The A350 program continues to check off milestones, with another checked off this week with the delivery of the first wing-box from Airbus facility in Nantes to its facility in St. Nazaire. Didier Evrard, head of the A350 program, said “This is a great milestone and marks a significant step forwards for the A350 programme as we get closer to start the final assembly of the fist aircraft.”
This is a major component of the aircraft, 21.3 feet long, 18 feet wide, and 12.7 feet tall, and is transported from Nantes to St. Nazaire by river barge along the Loire River. Once it is joined with the fuselage in St. Nazaire, it will be carried by Beluga aircraft to the new A350 final assembly facility in Toulouse.
40% of the center wing box is made from composite materials, with the largest panels for the box having a surface area of 387 square feet – the largest composite structures made by the Nantes facility that specializes in composite structures in the Airbus manufacturing organization.
This is a significant milestone for Airbus, and a critical area for the program, especially given the problems Boeing had with its wing box for the 787. So far, so good, as this first component appears to be both on-time and on-quality.
Will the A350XWB appear on time, or be delayed? While the jury is still out, the initial signs are becoming more positive.