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The design for the new long-range A350 is currently being refined during wind tunnel tests, with trials on the wing taking place at various specialist sites across Europe.
A transnational team of Airbus aerodynamics engineers has been working on the A350 for the past 12 months to ensure that all design modifications to the new composite wing are validated.
Wind tunnel tests on the A350 composite wings will soon be followed by cryogenic tests in the pressurised transonic wind tunnel in Cologne in the first quarter of 2006 using a 1/39th scale model of the A350. An innovative new fuel system is being developed at Filton which – among other benefits – will lower maintenance costs and increase operational reliability, as will a new simplified landing gear.
Development work on the A350 is continuing on track towards the next major milestone in early 2006, when the programme moves into its detailed design phase and the centres of excellence take over full responsibility for the development of major components. Manufacturing work is expected to start in early 2007 to support final assembly of the prototype in 2008. Entry-into-service is planned for 2010 after an intense flight test campaign leading to certification.
New buildings are being planned, including a dedicated final assembly line alongside the current long-range FAL in Toulouse, and new manufacturing tools are being designed and ordered. New welding techniques to join fuselage panels will reduce the number of parts and joints, cutting manufacturing costs and saving weight. The fuselage panels will also be larger, as a result of manufacturing techniques developed for the A380.
In France the nose section, built at Méaulte before being equipped and joined to the forward fuselage at St Nazaire, has been reshaped both to increase aerodynamic performance and to create a more spacious cockpit crew rest beneath the cockpit. Work is also progressing at Nantes on the keel beam and centre wing box, both CFRP, and at St Eloi on the all-titanium, fan mounted pylon, another first for Airbus.
The A350 will have a composite rear fuselage and tail cone, each being built for the first time in one “skin”, instead of consisting of several joined panels. They have been designed at Getafe, Spain, and will be produced at Illescas.
Up to 60 per cent of the A350 airframe comprises weight-saving composite materials such as carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) and aluminium lithium alloys. Its composite wing will be a first for an Airbus civil aircraft.
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