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May 11, 2009

Airbus to start manufacturing parts for new A350 XWB in late ’09

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European airliner manufacturer Airbus hopes to start making the first parts for its brand-new long-range wide-body aircraft, the A350 XWB, late this year, with assembly of major components commencing early next year.

"We have a clear way ahead," asserts A350 XWB programme head Didier Evrard.

"We are targeting the first flight for 2012. It is still a very challenging programme. It is not a risk-free or challenge-free programme, but we are on time."

The programme involves the development of a family of three jetliners – from smallest to largest, the 270-seat A350-800, the 314-seat A350-900, and the 350-seat A350-1000. The first model to be developed is the one in the middle, the A350-900.

The A350-900 design and development process has now passed a critical review process, which Airbus calls Maturity Gate 5. As a consequence, the aerodynamic design of the fuselage, wings, horizontal and vertical tail surfaces has now been frozen. The systems architecture has been frozen. Except for the rear galley, the cabin design has been frozen. There will now be no substantial changes in any of these designs. Detailed design is still taking place, and this process should run until early 2010.

Evrard reports that there have been no changes to the design weights and performance of the A350-900.

Orders have been placed for long-lead items and for the tooling and jigs required to build the aircraft. The manufacture of the tooling has started and the last tools should be ready by late next year. Final assembly of the first aircraft should start in mid-2011 and should take eight or nine months.

The A350 XWB airframe will be 53% composites, 19% aluminium and aluminium-lithium, 14% titanium, 6% steel, and 8% miscellaneous. "We have steadily increased the proportion of composites in our designs," points out Evrard.

The composites – carbon fibre reinforced plastic – will form the wings, centre wing box and keel frame, skin panels, frames, stringers and doublers, and passenger and cargo doors. Titanium will be used for high load frames, door surroundings, pylons, and the landing gear.

(Keith Campbell is attending the Airbus Innovation Days 2009 in Hamburg as a guest of the company.)

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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