Airbus has begun manufacturing parts for the A350F, an aircraft that was originally announced in July 2021.
The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) announced that the first parts were beginning to take shape with Airbus Atlantic, a newly established company unifying the manufacturer’s production sites in Africa, Europe, and North America, started production of the Centre Wing Box (CWB) of the A350F.
According to the planemaker, the first metal cuts for the A350F took place in Nantes, France. The parts include “the “vertical cruciform” – the massive fitting that joins the outer-wing boxes to the CWB” Airbus said in an announcement from April 4, 2023. Furthermore, the site’s employees produced the first external foot frames used to join the CWB to the lateral fuselage shells. The shells have been specially modified to handle loads from the A350F’s main-deck floor.
Airbus Atlantic has been producing the CWBs for passenger versions of the A350. However, Airbus noted that the CWB for the A350F has reinforced floor beams to “support the heaviest pallets and containers which the A350F will transport”. According to the OEM, the “CWB will measure 6.5m long by 5.5m wide by 3.9 meters tall”. Traditionally, the part is made first for a new aircraft or a new variant.
“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,” Airbus noted.
Once the CWB subassembly is ready for delivery in the next few months, it will be transported by road from Nantes to Montoir-de-Bretagne, France where Airbus employees will install the part into the first A350F center fuselage. The major-component-assemblies (MCA) will be transported by an Airbus BelugaXL, a specially designed freighter based on the A330 to Toulouse, France where the A350’s Final Assembly Line (FAL) is based.
The Airbus A350F is scheduled to enter service in 2025, carrying a payload of up to 109 tons over a range of 4,700 nautical miles (8,704 kilometers). Currently, the European manufacturer has 35 orders for the freighter, with the latest order coming from KLM, which ordered four Airbus A350Fs in January 2023.