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Airbus targets end of August for allocation of bulk of A350 work packages

Despite the collapse of talks with the preferred bidder for its German plants, Airbus is confident it will have allocated the bulk of the A350 XWB's external aerostructures work by the end of August.

It says that the selection of partners for unallocated packages is wide open to international suppliers.

In value terms, 50% of the A350's structure is being allocated outside the core Airbus sites, although at least a third of all this external work will be undertaken by factories that the airframer is in the process of selling.

Five of the six main fuselage work packages have been allocated to the French and German sites being sold (see graphic), says Francois Caudron, vice-president customer and business development on the A350 programme.

One of the two wing packages (the fixed trailing edge assembly) has been allocated to GKN, the preferred bidder for the Airbus UK plant in Filton. The supplier for the other wing package - the fixed leading edge assembly - is yet to be selected.

"These allocations represent around a third of the total external aerostructures work packages. We aim to have 90% allocated before the third quarter," says Caudron.

Despite the slow progress in the completion of the factory sell-offs - and the termination of discussions with MT Aerospace about the sale of German plants in Laupheim, Nordenham, and Varel, Airbus has been setting down the industrial groundwork at these sites to ensure that A350 production is not disrupted. Caudron says that long-term investment has been launched covering autoclaves and tooling.

The one major airframe work package that remains to be allocated is the upper part of the centre fuselage (Section 15), which is carbonfibre.

A350 programme chief Didier Evrard says that this work could be allocated to an international supplier such as Spirit AeroSystems of the USA.

Evrard adds that the top panel of Section 16/18 (the rear fuselage) will not be outsourced: "This is a double curvature shell and is the reference for this technology so we will keep it in-house."

Other major A350 workshare packages that are yet to be allocated to external suppliers include the wing movable surfaces the rear end of section 19 (tail cone) the belly fairing the vertical and horizontal tailplanes and the cabin and cargo floor.

In overall terms (with systems included), Airbus's supply strategy on the A350 is to buy in two-thirds of the total "business value" (excluding engines). Caudron says that the two-thirds being externally sourced is divided roughly evenly between airframe and systems.

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