Airbus Begins Joining The First A350 XWB Front Fuselage


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Airbus Begins Joining The First A350 XWB Front Fuselage

By Bill Goldston

December 11, 2011 - Airbus has started joining the first 21-metre long front fuselage section for the A350 XWB in Saint-Nazaire (France). This phase will continue over the coming weeks and once completed, the front fuselage will be transported by Beluga to the A350 XWB Final Assembly Line in Toulouse. This will be the first major section of the A350 XWB to enter the Final Assembly Line. 

The front fuselage is made up of the forward fuselage, manufactured by Premium AEROTEC in Germany and the nose section, already assembled at Airbus in Saint-Nazaire from components produced by Aerolia in France. 

This front fuselage is destined for the A350 XWB static test airframe, the first A350 XWB to be assembled. It will be followed closely by the first ?flyable? airframe for MSN1, one of the five flight test aircraft Airbus will build.

The static airframe is used solely for ground tests that will demonstrate the aircraft?s ability to sustain certification loads and provide key data ahead of the first flight in the first half of 2013. The Airbus A350 is a family of long-range, wide-body jet airliners by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. The A350 will be the first Airbus with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer. It will carry 270 to 350 passengers in three-class seating, depending on variant. 

The A350 was born as an A330-derived minimum-changed competitor to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the larger Boeing 777, but was unanimously rejected by prospective customers. Airbus was forced to redesign the initial proposal, but airlines voiced for a complete overhaul. The eventual proposal incorporates major changes, which Airbus says that will be more fuel-efficient, with up to 8% lower operating cost than the Boeing 787.  

The redesigned A350 was marketed by Airbus as the A350 XWB, where the XWB stands for Extra Wide Body. The launch customer for the A350 is Qatar Airways, which ordered 80 aircraft across the three variants. Development costs are projected to be US$15 billion (?12 billion or ?10 billion). The airliner is scheduled to enter airline service during the first half of 2014. As of 30 November 2011, 567 orders had been placed for the new aircraft. 

The new XWB fuselage will have a constant width from door 1 to door 4, unlike previous Airbus aircraft, to provide maximum usable volume. The double-lobe (ovoid) fuselage cross-section will have a maximum outer diameter of 5.97 m (19.6 ft), compared to 5.64 m (18.5 ft) for the A330/A340. The cabin's internal diameter will be 5.61 m (18.4 ft) wide at armrest level compared with 5.49 m (18.0 ft) of the Boeing 787 and 5.86 m (19.2 ft) of the Boeing 777. 

It allows eight-abreast 2?4?2 arrangement in premium economy layout, with the seats being 49.5 cm (19.5 in) wide between 5 cm (2.0 in) wide arm rests. Airbus says that the seat width will be 1.3 cm (0.5 in) greater than a 787 seat in the equivalent configuration. In the nine-abreast, 3?3?3 standard layout, the XWB's seat width will be 45 cm (18 in) which will be 1.3 cm (0.5 in) wider than the proposed equivalent seat layout for the Boeing 787. A ten-abreast high-density configuration is also available.

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