A350 freighter comes to life as first parts produced
Airbus has started producing the first structural parts for its new A350F
The first metal-cuts for the A350F had just taken place in Nantes with the machining of the first parts for the Centre Wing Box (CWB).
"These parts include the “vertical cruciform” – the massive fitting that joins the outer-wing boxes to the CWB," says an official release.
The teams in Nantes have also produced the first external foot frames, which join the CWB to the lateral fuselage shells. The latter are modified on the A350F to support the loads from the freighter’s main-deck floor, the release added.
"The CWB and its associated parts are being produced by Airbus Atlantic – Airbus’ new aerostructures company formed in January 2022 by the amalgamation of STELIA Aerospace and the Airbus factories at Nantes and Montoir-de-Bretagne (formerly known as the “Saint-Nazaire” site). While Airbus Atlantic is already producing CWBs for the passenger A350s, the CWB for the A350F features reinforced floor beams to support the heaviest pallets and containers which the A350F will transport – being at the very middle of the aircraft. When complete, the CWB will measure 6.5m long by 5.5m wide by 3.9 metres tall."
CWB design reinforced for freighters
The first parts produced for a new aircraft or new variant are for the CWB. "On all versions of the A350, this component is largely common and made from carbon fibre. The main CWB design changes for the freighter are the reinforcements required for the increased main deck floor loads linked to its cargo operations. These changes affect the internal CWB composite struts and the metallic (aluminium-lithium) structure on top of the upper composite CWB cover which supports the floor."
In terms of the manufacturing and sub-assembly operations at Nantes, 15 working stations out of the 38 at the factory have been adapted to cater for the new freighter variant’s CWB, allowing production to be intermixed flexibly, ie. together with the CWBs for the A350-900 and -1000 models, the release added.
Once the large CWB sub-assembly is ready for delivery in the coming months, it will be loaded on to a special transport jig and move by road to reach Airbus Atlantic’s factory at Montoir-de-Bretagne. "There it will be installed into the first A350F’s centre fuselage (both the centre and front fuselages of all A350s are assembled and equipped here). The resulting major-component-assemblies (MCAs) will subsequently be flown by Beluga from the adjacent Saint-Nazaire-Montoir Airport, directly to Airbus' A350 Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Toulouse."
When it enters service in 2025, the A350F will carry a payload of up to 109 tonnes over a range of 4,700nm. As a new member of the A350 family, the freighter variant benefits from state-of-the-art technologies, aerodynamics and unrivalled operational flexibility and reliability, the release added. Airbus has received 35 orders for A350Fs including four from CMA-CGM, seven from Air Lease Corporation, seven from Singapore Airlines, four from Air France, two from Silk Way West Airlines, seven from Etihad Airways and four from Martinair.