How the A380 is built

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How the A380 is built
How the A380 is built
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Airbus A380 is a true legend of world aviation. This gigantic passenger plane captured the attention of thousands of experts long before its birth. But almost more interesting than the car itself is the process of its construction. How is the A380 built?

A380

Celestial Titan

The Airbus A380 is the largest production airliner in the world. Until its appearance, the overseas Boeing 747 held the palm for a long time. The A380 airliner has a length of 72.75 m, comparable to the length of a football field, a wingspan of 79.75 m and a height of 24.08 m, which is equal to the height of an eight-story building. But perhaps even more revealing is the A380's capacity. The double-deck giant can carry 853 passengers in a single-class configuration. And this is not the limit. There is, for example, the A380-1000 project, which differs from the basic configuration (A380-800) in that it is capable of taking on board 1,073 passengers in a single-class version.

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The Boeing 747 remained the world's largest passenger aircraft for 36 years. During all this time, about 1, 5 thousand of these machines were produced. Over the years of operation, the aircraft has won the fame of one of the most reliable. Meanwhile, there are black pages in his biography. For example, a collision at Los Rodeos airport of two Boeing 747 aircraft in 1977 resulted in the death of 583 passengers and crew. Also, over 60 people were injured of varying severity.

Such a giant plane is not needed everywhere. The A380 is beneficial only for those airlines that operate in the long-haul market between major aviation centers with established transport links. With a unit price of $ 403.9 million and high fuel consumption (the weight of an empty A380 is 276,800 kg), its operation is not cheap at all. Now the total portfolio of orders for the A380 is only 319 aircraft, of which about 180 have been built. Airbus itself says that at least 250 such aircraft had to be built to pay off the project. Let us add that the aircraft is relatively new: it began to operate only in 2007.

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The Ville de Bordeaux was ordered by the Europeans from the Chinese company Jinling Shipyard specifically for the delivery of parts of the A380 aircraft. Ville de Bordeaux is distinguished by a horizontal way of loading / unloading: this is necessary for the convenience of transporting heavy parts of the airliner. In the stern there is the largest watertight door in the history of this type of vessel, measuring 22x14 m.

How are the components made

The Airbus A380 is not only an engineering miracle, but also a wonderful example of close cooperation between different countries. The creator of the airliner himself - Airbus - was created by merging several aircraft manufacturing firms, so joint development has long become a common occurrence for this company. But the process of building the A380 is different from building other Airbus passenger aircraft, and now we'll see why.

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Among the main manufacturers of airliner components, such market giants as Rolls-Royce, SAFRAN, United Technologies, General Electric and others stand out. Just one A380 airliner consists of about 4 million different components and 2.5 million parts: all of them are manufactured by 1,500 companies from 30 countries.

Usually Europeans use the unique Airbus Beluga cargo plane to transport parts to the assembly site. But the A380's components are too large, so land, river and sea modes of transport are used. To establish the delivery of parts, roads were expanded, new canals were built. The fuselage sections are loaded in Hamburg on the Ville de Bordeauxru, which is then sent to the UK. The British cities of Filton and Broughton were chosen as the place of production of the wing consoles.

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The A380 wings themselves are gigantic 36-meter products, which cost about 750 thousand dollars.rivets. The wing area is 845 m², which is 54% more than the Boeing 747-400. To transport such a wing from one place to another, an unusual 96-wheeled truck is used, which has the ability to remotely control. Finally, the wing consoles are delivered to the Ville de Bordeaux, which already carries the fuselage sections. Then, in the French Saint-Nazaire, additional sections, center section and a number of other components are loaded on board. In the Spanish city of Cadiz, where Ville de Bordeaux then arrives, the lower fuselage and tail section are also added to them. The A380 is distinguished by a comfortable spacious cockpit. As is the case with other modern airliners, the creators took the path of equipping the aircraft with a "glass cockpit" with large electronic displays. In total, there are nine interchangeable liquid crystal monitors measuring 20x15 cm. They display navigation and flight data, engine operation, as well as the operation of the entire system as a whole. The aircraft control sticks are located on the side.

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The ship delivers parts to the western coast of France, and from there they are transported on barges along the Garonne River. The parts are then transported by ground to the assembly shops in Toulouse. Narrow French streets are not the best place to transport giant parts, but there is no other way out. Logistics issues were thought out in detail long before the construction of the first aircraft, and specialists found the most convenient ways of cooperation. The "night convoy" (this is what is sometimes called the delivery of A380 parts to their destination) of six trailers starts moving at 22:00 and travels at a speed of 15-20 km / h, so as not to interfere with anyone and not cause traffic accidents. In total, several modifications of the giant aircraft have been developed: A380-800, A380-800F (cargo version), A380-900, A380-1000 and A380NEO. Apart from the basic configuration, all others are at the design stage. The viability of the new versions will depend entirely on the demand for the base A380 configuration. We add that some of the already produced aircraft can be remotorized: the aircraft will receive engines from the new version of the A380NEO.

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It should be noted that the fuselage sections have a diameter of about seven meters, so the transportation of the future Airbus looks exciting. Finally, the details go to the Blagnac canton in the Toulouse district. It is here that the main enterprise is located, where airliners are assembled from various parts. In general, as we have already seen, the main sections of the aircraft are created in Germany, France, Great Britain and Spain. Some of the fuselage components are made in Germany, the engines and wings are assembled in the UK. In Spain, the tail section is manufactured, and in the French Saint-Nazaire - the central sections of the fuselage, the center section and the front section (the one where the cockpit is). Then all of the above are put together in France in Toulouse. After that, the new car will face a long process of installing electronics and various kinds of tests. However, more on that later.

Airbus assembly

Finally, the components are ready and you can start building the airliner. The assembly shop is truly enormous: its length is 490 m, width - 250 m, and height - 46 m. ​​Such volumes make it possible to assemble several Airbus A380s in the shop at once.

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The first task is to assemble the seven main parts into a coherent whole. This takes about five weeks. These major parts include the wings, fuselage sections and tail section. First, several sections of the fuselage are assembled and docked together. These parts are lifted up with huge jacks and then fixed. They need to be matched with maximum accuracy, and there can be no mistakes here. The laser technology comes to the rescue, scanning the components before the operation begins. Then, using a remote control and giant movable supports, the fuselage parts are connected to each other. Ultimately, the two pieces are permanently held together by thousands of rivets.

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Installing the fenders is the next step.Note that the A380 has large flared tips designed to reduce turbulence. However, the main guarantee of safety at this stage is precise docking. The wings of the A380 are lifted by special cranes. The operation, of course, is extremely difficult: suffice it to say that one wing weighs about 40 tons. Next, a horizontal (tail) tail unit made of carbon fiber is installed. Note that new materials have found wide application in the A380 design. For example, the Nordenham plant uses GLARE for the A380 fuselage components, which is a successful combination of low specific gravity and high mechanical properties. Its concept is based on alternating layers of aluminum and fiberglass. All of this is used to cover the most important areas of the fuselage. The A380 is not only one of the safest winged aircraft: during the entire period of its operation, there has not been a single serious incident in which people have suffered. True, on November 4, 2010, an engine of one of the Qantas aircraft was destroyed in flight. A defect in the Rolls-Royce engine was named as a possible cause of the abnormal situation. Another incident occurred in 2011 with an Air France A380, which hooked its wing onto the tail of another passenger plane.

But back to assembling the airliner. After the horizontal tail is the turn of the vertical. A huge 14m bolted keel is being mounted. Then comes the stage of installing the chassis. In total, the A380 has 22 wheels, and they must support the airliner with a maximum take-off weight of 560,000 kg! Therefore, before being installed on an aircraft, its landing gear undergoes numerous tests, including strength tests. At this time, the large wheels of the A380 are driven by small wheels that are spun by electric motors. This is important, because the aircraft's landing speed reaches 300 km / h. The locked landing gear is then released and they fall, simulating the contact of a real A380 with the ground. After the reset, specialists collect data on possible damage to the chassis, and only if successful, these parts are sent for docking.

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Note that each of the main landing gear is made taking into account the requirement to withstand a load of up to 260 tons. Why is this needed? Sometimes (for example, in a strong wind) it happens that the plane touches the strip with only one main support: in this case, the entire weight of the aircraft falls on it. And the designers have provided for the possibility of using hydraulic and electric landing gear retraction systems. Thus, failure of the hydraulic system will not lead to the death of the airliner.

After installing the landing gear, the aircraft descends gently: up to this point, the A380 is in a suspended state. The plane is carefully transported from one workshop to another, where work on it will continue. It must be said that during its assembly the A380 “travels” more than once from one workshop to another.

Birth of the A380

The general appearance of the future giant is beginning to take shape, but there is still a lot of work ahead. The aircraft needs to be equipped with engines, electronics, as well as numerous works in the passenger compartment. When the main components are docked, it is the turn of the four motors, which are suspended from huge holders under the wing. The aircraft can use two types of engines: Rolls-Royce Trent 900 and Engine Alliance GP7000. Despite the gigantic dimensions of the Airbus, it meets the highest noise requirements. Both types of engine "fit" into the noise limits QC / 2 at the departure of the airliner and QC / 0.5 at its arrival. The fuel is a mixture of aviation kerosene with GTL-fuel from natural gas. So for its size, the aircraft can be considered extremely environmentally friendly and economical.

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Another undoubted achievement of the A380 designers is the extremely low noise level for passengers. According to this indicator, the new aircraft surpasses the Boeing 747 by 50% and is one of the quietest airliners of our time. In addition, at the request of the customer, the aircraft can be equipped with a shower, a bar counter, a rest room, and a duty free shop.Passengers are free to travel from one deck to another with wide staircases at the front and rear of the airliner.

After installing the engines, the plane looks almost finished. Outside, but not inside. At this stage of construction, its internal structure resembles a catacomb with countless wires sticking out literally from everywhere. Each of the A380s requires 530 km of wiring, and the cockpit alone contains 100,000 wires. A group of technicians work inside the plane to connect all the wires and then check and double-check everything in detail. Of course, each of the elements must be correctly connected, and there should not be the slightest mistake.

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Note that the total area of ​​the A380 cabin is 554 m². The aircraft is equipped with a main (lower) deck, which is the widest passenger compartment in the world. The size of the upper deck is more modest - it can be compared to the cabin of a conventional wide-body aircraft.

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The plane is now assembled, but still not ready. Until the moment of painting, its fuselage has a native gray-green hue. First, approximately 100 specialists carry out a complete cleaning of the hull surface. Then the primer is applied, and then the paint. Each of these aircraft requires 3,600 liters of paint to cover 3,100 m² of skin. The total weight of paint and primer is about half a ton: all this is necessary to protect the aircraft from the effects of various environmental factors.

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And now the A380 looks complete. The last parental home for him will be an enterprise in Hamburg, where the airliner is being refined and prepared for handover to customers. Emirates Airline, British Airways, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines - this is just a short list of airlines that have received this unique brainchild of Airbus. Hopefully, the A380's commercial success will be as impressive as the success of its legendary predecessor, the Boeing 747.

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The future of the project

As we have already said, the further fate of this amazing creation entirely depends on demand. Not so long ago, the media wrote that the Airbus management decided to abandon the project. They even named the date when the production of the aircraft would be completed - 2018. Later, however, Airbus CEO Fabrice Brezhier denied these rumors. But, as we know, nothing happens just like that. And the fact that the A380 has not yet fully justified the hopes of its creators is a concrete fact. The fears of the Airbus management are well founded, because for the entire 2014, not a single deal was concluded for a new supply of A380s.

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Table from Wikipedia The largest order for the A380 was made by the airline from the United Arab Emirates Emirates Airline, which purchased 140 such aircraft. All other partners signed contracts for the delivery of only a few dozen Airbuses. All this raised the question of the future of the giant aircraft. In 2014, the media reported that the further fate of the project would finally be decided in 2018. The total number of ordered A380s is now only a quarter of the demand that analysts expected.

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At first glance, the difficulties are obvious. Considering the gigantic mass, the plane is quite expensive. Emirates Airline, which operates nearly half of all aircraft built, wants the A380's engines to be more fuel efficient. In January 2015, it was reported that in the event of remotorization, Emirates Airline would order another 100 of these winged aircraft. According to experts, the engines for the new A380neo can be produced by the British Rolls-Royce. By the way, a little earlier the Qatari Qatar Airways announced that it was ready to replace the Airbus A380 with the A380neo. “If Airbus produces an aircraft that is much better than what is available today, we will think about replacing it,” said the head of the airline Akbar al-Baker.

Apparently, the A380 has a future, although it is not the simplest one. As for the fate of the entire Airbus, worries will be irrelevant here. So, in 2016, the operation of the newest A320neo began, which is predicted to be a great commercial success. And for "tomorrow" Airbus has prepared many of the most incredible concepts, But we will talk about them in the following articles.

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