The first set of wings for the first A400M military transport aircraft - MSN001 - passed a major milestone when the first whole wing was removed from its state-of-the-art assembly jig at Airbus' Filton, Bristol, UK site. The wing is the first-ever wing for an Airbus-built aircraft constructed largely from composite materials (carbon fibre reinforced plastic, CFRP) and is believed to be the largest composite wing ever made.
The 23 metre long by four metre wide port (left side) wingbox, weighing around three tonnes, was removed from its assembly 'jig' by overhead crane. This was the first time the removal procedure had been carried out and it involved a team of ten workers.
Final assembly of the first wing components began just four months ago, on 20th July. On 21st September the wing featured in the formal opening of the new £70 million (100 million Euro) A400M Wing Manufacturing Centre by the UK's Minister for Defence Procurement, Lord Drayson.
For the Airbus workers at Filton, the next step is to carry out comprehensive measurements of the wing before beginning the 'equipping phase' - when the wing will be fitted with hydraulic, pneumatic, fuel and electrical systems and the flying control surfaces. For the first and five subsequent sets of wings, and also for the fatigue and static test wings, "equipping" also includes the fitting of additional instrumentation and equipment for use later during the flight and ground testing of the whole aircraft.
In the next few weeks the port wing will be joined in the equipping phase by the first starboard (right-side) wing. After equipping and full testing, the wings will be delivered from Filton to the A400M aircraft final assembly line in Seville, Spain on the A300-600ST "Beluga" aircraft.
Charles Paterson, Head of A400M Wing for Airbus said: "Seeing the whole wing come together so quickly and efficiently is a tribute to the whole team. We still have some intensive work ahead of us to ensure we continue to remain on schedule, but today is one of intense pride and celebration as the aircraft takes shape".
Dick Ovens, Head of A400M Wing Manufacturing at Airbus, said: "The new, state-of-the-art, jigs and tools with automated machinery, including high-precision automated wing drilling equipment, have impressed all who have seen them. They are performing exceptionally well and have in many instances already surpassed our expectations for quality and repeatability."
Airbus is an EADS company.