Manufacturing The Airbus A350 Safely & Efficiently
The Airbus A350 is the most modern airliner on the market and Germany’s largest airline, Lufttansa has already put in an order for a significant number of these aircrafts. Creators of the Airbus A350 developed this masterpiece specifically for long haul flights, making it much safer and more comfortable for both passengers and crew. This would increase the number of direct flights to locations 12+ hours away and make travel just a bit easier for passengers. Relieving even a little stress from flying internationally can help out in a post COVID-19 travel era. Well there could not have been a better time for the Airbus A350 to be added to an airline’s fleet, giving patrons the option to get to their final destinations faster.
Manufacturing the A350 is no easy feat. Its size and components require multiple facilities spread out across France. Each part of the aircraft is assembled in a specific station that houses electricians, inspectors, engineers, and mechanics to complete each section of the aircraft. Every worker at Airbus is committed to unequivocal safety standards making sure that every task is done right and checked before marking it as complete. Only with a strong and devoted labor force are they able to produce one of the most modern and sophisticated aircrafts on the market.
Though the actual aircraft is built in Toulouse, France at the Airbus headquarters, there are many parts that are outsourced to other top manufacturing companies. Some of those items are the two latest-generation Rolls-Royce Trent engines. The engines are delivered from Dahlewitz, Germany and only after undergoing a thorough inspection are they affixed to the aircraft.
How Are Parts For The A350 Delivered To Toulouse, France?
In order for operations and production to run smoothly, Airbus relies on a specialty cargo aircraft named the Airbus A300-600ST (Super Transporter) or better known as Beluga. The reason for the name “Beluga” is due to the shape and appearance of the fuselage looking like a beluga whale. The aircraft was first launched in the mid 90’s as the BelugaST. Just last year, Airbus introduced a bigger version of this aircraft called the BelugaXL that can hold a maximum payload of 51 tons with a flight range of 2,200 nautical miles.
With a huge cargo capacity, the Beluga can easily transport turbine engines, wings, and wheels to Toulouse, France to complete the aircraft. Since Airbus has its own cargo plane, projects for the manufacturing of the Airbus A350 run smoothly and are not reliant on other cargo companies. The plane will land in Toulouse-Blagnac Airport and pull right up to the station that is waiting on that specific part. In order for the Beluga to be unloaded, the head of the plane opens up and a specialty crane is aligned to receive the goods. Prior to accepting the parts, each item undergoes a thorough inspection to be certain that no damage was done while in transport. Once that’s complete, the crane will be set into position to receive the behemoth payload.
The Vast Size of The Airbus Factory In Toulouse, France
To get an idea of what presence Airbus has in the Toulouse, France region, there are 20 separate facilities over a 12 kilometer radius. The manufacturing of the A350 takes place in an “L” shaped facility that spans 72,000 square meters long. Right near the facility are another 19,000 square meters of offices, workshops, and logistics areas. The aerospace manufacturing plant is conveniently located by the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport that allows for quick access to important components for the A350. Airbus even has its own devoted runway, not having to wait long for takeoff and landing for the cargo fleet.
The Airbus facility that manufactures the A350 houses approximately 1500 employees who undergo a vigorous inspection to make sure that they are fully devoted to their jobs. The standard of safety maintained by Airbus is like none other. The facility even has its own police force that makes sure that staff that choose to commute by car don’t go over the speed limit. If an employee receives multiple infractions they will lose their parking permit and need to get to work via public transportation. Once on the Airbus facility, the numerous complexes are interconnected via its own devoted bus service. At lunch time all the employees will meet at the cafeteria where they are served a gourmet lunch made by Airbus chefs. It’s important that workers are well fed in order to have excellent concentration for each specific task. Airbus employees understand that the lives of thousands of future passengers flying the A350 are in their hands and will not sacrifice anything for their safety.
Fitting The Engines To The Airbus A350
At the Airbus facility in Toulouse, France each building is referred to as a station and given a specific number to identify it. At station 20 the A350 will have fitted to it two state of the art turbofans engines customized by Rolls Royce. The Trent XWB engine is the most fuel efficient engine in its class that reduces the amount of fuel used during a flight. With the A350 holding anywhere from 37,000 – 44,000 gallons of fuel, it’s vital for the purchasing airline’s bottom line to run the most efficiently. As gas prices fluctuate airlines will often respond with raising ticket prices. To burn less fuel does not only save the company money when the price of oil spikes but will also leave less of a carbon footprint.
Ultra Sensitive Manufacturing of A350 At Station 30
Station 30 houses 30 electricians and mechanics who perform the preliminary functions test on the Airbus A350. In the cargo hold electricians will test every single cable to make sure that each one could handle an artificial boost of electricity. The idea is to play out a real life scenario as if the plane were flying and there was an unexpected increase in voltage through the cabling. During the testing process many wires and parts hang freely which makes this one of the most complex jobs during the manufacturing of the Airbus A350. As each cable is tested the team of electricians works on a highly durable floor made from PVC interlocking tiles. At any moment a part or device could break free and fall which is why the flooring needs to be highly resistant and forgiving to anything that may drop on it.
A350 Reinforced High Speed Wings
One of the many challenges that aerospace manufacturers face is the heavy load of the wings that allow the aircraft to take flight. The weight of the wings of a 747 is approximately 95,000 lbs. or 47.5 tons. In order to make one of the fastest and biggest airliners, research and development is done for the material that is being used for the airplane. As the weight for the aircraft diminishes, speed and fuel efficiency increase. At the same time, the plane will experience less turbulence making flights more comfortable for its passengers.
The A350 is equipped with reinforced high speed wings making it one of the fastest super airliners. The key component to the wings’ lightness and durability is that they are made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic or better known as CFRP. This results in a much smoother wing surface and means less turbulence allowing the plane to fly faster with less air resistance and more lift. CFRP significantly reduces the wings weight by 4.5 tons which plays a big role in its flight performance.
In order for the wings of the A350 to be built properly, the Airbus facility in Hamburg, Germany uses the same concept as a 3D printer. The only difference is that this printer lays CFRP tape on the wing of a commercial airliner. Each wing is built up layer by layer until the wing is completely covered with CFRP. This material is truly revolutionizing the aerospace industry enabling aircrafts to fly faster while burning less fuel.
Manufacturing the Airbus A350 is truly a marvel of today’s technology. Part of what’s difficult about flying is the discomfort that passengers entail during flight. Turbulence is the norm for flying pretty much on any aircraft and it’s something that people just deal with. No one really knows what’s happening and each person has their own way of dealing with it. Some will plug their ears up hoping to be distracted by the movie while others will put in a prayer to the creator. What if it did not have to be that way? What if takeoff and landing were barely noticeable? What if a pilot was passing through a summer rainstorm and you wouldn’t even notice the difference? This is the manufacturing that Airbus is bringing to life with the addition of the A350 fleet. The aircraft has pretty much withstood any test, even flying at a bank angle of 67°. So far the reviews have been excellent. Let’s hope and pray that all flights of the A350 will be safe and comfortable for both its passengers and its crew.