Airbus proudly showed off its first flyable A350 today. The aircraft is on its wheels for the first time being moved out of station 40 of the main assembly hall at the recently inaugurated “Roger Béteille” A350 XWB Final Assembly Line in Toulouse. It was towed to the adjacent indoor ground test station (Station 30).Only a few months (10/23/12) ago the airplane looked like this at station 40.
We got a chance to walk through the airframe and see the number of red tags where workers needed to go back and fix things. In the whole hull there were fewer than 50. This is impressive given that this is the first hull to fly. Airbus has been deliberate about this program, to a fault some might say. But we have to recognize that the company has learned tough lessons from A380 and A400M. The deliberate approach irritated some customers, however the end product is an airplane that is looking likely to be well built.
At station 40 Airbus performed electrical power-on of the fuselage and wings. Work at station 30 will start testing the hydraulic system, followed by full electric and hydraulic power-on, which will be completed by around the end of the year. After MSN-001 exits station 30, it will go through a series of extensive production and certification/development tests, get its paint job and then have its engines installed. The airplane will be delivered to the flight-line and then be readied for its first flight in mid-2013.
Here we see an aerospace program making progress, and we note with interest how Airbus has given the media regular reports with images as the airplane has made its way through various production steps. Even though there have been delay, the flow of information helped to ameliorate these delays. Go back and take a look at the information flow on other programs to see how well Airbus has managed this program’s information flow.
We look forward to seeing this airplane at the Paris show next year. In 2012 it was the 787 that got the attention, but 2013 will likely see the A350 have its show moment.
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