Evidently regarding discretion as the better part of valor, Airbus has revised the production schedule for its planned A350 XWB, owing to delayed sub-assemblies under production by partners in Europe and the U.S. Airbus has moved the twin-aisle twinjet’s first-flight date from late 2012 to the first quarter of 2013.
Schedules now show entry into service (EIS) for the initial A350-900 variant with launch customer Qatar Airways some time in the first half of 2014, rather than during the last two quarters of the preceding year.
Airbus parent EADS confirmed the project’s timetable adjustment within its third-quarter results, which showed a Euro 200 million (about $270 million) charge against the late-running program. Near the top of the A350 agenda stands the need to ensure maturity of the main components and sub-assemblies now under assembly at Toulouse in southwest France, where Airbus hopes to begin assembling the first airframe – the static-test article, dubbed “ES” – early in 2012.
“Lessons learned from previous programs [will be] applied for the next [final-assembly] phase,” according to Didier Evrard, Airbus executive vice-president and A350 program head.
The manufacturer particularly stresses the importance of monitoring progress among suppliers. “We need to control out-of-sequence work, or we will lose efficiency,” said Evrard. “We cannot allow too much work to travel.”
A new “route to entry into service” released on Thursday shows final assembly now expected to continue well into early 2013.
Noting that the first A350 airframe is now reaching the end of the pre-FAL stage, Evrard acknowledged some delay due to the late availability of certain key composites and detailed parts. “But we can be satisfied with what we see,” he said. “It is our top priority to reach the highest levels of part-readiness before aircraft sections enter final assembly.”
Outstanding sub-assemblies that still haven’t arrived from program partners include composite fuselage skin-panels supplied by Spirit AeroSystems in the U.S. and parts coming from UK provider GKN Aerospace, which holds responsibility for wing spars and fixed wing trailing-edge assemblies. Those items effectively have set the pace for final assembly.
Spirit AeroSystems shipped the first A350 center-fuselage panels for the upper-shell assembly last month, when the supplier acknowledged that it was “work[ing] with Airbus to meet all their requirements and delivery schedules for the pre-final assembly phase.”