PARIS: Extended line could ease A350-1000 assembly

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Airbus is studying a project to expand its Toulouse A350 production line, including an additional fuselage-mating station, to cope with ramp-up demand and introduction of the A350-1000.

The scheme centres on three main assembly points: Station 50, where fuselage join takes place, Station 40, where the wings, fin and horizontal stabiliser are attached, and Station 30 which concentrates on electronic and mechanical ground testing.

Airbus has two Station 50s and four Station 40s - two of which act as Station 30 - and has already started modifying its lines to build four separate Station 30s.

A350 programme chief Didier Evrard says Airbus has been forced to examine the logistics of the operation because continuing demand for the A330 means it is unable to turn over the older jet's assembly space to the A350.

Evrard says Airbus is looking at a project to expand the A350 line further, adding a third Station 50 fuselage-mating point and a fifth Station 30. The airframer would retain four Station 40 points for wing join, giving it a three-four-five arrangement across the three stations.

"By doing that we'll have the benefit of more flexibility," he says, adding that it will ease the introduction of the A350-1000 into the line.

Airbus is aiming to have the adapted plant ready in 2016. "We plan to have it all in Toulouse," says Evrard.

He expects the first production A350-900, MSN6, to enter the final assembly line towards the end of this year.

This first customer aircraft, says Evrard, will be "very similar to the last development aircraft", MSN5, and will be delivered to Qatar Airways in the second half of 2014.

The A350 production rate will start at one per month at the end of 2013 and rise to three about a year later.

Airbus intends the shrunk A350-800 to enter service in 2016 but has yet to assign an MSN slot for the first aircraft. Deliveries of the largest family member, the -1000, will start in 2017.