Three A330 MRTTs (Multi Role Tanker Transports) destined for different customers recently completed a formation flight in the skies above Spain. The lead aircraft, located furthest from the camera in the accompanying photo (at left) will join the UK Royal Air Force, where it is to be known as Voyager as part of the Future Strategic Transport Aircraft (FSTA) programme; the middle aircraft is the original development example which eventually will enter service with the Royal Australian Air Force; and the aircraft nearest the camera is the second A330 MRTT for the United Arab Emirates air force.
News in brief
Airbus Military A330 MRTTs fly in formation
First A400M for the French Air Force takes shape in Seville
The first Airbus Military A400M for the French Air Force is taking shape in Seville, Spain, where its final assembly line is located. The final assembly process for this aircraft started last November. The nose and fuselage are already integrated and the aircraft was recently moved, on its landing gear, to the workstation in which the structural assembly is carried out. Integration works for the wing started last week and both the horizontal and the vertical tailplanes, which have already been mated, have just been moved to the final assembly station, known as Station 40, with the rest of the aircraft. The A400M will then be powered up for the first time before the aircraft is moved to the Ground System Tests area.
A330 production rate is at an all-time high
The production of Airbus’ A330 reached a rate of nine per month in January, bringing the output of this popular twin-engine jetliner to a record rate in meeting international demand. Assembly of the A330 is performed in Toulouse, France, with Airbus planning a further ramp-up to 9.5 aircraft monthly. The A330 is operated in passenger and freighter versions, along with its use as a multi-role military aerial refueling platform and airlifter. As of year-end 2011, Airbus had booked orders for 1,186 A330s, of which 837 had been delivered.
A350 XWB static test aircraft parts arrive at final assembly line in Toulouse
Airbus has delivered the first major airframe section to the A350 XWB Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, France. The 21-metre-long front fuselage section, delivered from Airbus in Saint-Nazaire, is destined to become part of the A350 XWB static test airframe. Final assembly of this airframe will start during the first quarter 2012 when the front fuselage is joined with the centre fuselage. Final assembly start of the first “flyable” A350 XWB will follow in the second quarter 2012.
Innovative ideas bring Singaporean students to Airbus’ headquarters
Six Singaporean students were given “VIP treatment” by Airbus earlier this month, with a visit to the company’s headquarters in Toulouse, France – which the group earned in September by winning first prizes in the island nation’s annual CREATE high school competition. Their trip included tours of the A330 and A380 final assembly lines in Toulouse, where they saw a Singapore Airlines A380 being prepared for delivery. The “CREATE” competition for 2011 was organised by the Singapore Economic Development Board with support from Airbus and Singapore Airlines, and focussed on green technology in aviation.
Airbus starts joining the A350 XWB "MSN1" front fuselage
Airbus has started joining the first 21-metre long front fuselage section for the A350 XWB in Saint-Nazaire, France. This phase will continue over the coming weeks, and once completed, the front fuselage will be transported by Beluga to the A350 XWB Final Assembly Line in Toulouse. It will be the first major section of the A350 XWB to enter the final assembly line. The front fuselage is destined for the A350 XWB static test airframe – the first A350 XWB to be assembled. It will be followed closely by the first “flyable” airframe for MSN1, one of the five flight test aircraft Airbus will build. The static airframe is used solely for ground tests that will demonstrate the aircraft’s ability to sustain certification loads and provide key data ahead of the first flight in 2013.
A beneficial change of scenery for Airbus’ Indian engineering centre
The Airbus Engineering Centre India (AECI) has relocated to a larger building within Bangalore, allowing for a consolidation of its teams into a single integrated facility and providing the necessary space for long-term growth over the next decade. The centre originally opened during April 2007, and its workforce has grown steadily since – with the total employee count now exceeding 250. The new building is certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and is located in an established area for international business.
Final assembly of first THAI A380 begins
Assembly of the first A380 for Thai Airways International (THAI) has now commenced at the Airbus Final Assembly Line in Toulouse. The final assembly process of an A380 is made up of several phases. At the first station, front, central, and aft fuselages, wings, horizontal and vertical tail planes (HTP and VTP) are assembled. The aircraft is then moved to the second station where general tests on electric/hydraulic systems, mobile parts and landing gears are carried out, while engines also are installed. During the third phase, final ground and first engines tests take place in dedicated facilities outside of the main building. Finally, the A380 is prepared for its first flight to the Airbus facilities in Hamburg, where the cabin will be installed and the aircraft painted in the airline’s livery. THAI will become the ninth operator of the A380 when it takes delivery of its first aircraft in the third quarter of 2012. The airline has firm orders for six A380s and will operate the aircraft on its premier routes from Bangkok to Europe.
Airbus starts making the wings for first A350 XWB
Assembly of the first A350 XWB’s 32-metre-long carbon fibre wings has begun at Airbus’ recently-opened North Factory in Broughton, UK. Pre-assembly of ribs, upper and lower covers and fixed leading and trailing edges already has taken place. These components will be moved into the main assembly jigs for full wing box integration. Most of the A350 XWB wing is made of lightweight carbon composites, including the upper and lower wing covers, stringers, front and rear spars. The advanced structural design and superior wing aerodynamics are significant contributors to the aircraft’s 25 per cent fuel-saving performance.
A320 fitted with fuel-saving Sharklets prepares for flight-tests
Airbus has completed installation of the first set of Sharklet wing-tip devices on the company’s A320 development aircraft (MSN 001), preparing for the flight-test campaign in the coming weeks. Sharklets, which have been specially designed for the Airbus A320 Family, will reduce fuel burn by up to 3.5 percent, corresponding to an annual CO2 reduction of around 700 tonnes per aircraft. These new wingtip devices are around 2.5 metres tall and will replace the aircraft’s current wingtip fence. Offered as an option on new-build aircraft, as well as being standard on the A320neo Family, Sharklets also will enhance the aircraft’s payload-range and take-off performance.