Aerolia opens French composites facility

Aerolia's new Composites Unit in Méaulte, France, opened on Nov. 29 and began production of fuselage and shell unit panels for the Airbus A350 XWB nose section on Nov. 30.

Aerostructures manufacturer Aerolia (Toulouse, France) announced on Nov. 29 the opening of its new Composites Unit in Méaulte, France, north of Paris. The Composites Unit began production of fuselage and shell unit panels for the Airbus A350 XWB commercial aircraft nose section on Nov. 30.

Representing a total investment of €220 million, the 18,000m2/193,750-ftplant is divided into five manufacturing areas:

  • The 5,320m2/57,264-ft2 cleanroom contains the composites layup station and the station where the prepared skins are placed on the curing mold and the stiffeners are integrated. An automatic fiber placement machine simultaneously places 32 carbon tows.
  • The curing area consists of an autoclave with a diameter of 7m/23 ft and an inside length of 14m/46 ft.
  • The trimming area has a machine with two heads which trims and drills the composite panels.
  • The non-destructive testing area performs quality control of the fuselage and shell unit panels by ultrasonic inspection.
  • Finally, after painting in one of the three paint booths, the teams of the four assembly lines, which are equipped with nine assembly stations and four robot stations, perform the assembly and riveting of clips and frames on the panels.

Christian Cornille, CEO of Aerolia, expressed his wish that "this new unit will be, for our Airbus customer, a cornerstone in the success of the A350 XWB, this aircraft which associates composite and metal technologies which, together with systems and pipes, are our specialities."

The Aerolia team working on the A350 XWB program has already crossed several key milestones in the composites, metals and systems domains:

  • The composite panels manufacturing process is now validated and the absence of major industrial risks has been confirmed at Nantes with the manufacture of the first upper et lower shell unit panels.
  • Delivery of the drawing set started in September and will now be the Design Office's core activity until the beginning of 2011.
  • Key parts are in production at Aerolia and in its supply chain, in both the metal and composite domains (ATK, DAHER, Duqueine, MS Composites).
  • At the same time, Aerolia's industrial partners are finalizing each work package, validating the assembly concepts and starting production. This is the case for KAI in South Korea, Latécoère, Figeac, Corse Composites and Aeroteam in France.
  • Concerning the systems, the first hydraulic pipes for the A350 XWB have been delivered by Aerolia Saint-Nazaire for the customer's flight test installations.