A350 XWB center fuselage barrel to be assembled at new Spirit AeroSystems facility in France

Spirit AeroSystems' new plant in Saint-Nazaire, France, will receive and assemble composite fuselage structures from its Kinston, N.C., plant for Section 15 of the Airbus A350 XWB.

Spirit AeroSystems Inc. (Wichita, Kan.) broke ground Oct. 1 on a new facility in Saint-Nazaire, France. The 5,378 sq-m (57,888 sq-ft) space will be the site for assembly of the center fuselage (Section 15) of the Airbus A350 XWB (Xtra Wide-Body) commercial aircraft.

Speaking at ceremonies in Saint-Nazaire, Dan Wheeler, Spirit’s VP/general manager of its North Carolina Business Unit, said, “Today’s groundbreaking ceremony significantly highlights Spirit’s global scope. This new facility will allow Spirit to serve our customer, Airbus, by assembling composite barrels for the A350 center fuselage section and delivering a high-quality product.”

Spirit won the center fuselage contract with Airbus (Toulouse, France) in May 2008. The A350 XWB’s composite center fuselage structure, known as Section 15, will be approximately 20m/65 ft long by 6m/20 ft wide and weigh nearly 4,082 kg/9,000 lb. Center fuselage frame sections will be shipped to Saint-Nazaire from the company’s new Kinston, N.C., manufacturing plant, which also will produce the front spars for the A350’s wings. Now under construction, the Kinston facility is expected to be operational in 2010.

The Saint-Nazaire site joins Spirit’s expanding list of regional aerospace fabrication facilities that includes sites in Tulsa and McAlester, Okla.; Prestwick, Scotland; Samlesbury, U.K.; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In preparation for the facility’s construction, Spirit has contracted with industrial automation specialist Advanced Integration Technology (AIT, Plano, Texas) to provide the automated drilling and fastening systems that will be used for Section 15 assembly at the Saint-Nazaire plant. AIT will deliver a system based on its proven Flex Track automated drilling technology, which will answer Spirit’s need for both a drilling and fastening solution for the longitudinal joints between the premanufactured center fuselage section’s carbon fiber frames. According to AIT, the system will integrate machinery that will drill and countersink holes, feed fasteners, apply sealant and then install the fasteners, reducing the manual labor involved in previous aircraft generations. The portable units have a small “footprint” and contribute to a cleaner factory environment.