Spirit Aerosystems Delivers First A350 XWB Center Fuselage To Airbus

 

 
 
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Spirit Aerosystems Delivers First A350 XWB Center Fuselage To Airbus

By Shane Nolan
 

January 11, 2012 - Spirit AeroSystems, Inc. has successfully delivered its first composite center fuselage section for the Airbus A350 XWB program. The upper and forward lower shell (Section 15) composite fuselage panels were joined in Spirit's Saint-Nazaire, France, facility before being delivered to Airbus. Spirit is the world's largest independent supplier of commercial airplane assemblies and components.

The Airbus A350 is a family of long-range, wide-body jet airliners under development 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. 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.

When Boeing announced its Boeing 787 Dreamliner program, it said the lower operating costs of this aircraft would make it a serious threat to the Airbus A330. In public announcements, Airbus initially rejected this claim, stating that the 787 was itself just a reaction to the A330, and that no response was needed for the 787. But airlines pushed Airbus to provide a competitor, as Boeing had committed the 787 to have 20% lower fuel consumption than the Boeing 767.

"This achievement by Spirit's Saint-Nazaire team demonstrates a milestone in our goal of meeting commitments to our customer on the A350 XWB," said Dan Wheeler, vice president-general manager, North Carolina/Saint-Nazaire business unit. "Our close collaboration with Airbus made this possible. The Spirit team is working diligently to continue meeting the requirements of our customer as we move toward production."

 
   

Spirit won a contract with Airbus in May 2008 to design and produce Section 15 of the A350 XWB's composite fuselage. The first center-fuselage panels were shipped from Spirit's North Carolina facility to Spirit's Saint-Nazaire facility in October 2011. Spirit also designs and builds the composite front wing spar and fixed leading edge for the A350 XWB, which have already been delivered to Airbus in the UK. 

Based in Wichita, Kan., Spirit AeroSystems is the world's largest independent supplier of commercial airplane assemblies and components. In addition to its Kansas facility, Spirit has locations in Tulsa and McAlester, Okla.; Kinston, N.C.; Prestwick, Scotland; Preston, England; Subang, Malaysia; and Saint-Nazaire, France. In the U.S., Spirit's core products include fuselages, pylons, nacelles and wing components. Additionally, Spirit provides aftermarket customer support services, including spare parts, maintenance/repair/overhaul, and fleet support services in North America, Europe and Asia. Spirit Europe produces wing components for a host of customers, including Airbus.

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