Airbus has begun joining the A350 XWB’s 65-foot-long center fuselage with its 69-foot-long front fuselage in Toulouse, marking the official start of the mostly composite airplane’s final assembly, the European manufacturer announced today.
Airbus plans to use the first A350 XWB airframe for static structural tests fundamental to the certification process. Plans call for assembly of the first flying A350 XWB—MSN1—this summer.
The carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) center fuselage arrived in Toulouse on Wednesday, April 4, following delivery via a Beluga transport from Airbus’s plant in St. Nazaire, France. The CFRP front fuselage, also built in St. Nazaire, arrived at the final assembly line on Dec. 3, 2011. Delivery and installation of the composite aft fuselage from Hamburg, Germany, will take place in the “coming weeks,” followed by the wings, from Airbus’s wing assembly site in Broughton, UK.
Composed of front, center and aft sections, the A350 XWB fuselage will come together—along with the nose landing gear—at the Toulouse site’s first main assembly station, Station 50. From there, crews transfer the fuselage to Station 40 for joining with the wings and tail section. Plans call for simultaneous installation of the cabin to the wing-fuselage assembly and “power on” of the aircraft systems, allowing functional tests to start earlier than on previous programs, according to Airbus.