Airbus Begins Manufacturing The Wings For The First A350 XWB


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Airbus Begins Manufacturing The Wings For The First A350 XWB

By Shane Nolan

November 22, 2011 - Assembly of the 32 meter long carbon fiber wings for the first A350 XWB (MSN1) has started at Airbus’ recently opened “North Factory” in Broughton, UK.

Most of the A350 XWB wing is made of light-weight carbon composites, including the upper and lower wing covers, stringers, front and rear spars.  

The advanced structural designs, combined with superior wing aerodynamics are significant contributors to the 25% fuel saving performance of the aircraft. With an area of 443 m2 (4,770 sq ft) it will be the largest wing ever produced for a single-deck widebody aircraft. The geometric wingspan of 64.8 m (213 ft) is 4.5 m (15 ft) greater than that of the A330.

This is the same span as the long-range Boeing 777-200LR/777-300ER, which has slightly less area. The wing tip will not sport the traditional wingtip fences, but instead are curved upwards at the final 4.4 meters (14 ft), "sabre-like". The new wing will have 31.9° of sweep, helping to increase typical cruise speed to Mach 0.85 and maximum operating speed to Mach 0.89. 

A new trailing-edge high-lift system has been adopted with an advanced dropped-hinge flap (similar to that of the A380), which permits the gap between the trailing edge and the flap to be closed with the spoiler. The manufacturer has extensively used computational fluid dynamics and also carried out more than 4,000 hours of low- and high-speed windtunnel testing to refine the aerodynamic design, achieving the final configuration of wing and winglet on the "Maturity Gate 5" on 17 December 2008.

Pre-assembly of ribs, upper and lower covers and fixed leading and trailing edges, has already taken place. These components will be moved into the main assembly jigs for full wing box integration. The ribs are produced by Korean Aerospace Industries in Korea. The upper and lower covers come from Airbus plants in Stade and Illescas. In addition, Airbus extended enterprise partners, Spirit and GKN provide the fixed leading and trailing edges. 

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 fiber-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 September 2011, 567 orders had been placed for the new aircraft.

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