The A350 XWB industrial process: Xtra optimized from start to ﬁnish.
Large aircraft programmes are complex and challenging, and we bring ﬁnely-tuned and intelligent management to the A350 XWB process, the product of our own experience as well as our industry’s, with the goal of producing an aircraft that is delivered on time and mature from day one.
Build-up of the A350 XWB's major fuselage sections is completed through an optimised workflow.
Elements of the aircraft arrive at the A350 XWB assembly site – located near Airbus' existing A330 jetliner integration facility in Toulouse, France – already equipped and tested. Like a well-planned, high-tech puzzle, the jetliner then comes together through an efficient manufacturing process that moves in steps through several stations within the integration building.
The A350 XWB’s complete fuselage is built up from three major sections, but before this occurs, the cabin’s galleys and crew rest compartments are moved into the aircraft while at Station 59. This enables such large components to be easily maneuvered inside, using the jetliner’s wide cross-section.All is then ready for the fuselage join-up at Station 50, which has movable jigs to accommodate the A350 XWB at this position on the final assembly line. Installation of the front crew rest and rear galley also is finalized, while the nose landing gear is added to the fuselage.
The A350 XWB spreads its wings
Production activities for Airbus' next-generation widebody jetliner are handled in parallel to maximise efficiency.
Station 40 is the next stop in the final assembly line process, where wings and vertical/horizontal tails are attached. Certain other airframe parts are installed as well, including the landing gear and engine pylons.
While the wings and tails are installed, Station 40 also sees cabin interior activity involving the installation of cabin side-walls, overhead storage racks, carpets, floor surfaces and partitions. Such parallel work enables a significant reduction in assembly time. Additionally, first electrical power-on also occurs at this station, enabling ground tests to begin.
Going "airborne" indoors
Final assembly continues with ground testing and installation of the A350 XWB's cabin.
After moving to Station 30, an A350 XWB is subjected to ground tests – with mechanical, electrical and avionics systems validated in configurations similar to in-flight conditions.
Assembly work at this station includes the installation of seats and their cabling, the positioning of door linings, cargo compartment linings, partitions and galley equipment, along with the placement of final structural elements such as the aircraft’s belly fairing, landing gear doors and wing leading edge.
The A350 XWB cabin installation uses an advanced sealing agent for non-textile floor coverings in wet areas called the FCS (Fast Curing System), which hardens much faster than its predecessors and significantly reduces processing time. Deployed from a type of spray gun, FCS can be used for outfitting other Airbus jetliner types, as well.
Cabin tests also are carried out on the air conditioning system, in-flight entertainment network and connectivity, cabin intercommunication data systems, and other functionalities.
The A350 XWB production process is supported by highly efficient operations from start to finish, enabling Airbus to move faster into the ramp-up phase.
Components built by the worldwide supplier network are provided to Airbus’ European production locations in France, Germany, Spain and the UK, where they are integrated into the aircraft’s major sections: fuselage, wings, engines and the tail.
These equipped sections are then pre-tested before being transported to Toulouse, France, where A350 XWBs are built on the optimised final assembly line.
Also enhancing the production process is Airbus’ new way of working with customers in selecting their aircraft interiors, moving away from tailor-made passenger cabins – which involve thousands of variables – to a more industrialised cabin concept.The company’s new A350 XWB Customer Definition Centre (CDC) in Hamburg offers a flexible “catalogue” of solutions that allows airline to choose from extensive “plug-and-play” modular solutions, streamlining the cabin configuration process for Airbus while still providing a layout that meets its customers branding and in-flight service requirements.
Composites and stronger, lighter advanced metals are used in the A350 XWB's extra-wide fuselage – offering nose-to-tail advantages for its airline operators.
The A350 XWB's innovative carbon-fibre reinforced plastic fuselage plus aluminium-lithium and titanium alloy components result in lower fuel consumption and easier maintenance. These materials reduce the need for overall fatigue and corrosion maintenance tasks while enhancing the jetliner's overall operating efficiency.
Look inside the fuselage of Airbus' next-generation extra wide-body A350 XWB.
A350 XWB-MSN1 FAL section 11 transferThe nose section of Airbus’ first A350 XWB to fly is transported to the Station 50 fuselage join-up position of the purpose-built final assembly line at Toulouse, France.
A350XWB aft fuselage sectionAirbus delivered the A350 XWB static test airframe’s aft fuselage to the final assembly line in Toulouse, France, for assembly with the front and centre fuselage sections
A350XWB-MSN1 - Getafe - Sec 19 17-10-2011 - 47The A350 XWB airframe’s tapered rear fuselage portion – known as Section 19 – is transported by one of the Airbus A300-600ST “Beluga” cargo aircraft.
Airbus’ four-panel approach for the A350 XWB fuselage section provides key advantages for both production and in-service operations.
The A350 XWB’s major fuselage sections are created by the assembly of four large panels each, which are joined with longitudinal riveted joints. One advantage of this approach is a better management of tolerances when the jetliner’s composite fuselage sections come together on the A350 XWB final assembly line in Toulouse, France.
The four-panel concept also provides considerable weight savings, as longer panels require fewer circumferential joints – which are relatively heavy – relying more on lighter longitudinal joints. This weight saving also results from enhanced optimisation of each panel for its application and the use fewer joints overall – which are placed for load and weight optimisation.
Another benefit is improved reparability in operational service, as an individual panel can be replaced in the event of significant damage – avoiding major repair work that could require extensive composite patching.
Airbus has made the virtual world a reality in supporting A350 XWB production.
By applying software called RHEA (Realistic Human Ergonomic Analysis), Airbus engineers and production personnel can “enter” and interact with 3D digital models of the A350 XWB by wearing special goggles, helmet-mounted displays, or even in the form of an avatar – an artificial figure with human dimensions.
RHEA has been used by Airbus in such applications as preparing the A350 XWB jetliner’s design and production at the company’s Hamburg, Germany location, as well as at St. Nazaire, France to train production workers building major components.
Testing 1...2…A350 XWB
To ensure the A350 XWB is highly reliable and mature from the moment it enters airline service, Airbus has implemented one of the most thorough test programmes ever developed for a jetliner.
Airbus uses a “pyramid” approach for A350 XWB testing, starting with computer validations during design, followed by component-level demonstrators and the full-scale build-up of certain major subassemblies in the development phase.
The next phase is airframe testing with ground-based installations, which is topped off by a thorough flight test/certification programme.
The A350 XWB: Xtra reliable from day one.
To ensure the A350 XWB’s reliability from the moment it enters airline service, Airbus has implemented one of the most thorough test programmes ever developed for a jetliner.
The “Iron Bird” and Aircraft “0”
Airbus' systems integration test bench is the perfect tool to confirm characteristics of all system components – which was taken a step further with Aircraft “0.”
Positioned inside a hangar at Toulouse, France, Airbus’ ground-based A350 XWB systems integration test bench – also known as the “Iron Bird” – provides an important resource in validating the workings at the heart of this next-generation airliner. With a variety of vantage points for engineers to survey movements, this skeleton-like installation is a representative layout of the A350 XWB’s systems, hydraulic pumps, electrical network and flight controls, which are cycled to represent their operation in airline service.
The “Iron Bird” rig has helped Airbus identify issues related to the integration of complex systems that computer testing alone might not catch. As a result, Airbus has made multiple improvements to the A350 XWB’s hardware and software, which are now incorporated on the aircraft.
Airbus has also linked integration simulators with the “Iron Bird” – a connection which simulates a wide range of in-flight scenarios, creating a so-called “Aircraft 0” representation of the A350 XWB that allows for highly realistic virtual testing.
Other ground test installations also contribute to testing – including a rig in Bremen, Germany that fully represents the wing’s high-lift moving surfaces, a landing gear test facility in Filton, UK for the confirmation of braking and steering functionality, and a platform in Hamburg, Germany that simulates the operation of such passenger cabin functions as ventilation and the handling of waste water.Electrical circuits in the jetliner’s forward and centre fuselage sections are tested in an automated process at Airbus’ Saint-Nazaire facility in France, which previously evaluated the components manually. These automated validations significantly reduce the duration of testing for the A350 XWB.
Going the “Xtra” mile
The A350 XWB’s maiden flight in June 2013 kicked off a rigorous flight test and certification programme that spanned the globe to certify this next-generation widebody – and ensure it is ready for airline service from Day One.
A more than 2,600-hour-flight-test campaign established the A350 XWB as a true globe-trotter, with a fleet of five developmental aircraft carrying out this worldwide program which included cold weather testing in Iqaluit, Canada; high altitude evaluations in La Paz, Bolivia and a hot weather campaign in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. In addition, a global route-proving tour – one of the final steps toward certification – took this highly-efficient jetliner to 14 major airports on four different trips, flying approximately 81,700 total nautical miles in 180 flight hours.
Proving that the “Xtra” makes the difference for this next-generation widebody, the A350 XWB was the first Airbus aircraft to visit the McKinley Climactic Laboratory in the U.S. state of Florida. At this unique location the jetliner was subjected to a range of climactic conditions ranging from 40 deg. C. to negative-40 deg. C in a climate controlled hangar.
Another important aspect of A350 XWB testing was the Early Long Flights (ELF) programme, which went above and beyond certification requirements. For these evaluations, a cabin-equipped A350 XWB flight-test aircraft was operated on two simulated commercial services with real “passengers” – comprised of Airbus employees – and actual airline flight crews to evaluate the A350 XWB’s cabin systems in typical operating conditions.
Going the “Xtra” mile to ensure the A350 XWB’s successful service entry, Airbus also developed its own “airline” – designated Airline 1 – to evaluate the A350 XWB in typical operating conditions. Airline 1 comprised a dedicated staff that operated a hangar and maintenance control centre in coordination with Airbus’ flight-test team – allowing for daily maintenance, support and repair operations for the five-aircraft A350 XWB test fleet in an environment similar to what the jetliner is to experience in commercial service.
The Trent XWB engine takes flight
Airbus' flying testbed aircraft were utilised to successfully evaluate the A350 XWB’s highly-efficient Rolls-Royce powerplant and other components.
Even before the first A350 XWB performed its maiden takeoff, key elements of the aircraft were put through their paces using Airbus’ flying testbed aircraft. The most visible was the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine, which was installed on the company’s A380 development aircraft for airborne evaluations of the powerplant, its advanced nacelle housing and thrust reverser system.Other Airbus test aircraft – including its in-house A320 – were specially fitted and equipped to validate A350 XWB components that include landing gear door sensors, the digital radio altimeter, cockpit oxygen masks, the first officer’s seat and more. In addition, tests on A350 XWB sections were performed during Beluga transportation flights – validating the thermal assumptions made during the design process in low temperatures found during flight.
Advances in simulation technology are applied to the A350 XWB programme – literally from nose to tail.
The advanced modelling and simulations of Airbus’ engineers allowed the company to get a “head start” on A350 XWB testing. As a result, more of the test campaign was conducted on the ground – in some cases before the aircraft performed its maiden takeoff – with flying evaluations focused on validation.
In addition, a validation simulator was used to assess how pilots interact with systems in the cockpit, while two development simulators were operational from 2011 to confirm a proper integration of the airliner’s electronics using real systems.To ensure a truly global cooperation, the same Airbus teams involved in A350 XWB integration testing worked with the worldwide supplier network to monitor and assist the test activities of Airbus’ global supply-chain partners.
Innovative system designs
With its A350 XWB, Airbus built upon the 21st century flagship A380.
Consistent with Airbus’ philosophy, A350 XWB systems were designed by adding new functionalities to bring value to customers, while keeping maximum commonality with other members of the company’s market-leading modern product line. Innovation is targeted for areas which deliver improvements in either performance or ownership costs – across the entire A350 XWB Family. The principle goal of the systems was to keep them simple in order to make them as reliable as possible.
The A350 XWB builds on many innovations Airbus introduced for the A380 – such as integrated modular avionics, electro-hydraulic actuators, and variable frequency generators for electricity – taking them one step further with new features of its own. These advances include the A350 XWB’s variable camber and differential flaps settings that make the wing adaptable to flight conditions.
The A350 XWB also includes several software innovations to improve communications between flight crews and the ground – facilitating more efficient “in-advance” maintenance operations that support better air traffic management.