Airbus in France
A final assembly hub
Nearly 11,500 people are employed at facilities in the Toulouse area, where final assembly lines are located for the A320 Family, A330, A380 and A350 XWB. A typical final assembly process for Airbus aircraft includes joining the fuselage sections and wing mating, followed by the installation of the horizontal tail plane and vertical fin, engine pylons, landing gear and engines. After cockpit outfitting, system tests are performed, including avionics, electrical, hydraulic, flight control, air conditioning, fuel tank pressurization and landing gear.
Airbus’ A330/A340 assembly facility was conceived in the late 1980s, introducing streamlined build-up processes as well as the use of certain automated assembly procedures. It was designed from the start to accommodate the interchangeable build-up of the twin-engine A330 and four-engine A340 – with sustained A330 assembly continuing after the A340’s production phase-out.
Another purpose-built final assembly facility was then created for the A380, which was one of the largest construction jobs of its kind in the world. This site was named after the late Jean-Luc Lagardère, who was co-chairman of Airbus' main shareholder, EADS (Airbus Group’s predecessor).
The company’s presence in Toulouse expanded once again with a new state-of-the-art final assembly line for the A350 XWB. In compliance with Airbus’ commitments to eco-efficiency, the A350 XWB facility is the “greenest” ever built by the company, and includes an extensive use of natural lighting. The site is expected to generate 55 per cent of its own energy, including the supply of power from some 22,000 square metres of photovoltaic panels located on the roof.
The Airbus teams in Toulouse work closely with the company’s Hamburg, Germany site to satisfy customer needs for cabin outfitting. As home to a large cabin mock-up centre, Toulouse also plays a role in cabin design. Cabins for the widebody A330/A340 are installed in Toulouse, prior to aircraft delivery. At Toulouse’s St. Eloi site engine pylons are designed and manufactured. Electrical assemblies are built nearby in Blagnac, where components and spares for in-service aircraft also are repaired, modified, and prepared.
Activities in the Toulouse region also include flight and ground testing of aircraft, as well as Airbus research, design and development. One of the three major worldwide Airbus training centres also is based at Toulouse.
Nearly 4,500 people are employed at Airbus headquarters complex in Toulouse, which is a short drive away from Toulouse-Blagnac International Airport’s passenger terminal. The company's customer services department is based here, as are Airbus’ President & CEO and the Executive Committee members – each of whom are responsible for core functions within Airbus. In addition, the headquarters is home to key Airbus departments, such as finance, design, marketing, engineering, customer relations, operations, programmes, procurement and communications.
Focus on production
The Airbus Saint-Nazaire installation on the French Atlantic coast is set on two production sites covering 50 hectares, with a workforce of some 2,300 people. It specialises in the assembly, equipping and testing of the forward sections of the single-aisle A320 family, as well as the forward and centre sections of the widebody A330/A340 families and the 525-seat A380. Fuselage sections delivered from Saint-Nazaire are equipped with system and structural parts (hydraulic, metallic and thermoplastic subassemblies) manufactured in the plant's production units.
Fuselage sections produced at Saint-Nazaire are airlifted by Airbus’ fleet of A300-600ST Beluga transport aircraft to either Hamburg or Toulouse for final assembly – or by sea in the case of the A380, utilising a ferry system.
About an hour east of Saint Nazaire is Nantes. Here, the centre wing box – which is the structural heart of all Airbus aircraft – is produced. Nantes is also a leader in the manufacture of structural parts in carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), such as the keel beam for the A340-500/600 and the centre wing box for the A380 – 50 per cent of which is made from this composite material, a first in the industry. Nantes, which employs around 2,000 people, also produces the nacelle air inlets for the A340-500/600 and the A380, and all Airbus radomes.