Inside The Airbus A350 Production Line

In around two months’ time, Airbus will celebrate seven years since Qatar Airways introduced the A350 family to revenue-earning service. The type has its own dedicated production line, which Simple Flying was recently lucky enough to visit. The impressive facility was inaugurated in 2012, around a year before the A350 took to the skies for the first time.

Airbus A350 Factory
Next year will mark 10 years since the building’s inauguration. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying

Where the A350 comes to life

Earlier this year, we took a closer look at the process of how Airbus builds its A350s. This is a  complex and fascinating job, so it was fantastic to get the opportunity to see the facility in person, as part of a trip in co-operation with Invest In Toulouse and Finn Partners.

While Airbus puts its A350s together in this huge L-shaped facility, parts for the aircraft come from all over Europe. For example, we learned during the visit that Airbus builds the wings in Broughton, UK before finishing them in Bremen, Germany. This requires the use of Airbus’s Beluga and Beluga XL outsize freighters to bring them to Toulouse.

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Airbus A350 Factory
The fuselage arrives on the assembly line in three segments. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying

The Beluga XL entered service in January 2020, and its use has significantly expedited A350 production. Indeed, Airbus told simple Flying during the visit that bringing all of an A350’s part to Toulouse requires just six Beluga XL flights, compared to seven for the original Beluga. Once they have arrived, Airbus’s next-generation widebodies begin to take shape.

A multi-station process

The final assembly line for the A350, known in short as the FAL, consists of several different stations. As an A350 goes from one of these to another, it slowly becomes a more complete aircraft, as more and more components are added, both internally and externally. As seen in the photograph above, the plane’s fuselage arrives in a segmented fashion.

Airbus A350 Factory
More than half of the aircraft consists of carbon fiber. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying

There is space to store nine of these segments at a time, which will go on to form three complete A350 fuselages. These are first worked on at station 59, where engineers install ‘cabin monuments,’ such as galleys and bathrooms. They then move to station 50 to become a single fuselage. Airbus does this by using lasers to carefully align the modules.

Using large trolleys, Airbus moves the now joined fuselage around the remaining stations, during which time the aircraft as a whole becomes more complete. A company representative told Simple Flying on the day that the entire process from component delivery to handing the completed aircraft over to its customer takes around 4-5 months.

Airbus A350-1000 Getty
The A350 is a stunning aircraft, and well worth the wait for its customers. Photo: Getty Images

A modern factory for a modern aircraft

However, looking at the A350 and its performance, you would have to say that this wait is worthwhile. The plane, of which 53% consists of carbon fiber, offers impressive range and capacity without compromising on efficiency. Similarly, the production line is also highly modern and efficiency-driven. Regarding this aspect, Airbus explains that:

The A350 final assembly line is the greenest ever built by Airbus, with features including natural lighting wherever possible, and a photovoltaic roof that produces the equivalent of 55% of the power needed for the building to function.”

What do you make of the A350? have you ever flown on Airbus’s next-generation widebody? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.