- Joe Breitfeller
Airbus Sites Gear up for Major Assembly Phase of A321XLR
The industrialization and parts production for the first Airbus A321XLR are underway across the company’s sites and supply chain, preparing for the Major Component Assembly of the first forward, center and rear fuselage and wings in 2021.
On Tuesday (February 2, 2021), Airbus announced that the industrialization and parts production for the first A2321XLR is underway across the company’s sites and supply chain, preparing for the Major Component Assembly of the first forward, center and rear fuselage as well as wings, which will begin in 2021. Additionally, by the start of this year, a large proportion of engineering design drawings have been released. In Tuesday’s announcement, Airbus’ Head of the A321XLR Program, Gary O’Donnell, said,
“The production of components for the first A321XLR flight-test aircraft is progressing through the sites all across the world, for large and small components as well as systems. In parallel many parts are already being tested and demonstrated – on both the aircraft structure and on the systems side – to validate the functionality of all those first aircraft components.
“The production system in particular is now coming alive, with our teams receiving the design drawings from Airbus and the key risk-sharing design partners and bringing them into physical reality. This progress is already enabling Airbus’ factories across Europe and the UK to prepare their ‘pilot’ operations for the major component assembly phase to begin later this year, and in turn, for the subsequent induction of the first completed Major Component Assembly's into the final assembly line at Hamburg in the second part of the year.”
Although all A321XLR sections incorporate significant design changes compared to the current baseline A321neo/321LR aircraft, the most extensive manufacturing differences involve the center and aft fuselage. This includes a completely new Rear Center Tank fuel tank and fuel management systems which are key to the aircraft’s extra-long-range (XLR) capability, while retaining operational commonality with the A321neo.
The Airbus Nantes facility started the subassembly of the center wing box in mid-November 2020. Once completed, this major component will be delivered this year to Hamburg, where it will be integrated with the aft fuselage Major Component Assembly section. The Premium Aerotec Group in Augsburg is currently completing the final parts for the Rear Center Tank and readying the Rear Center Tank’s assembly. Premium Aerotec’s other sites in Nordenham and Varel are also producing various large center and aft fuselage components.
In Hamburg, the Airbus factory is preparing the necessary jigs and tooling for a dedicated new pilot production line in ‘Hanger 260.’ This operation has been deliberately decoupled from the rest of the A320 line so that starting next year the pilot line will enable a gradual ramp up of the A321XLR’s new rear fuselage without impacting the facility’s existing single-body production operations. Further speaking on the pilot line in Hamburg, Mr. O’Donnell added,
“The principle of this pilot line in Hamburg means that we can have a ‘stable factory.’ This will allow us to start ramping-up production of the A321XLR’s aft fuselage Major Component Assembly using longer cycle times to begin with, and with increased level of engineering and support – in particular to ensure the smooth integration of the new Rear Center Tank and its new fuel systems. Importantly, this new approach will also avoid us putting at risk the rest of Single-Aisle production. And then, once we’re happy that everything is mature and ‘up-to-speed’, we can transfer it with confidence into the main production system.”
The A321XLR’s Nose and Forward Fuselage section’s parts production are currently in progress at Stelia Aerospace and upon completion will be transported to St. Nazaire for the Nose and Forward Fuselage Major Component Assembly phase. The UK Broughton team is currently focused on the aircraft wing set, particularly the A321XLR’s new flap configuration. The associated tooling trials are in progress for the new ‘movables’ and are being performed in coordination with Spirit Aerosystems in Malaysia for the inboard flap and FACC Austria for the outboard flap, while conventional fixed components such as spars and stringers are taking shape in Broughton.
Finally, production is underway for the landing gear components in cooperation with Safran, Collins and Triumph, as well as for fuel and inerting systems with Collins and Parker Aerospace. Engine pylons are also in production at Airbus’ dedicated production plant in St. Eloi, Toulouse, while cabin and cargo systems are currently undergoing testing to validate the aircraft’s extra-long-range passenger comfort attributes.