A350 milestone: Airbus unveils second composite fuselage section

The 18m-long carbon fiber/epoxy demonstrator section proves the validity of Airbus design and process engineering for the forthcoming widebody A350 XWB.

Airbus (Toulouse, France) took another significant step forward in its A350 XWB program, Aug. 9, with the completion of a second large test fuselage section demonstrator. The barrel section, 18m/59-ft long and more than 6m/19.7 ft diameter, closely reflects the A350 XWB fuselage’s final design. This section was used to develop and validate the process chain, says the company, from the manufacture of individual panels, frames and clips, to shell assembly, section assembly and the production of circumferential joints. The component will be a test article in fatigue and damage tolerance trials during the aircraft’s certification process. The barrel is made up of large carbon fiber composite panels, the largest with a chord length of 5.5m/18 ft, and includes a hybrid composite/titanium doorframe structure. Although this barrel was assembled from three smaller sections, Airbus says that barrels built for service-bound A350 XWB aircraft will feature continuous fuselage composite panels of 16m to 18m (52.5 ft to 59 ft) in length. Eleven Airbus plants, located in Germany, France and Spain, participated in the development of the demonstrator.