy cargo and air freight, especially in Huntsville and Mobile, and he said there is a need for all types of cargo aircraft to accomplish it.

“When you look, for instance at Amazon, their U.S. network uses the Boeing 767 because, although they ship tens of thousands of parcels, most of them are relatively small and stackable and they require speed,” he said.

Panalpina’s 747-8 is a stretch 747 that allows for higher cargo capacity and is a workhorse for standard heavy cargo.

“If you are talking about pharmaceuticals, engines, and mechanical parts, then normally you would go to a Boeing 747-8 like Panalpina,” Frey said.

The giant Antonov-124 has a 25 percent higher transportation than the Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy (Eric Schultz / Huntsville Business Journal)

However, the Antonov’s substantially wider body, significantly higher overhead clearance, and hinged nose opens upward for front cargo loading. Built for paradropping and cargo-handling equipment, it is also equipped with two traveling cranes, two winches, a rollgang shifting device and tiedown equipment.

Aircraft and cargo specialists compare it to the Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy, but it has a 25 percent higher transportation capability.    

“If you are moving something tall, wide and exceptionally heavy like large machinery and components, especially if you need a wider berth or a crane and winch for loading, then you are more likely to need the Antonov with its front-loading capability,” Frey said.

In 2018, the Panalpina Charter Network set a record with more than 1 million tons in air freight volume, according to a recent press release. The company expects the air freight market to grow by about 3 percent this year, with aerospace, perishables, and, now, automotive expected to be the biggest areas of growth.

Toyota To Produce New SUV at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Plant


Toyota is shifting future production plans at the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. joint venture assembly plant in Huntsville as an opportunity to build a new SUV.

According to a statement this morning from Toyota, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing will assemble a new, yet-to-be named Toyota SUV along with Mazda’s yet-to-be named crossover model. 

The shift is in response to changing market demands and a growing consumer appetite for light trucks and SUVs which are achieving record sales, including Toyota’s best-selling RAV4.

More details related to the future SUV will be released.

Navistar to make $125M expansion here; add 145 jobs

Navistar, which has an engine plant in Huntsville, will expand its operations here with the addition of a gear box and engine manufacturing facility.

The Huntsville City Council approved an agreement with the company for the $125 million plant that will create some 145 jobs. Navistar employs 126 workers at its diesel engine plant near Huntsville International Airport. The new facility will be adjacent to the engine plant.

Navistar’s International A26 engine built in Huntsville.
(Navistar Photo)

“The Huntsville facility is an important part of Navistar’s manufacturing footprint, and we look forward to the new opportunities this investment allows,” said Lyndi McMillan, Navistar’s director of business communications. “This proposed expansion would increase the company’s capacity to continue to build its International A26 engine as well as produce its next-generation big-bore diesel engines in Alabama.”

Construction is expected to start next year with completion scheduled for December 2021. It will begin operations by the end of September 2022, according to the agreement.

Mazda Toyota Pays Tribute to Huntsville’s Space History

As a tribute to Huntsville’s leadership role with the U.S. space program, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A., will name its two assembly lines Apollo and Discovery.

“Thanks to our team members’ creativity and innovative thinking, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is proud to name our two future assembly lines Apollo and Discovery in a nod to our city’s heritage as the birthplace of our nation’s space program,” said Mark Brazeal, vice president for administration at MTM. “The scores of brilliant men and women who worked tirelessly to further mankind’s progress and exploration into the unknown gives our team motivation to add to the Rocket City’s history as a producer of world-class vehicles.”

Apollo was NASA’s program that resulted in 12 American astronauts walking on the moon. The Space Shuttle Discovery completed 39 missions, surpassing the number of flights made by any other orbiter in NASA’s fleet. Discovery also launched the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit and was the first American spacecraft piloted by a woman, Eileen Collins.

Construction of the MTM plant remains on schedule, with the start of production expected to begin in 2021. Up to 4,000 new jobs will be created and hiring is underway.

In August 2017, Toyota and Mazda announced a collaboration to establish MTM, a $1.6 billion joint venture that will assemble up to 300,000 vehicles annually. The plant is in the Greenbrier area of Huntsville-Limestone County.

Auto Supplier DaikyoNishikawa to Locate First U.S. Plant in Huntsville, Creating 380 Jobs

Japan-based DaikyoNishikawa US will build a $110 million auto parts manufacturing facility in Huntsville, the company announced Tuesday.

“Huntsville welcomes DaikyoNishikawa to our growing regional network of automotive suppliers,” Mayor Tommy Battle said. “They’re joining an outstanding partnership with Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A., and we’re collectively witnessing the birth of a major automotive hub for the U.S. and the world.”

The company will be on-site at the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. assembly plant under construction. DNUS will create approximately 380 jobs and produce plastic automotive parts. Construction is expected to start in July and production slated for 2021.

DNUS is the first on-site partner announced for Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A., a $1.6 billion joint-venture assembly plant being built on a 2,500-acre site in the Limestone County portion of Huntsville.

“With this being DaikyoNishikawa’s first U.S. manufacturing facility, we welcome them home to Limestone County and look forward to being a key partner in their future success,” said Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly. “This $110 million investment that will bring 380 new jobs is a testament to the strong workforce in our region that has earned global recognition.”

DNUS has established a temporary office in Huntsville and a human resources director to prepare for hiring. Jobs are listed at joblink.alabama.gov.

Mazda Toyota Plant Reaches New Heights with Milestone

With the first steel column now in place, construction is well underway for Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. (MTMUS). Team members celebrated the milestone with a small gathering at the plant site Tuesday.

Despite a heavy rain season, construction of the $1.6 billion advanced manufacturing facility in Limestone County remains on schedule.

MTMUS President Masashi Aihara

“Today marks an exciting milestone for the MTMUS team and the state of Alabama,” said Masashi Aihara, president of MTMUS. “We are fully committed to this project and we can now see the beginning of our new campus taking shape.

“Soon, we will be proud to say ‘built in Alabama with pride.’”

Construction highlights include:
 * 3.0 million cubic yards of dirt graded for site preparation. This is enough dirt to fill the Empire
State Building twice!
 * 150,000 cubic yards of gravel poured to create the plant foundation, equal to filling 46 Olympic‐size swimming pools.
 * 2,500 construction workers projected to be on site by late summer 2019.

MTMUS is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs and is currently in the process of hiring professional staff and skilled maintenance positions. Additional job postings will be added throughout the summer, with production hiring starting later this year. Interested candidates can learn more at www.mazdatoyota.com.

Mazda Toyota Supplier to Bring 400 Jobs to Athens

ATHENS — The ripple effect of the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Plant in Limestone County is creating several hundred jobs in Athens.

Toyota Boshoku will manufacture seat systems at a $50 million plant in the Breeding North Industrial Park on Sanderfer Road. Construction on the facility, which will take up some 42 acres, is slated to start next month.

“When we began our search for a new site to build our production facility, we looked at many locations,” said Dr. Shuhei Toyoda of Toyota Boshoku. “After an extensive search, we determined that Athens, Alabama, is the perfect fit.

“We are grateful for the assistance from the state of Alabama, the City of Athens and Limestone County to make this project a reality.”

The plant is expected to create about 400 jobs once full production is reached. Toyota Boshoku will supply seat systems for vehicles built at the Mazda Toyota plant some 30 miles away.

The Mazda Toyota Manufacturing US plant is expected to create some 4,000 jobs with another 4,000-plus coming to suppliers, such as Toyota Boshoku and other.

“Athens attracting one of the first Tier 1 suppliers for MTMUS speaks to our city’s attractiveness as a community and our great working relationship with several entities on industrial development,” said Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks. “From the state of Alabama to our Limestone County Economic Development Association and our other partners, we work well together to help industries invest in our community and provide jobs for our citizens.

“Athens appreciates Toyota Boshoku being the latest to invest in our city.”

Marks was joined by Gov. Kay Ivey, Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), and Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly.

“We would like to welcome Toyota Boshoku America to Limestone County,” Daly said.

“This over $50 million investment that will bring around 400 new jobs is a testament to the strong workforce in our region that has earned global recognition.”

Canfield said the addition of Toyota Boshoku adds momentum to the state’s efforts in landing quality jobs.

“Alabama’s economic development team has been working hard to facilitate the formation of the supply chain for MTMUS, and Toyota Boshoku’s decision to locate in Athens will add momentum to our efforts,” Canfield said. “We expect to develop a long-lasting partnership with this outstanding company as it creates well-paying jobs in Alabama.”

Toyota to Add 450 jobs, Increase Production at Huntsville Engine Plant

With an investment of more than a quarter-billion dollars, Toyota announced Wednesday it is increasing its production and workforce at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant in Huntsville.

The automaker said the $288 million will increase the engine production capacity from some 670,000 per year to 900,000 by the end of 2021.

New production lines for Toyota’s four-cylinder and V6 engines will add 450 jobs to the Huntsville plant. The investment also includes a building expansion. Overall, the plant represents an investment of $1.2 billion.

The 450 new jobs is the largest hiring increase at the facility and will increase the number of employees to about 1,800.

“I’m so proud of our team members and their commitment to building world-class engines,” said Toyota Alabama President David Fernandes. “It is because of our workforce and statewide partnerships that Toyota has continued to grow and prosper in Alabama.

“The new engine lines will allow us to respond quicker to customer needs and strengthen our competitive edge in the industry.”

The engine plant, in the North Huntsville Industrial Park just off Pulaski Pike, is the cornerstone of the city’s diversified business base as it moves from being primarily dependent on federal dollars to commercial industry.

“Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama has been the backbone of Huntsville’s advanced manufacturing economy for 18 years,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “This latest investment, the company’s seventh in Huntsville, signals Toyota’s confidence in our workforce and its commitment to continued investment in this facility – more than $1.2 billion to date.”

High points

  • Seven major investments (5 building expansions) since groundbreaking in 2001. 
  • The new $288 million investment will provide 4-cylinder and V6 engine lines to expand production capacity by about 35 percent, increase product flexibility and help better meet demand. This brings the total plant investment to $1.2 billion.
  • The two new production lines will create 450 jobs, increasing total employment to about 1,800.
  • The plant produces one-third of all engines built in the U.S and five times as many since stating production.
  • The 6 millionth engine was built in August 2018.
  • The only Toyota plant globally to build 4-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines under one roof.

The news builds upon Toyota’s expansive presence in the Huntsville area. Last year, Mazda and Toyota unveiled their plans for a joint vehicle manufacturing plant in Limestone County. The $1.6 billion joint investment will create up to 4,000 jobs with production slated for 2021.