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June 19, 2024
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Airbus celebrates three program milestones. It announced new developments today on the A321XLR in France as well as on the A220 in China and Canada.

Assembly of the nose and forward fuselage of the first A321XLR will commence soon at the Saint Nazaire plant in France, after six sections arrived from STELIA Aerospace on July 1. The forward section will be fully equipped with system equipment and flight test systems before it will be ferried to Hamburg.
Here, it will be joined with the center and rear fuselage and the empennage that have been produced by its main German aerostructure supplier, Premium AEROTEC. It assembled the rear center tank and rear sections for the first XLR in May. The final assembly of the prototype aircraft including the wings is scheduled for the final quarter of the year.

Physical mock-ups in the days of digital design

While virtual reality is certainly used to test XLR assembly techniques as part of the digital design and manufacturing process, Airbus is still making extensive use of physical mock-ups to iron out any problems during assembly later. It has a Physical Mock-Up (PMU) for the forward fuselage sections in Saint Nazaire.

A321XLR Airframe Leader Martin Schnoor said in March: “We are focused on the XLR’s structure reinforcement due to the different loads, and also on the improvement of the new system for cabin comfort. The PMU gives us the opportunity to bring all modifications together from Airframe, Systems, and Cabin to confirm the industrial interfaces.”

One of the physical XLR mock-ups is the Pre-Industrial System Accelerator (PISA) in Hamburg. (Airbus)

In Hamburg, another PMU is used to check the assembly of the rear center tank, water tank, fuel system, and hydraulic system. Also in Hamburg is the Pre-Industrial System Accelerator (PISA), which is based on a fuselage specimen of an A321LR. It was used to specify the Airspace cabin, but since August last year is serving as a systems integration platform. The main deck of the fuselage is used to test cabin elements of both the LR and XLR, while the lower deck area has been configured for the XLR and its different systems and structures. Even after assembly of the XLR will be in full swing, PISA will continue to be used for training purposes and test cabin specifications that are specific to a certain airline customer, the so-called Head-of-Versions.

Shenyang delivers 100th A220 fuselage

Thousands of kilometers East of Europe, there was reason in China for another progam milestone. Airbus-partner Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) invited media and guests today at its factory to highlight the assembly of its 100th central fuselage of the A220. The forward and center fuselage sections, wing to fuselage wing box, doors and hatches, and tail cones are produced here and then assembled to complete sections. They go by road to Dalian and then by ship to Mirabel (Canada) or Mobile (Alabama), where the two final assembly lines. So far, SAC has produced 750 work packages or parts for the A220.

Party time in Shenyang for the delivery of the 100th central fuselage by SAC. (FATIII Aviation)

SAC, which is part of China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC), has been a risk-sharing partner on the A220 since the program was launched by Bombardier and known as the CSeries. AVIC signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Bombardier in April 2007, which was followed by the signing of the contract at the 2008 Farnborough Airshow. It included four working packages: design, manufacture, assembly, and testing as well as after-market support. Shenyang Aircraft Corporation delivered the first mid-fuselage to Bombardier on June 19, 2015. Bombardier Belfast (now Spirit) has also produced mid-sections. Before the CSeries, SAC has been a long-term fuselage supplier on the Q400 program. 

STELIA delivers first ACJ220 nose section

The nose section of the A220 is produced by STELIA Aerospace in Mirabel. Here, Airbus celebrated the third program milestone as the site delivered the first nose section for the ACJ220 of TwoTwenty to Airbus on July 8. Airbus launched the Xtra Large Bizjet in October 2020, offering the corporate jet with a 10.500-kilometer range. Once assembled, the interior of the ACJ220 will be outfitted at Comlux in Indianapolis. Comlux has a contract for the outfitting of the first fifteen ACJ TwoTwenties. Comlux Aviation has been the launch customer with an order for two aircraft, while four more have been sold to undisclosed customers. Entry into service is planned for 2023.

  Cheering STELIA-employees celebrate the delivery of the first ACJ220 nose section to Airbus. (STELIA Aerospace) 

author avatar
Richard Schuurman
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016. Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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