The first A350 XWB centre wing box has been delivered from Airbus’ site in Nantes, France to Airbus’ St Nazaire, France facility where it will be assembled into the first A350 XWB fuselage. The impressive A350 XWB centre wing box, made from 40% carbon fibre reinforced plastics, measures 6.5 metres by 5.5 metres and is 3.9 metres tall.
Loaded on to a special transport jig, the A350 XWB centre wing box left Nantes by river barge, together with an A380 centre wing box, travelling along the Loire River to reach St Nazaire a few hours later. Once the part is installed in to the A350 XWB fuselage, the sub-assembly will then be flown by Beluga from St Nazaire to Airbus’ brand new A350 XWB final assembly line in Toulouse, France.
“This is a great milestone and marks a significant step forwards for the A350 XWB programme as we get closer to the start of final assembly of the first aircraft”, said Didier Evrard, Head of the A350 XWB programme. “The delivery of the first A350 XWB centre wing box is the result of the team’s sheer hard work, expertise in the design and manufacturing of complex, large composite structures and their strong commitment to deliver to our customers on time and on quality.”
The first composite lay-up for the A350 XWB took place in Nantes in December 2009, marking the coming to life of the aircraft. The biggest panels produced for the centre wing-box, entirely made of carbon fibre, have a surface area of 36 square meters, making them the largest “monobloc” composite panels ever manufactured in Nantes.
Along with other Airbus facilities around the world, the Airbus plant in Nantes has a high expertise in composite material and is a leader in the manufacture and assembly of carbon fibre structural parts, such as the centre wing box and the keel beam for the A350 XWB. The A350 XWB structure is 53 per cent composite-based, including major elements such as wings and fuselage.
The A350 XWB Family consists of three passenger versions with true long-range capability. In terms of capacity, the A350-800 will offer 270 seats; the A350-900 holds 314 seats while the A350-1000 will have 350 seats respectively. The Family concept allows airlines to best match their A350 XWB fleets to route capacity demands, guaranteeing optimum revenue potential. To date, 35 customers have ordered 567 A350 XWBs. Airbus forecasts a demand over the next 20 years for around 5,800 new twin-aisle mid-size passenger aircraft.