Some two years from now, she is expected to enter service, but metal cutting for the first Airbus A350F has started recently. The first parts to be produced are for the Centre Wing Box (CWB), which is the heart of the aircraft, Airbus reported this week.
Machining of the first parts was done in Nantes and one of the production facilities of Airbus Atlantic, the new aerostructures business unit that was officially formed in January 2022. Although the CWB consists mainly of carbon-reinforced plastics and aluminum-lithium, key parts of the wing box are metal. Like the so-called vertical cruciform, to which the outer-wing boxes are joined with the CWB. This has been one of the first parts that were machined.
Also already machined are the external foot frames, which join the CWB to the lateral fuselage shells and the main floor of the cabin. Being a freighter with a payload volume of 109 tonnes, the foot frames on the A350F have been modified and reinforced to support the higher loads.
The complete CWB subassembly will be transported from Nantes to another facility in Montoir-de-Bretagne, which used to be called the Saint-Nazaire facility. Here, the wing box will be integrated with the center fuselage. The complete section will then be transported by BelugaXL to Toulouse and the Final Assembly Line of the A350.
Airbus has received orders for 35 A350Fs since the official launch in 2021. Launch customer is Air Lease Corporation (ALC), which placed an order for seven aircraft during the 2021 Dubai Airshow. French logistics company CMA CGM followed with an order for four, like Air France with which the company had officially started its joint venture on April 1. Singapore Airlines has also ordered seven freighters, the same number as ordered by Etihad. Silk Way West had ordered two. The latest customer is Air France-KLM cargo subsidiary Martinair with an order for four.
Although it has been beaten recently by Boeing with some strong 787 orders, Airbus won its first A350 order in India in February with forty aircraft from Air India. Airbus plans to ramp up the production of the A350 from the current six per month to nine by the end of 2025. The A350F will only have a minority share of all orders, yet Airbus has adapted fifteen out of 38 working stations in Nantes to assemble the Centre Wing Box for the full freighter.
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.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.