Airbus starts A350 XWB production in Germany

The A350 XWB wing shell measures 31.6 m by 5.6 m.

The upper wing shells will be built at the 30 000 m2 production hangars in Stade, Germany. Automated tape-laying technology will be used for the carbon fibre but also for the lightning strike protection and glass fibre components. The CFRP wing shell will then be cured in an autoclave which can accommodate two wing shells at the same time.

The Stade plant also produces the stringers (longitudinal stiffeners used in wing panels). In order to produce these components Airbus has for the first time set up a flow line production system which measures 140 m in length.

Other innovations include a new quality control system which permits inspection of the external and internal surfaces of the large CFRP components at the same time, the use of waterjet technology for edge trimming, and a high-precision automated conveyance system for large components.

As well as the upper wing shells for the A350 XWB, the Airbus Stade plant will build the vertical tailplane and, for the first time, CFRP fuselage shells.

Approximately 100 employees will work on A350 XWB production by the end of 2010. This is expected to rise to around 500 when production reaches full capacity.

The A350 XWB is a new family of widebody airliners for which Airbus currently has 528 confirmed orders. Its airframe is made of 53% carbon fibre composites. Final assembly of the A350-900 is scheduled to start in 2011, with first delivery expected in 2013.