A350-900 still with the production-weight issues

Airbus is pressing hard to ensure the A350-900 program will not suffer another delay, but also is having to look at cutting weight off the twin-widebody.

The first development aircraft are heavier than Airbus wants, says A350 chief engineer Gordon McConnell.

“We are about 2% away for the first aircraft from where we want to be,” McConnell says. The design for the first production aircraft is not locked, yet, so the weight savings program for in-service aircraft continues.

But McConnell stresses he has “no doubt at all” the weight mitigation program will be sufficient to meet performance guarantees made to airlines. Detailed design optimization should yield the improvements. “We are in reasonably good shape,” McConnell says.

Moreover, Airbus and its suppliers are pressing to prepare the first aircraft structures for the pre-final assembly line (FAL) process at major Airbus sites, before the FAL process itself is to begin by year-end. The first aircraft to be built is the static test model, followed by the first flight aircraft (MSN1) in 2012.

An area being watched closely is the large number of clips and other smaller items that are needed to assemble the aircraft, says A350 Executive VP Didier Evrard. “It is not rocket science, but it is a question of coping with the volume” on the accelerated schedule, he adds.

Evrard acknowledges there is pressure on the A350 program at major suppliers, but insists there are “no blockers” to the pre-FAL. In some places Airbus is working with suppliers and also helping them manage their own supply chain.

Once the pre-FAL process starts, Airbus feels it will have more control over the process, although Evrard notes that program challenges will remain.

Evrard says “traveled work” will be unavoidable, the kind of late work that has to be undertaken in the FAL, rather than earlier where it was supposed to be done; an abundance of “traveled work” crippled the Boeing 787 production ramp-up. Evrard says managing the amount of “traveled work” will be important.

Although the decision to delay fielding of the -800 model by two years was not required to keep the -900 on schedule, Evrard acknowledges “that it will definitely help” as extra engineers will be on hand to perform design clean up on the digital mock up that generally is required once assembly starts.




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