Less than one year after delivering its first A350 XWB (-900), Airbus has started assembling the first major fuselage components at its plants in Hamburg and Saint-Nazaire.
The forward fuselage section has been delivered by Premium Aerotec to Airbus in Hamburg where it will be equipped before being flown to Saint-Nazaire via the company's Beluga transport aircraft. The nose fuselage section has been delivered by Stelia Aerospace to Airbus in Saint-Nazaire for assembly and equipping. The forward and nose fuselage sections will then be joined together in Saint-Nazaire to form the front fuselage which will then be flown by Beluga to the A350 XWB final assembly line in Toulouse.
Assembly of the first A350-1000 wings got underway in August this year at Airbus in Broughton and final assembly of the aircraft will begin in Toulouse early 2016, followed by the first flight second half 2016. First deliveries are scheduled to start mid-2017.
With a length of almost 74 m from nose to tail, the A350-1000 is the longest-fuselage version of the A350 family of widebody jetliners. It will seat 366 passengers in a typical three-class configuration and fly on routes up to 8000 nmi. There are currently 169 firm order for the A350-1000, with total orders for the A350 XWB program at about 782.
In other Airbus news, its first U.S. manufacturing facility is officially open for business. The Mobile, AL, facility will be used to assemble A319, A320, and A321 aircraft by a team of more than 250 employees.
“The Airbus U.S. manufacturing facility enables us to grow our already significant presence in America—the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world—and to be closer to our U.S. customers and key supplier partners," said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO, who came to Mobile for an inaugural ceremony. "The expanded industrial capacity gives us more flexibility to increase production across Airbus to meet global demand.”
Airbus announced plans for the $600 million U.S. facility in 2012, and construction began at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley the following year. The first U.S.-made Airbus commercial aircraft—an A321—is scheduled for delivery next spring. By 2018, the facility will produce between 40 and 50 single-aisle aircraft per year. Airbus’ market forecast indicates a demand over the next 20 years (from all manufacturers) for some 4700 single-aisle aircraft in North America alone.
The Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility joins several other Airbus and Airbus Group operations across the U.S., including Airbus engineering offices in Mobile and Wichita; an Airbus training center in Miami; Airbus Defence & Space Military Aircraft facility in Mobile; Airbus Helicopters factories and operations in Columbus, MS, and Grand Prairie, TX; and aircraft spares facilities in Atlanta, Miami, and Ashburn, VA. The U.S. headquarters of Airbus, Airbus Defence & Space, and Airbus Group are located in Herndon, VA, while Airbus’ Latin America headquarters is located in Miami. The Airbus Group says it purchased $16.5 billion of components and materials from U.S. aerospace suppliers last year alone.
In addition to the new Alabama manufacturing site, Airbus assembles commercial aircraft at modern facilities in Hamburg, Tianjin, and Toulouse.