Airbus: A350 XWB wings manufacture back on track

After delays caused by software problems associated with automated drilling of the composite wings for the A350 XWB, Airbus says it has resolved its issues and will ship a set for the first flying test plane this week.

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The Bloomberg news service reported on Oct. 18 that Airbus (Toulouse, France) says it has overcome production challenges on the composite wings for its new A350 XWB aircraft and a set for the first flying test plane will arrive at the final assembly line in southern France this week.

The GKN Aerospace facility in Wales, U.K., where wings for all Airbus planes are built, reprogrammed the software that guides machines to drill 6,000 holes in each wing, and successfully shipped five units within five weeks in September and early October, the program director said.

Construction of the A350 wings differs from other Airbus jets, as the A350 wing lies flat during manufacturing, with automated drilling performed from above. Delivery of the wing slipped by a month because of difficulty drilling the holes, which are done by a robot rather than manually.

“This is a brand new process, it’s our first-ever horizontal build, the first time we’ve ever built a wing for a commercial aircraft in composites, and in the early sets we had some refinements to make to that drilling process,” Trevor Higgs, the head of A350 wings, said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Each wing requires the holes so that the upper and lower skin can be attached to ribs that run through the structure. Airbus will begin piecing together the wings with the fuselage and tail section later this month, following an official inauguration on Oct. 23 of the facility in Toulouse, where Airbus is based.

Click Bloomberg for original report.