Airbus’ First A350 XWB Forward Fuselage Is Beginning To Shape Up


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Airbus’ First A350 XWB Forward Fuselage Is Beginning To Shape Up

By Bill Goldston

October 1, 2011 - Airbus aerostructures partner, Premium Aerotec, has successfully put together the first forward fuselage for the A350 XWB at Nordenham (Germany). The impressive all composite fuselage is 13 meters long and comprises four panels and the floor grid. Structural assembly work will continue over the coming weeks before it is transported by boat to Airbus’ Hamburg site for systems installation.

Back in mid September the first A350 XWB wing lower cover (WLC) was transported from Airbus’ composites manufacturing site in Illescas, Spain, to Airbus’ wing assembly site in Broughton, United Kingdom, where it will be installed on to the wing of the first A350 XWB to fly, MSN001.

The wing lower cover was recently produced at Airbus’ Centre of Excellence for composite materials in Illescas, Spain; the part measures approximately 32 meters long by six meters wide, making it the biggest carbon fiber part ever produced in civil aviation.

“This is a major milestone for the A350 XWB program and for Airbus in Spain”, said Rafael González-Ripoll, Head of Airbus’ Centre of Excellence Empennage & Aft -fuselage, “The delivery of the first flying A350 XWB wing lower cover pays tribute to the tremendous achievements made by a highly qualified, technical team. We have again demonstrated our expertise in designing, industrializing and manufacturing primary structures in carbon fiber with the A350 XWB, building on past experiences with other Airbus programs.”

The wing cover will be fitted into the A350 XWB wing in Broughton and afterwards will be transported to Bremen (Germany) where the movable parts will be fitted. Later on, the sub-assembly will go to A350 XWB Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, where it will be joined to the 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.

The Airbus A350 is a 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(€12 billion or £10 billion). The airliner is scheduled to enter airline service during the second half of 2013. As of 31 July 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.

Airbus initially proposed the A330-200Lite, a simple derivative of the A330, which would feature improved aerodynamics and engines similar to those on the 787. The company decided to announce this version at the 2004 Farnborough Airshow, but did not proceed. On 16 September 2004, then-Airbus president and CEO Noël Forgeard confirmed that a new project was under consideration during a private meeting, which was held with prospective customers.

But Forgeard did not give a project name, and did not state whether it would be an entirely new design or a modification of an existing product. He indicated that Airbus would finalize its concept by the end of 2004, begin consulting with airlines in early 2005, and aim to launch the new development program at the end of that year. The airlines were not satisfied, and Airbus committed €4 billion to a new airliner design.

The original version of the A350 superficially resembled the A330 due to its common fuselage cross-section and assembly. A new wing, engines and a horizontal stabiliser were to be coupled with new composite materials and production methods applied to the fuselage to make the A350 an almost all-new aircraft. On 10 December 2004, the boards of EADS and BAE Systems, then the shareholders of Airbus, gave Airbus an "authorization to offer (ATO)", and formally named it the A350.


On 13 June 2005 at the Paris Air Show, Middle Eastern carrier Qatar Airways announced that it has placed an order for 60 A350 aircraft. In September 2006 the airline signed an memorandum of understanding with General Electric to launch the GEnx-1A-72 for the aircraft. Emirates decided against making an order for the initial version of the A350 because of weaknesses in the design, but has since ordered A350 XWBs.

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