Photo tour: behind the scenes at the Airbus A350 factory

By Chris Chamberlin , November 15 2016
Photo tour: behind the scenes at the Airbus A350 factory

Welcome to Toulouse, France: home to aircraft manufacturer Airbus and the 'Final Assembly Line' of its Airbus A350s where these jets quite literally get their wings, plus other important features like landing gear... and business class seats too, of course.

Join Australian Business Traveller as we take a behind-the-scenes tour to see how these modern planes come together, long before they arrive at your boarding gate.

Airbus A350 Final Assembly Line photo tour

Our journey begins at 'Station 40'. When an aircraft arrives here, much of the initial construction work has already been completed, making the central aircraft body recognisable to the untrained eye:

But it's missing a few key elements, manufactured elsewhere and which the engineers in Toulouse must attach before the plane can fly.

Top of the list, a vertical tail imported from Hamburg, bolted to the fuselage with the assistance of overhead cranes...

... and perhaps even more importantly, the wings. Again, these aren't manufactured in Toulouse: instead, built in Broughton (UK), assembled in Bremen (Germany) and flown in aboard a specially-designed transporter aircraft...

... before being united with the plane they'll belong to for many years to come:

Here, the wings also meet their 'pylons' on which the engines will be mounted...

... along with those iconic Airbus A350 winglets, attached to the tips:

With the A350 now starting to look more 'whole', it's time to power it up for the very first time:

It's moments like this that the nearby safety screens prove vitally useful, advising workers when it's safe to enter the aircraft and surrounding areas:

With the power connected, many aspects of the aircraft can now be tested – including the weather radar which helps pilots to find and avoid rough storms and weather events...

... but which is normally hidden beneath a detachable nose cone. Airlines usually paint this area the same colour as the rest of the aircraft, so most passengers would never know it was there.

Station 40 is also where workers begin installing the cabin floor, the interior side panelling, the overhead lockers and reading lights – plus personal air vents if the airline has requested them – although for safety reasons we couldn't venture inside during this process.

With multiple aircraft assembled here at the same time, we ventured back to the future China Airlines plane that first caught our eye, and spotted the team readying the next batch of A350 wings...

... and also a spare 'horizontal tail plane':

That's your hint that the current aircraft is just about ready to move on to the next step – being kitted out with passenger seats, getting a paint job and gaining its engines – and that the makings of another A350 will soon arrive in its place, ready to begin the cycle again.

To explore the Airbus A350 final assembly process in more detail, watch this 3.5-minute video:

Also read:

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Toulouse as a guest of Airbus.

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 229

You're lucky to be able to use your camera in there, they're normally pretty touchy about that.

I reckon they oughta get in the Christmas spirit and call that plane Rudolph.

04 May 2015

Total posts 263

I've done an Airbus tour once and they wouldn't even let me bring a bag on the bus with my water bottle in it, let alone a camera!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 229

I was in Hamburg earlier this year and they were very relaxed compared to that. We couldn't take pictures but we could bring all our things with us.

But it was the opposite in Toulouse.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Nov 2014

Total posts 34

Interesting, I thought that all the Airbus wings were made in the UK.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jan 2014

Total posts 15

The Airbus Qantas SHOULD have ordered.

04 May 2015

Total posts 263

Ha, just like Lego but on a much bigger scale!

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Boeing's Seattle tour you can't take anything along either, something to do with risk of dropping things from viewing gantries and causing lots of $$$damage. Understandable.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2012

Total posts 140

It is somewhat ironic that the Factory in Broughton (UK), which now makes the Wings started life making Lancaster Bombers in World War II.  Those bombers then dropped thousands of tons of bombs on the German factory in Bremen (where the wings are now assembled).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Nov 2014

Total posts 34

Ah ok! Makes more sense, I was confused when they said the wings were made in Germany. So the wings are made in the UK and then assembled in Germany?


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