Take a tour of the A400M factory
Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to Airbus Defence and Space’s manufacturing facility in Seville, Spain, where the A400M and C295 medium transport aircraft are assembled. We even got a tour of the A400M final assembly line (FAL) and had a rare glimpse of how the four-engined aircraft is put together.
First, we had a look at the busy flight line at the Seville facility. Here are four A400Ms with a C295 nestled in the middle. The closest A400M is EC-404, a test aircraft for Airbus DS that carries out qualification flights. The one behind is due to be delivered to Turkish Air Force shortly.
After several briefings we moved into the FAL. The first thing to greet us was an example of the A400M’s massive vertical stabiliser and rudder, made from advanced composites in order to reduce weight. This one belonging to the yet to be assembled MSN41:
This part of the factory is where all the parts come in from the rest of Europe ready to be assembled. Some are so large that they have to shipped in on a specially modified aircraft called the ‘Beluga’. The picture below shows the station where the wings, made in the UK, are joined up:
As the wings are joined in one part of the facility, another workstation (STA60) is joining up the fuselage:
Two A400M nose sections waiting for the joining process:
Once of the wings and fuselage are assembled, all the parts are brought together on workstation STA40 for final integration. Clearly the workstation has to be massive in order to bring together the aircraft, which is 148 ft long, has a wingspan of 139 ft and is nearly 50 ft tall. The aircraft will also undergo a series of ground tests while it’s situated here:
Next, the aircraft moves through to the ‘installation and furnishing completion’ hangar where the aircraft are fitted out with all the interiors they will need, including the all important toilets.
This is also where the eight-bladed Europrop International TP400-D6 are fitted. Each engine provides 11,000 shp and allows the A400M to carry 30 tonnes over 2,450 nm. Interestingly, the engines are configured to contra-rotate, meaning the two outboard propellers turn in the opposite direction to the two inboard propellers:
The aircraft will then go out to the flight line for final testing and painting:
Airbus DS has struggled with the A400M in recent years, especially in its production. The crash of MSN23 – destined for the Turkish Air Force – with the loss of four crew also dented confidence in the manufacturing process and programme itself.
Nevertheless, the facility is impressive and chockful of brand new equipment that is designed to automate and streamline the building of these huge aircraft. Now officials will hope there are no more setbacks as they look to ramp up production over the next few years.