While Boeing enjoyed its long-deferred moment of triumph in achieving first flight of the 787, Airbus quietly moved forward with the initial manufacturing stages of the rival A350XWB. In early December, Airbus manufactured the first composite lay-up for the new widebody at its factory at Nantes, in western France. The panel for the center wing box (CWB) covers a surface area of just over 387 sq ft, making it the largest “monobloc” composite panel ever made at the plant using its new laying machine. Airbus has since delivered the CWB to the nearby Saint-Nazaire factory for integration with other parts of the airframe.
Looking ahead, 2010 appears likely to prove a busy year for the A350. If Airbus sticks to its schedule, the year will see the end of the program’s detailed design phase. Next year’s agenda also includes the start of major component assembly and equipping, CWB sector assembly and integration testing. Work on the development of various A350 simulators will continue. As Airbus aims to maintain the pressure on the 787 program, schedules call for A350 final assembly to start in mid-2011, first flight in early 2012 and service entry in mid-2013.