Airbus readies A350XWB assembly line as a SA companies ready to supply and buy

Airbus has starts construction work on the final assembly line for the A350 XWB, its new wide-body airliner scheduled to enter service in 2013. The company has also started marketing the new airframe to African airlines, including South African Airways while SA component manufacturers are standing by to join the manufacturing programme.
The pan-European planemaker says the €140 million assembly line will be housed in a 74 000m2 facility able to join up the fuselage and wings. Testing and cabin equipping will be completed in the nearby A330/340 plant.
The A350 XWB (Xtra Wide-Body) Family is Airbus` response to widespread market demand for a series of highly efficient medium-capacity long-range wide-body aircraft. With a range of up to 8300nm (15 400 km) it is available in three basic passenger versions: the A350-800 accommodating 270 passengers, the A350-900 seating 314, and the A350-1000 for 350 passengers in a typical three-class layout.

The A350 has the widest fuselage in its category, potentially “offering unprecedented levels of comfort, the lowest operating costs and lowest seat mile cost of any aircraft in this market segment,” a company release says. 

“With power supplied by two new generation Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines, the A350 XWB Family is designed to confront the challenges of volatile fuel prices, rising passenger expectations, and environmental concerns.”

Just over two years after launch, orders for the aircraft stand at 478 from 29 customers, “making it the fastest selling new aircraft programme in the history of [civil] aviation”.

Airbus CEO Tom Enders says the “detailed definition freeze at the end of 2008 and the start of construction work on our new final assembly line confirm that the A350 XWB is making steady progress.
“Set for first delivery in 2013, the A350 XWB will shape efficiency for the aviation industry. The global Airbus community, including our employees, suppliers and customers, are working closely together for the success of this programme,` he adds.
At present, there are no SA sub-contractors or suppliers involved in the A350 programme. But an SA spokesman says “this could change as the main Tier 1 selection is still ongoing. Consequently, opportunities for Tier 2 suppliers and sub-contractors will arise in the course of 2009/2010.”
Centurion-based Aerosud is currently supplying a number of Airbus projects and its programme director, Rob Jonkers, says the company is “of course interested” in the A350.
“… we will not become involved at Tier 1 (i.e. direct with Airbus), but rather through their supply chain as Tier 2 or 3 manufacturers. The contracts at Tier 1 are only now being finalised and we are talking to the supply chain to gain access to opportunities.”
Jonkers adds that it “is a little early to receive formal RFP`s (requests for proposals) as yet, as each of these suppliers still has to complete their initial designs. I would reckon only by mid year will we have a better picture on opportunities that may come our way that we can bid for.”