Airbus Innovation days: A350-1000 getting real

By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

May 28, 2015, c. Leeham Co. We are visiting the Airbus Innovation days where we have been given an update all Airbus civil aircraft programs. The perhaps most interesting update is the progress of the A350-1000 as its forerunner, A350-900, is ramping its production to 15 aircraft during 2015.

The A350-1000 is next in turn; it will be flying next summer and will enter service with first customer Qatar Airways summer of 2017. The A350-1000 is getting more real and Airbus gave a good insight to the aircraft’s readiness for prime time during the sessions of today.

The changes to A350-1000 compared to A350-900 is described in Figure 1.

A350-1000 changes 2015-05-28 20.49.48

Figure 1. Changes for A350-1000 compared to A350-900. Source: Airbus.

Design improvements

The A350-1000 is building on all the knowledge and data that Airbus has gathered on the A350-900. With this experience and knowledge, Airbus has taken the chance to go one step further in a number of areas to gain further weight and reliability advantages for A350-1000, Figure 2.

A350-1000 improvments 2015-05-28 20.49.59

Figure 2. Improvements for A350-1000. Source: Airbus.

Primary areas of improvements are:

  • Airbus is increasing the Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic, CFRP, content of the aircraft. Fuselage door surrounds and a portion of the fuselage frames were made with Titanium and Aluminium on A350-900. This will now be changed to CFRP, gaining both weight and cost advantages by means of reduced structural maintenance requirements (CFRP is almost immune to fatigue and requires less inspections).
  • Airbus has also done some other improvements. The bilge area below the cargo floor has got a new frame support structure and the aircraft’s nose landing gear doors are now electrically instead hydraulically actuated, simplifying door installation and maintenance.
  • Finally their are a number of clean ups on the electrical side. A CFRP aircraft means electrical routing is increased as the fuselage structure no longer offers electrical conductivity. The electrical network on A350-900 is rather elaborate as result. The designers have found simpler solutions for the -1000, requiring fewer  connections, something that saves both weight and sources of future trouble as connectors are prone to bad contact when getting old.

Airbus has also worked on increasing A350-1000 competitiveness versus Boeing’s 777 by increasing the cabins passenger carrying capability. We have presented the changes in our article A350-1000 gets upgrade to 387 seats. These changes will  be vital in the competition with Boeing’s 777X, which will come in to the marketplace in 2019-2020.

Program readiness

The A350-1000 is swiftly moving through Airbus program management gates with final design freeze late last year and sub component production having started immediately thereafter, Figure 3.

A350-1000 time plan 2015-05-28 20.50.02

Figure 3. A350-1000 time-plan. Source: Airbus.

This meant that material, like forgings, could be cut to their final dimensions (having been cast earlier and machined down to rough dimensions) and fuselage and wing skins in CFRP could be taped out in Spain, Germany and US.

Subsystems that had to be changed from A350-900, like the air conditioning system (to cater for 369 passengers instead of 315 for the -900 version), had their final interface specifications frozen and could now be finally configured.

First versions of all these parts could now be produced and be delivered during the spring and summer to three Pre-Final Assembly Line sites:

  • St Nazaire in France for the Nose and middle section of the fuselage.
  • Hamburg Germany for the rear section of the fuselage.
  • Bremen Germany for the aircraft’s wings, there being built up to full wings based on wing boxes produced at Broughton, UK.

The actual Pre-FAL assembly with integration of all parts and installation of system starts in August. It will take these sites until January-February 2016 to complete their sections and to deliver them to the A350 FAL in Toulouse.

In addition to these parts from the Pre-FAL sites, empennage parts get built in Spain for the horizontal stabilizer and tail cone with Hamburg doing the vertical stabilizer. Engines are delivered from Rolls-Royce Derby and landing gear from United Technologies’ Goodrich division.

The fuselage sections gets delivered to Station 59 of the FAL to get large test equipment and monuments installed. Then the sections will be joined in Station 50, which has been expanded to three parallel stations to cater for A350-1000 production. The next production stop, Station 40, has also been expand, this time to four in parallel to have A350-1000 test aircraft production and subsequent production ramp to not affect the ramp up of the A350-900. The next step also has been expanded, system integration and test in Station 30, to four sites in parallel.

Airbus COO Tom Williams commented that the reduction of A330 production to six per month for next year is not all bad for Airbus. The reduction in A330 activity is happening as A350-900 and -1000 are ramping up. The A330 and A350 share the outstations to test fuel and pressure systems (Station 18) and the hangars to fit interiors and engines (C63 etc). Facilities and people from A330 FAL can therefore help the A350 program through their challenging period of -900 ramp and start of -1000 production next year.

Flight test

The flight test for A350-1000 will start this year as the 97k lb -1000 engine will be flight tested on Airbus A380 like it was done for the -900 engine. Testing will contain approximately 120h flight hours where also certain engine certification test will be completed. This contributed to risk reduction and a smooth flight test on the A350-900 and will therefore be repeated for the -1000.

Flight testing of the first complete A350-1000 will start next summer and span a nine month test program with three test aircraft flying a total of 1500 hours. Certification is foreseen for Q2 2017 followed by first customer delivery.

Summary

The first A350-1000 will be delivered to Qatar Airways in summer of 2017. It will be a significant event as this is the head on competitor to Boeing’s successful 777-300ER. The Entry into service of A350-1000 will thereby mark a new chapter in the widebody competition between Airbus and Boeing.

15 Comments on “Airbus Innovation days: A350-1000 getting real

  1. Björn, do you know if all, or some of the improvements undertaken on the A350-1000 will be implemented further down the road on the A350-900 as well?

    • We did not ask that (I now ask myselves why 🙂 ). Pretty clear is that the cabin improvements (galleys, narrow lavs etc) will migrate to the -900 interior catalog as well when ready. For things like door surrounds etc, it will at least take time as the detail design information for -900 is all based on existing solutions, this means engineering investments to transfer it over to -900. But eventually they want to streamline this as well, my take.

  2. Do you have any information about the planned production rate for the -1000 when the line is running at a maximum? I recall from sometime ago that this was at 3/mo.

  3. …. and on a completely off-topic, but Airbus-related subject, Airbus has confirmed that the A320 neo’s test program is on hold “for a few days” because of a “maturity issue on the PW1100G, relating to a seal in the vicinity of the high-pressure compressor, some production batches of which have shown slightly more deviations during operation.”

    http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/a320neo-flight-test-campaign-making-steady-progress-412838/

    This reminds of the lubrication problem encounted on the CSeries’ PW1500G, which has been attributed to a design issue, and not “maturity”. At the time, it was specifically said that the design of HPT lubrication systems on other members of the GTF family were not not affected because the design was different.

    Also, the A320neo’s test program has only reached 440 hours. It does not seem like a lot considering first flight was in September 2014.

    • @BernardP

      Well, 440 hrs is more than the 315 flight hrs logged in the KC-135/CFM56 re-engine programme back in the early 1980s.

      The ground and flight test program for the KC-135R to evaluate the engine and airplane performance and flying qualities was conducted at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, and Edwards Air Force Base in California from August 1982 to March 1983. This test program included 46 ground tests and 55 flight tests, culminating in 315 flight hours and 1791 total hours of engine running time.

      Source:
      http://goo.gl/ZpFV9o

    • BernardP

      I saw that and agree its one that bears watching.

      P&W seems to have these issues and maybe not as many resources to ensure they are snuffed.

      F35 engine had the fan rub that was “unexpected”.

    • It is one of the high compressors seals holding clips (spring steel based I guess) that have had a too uneven quality, the seal it-selves is fine. PW has to change these clips to not take any risks, understandably as they took a risk on the CSeries engine (they knew it was consuming oil and that it was the rear bearing box for the main shafts that did not work as expected) and did not intervene early enough. Now rather one small intervention to much then another unforseen unforseen.

      It is a small issue and this is what flight test is for.

  4. I expect a significant number of conversions from -900s to 1000s in the next 2 years.

    Most likely candidates: Singapore, Lufthansa, AF/KL, TAM. New orders could come from QF, EK, Korean, AA.

    Easily doubling the current -1000 backlog. The doubts being pushed over the last 5 years IMO lack credible technical or market backgrounds.

  5. Are all those shown improvements,material changes and weight reductions already be included into the calculation of the published weight data for the 1000?Also, how does a 387 seater Airbus compare to the triple 7 X?

    • Yes, they are included. That is done during overall design and this was freezed long time ago, even the next level, detail design was freezed end 2014.

      The apples to apples comparison of 777-9X and a -1000 with the improved cabin gives the -9X about 20-30 seats advantage.

  6. I concur with the view that we will see many 900 to 1000 conversions. I also believe that with the 900 maturing without apparent problem and 1000 becoming less paper and more real that the a350 ship will start sailing again as operators can see a tangible offering. The 777x suddenly seems a long way away, add in the usual Boeing smoke and there is 4/5 years in which the 1000 can establish itself across the old 300er territory. There appears a quiet confidence about Airbus at present

  7. Bjorn: Another excellent report.

    Yep, Boeing was slow off the mark on the 777X, management wanted to see what the 1000 would be. Hmm, you snooze you loose and you have engineers that can tell you closely what that would be.

    It will be interesting to see what the 300ER market is in the future, does it move up or is it another split? And smaller numbers of 777X that never comes close to the current 100 a year 777 build numbers?

    Looks to me like a split, it will be interesting to see if there is a shift to 1000 and how that all plays out.

  8. “management wanted to see what the 1000 would be.”

    Yes, that’s what they said until recently. I never fully understood what they were thinking. Because the spec did’t change much over the last 5 years.

    Anyway it was apparently defined enough for BA, UA, JAL, QR and CX. Big 777 customers.

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