Long Awaited Airbus A350 XWB
The long-awaited Airbus A350 XWB (extra wide body) next-generation aircraft begins to take shape as final assembly of the first A350 XWB is now underway at the brand new final assembly line in Toulouse.
As parts are produced across Europe and brought to the final assembly line in Toulouse, the next step involves joining the 19.7 meter long center fuselage with the 21 meter long front fuselage. This initial bird will be used for structural tests on the ground, a process all new-build aircraft go through, as part of the certification process.
The assembly of the first flying A350 XWB, MSN1, will start during summer.
On April 4, 2012, the center fuselage was delivered to Toulouse by Beluga from Airbus in St. Nazaire, France. The front fuselage had been previously delivered in December of 2011. If you don’t know what a Beluga is, look up at the featured picture; the Airbus Beluga is a specially designed Airbus A300-600 modified to carry aircraft parts and over-sized or awkward cargo.
Next will come delivery and installation of the aft fuselage from Hamburg, Germany, followed by the wings, which will arrive from Airbus’ wing assembly site in Broughton, UK.
Station 50, the first main assembly station, is where the three main pieces of the fuselage, front, center, and aft, will be joined together. The landing gear is also installed here, which will allow for weight on wheels when ready.
Station 40 is the next stop here the wings and tail sections are joined together – in parallel, cabin installation is carried out to the wing-fuselage joint, as well as the “power on” aircraft systems, allowing functional tests to start earlier than with other new aircraft.
The A350 XWB is not only a new family of mid-sized widebody airliners, but highly fuel efficient airliners. The A350 XWB brings together the latest aerodynamics and design while advanced technologies provide up to 25 percent better fuel efficiency and operating costs compared to current aircraft in the same category, such as the Airbus A330.
When it comes to the A350 XWB airframe, an impressive, north of 70 percent is advanced weight-efficient materials combining composites (53 percent), titanium and advanced aluminum alloys. The composite materials are not only strong, but lighter than aluminum. As fuel prices soar, the use of lightweight materials becomes more important than ever.
The A350 WXB has an innovate all-new Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) fuselage which provides lower fuel burn and easier maintenance. Airbus’ high level of expertise using composites into its aircraft is said to benefit the A350.
The A350XWB Family of Aircraft offers three passenger versions with true long-range capability of flowing up to 8,500 nautical miles.
In a typical three-class configuration:
- A350-800 seats 270
- A350-900 seats 314
- A350-1000 seats 350
These numbers are likely to be adjusted upward, depending on air carrier, as many carriers have eliminated long haul first in favor of a Business and Economy setup.
Editor’s Note: Thank You to Airbus for providing photography. All photos used in this news article are © Airbus SAS.