Andrew Doyle/MUNICH


DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa)claims to have demonstrated the feasibility of constructing the outer wing structure of the Airbus A3XX from carbonfibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) following the completion of rig tests in Hamburg.

The work could reignite a decade-long controversy with BAE Systems over wing design and manufacture when Dasa started its campaign to try to break its partner's wing design monopoly.

Completion of the German rig tests coincided with finalisation of a joint UK Government/industry-funded programme to study more affordable manufacturing processes for composite wings under a programme known as AMCAPS 2. Both sides want to bolster their position ahead of critical decisions on A3XX and the Airbus Military Company's A400M workshare.

The German tests of a Dasa-designed CFRP wing for a generic 100-seat regional airliner with a take-off weight of up to 50t (110,000lb) was subjected to 90,000 simulated flight cycles. The final third were carried out after introducing damage to the wing structure, to investigate defect tolerance characteristics. The wing was then destroyed in an ultimate load test.

"We have demonstrated that we can develop and manufacture CFRP wing structures for anything from a 100-seater up to the outer wing structure of a large airliner," says Dasa Airbus president and chief executive Gustav Humbert.

The 480-650-seat A3XX will incorporate CFRP outer wings, although no decisions have been taken on workshare. Dasa declines to comment on whether it will bid to supply the outer wing sections.

If launched, the A400M will have a CFRP wing and is the probable target of German ambitions. The UK is likely to select the A400M, but it is known that BAE Airbus is worried about the size of its order.

With France considered to "be firm for 50", the Germans following suit for workshare reasons and 50 A400Ms to be taken by Belgium, Spain and Turkey, the UK would need to order at least 36 to fill its 20% workshare and virtually guarantee its continuing position as Airbus wing supplier.

Source: Flight International