The new Airbus A380
created some challenges for the development team at Airbus. Typically
all of the Aircraft Airbus makes is constructed in up to 4 different
countries and the all the various parts are brought together for final
assembly in France. The A380 is no different as its components are built
in the UK, Spain, Germany and France, but the size of the A380s major
components means the A300-600 Super
Transporter, the distinctively-designed air freighter which normally
ferries the main sections of Airbus aircraft from its European cannot be
used instead a range of giant barges and trucks that were
specially built are used to transport all the parts.
Major components such as the fuselage and vertical tail unit are
manufactured and assembled at the Nordenham, Stade, and Hamburg sites in
North Germany. Commercial Final Assembly activities also take place in
Hamburg, with all the commercial installations, including the fitting of
the cabin interiors, painting, final inspection and eventually delivery
to customers in Europe and the Middle East.
The fuselage shells are produced in Nordenham and are then shipped to
Hamburg in large special containers using a roll-on-roll-off system.
Once in Hamburg, the fuselage shells are assembled in the newly-built
Major Component Assembly. The Hamburg plant delivers three A380 fuselage
sections: the forward section behind the cockpit, the rear fuselage
section, and the upper half of the fuselage shell above the wings which
is transported to St Nazaire for further assembly.
In Hamburg, the rear fuselage and part of the forward fuselage are
loaded on to the Ville de Bordeaux, a 154-metre roll on/roll off (ro-ro)
ferry purpose-built for the operation. She sails to Mostyn Harbour in
Wales to be met by a barge which has twice travelled 35 kilometres along
the River Dee, each time bearing one wing built at Broughton.
Broughton is where final assemble of the wings take
place from small components built there and at Filton, near Bristol in
North Wales. Built in what is known as the "West Factory" it is believed
to be the largest factory built in the UK in recent years with the floor
area equivalent to 12 full size football pitches.
Once assembled A380 wings are dispatched individually from the factory
by road to the nearby River Dee, then by river-craft to Mostyn where a
pair are loaded onto the Ville De Bordeaux for transportation to France.
At St Nazaire she swaps the partly-built forward fuselage for a complete
forward fuselage with cockpit as well as a complete centre fuselage.
Further on, at Pauillac, the parts, supported on giant jigs, are
unloaded on to a pontoon using a multiple purpose vehicle. The vessel
then sets off to Cadiz, Spain before returning to Pauillac, France.
Airbus plants in Spain produce the horizontal tail plane, the rear
fuselage tail cone and the belly fairing for the A380. They provide
Airbus with world-beating expertise in the use of composite materials.
New assembly halls for the A380 horizontal tailplane and belly fairing
have been built at Getafe and Puerto Real. At Illescas, innovative
technologies are used at the advanced composites centre, allowing for
the manufacture of large curvature panels.
The A380 horizontal tailplane is designed and initially assembled at
Getafe, with parts manufactured at Illescas, where an extension houses
new fibre placement machines. It is then sent to Puerto Real for final
assembly and the installation of the hydraulic, electrical, fuel and
flight control systems and final testing. The specially-built A380
transport ship, the Ville de Bordeaux, collects the tailplane from
Puerto Real for the journey to back to France.
At Pauillac the parts are transferred from the pontoon to another barge
which transports them – making four trips in all – 95 km along the River
Garonne to Langon where they are transferred via a wet lock to a convoy
of trailers. The convoy then travels 240 kms by road to Toulouse and
final assembly, always at night and at low speed to minimise
disturbance. With two daylight parking stops along the way each journey
takes three nights to complete.
As the trailers – with cargoes up to eight metres wide and 50 metres
long - pass along the route, the drivers are guided by a cabin computer
which uses advanced Global Positioning Satellite technology to pinpoint
to within one centimetre where their trailer is placed in the road.