01 August 2014

A350-900; from development phase to series ramp up. “Head of version” concept.

The improvement plans of suppliers for the A350 are in the spotlight as the -900 variant moves closer to certification and entry into service and Airbus’s focus shifts from development challenges to an intense effort to ramp up production smoothly. 

Based on a photo by @horstroad

The A350 production rate stands at 2/month now, even though flight testing is ongoing. MSN006 and MSN007, the first production-standard aircraft, are in advanced stages of assembly in Toulouse. By the time the first A350  is delivered to Qatar Airways—tentatively planned for the end of November—Airbus should be building 3 A350s/month. It plans to increase the rate to 5/month a year later and 10/month eventually. 

photo by @horstroad

But production volume is not the only hurdle. As is typical for new aircraft, Airbus also has to deliver many different so-called heads of versions, the first aircraft customized for  the launch customer. In spite of efforts to reduce customization—and thus final assembly complexity—Airbus must still provide airlines their many requested individual solutions, in particular in the cabin, where they aim to differentiate themselves.

photo by @horstroad

Airbus plans to freeze the aircraft definitions for 10 customers this year, including Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Cathay Pacific. In 2015, 15 more airline definitions will follow for Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, Asiana, Air Caraibes, Etihad and Hawaiian Airlines, among others. And the definition number will rise to 17 in 2016, when carriers such as TAM, Aeroflot, United Airlines and Air China have to make final configuration decisions for their A350s.

photo by @horstroad

Last year, Airbus inaugurated a Customer Definition Center at its plant in Hamburg, Germany, to provide  airlines with better facilities in which to evaluate interior design choices.

Based on the article “Shifting Gears” published in Aviation Week   

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