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The wing assembly centre for A400M military transports was officially opened this week at Airbus’ Filton plant by Lord Drayson, the U.K. Minister for Defence Procurement.
Work on the initial set of A400M wing components already is underway in one of the 8,000 square metre manufacturing centre’s two sets of assembly jigs. A third set of assembly jigs will be installed as the production rate builds up to three pairs of wings per month.
The A400M – the world’s most modern military transport aircraft – represents a major step in Airbus wing technology, as it features the first-ever carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) composite wing-box for an Airbus-built aircraft. It is also believed to be the largest composite wing ever made.
The £70 million (100 million euro) wing centre, located near Bristol, is equipped with new, state-of-the-art, jigs and tools – and utilises automated machinery that includes high-precision automated wing drilling equipment. Wing-box construction consists of pre-assembled leading and trailing edges made of composite spars, metallic ribs and 20 metre-long composite wing skins that incorporate integrated stringers (longitudinal stiffeners).
After assembly, the A400M wings will be fully equipped with hydraulic, pneumatic, fuel and electrical systems and fitted with the flight control surfaces. They will undergo full testing before being flown by Airbus A300-600ST Beluga transport aircraft to the A400M aircraft final assembly line in Seville, Spain.
The first set of wings will be delivered ready for the A400M’s final assembly start-up in March 2007. The initial six sets of aircraft wings, along with those destined for fatigue and static testing, will be equipped with additional instrumentation and other equipment for flight test and ground testing the new-generation Airbus military airlifter.
Tom Williams, the Airbus Executive Vice President – Programmes, emphasised the importance of the A400M programme to the company, stating: “”To date, all the A400M contract milestones have been met on time, and we are giving top priority to continuing to fully meet our programme obligations on this exciting and important programme in the months and years ahead.””
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