MAX KINGSLEY-JONES / TOULOUSE
Milestone nears as half of design drawings are handed over for manufacturing
Airbus is gearing up to start structural assembly of the first major A380 components at its plants across Europe, as 50% of design drawings have been released to manufacturing.
The major component assembly (MCA) hall at Airbus Deutschland's Hamburg Finkenwerder plant will be the first large subassembly complex to be completed when it is formally opened next month. Assembly of the first A380 forward and aft subassemblies is due to begin at Finkenwerder by August, with the first two units to be fatigue test items.
Meanwhile, the new wing plant at Airbus UK's Broughton site is almost finished, and wing assembly is due to begin by October. The first wing skin/stringer attachment was completed in early April. Construction of the initial batch of Section 21 centre wing boxes has been completed at Airbus France's Nantes factory.
Airbus vice-president A380 programme Charles Champion says that around 18,000 of the 35,000 design drawings have now been released to manufacturing. "All the basic structural design drawings have been released. We are now concentrating on detail design such as systems, plumbing and wiring bundles," he says.
Engineering resources are at their peak, with Airbus employing 5,000 engineers on the programme (excluding vendors and suppliers). Keeping the aircraft within its weight target remains a "fight" says Champion, and is an ongoing task. "We have already identified some changes which are being implemented," he says.
The completion of the surface transport system, which will involve ships, barges and road haulage to transfer assemblies to the Toulouse final assembly line, is on target.
A pilot run of the system is due to be undertaken in October, although the roll-on/roll-off vessel which will transport the assemblies on the sea-leg of the voyage is not due to be delivered until March next year.
Final assembly of the first A380 is due to begin in Toulouse in the second quarter of 2004, and the first flight is scheduled for early 2005.
Source: Flight International