Airbus assembles rear fuselage using improved technique

Airbus has assembled a lightweight rear fuselage for the A350 XWB jet-airliner using a technique that improves production efficiency and quality.

Airbus A350 engineers in Hamburg have successfully demonstrated a method whereby four carbon-fibre panels that make up the rear fuselage cabin are guided into position with the help of the rear fuselage barrel.

Airbus production programmes have traditionally assembled the panels and floor grid into a full barrel to which the rear fuselage section is subsequently joined.

Sebastian Mueller, head of the A350 structural assembly line at Airbus, told The Engineer: ‘We are building the aircraft out of four shells. Two side shells on the left- and right-hand sides, an upper shell and a lower shell. In between, we have a floor grid for the passengers.

‘We’re using four really large panels so there are no overlaps for the small parts and much less interfaces, which means it easier to produce.’

The 17m carbon-fibre panels that make up the cabin are manufactured by two German plants; the Premium Aerotec facility builds the two lateral panels, while the upper and lower panels are built by Airbus’s plant in Stade. Airbus built the 3m rear barrel in Spain at its Getafe plant.

Geoff Pinner, head of fuselage engineering at Airbus, said the rear fuselage sections will have systems and secondary structures installed before being transferred to the Toulouse final assembly line.

The A350 is expected to undergo a year of test flights starting in 2013, with entry into service expected in 2014.

The A350 aircraft is reported to offer a 25 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency, and much of this can be attributed to the composite materials used to make the lightweight fuselage.