A newly created division of the Airbus group, Airbus Atlantic started this week, at the facility in Nantes, France, the production of the first parts of the new A350F freighter.
This milestone in the development of a new aircraft is known as “the first metal-cuts”, although the modern European jet is built largely from carbon fiber.
According to the manufacturer, the first part produced for the A350F was the central wing box, the structure that joins the wings of the aircraft.
Compared to passenger A350s, the part developed for the cargo model is reinforced, constructed from lithium-aluminium, to withstand the stress of heavy loads on the floor beams in the cabin.
“This means that the aircraft is coming to reality in just under 1.5 years after the new freighter was officially unveiled to the industry,” said Airbus, which launched the freighter variant of the A350 XWB in November 2021.
Once completed, the center wing box will be trucked to the Airbus Atlantic facility in Montoir-de-Bretagne and installed in the center fuselage section. Subsequently, the assembled structure will be taken to the final production line of the A350, in Toulouse, by a Beluga freighter.
Designed to carry a payload of 109 tons, the A350F is scheduled to enter service in mid-2025. The Airbus plane will compete in the large freighter market with the Boeing 777-8F, which is expected on the market in 2027.
An interesting aspect about the A350F is its unique fuselage. Unlike Boeing’s competitor, which will use the platform of the 777-8 commercial jet, the cargo A350 does not derive from the passenger versions of the type.
At 70.8 meters long, the new Airbus freighter is longer than the A350-900 (which is 66.8 m) and smaller than the A350-1000 (73.7 m).
So far, Airbus has 35 orders for the A350F, from airlines and leasing companies.