The first sub-assemblies for MSN001, the first Airbus A350-900, are scheduled to arrive in Toulouse a year from now in the third quarter of 2011 ahead of final assembly.
The program has eaten significant margin already, having pushed the start of final assembly of MSN001 from second quarter 2011 to the third quarter 2011, with first flight to follow in mid-2012. That event will kick off a 12-month - down from 15-month
- five aircraft
, 2,600h flight test program to certify the new twin-jet.
The initial slip of three months, which maintains an entry into service date with Qatar Airways in mid-2013, was attributed by Airbus to four primary areas
related to the sizing of the majority composite jetliner.
[A350 program manager Didier] Evrard says the decision to push back fabrication was partly driven by
the fact that Airbus is working in so many new areas with carbonfibre,
so "you only have one chance. Normally you could commit to production
with a global finite element model, but the process for development of
structure in composite is really different [to metal] - you cannot
start machining the part and then improve the design.
"The four areas affected comprised the airframe sizing, the wing-root joint, the fuselage's electric structural network (ESN - which helps the conductivity of the carbonfibre fuselage) and the fuselage damage tolerance. While the first two issues have been resolved and the fixes approved, validation of the solutions for the latter two is ongoing but progressing well, says Airbus.
However, with three years to go before it carries passengers, a new report from Bernstein Research is pegging A350 entry into service in 2014. The report by Air Transport World
, does not elaborate on the reasons for the further slip, but states that the European airframer will hand over just eight of the aircraft in 2014.
Asked to comment, an Airbus spokesperson told ATW, "We don't have any basis to confirm the data in the Bernstein report." Airbus has reassured the market in the past that the program is on track for a 2013 first delivery.
With Airbus maintaining its 2013 target, one A350 supplier source tells FlightBlogger: "Airbus is in more schedule trouble than Boeing was with the 787." First Section 15 composite panel fabrication is expected to begin in September or October at Spirit AeroSystems in Kinston
, North Carolina, adds the source, before the parts are later shipped to St. Nazaire for center fuselage build up in the first quarter of 2011.
Despite a potential slip, fabrication of MSN001 has been ongoing since December 2009
, and structural supplier Aerolia, which builds the upper panel of the Section 12, which will contain the A350's forward doors, completed fabrication in July
along with the St. Nazaire-manufactured aluminum lithium lower sill of Section 11 which makes up the flight deck structure in the forward fuselage.Rendering Credit Airbus & Photo Credit Aerolia