Airbus A350-1000 manufacturing is under way, with Airbus reporting last month the laying up of the first carbon fiber elements, to be followed in the coming weeks by the first cutting of metal parts, according to program executive vice president Didier Evrard. Establishment of systems-installation design maturity is said to be “on plan,” while work continues on the variant’s structural design phase, which will permit the start of engineering drawing. Structural design maturity “incorporating all requirements” also was completed by mid-June.
The first stretched variant of the A350XWB (Xtra widebody) is likely to appear after 60 to 70 examples of the A350-900 have been built. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that there is “a lot to do; nothing [is taken for] granted, nothing a given.”
Evrard said the first A350-1000 tooling has been installed in partner factories in preparation for initial manufacture of subassemblies, which is scheduled to begin during the fourth quarter of this year. Examples include tooling for aft- and forward-fuselage side shell molds; center wingbox front, lower, rear and upper panels; pylon composite spars; and machining of landing-gear side-stay forgings.
The A350-1000 is already benefiting from the manufacturer’s experience with the A350-900–a “successful platform”–with flight- and static-test data being continuously analyzed for its potential contribution to the -1000’s design optimization and structure. Evrard specifically cited two examples claimed to represent latest innovations: carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer door surrounds and engine-pylon composite spars.
Because Airbus needs to shorten the new variant’s overall testing time (relative to that for the initial model), it is making more extensive use of simulation, said Evrard. The manufacturer developed many benches to perform ground tests on both the A380 and A350-900 before first flight, but on the A350-1000 it has always planned to move from bench testing toward more simulation.
The program executive said hydraulics systems testing with the A350 iron-bird rig and simulated negative-g wing-bending (to check flight-control kinematics under wing deflection) has been performed “much faster.” Also, on the structures side, time has been saved through use of the digital mockup (as on the A350-900) and interface-enriched generalized finite element method (IGFEM) integrated modeling. Airbus demonstrated ground vibration test by simulation, while high-lift configuration optimization in flight test again was simulated.
Airbus strategy and marketing executive vice president Dr. Kiran Rao claims that on long haul routes the A350-1000 will have cash operating cost (COC) per seat some 25 percent lower than that of the current Boeing 777-300ER, which is expected to be replaced in production after the end of the decade by the new Boeing 777-9X and -10X. Compared to the 777-9X, Rao estimates a 5-percent COC-per-seat benefit and 15-percent COC-per-trip advantage (assuming a two-class cabin layout over 4,000 nm, fuel price of $3 per U.S. gallon, and with the A350-1000 and (10-abreast) 777-9X configured for 369 passengers and 405 passengers, respectively).
Rao claimed that the “heavier” 777-9X has required a longer wing to recover aerodynamic efficiency, which in turn had to be offset by seating passengers 10 abreast, but he is “sure [the -9X] will have a noise issue.” He argues that 15 to 20 of the additional 30 to 40 seats in a -9X (compared to a current 777) are required to cover the cost of its higher weight, leaving only the balance for extra profitability.
The first engine run of the A350-1000’s Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 was “imminent” last month and may have been completed before this week’s show. The powerplant is scheduled to fly on a testbed next year, with Airbus aiming to fly the A350-1000 by mid- to late 2016 ahead of service entry in the second half of the following year.