A350 Fuselage Takes Shape while Airbus, API Spar over A320 Winglets

 - December 9, 2011, 1:32 PM
Airbus has begun to join the forward fuselage with the nose section in the first A350 XWB in St. Nazaire, France. (Photo: Airbus)

The first 21-meter-long front fuselage section for the Airbus A350 XWB has begun to take shape in Saint-Nazaire, France, where mechanics have begun joining the forward fuselage and nose sections, the European manufacturer announced last week. Once it completes the body join, the company plans to send the finished component via Beluga transport to the A350 XWB final assembly line in Toulouse.

The forward fuselage section, built by Germany’s Premium Aerotec, joins directly with the nose section, already assembled at Airbus in Saint-Nazaire from components produced by France’s Aerolia.

Airbus plans to use the assembly in the program’s static test airframe–the first A350 XWB scheduled for construction. The first “flyable” airframe for MSN1, one of the five flight-test aircraft Airbus plans to build, will follow closely behind, said the company. It will use the static airframe solely for ground tests meant to demonstrate the aircraft’s ability to sustain certification loads and provide key data ahead of the first flight in the first half of 2013.

Separately, Aviation Partners (API) last week responded to a lawsuit filed against it by Airbus for what the European manufacturer characterizes as coercion to pay royalties for patent infringement.

“We are certainly surprised by the lawsuit attempting to invalidate our patent on blended winglets after working closely with Airbus over the past five years,” said Aviation Partners founder and CEO Joe Clark. “We have had many meetings with their engineering group and top executives, both in America and Europe.

“We have built and flown patented blended winglets on the Airbus A320 in Toulouse,” Clark added.  “We have flown them on one of JetBlue’s A320s using JetBlue flight crews with excellent results achieved—a 5-percent fuel savings—all of this with the cooperation of Airbus…What I can tell you is that we will vigorously protect our patented technology and intellectual property…”

In its complaint, filed on December 1 in U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas, Airbus alleges that API has, by demanding royalties, charged Airbus with infringing the Blended Winglet patent in its design of the A318, A319 and A320 narrowbodies.

Airbus claims that the patent is invalid “for failure to comply with one or more of the statutory requirements for patentability.”

API’s threats are a significant hindrance to Airbus and, without an early resolution, place Airbus at a competitive disadvantage,” the complaint reads.