New A350 assembly plant will re-invent Airbus’s build process

By Max Kingsley-Jones

Construction officially started today in Toulouse of the Airbus A350 XWB's final assembly facility, which will deliver significant efficiencies to the airframer's production process.

The purpose-built €140 million ($184 million) final assembly line facility will be adjacent to the existing A320 and A330/A340 plants. "Delivery of the facility is due by the third quarter of 2010," says Francois Caudron, vice-president A350 customer and business development. "Final assembly of the first A350 will begin in 2011."

First flight of the new twinjet is due in early 2012, with deliveries scheduled to begin to launch customer Qatar Airways in mid-2013.

The new L-shaped A350 assembly hall will have an area of 74,000m² and (795,000ft²) will be used for fuselage section join-up and wing attachment, as well as initial cabin integration, using a new a streamlined final assembly concept. The plant will be capable of producing "more than 10 aircraft a month" says Airbus chief executive Tom Enders.

Subassemblies for the A350 will be delivered from the other plants to the final assembly line by Beluga. The revised assembly process will reduce the time from the start of final assembly to delivery by 30% compared with the A330/A340, to around 2.5 months. This is achieved by starting cabin furnishing earlier in the process in parallel with final assembly.

A330/A340 production is sequenced so that structural assembly is followed by power-on and then the aircraft moves to another station for interior installation and completion. On the A350, power-on will occur ahead of wing join-up, allowing cabin integration to begin in parallel with the remainder of the assembly process. This will enable all the major cabin monuments to be pre-positioned in the aircraft sections before they are joined.

Once assembly and initial cabin installation is complete, aircraft will move to the existing A330/A340 furnishing building for the remainder of the cabin equipping process and aircraft testing.

© Reed Business Information 2009

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