787 Dreamliner, A350 XWB updates

Airbus places A350 work in China; Boeing begins fatigue testing on 787, expands R&D center in Seattle.

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CAC Commercial Aircraft Co. (CCAC, Chengdu, China), one of the major aviation industry companies in China, signed a contract on Sept. 15 with Airbus (Toulouse, France) to produce A350 XWB carbon composite spoiler and droop panels as well as center hinge fittings. With this new contract, Airbus says it has now completed its intended 5 percent allocation of A350 XWB airframe work to manufacturers in China. Airbus (Beijing) Engineering Centre (ABEC, Biejing, China), a joint venture of Airbus and China’s two largest aviation conglomerates — China Aviation Industry Corp. I (AVICI) and China Aviation Industry Corp. II (AVICII) — will be involved in the design activities.

CCAC will become the sole supplier of the A350 XWB spoilers and droop panels, and FACC AG (Ried im Innkreis, Austria), a specialist in the development, design and manufacture of composite components and systems for civil aircraft, will be responsible for the definition of the industrial processes for the CCAC work package under a separate contract.
“We are proud to be involved in the latest Airbus aircraft program. With this contract, we have reached our objective to be part of a global aeronautical manufacturing chain. We have long been a supplier to Airbus and have been a partner in several cooperation projects with Airbus,” said Wang Guangya, president and chairman of CAC, the holding company of CCAC, and chairman of CCAC.

Airbus also announced that it will hold a supplier summit in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 15. The event is designed to help Ohio companies learn more about opportunities to work within the Airbus Americas supply chain. It will be held at the Fawcett Center at the Ohio State University, the Dayton Business Journal reported. Airbus procurement executives, together with procurement representatives from Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, will be available to explain how to contract with Airbus and its subcontractors. The company bought about $4 billion in supplies from Ohio companies this past year, says the Dayton Business Journal.

Meanwhile, The Boeing Co. (Everett, Wash.) reported on Sept. 13 that it has begun fatigue testing on the structural airframe of the 787 Dreamliner at its Everett site. Fatigue testing involves placing the 787 test airframe into a test rig that simulates multiple lifecycles to test how the airplane responds over time, says Jim Ogonowski, structures vice president, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Although structural testing already has validated the strength of the airframe, fatigue testing looks at long-term, continued use and is part of the process to achieve U.S. Federal Aviation Admin. (FAA) certification. Fifteen flights had been simulated as of HPC press time. Federal regulations require Boeing to conduct twice as many flight cycles as any airplane in revenue service. Boeing plans to complete 10,000 flight cycles prior to first delivery.

The last Dreamliner to join the flight test fleet made its first flight Oct. 4 from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., to Boeing Field. The airplane, ZA006, is the second 787 to fly with General Electric GEnx engines. Captains Christine Walsh and Bill Roberson were at the controls during the 64-minute flight.

Scott Fancher, VP and general manager of the 787 program, says “We have been focused on completing the testing required for certification of the 787 with Rolls-Royce engines because that is the first model we [will] deliver. A great deal of the testing that we’ve done also applies to the 787s with GE engines and won’t need to be repeated.” There is, however, a smaller portion of testing that is unique to the engine/airframe combination, which includes noise testing, extreme weather operations, function, reliability and extended operations. In addition, testing to verify that the airplane handles the same regardless of engine type and that the systems work on both models is required.

In other news, The Seattle Times on Sept. 10 reported that Boeing will expand its manufacturing research center in Seattle into a 900-employee operation meant to help it avoid the production glitches that have plagued the first 787 Dreamliners. According to the report, the new center will focus initially on building preliminary fuselage, wing and tail sections of the 787-9, the larger derivative of the Dreamliner. Later, it will fine-tune the manufacturing methods on future jets. The report speculated that the move could lead to insourcing of regular 787 production work. It also notes that even if the center eventually does manufacture 787 sections, Boeing’s partners in Japan and Italy would continue to produce the majority of the 787’s wings and horizontal tails. The Seattle center might build three of the 10 shipsets of wings per month under one proposal, according to an unnamed industry source. And the company still plans, as announced last year, to ensure it has suppliers outside this region for all 787 parts so production can be continued in case of a strike.

Boeing spokeswoman Mary Hanson told the newspaper that by August 2012 the company will fabricate and assemble vertical fins for the Dreamliner at its existing nonunion plant in Salt Lake City, Utah. The fins, currently the only major 787 parts made in the Pacific Northwest, are fabricated in Boeing’s Frederickson facility near Tacoma, Wash., which will continue to make fins in parallel with the Utah plant. According to the report, technicians in the Seattle and Auburn, Wash., facilities — which are part of the commercial unit’s fabrication division — have dealt with many of the problems that plagued Dreamliner production in the past few months by supplying parts that failed to arrive from offshore suppliers and by replacing delivered parts that exhibited poor workmanship.

Boeing officials said the company also is expanding its composite capabilities in Auburn. Workers there told the newspaper that the company is hiring toolmakers and tooling inspectors in preparation for bringing back from outside suppliers the work of making smaller 787 composite parts. 

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