Last July EADS announced an
additional charge of 124 million euros in relation to the program for its new
commercial airliner, which has also led to a further delay for the first
delivery of the A350 XWB. The shift in the schedule is the result of longer time
being taken to implement a new automated drilling process for the aircraft
wings at the Airbus plant in Broughton (United Kingdom). Meanwhile, the program
continues to complete new milestones such as the delivery of the first vertical
tailplane to the Final Assembly Line, manufactured by the Spanish company

A new setback has emerged for
the A350 XWB, one of the most ambitious commercial aerospace programs for the
coming years and the jewel in the crown for EADS’ civil aircraft ac­tivities,
headed by Airbus. The European company has announced that the program will
suffer a delay of various months due to further problems in the drilling and
assembly process for the aircraft’s wings. Although Airbus already acknowledged
that it was experiencing dif­ficulties with the wings of the A350 during the
last edition of the Farn­borough Air Show, EADS officially confirmed the
situation in late July when it presented its first-half results. The company
has booked an additional charge of 124 million euros deriving from this latest
delay under the A350 XWB program.

According to the announcement
by EADS, “Entry-into-Service has moved into H2 2014 mainly due to the time
taken for the implementa­tion of the automated drilling process for the wings.
A charge of 124 million euros has been booked in the second quarter which
accounts for the actual delay of around three months. The A350 XWB remains a
challenging program and any further delays would lead to higher rates of
charges,” the company highlighted.

Problems were detected in the
robot responsible for drilling the holes into which the parts are inserted to
attach the wings to the frame. This machine is located at the Airbus plant in
Broughton (United Kingdom), where the wings are assembled using parts
originating from other sites that include the Illescas plant in Toledo where the
lower cover of the wing is manufactured, and Stade (Germany), which is
responsible for the upper cover. The previous delay for the A350 program
announced in November 2011 pushed entry into service back to mid-2014, al­though
it was originally scheduled for the second quarter of 2013.

These are the dates for the
A350-900, the base version which will be delivered to the first customer, Qatar
Airways. EADS has not yet clarified the official dates for entry into service
of the other two ver­sions, the A350-800 and A350-1000. Airbus indicated in
2011 that the first A350-800 was expected to be delivered in 2016, while the
larger version would be ready mid-way through the following year.

Delivery of the first VTP

The company has indicated that
this temporary setback with the wings does not pose a threat for the program,
but rather a further obstacle posed by the technological complexity of this
project which is one of the most important in recent years in the international
aero­space industry. Indeed, the A350 program continues to advance with new
deliveries by suppliers and assembly of the first airframe to be used for
static ground tests and the first flight test aircraft, both of which are being
developed on the Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, France. Airbus delivered the
front fuselage of the first flying aircraft (MSN1) in July. This 21-meter-long
component was manufactured in the French plant at Saint-Nazaire. In August the
company powered up the electrical systems of the flight deck and front fuselage,
while in early September the first wing from the Broughton plant was deliv­ered.
With a length of 32 meters
and a width of 6 meters,
the wing is made from carbon fiber composite material and will be integrated on
the aircraft to be used for static structural ground tests.

However, the biggest milestone
for the Spanish aerospace indus­try working on the A350 program was the
delivery of the first verti­cal tailplane (VTP) manufactured by Aciturri. This
company based in Seville and Cádiz is responsible for the design and
development of the production systems for all of the metal and composite
structural elements and the electrical and hydraulic systems integrated in the
aircraft's vertical tailplane, with the exception of the rudder.

Since this contract was awarded,
Aciturri has steadily completed the different milestones scheduled, consisting
of the design and opti­mization of the VTP elements, manufacture of the first
prototypes and validation of the design and manufacturing processes. The
company has implemented an intensive investment plan which will reach 110
million euros in 2013 to develop the products and processes related with the
work package for the A350 and new facilities and equipment. Apart from the VTP,
Aciturri is also responsible for the internal parts of section 19, which
connects the aircraft fuselage with the horizontal and vertical tailplanes.

The vertical tailplane was
delivered during an internal ceremony at­tended by the main suppliers of the A350
XWB program held in late August at the Stade factory, where the company will be
responsible for integrating the fixed (VTP) and mobile (rudder) sections of the
verti­cal tailplane for all the aircraft built. This event also marked the delivery
to the FAL at Toulouse of the first complete VTP and rudder which will form
part of the first flying A350.

Aciturri was represented by a
delegation led by the head of the VTP program, Javier Pezzi, and the company’s
CEO, Ginés Clemente. The event was also attended by Didier Evrard, A350 XWB
Program Head, Rafael Gonzalez Ripoll, Director of Airbus Operations, and Carlos
Me­liveo, Director of the A350 XWB program in Spain, among others. Dur­ing his
speech, Evrard emphasized that the VTP developed by Aciturri for the static
tests was the first one to be received at the A350 FAL in Toulouse and
highlighted “the importance of this project to consolidate Spain’s image as a
benchmark for the manufacture of composite parts.”