Airbus prepares for A350 production after definition freeze

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Airbus is gearing up to begin production of material for the first A350 XWB this year following the completion of the detailed definition freeze at the end of 2008.

However, the configuration of the rear galley remains a key outstanding issue to which the airframer hopes to achieve an early resolution.

The signing off of the XWB's detailed definition freeze, dubbed 'maturity gate 5' (MG5) on 17 December, marked a culmination of "a succession of reviews" that began in July, according to A350 vice-president for customer and business development Francois Caudron. "The process now moves to the product delivery team," he says.

Production of parts for the first A350 will begin towards the end of this year with the lay-up of composite material at Airbus's plants in Stade and Nantes, says Caudron. "Final assembly will begin in 2011," he adds.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new twin-jet's final assembly plant in Toulouse last week, A350 programme chief Didier Evrard said the baseline A350-900 was now defined "at the aircraft level", with all the principal structures sized and all the systems and the links between the systems "installed" in the design. "We are now going into detailed design at the component level."

One of the objectives of MG5 was to freeze the aero-lines, and this has finally enabled Airbus marketeers to use the definitive look of the twin-jet.

"We now can communicate on the actual aircraft architecture," says Caudron. This confirms the aircraft's revised nose design and definitive shape of the wing and winglets.

Caudron says that the rear galley configuration is one element of the design that should have been finalised as part of MG5, but work is continuing on this. "We have defined the interfaces between the galley and the structure and the design freeze is urging us to finalise this."

Two different galley architectures are being "fine-tuned" after some customers had "highlighted some configuration issues" with the D-shaped galley design, says Caudron.

"Our target is to complete this before the next programme progress review with customers, which will be in the coming months," he says.