Editorial Feature

The A350 XWB – Advanced Materials and Design

The A350 XWB is the newest member of the family of wide-body airliners from Airbus. The long-range A350 XWB combines the latest advancements in fuselage and wing structures by using an intelligent airframe and a carbon fiber-reinforced polymer wing design. It offers a reported 25% fuel efficiency step-change when compared to current long-range competitors. The Airbus A350 XWB consists of three models-A350-800, A350-900 and A350-1000, each having remarkable flight ranges. Manufacture, assembly and maintenance is optimised by utilising standard parts, systems, airframe materials and powerplants thus ensuring optimal operating efficiency through life.

Use of Advanced Materials

The wide range of advanced materials used in the A350 XWB contributes to a real improvement in design when compared to previous Airbus models. Some of the key design innovations are discussed in more detail below.

Composites

Over half (53%) of the aircraft’s fuselage is composed of composite materials to avoid the need for fatigue-related inspections which are required on conventional aluminum aircraft. This is in part due to the fact composite materials have a greater resistance to corrosion.

Advanced Aluminium Alloys

The airframe of the A350 is around 19% aluminium. In addition, the nose of the aircraft is made of aluminium instead of a one-piece carbon fiber structure, as aluminium is more cost-effective.

Titanium

14% of the airframe is titanium, a material which has the following key benefits:

  • Light weight
  • High Corrosion resistance
  • Strong
  • Easy to recycle

The use of titanium along with composites reduces the need for corrosion maintenance in the aircraft by 60%.

Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic Fuselage

The A350 XWB is the first airbus to have its wing structures and fuselage made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic. Use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic ensures convenient maintenance and results in lower fuel burn by minimising weight, and allowing advanced wing design.

The A350’s Green Credentials

In the A350 XWB, Airbus have not only designed an extremely efficient aircraft, they have also focused on each stage of its manufacture to reduce the overall environmental impact through life. The A350 XWB’s final assembly line located near Toulouse uses several eco-friendly construction techniques like crushing and re-using materials from a pre-existing taxiway and recycling materials already present in the facility. The assembly halls in the facility make use of natural lighting while reducing the use of artificial lights and energy consumption.

More than 50% of the energy consumed by the facility is produced by 22,000 m2 of photovoltaic panels arranged on top of its roof. The facility is also equipped with an energy management system for optimizing the use of energy during the working hours. The final assembly process of A350 XWB requires very little constructing time and undergoes efficient testing procedures.

The Airbus A350 Range / Variants

All the three variants of the A350 were officially launched as a future product in 2006. Yet the A350-900 is scheduled to start service from the second half of 2014, A350-800 from mid-2016 and A350-1000 from 2017.

A350-800

The fuselage of A350-800 is the shortest of all other variants. It can carry 270 passengers and has a flight range of 8500 nautical miles. The interior cross-section of its wide-body is 220 inches, which is 5 inch' larger than its current competitors. This ensures comfortable accommodation of passengers in economy class. Also, A350-800 features large overhead storage space, wide panoramic windows and more headroom. It has low operating costs and uses fly-by-wire controls for convenient handling and efficient operation.

A350-900

The A350-900 is designed to meet the market requirements in medium-to-long distance operations. The optimized cabin cross section of this model is the same as that of the other versions, which ensures maximum comfort for crew and passengers and guarantees better operating efficiency and optimum revenue potential for the operators. A350-900 has a flight range of 8100 nautical miles, and can accommodate 314 passengers in a three-class configuration.

A350-1000

A350-1000 is the longest member of the A350 family measuring 74.3 m from nose to tail. It is designed to provide optimized performance, maximum reliability and high efficiency. Around 350 passengers can be accommodated in its standard three-class configuration. The flight range of A350-1000 is 8400 nautical miles. It can be configured to achieve a higher-density layout for carrying up to 440 passengers. A350-1000 is designed to overcome the challenges existing in environmental constraints and rising fuel costs.

The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB Powerplant

Rolls-Royce is supplying a new variant of their acclaimed Trent engine called the Trent XWB for specific application in the A350 XWB. The Trent XWB is said to be one of the most efficient aero engines in the world today. The Trent XWB is also likely to power the mighty A350-1000 in addition to the ultra long range A350-900R and the A350-900 freighter.

The key benefits of Trent XWB are as follows:

  • Low operating costs
  • Single engine type operational benefits
  • Reduced carbon dioxide emissions
  • Low risk engine design

Sources and Further Reading

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