Friday, February 02, 2007

Is It Barrels or Panels? Coming to an Airbus Showroom Near You

It was recently reported in ATW that Airbus was studying the idea of producing a monolithic fuselage for the proposed A350XWB, as a counterpoise to its earlier idea of using CFRP panels riveted or otherwise attached over traditional airframe structure. No doubt the studies have been ongoing.

Once the word was on the grapevine that there was going to be yet another product definition sea change in the checkered history of the A350 program, word came from on high that a monolithic fuselage structure was not going to happen. The rumors were squelched.

So it seems at this juncture, that Airbus is wedded to a more labor intensive, heavier, and somewhat weaker structure, consistent with its earlier jabs at Boeing about the effects of ramp rash. Which of course was malarkey to begin with and they knew it.

There isn't much doubt that here in the states we have a decided edge in the manufacture and design of CFRP aerostructures on a large scale, and there isn't that history in Europe. Or, let it be said, special purpose infrastructure to support it.

The real takehome for me is that Airbus either a) can't build it, b) doesn't trust it or c) not invented here. I suspect that a "composite" of B and C is more likely if I may be permitted a small pun.

I'm wondering at this point if there ever will be an A350 , XWB or otherwise. The original met with a lukewarm reception, and there sure aren't any orders in the book for the new, better than ever version.

Stay tuned.


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