In the heart of Toulouse, Airbus has its pylon factory. Airbus makes all its engine pylons here. The plant is on the site of the old Dewoitine aircraft factory. This is a long gone but once proud French company. The current plant is impressive for a number of reasons. We were given a tour by Airbus during the NEO Technical Briefing.
First, as the image illustrates this plant is in the middle of what is now residential living. An aerospace factory surrounded by homes. And from the outside you wouldn’t know it. Airbus has cleverly softened the look of the plant on the outside. But there are certain things you can’t hide – like noise. This plant doesn’t make any noise.
Take a look at these machines, this is big iron. They machine parts from titanium. The machine tools are huge. But, amazingly for an American to see, nobody wears safety goggles (not the visitors and didn’t see any in the factory at all), no hard hats and (amazingly) no ear plus. There is hardly any “factory” noise at all. No wonder the neighbors don’t notice.
The cleanliness of the plant is impressive as the deployment of high-tech. Note the floor is clean and they have a cute robot that travels around. Many of the media people were quite entranced watching this silent vehicle.
Then we were taken to what was the original plant that was torn down and replaced by a new facility where the A350 pylons will be made. Note the wooden frame against the back wall? That’s a reminder of what used to be there.
The A350 pylon work is well on its way, as these images show. Even as they complete construction – Airbus engineers are working while construction crews finish up the site.
And to prove this, we saw the first pre-production pylon being assembled on the new automated line. Airbus cleverly ducked any statement on whether they would use this new methodology for the NEO or stick with the older non-automated process.
This visit is like any organized by a firm – they want to show off a bit. This plant was impressive for a number of things that are obvious. Airbus is doing good things in terms of engineering. They have closely incorporated the CFM and PW teams to prepare for NEO. They demonstrate all the things you’d expect. But for us the bigger picture here was the standout. A quiet plant doing cutting edge technology in the middle of a city dating back to Roman times. That’s plenty to show off about.