August 2012

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A stroll through the A380 Final Assembly Line

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This post was intended to be my final post from France, however battery life and flight departure times got the best of me. After the A380 Production Update I posted two weeks ago, I wanted to provide an inside look at the Final Assembly Line (FAL) of the world's largest commercial passenger aircraft.

Approaching the massive building at the north end of Blagnac airport, what becomes immediately apparent is the shear scale of the venture being undertaken. I couldn't help but feel like something big lives here...and it does.

msn025.jpgWalking through an unassuming door into the cavernous facility, my attention was immediately drawn to the nose fuselage section of MSN025 an Emirates A380 destined for delivery in 2009. It arrived in Toulouse on April 23 and was waiting patiently in front of the body join tooling that was surrounding MSN034 (Singapore Airlines), which, at the time, was receiving its wings.

wingbody.jpgThe parts for MSN034 had arrived in the same convoy in late April as well. The aircraft has had its horizontal stabilizer installed and was awaiting its pylons, winglets or vertical tail to be joined.

Off to the left of the nose was MSN025's aft fuselage surrounded by scaffolding undergoing pre-integration. It was positioned in front of the port wing of MSN019, another A380 for Singapore Airlines which, according to Airbus, was undergoing rewiring in preparation for its move outside to the flight line.

msn019.jpg station30.jpg After completing the initial body and wing join, the A380s are towed outside briefly for fuel calibration and cabin pressurization tests. Following these initial tests, A380s are rolled back inside and parked at Station 30, a gargantuan hangar with room for three A380s each. Our tour consisted of the east Station 30, which is next to an identical facility (east and west) that hold three A380s each. Our tour consisted of the east FAL.

At these stations, additional systems installation occurs, as well as power on and engine mating and testing.

gp7200.jpg The east side of station 30 hosted MSN022 (QANTAS), MSN017 (Emirates) and MSN020 (Emirates). All of the aircraft were jacked up off their landing gear. The two Emirates A380s had both received their GP7200 engines and the QANTAS airframe was being prepared to have the first of its four engines installed.

Following the completion of engine installation and power on, each A380 is brought outside to the flight line (which has room for 12) and undergoes final checks before first flight. The de-engined MSN004 MSN002 was being refurbished and prepared for delivery to a VIP customer and still wore its original Airbus colors. Sitting just north of the MSN002 was MSN015 (QANTAS) and MSN016 (Emirates), each being prepared for their imminent first flights.

flightline.jpg Not seen on our tour was the first Wave 2 A380, MSN026, for QANTAS. The aircraft, along with the first A380 for Air France (MSN033) were being prepared on the west side of the FAL or elsewhere on the sprawling Airbus assembly facility. After the aircraft leave Toulouse, they are flown to Hamburg for installation of the interiors. Hamburg is currently hosting five A380s. MSN010--14 which are receiving new wiring, custom interiors and airline liveries.

The video at the top of the post walks through the entire assembly process in Toulouse and outlines the change in A380 production for 2008 and 2009. The video was originally supposed to be posted on my last day in France.

Editors Note - The tour was conducted May 15, 2008.

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