Government-backed project boosts Filton workforce

Airbus is taking a big step towards reassuring its UK subsidiary on its future as the company's wing centre of excellence as it takes on leadership of a £34 million ($66 million), UK government-backed initiative to develop greener, more cost-effective wing technology for use in programmes from 2020.

Airbus is supplying £7.25 million of funding for the Integrated Wing Aerospace Technology Validation Programme, while the UK government is providing £17 million.

About 50 people at Airbus's Filton site are working on the project. Michael Smith, Airbus UK R&T programme manager, says the workforce will eventually grow to about 100. Once the three-year research phase of the project is complete, the partners intend to create a technology demonstrator, bringing together the technologies with the greatest potential benefits and "which often carry the highest development risks". At this stage, the project's focus is likely to move to Airbus UK's Broughton site in north Wales, says Smith.

Speaking at a ceremony to launch the project last week, Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois stopped short of confirming that the Airbus A350XWB wing would be manufactured at the company's site in Broughton. There have been concerns that the withdrawal of former 20% shareholder BAE Systems in October would jeopardise the UK's workshare in future Airbus programmes.

But Gallois sought to reassure workers at the Airbus site, saying: "We consider Great Britain as a home country. We think for the next planes, [UK] workshare will be around 20%, as in the past."

Gallois denied that manufacture of A350 XWB wings in the UK depended on government funding. "It is clear that we want to develop our activities in Great Britain," he said. "We have a faithful, confident relationship with the UK government."

More details of the Power8 plan, under which Airbus is seeking to make cost savings of at least €2 billion ($2.6 billion) from 2010, will be announced early next year, Gallois added. Airbus is expected to make significant changes to its production strategy to meet this target.

The Integrated Wing project includes 17 academic bodies, research centres and industrial partners.

Read Helen Massy-Beresford's Blog 'The next step for Airbus wings'

Source: Flight International