Saturday, September 5, 2009


Once a year Airbus opens its gates to a few friends (like 50,000) and those lucky enough to have a ticket (I scored some from are limited) can see the plane assembly lines and flying machines on display. I work at a sattelite office, away from the headquarters and airfield, so seeing these things up close is something I do not get to do. Although, 2 weeks ago, me and my work mates had a tour of the A380 (big, double decker passenger plane) assembly line to see for real what we are designing. My work is on the A350, which is an extra wide body plane, made from carbon fiber structure, and is the rival for Boeings 787 Dreamliner. I am working on the rear section of the plane, designing the Hydraulic systems that supply power to the horizontal and vertical tail fin. The 350 is far from being built, but the systems we are working on are very similar in the 380, so it was really amazing to see how this gigantic beast of a plane is built. You really get a feeling for how much work is involved in a plane, how many things could go wrong, and why they are constantly delayed. It is intense.

For the 380 (and the 350) in Hamburg, only the rear sections of the plane are built. The center is built in Toulouse, France, the wings are built in the UK, the cockpit in Spain, and it is all brought together in Toulouse, for final assembly. Then, it is brought to Hamburg for interior design and installation. As you can imagine, this is a logistical nightmare. When the rear section is finished, it is put on a boat to the west coast of France. From there it is transferred to another boat (more like a canal barge), to float down the river towards Toulouse. It clears bridges by a hair (like 1 meter). Remember this plane is 3 stories tall! About 150km from Toulouse, it is put on trucks, which have to go in the middle of the night, because they take up the entire road. For the wings, from the UK, Airbus designed and built a plane specifically for the sole purpose transfer them easily and quickly between the factories. It is called the Beluga.

Thats a funky looking plane. From my office, I can see it land in Hamburg from time to time, and it looks awkward and unsure in the air, like a teenager. Up close, it was gigantic. Its short little wings make it look impossible to fly. On teh contrary, when it is unloaded, it is very difficult to get the plane to land since aerodynamically it is off balance and wants to stay in the air. A strange bird, and the highlight of this Family Day thing.

We saw some of the A380's being finished, just after painting, ready for delivery to the customer. Standing below the tail, these planes are so big, it is quite a treat to see them up close.

We missed the flyover of the 380, earlier in the day.

Of course they make other planes here...we saw the assembly line of the single aisle passenger plane, I think the A330. They make 1 per day in Hamburg, and have orders for 3000 planes, so if you ordered a 330 today, you wouldnt get it for almost 10 years.

I am glad to get the opportunity to see these planes like this. Mayzie and Jenna were excited even. The Family Day was like Oktoberfest on an airstrip, it was weird. Beers everywhere, sausages and candy, and things for kids to do. Only in Germany.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Man, that Beluga is one odd looking plane.