Early tomorrow morning Airbus will officially open the assembly line for its new A350 XWB composite airliner. It’s the company’s Boeing 787 competitor, and you could almost hear the Jaws theme as Airbus rolled out the 33-foot-tall composite vertical tail.
The A350 XWB is the European consortium’s answer to 787 Dreamliner. The Airbus is slightly larger, and like the Dreamliner, the A350 XWB uses composite materials extensively throughout the airplane. Though there is one major difference between the two aircraft: The 787 uses single-piece composite barrels that are joined together to form the fuselage, while the A350 uses composite panels attached to a metal skeleton to create the body.
Several sections of the A350 have already been fabricated including the fuselage, wings and tail. Some systems testing has also taken place, including the cockpit. With Airbus’ opening the final assembly line in Toulouse, France tomorrow, the company still hopes the A350 XWB will enter service sometime in the second half of 2014.