The A350 XWB: Efficient and “green” from the moment it takes shape

23 October 2012 Feature story

The A350 XWB is designed to provide highly efficient and eco-friendly service for its airline customers, and the new Airbus final assembly line that builds these aircraft has been developed with the same philosophy.

Located near its Toulouse, France headquarters, Airbus introduced many environmental advances at this site, making it the “greenest” such facility ever built by the company.

Far in advance of the A350 XWB assembly building taking shape, Airbus was applying environmentally-friendly construction techniques – including recycling certain materials already present at the site, while crushing and re-using matter from a pre-existing taxiway.

Natural lighting is employed extensively in the building’s assembly halls to improve working comfort, while keeping the use of artificial lighting to a minimum and reducing the consumption of electricity. 

The facility produces more than 50 per cent of its own energy, with a portion of the electrical power generated by 22,000 square metres of photovoltaic panels located on the roof.  An energy management system also has been incorporated to optimise the use of power and liquids according to the working hours – ranging from peak daytime activity to nightshifts and weekend off-times.

The A350 XWB’s main sections arrive at the final assembly line already fitted out and tested from the various Airbus industrial sites in Europe. This makes it possible to reduce the amount of work required on the final assembly line. 

 Even before the jetliner’s three main fuselage sections are put together in the assembly hall, the A350 XWB’s “kitchen” areas – called galleys in the language of aviation – are installed, along with compartments where pilots and cabin crewmembers will be able to rest during long-range flights.  This workflow allows such large cabin interior components to be easily manoeuvred into the fuselage and mounted.

Contributing to the built-up process’ overall efficiency is Airbus’ use of the A350 XWB Digital Mock-Up, which is a very realistic computerised version of the aircraft that gives a highly accurate visualisation of how components come together during the assembly – down to the smallest detail. 

From start to completion, the A350 XWB’s final assembly process is conceived for a shorter built-up time and more efficient testing.  

Like a well-planned, high-technology puzzle, the integration of landing gear and aircraft systems are handled in parallel with assembly of the fuselage, wings and tail plane – along with the installation of certain passenger cabin furnishings.  During this process, the aircraft “comes alive” for the first time when it is electrically powered up, enabling functional testing to start even before the completion of wing/fuselage mating.

Once initial assembly is finalised in the facility, the aircraft is then moved to Airbus’ existing A330 final assembly zone at Toulouse, taking advantage of this already-available industrial infrastructure for A350 XWB pressurisation tests, painting, engine installation, final cabin outfitting and ground tests – setting the stage for flight evaluations and customer delivery.

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