NANTES, FRANCE — The Airbus A350F is slated to become a reality in just under 1.5 years since its official introduction to the industry, demonstrating Airbus' steadfast commitment to providing airlines and cargo operators with a one-of-a-kind, cutting-edge widebody freighter.

First Components of the A350F Centre Wing Box Manufactured at Airbus Atlantic.

The European planemaker confirmed that the A350F's initial metal cuts had been executed in Nantes, where the Centre Wing Box (CWB) components are being machined. These parts consist of the "vertical cruciform," a substantial fitting that connects the outer-wing boxes to the CWB.

Additionally, Nantes teams have crafted the inaugural "external foot frames," which attach the CWB to the lateral fuselage shells. These shells have been modified for the A350F to accommodate the loads from the freighter's main-deck floor.

Airbus Atlantic, a new aerostructures entity formed in January 2022 through the merger of STELIA Aerospace and Airbus factories in Nantes and Montoir-de-Bretagne, is producing the CWB and its associated components. The A350F's CWB is distinct from the passenger A350s', featuring reinforced floor beams capable of supporting the heaviest cargo pallets and containers. Once completed, the CWB will measure 6.5 meters long, 5.5 meters wide, and 3.9 meters tall.

CWB Design Enhanced for Freighter Operations

Traditionally, the first components manufactured for a new aircraft or variant are for the CWB. In all A350 models, this essential part is primarily composed of carbon fiber. The key design modifications for the A350F's CWB entail reinforcements needed to handle the increased main deck floor loads associated with cargo operations. These changes impact the internal CWB composite struts and the metallic (aluminum-lithium) structure atop the upper composite CWB cover that supports the floor.

CWB Manufacturing and Sub-Assembly Stations Adapted in Nantes

To accommodate the new freighter variant's CWB, 15 out of the 38 working stations at the Nantes factory have been modified, allowing for flexible, simultaneous production with the A350-900 and
 -1000 models' CWBs.

Upcoming Steps

In the coming months, the sizeable CWB subassembly will be loaded onto a specialized transport jig and transported from Nantes to Airbus Atlantic's factory at Montoir-de-Bretagne by road. Here, it will be integrated into the first A350F's center fuselage. The resulting "major-component-assemblies" (MCAs) will then be flown by Beluga from the nearby Saint-Nazaire-Montoir Airport to Airbus' A350 Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Toulouse.

Set to enter service in 2025, the A350F is expected to carry a payload of up to 109 tonnes over a range of 4,700 nm. As the latest addition to the A350 family, the freighter variant boasts state-of-the-art technologies, unparalleled aerodynamics, and unmatched operational flexibility and reliability. At the time of reporting, the A350F has secured 35 orders from major players such as CMA-CGM, Air Lease Corporation, Singapore Airlines, Air France, Silk Way West Airlines, Etihad Airways, and Martinair.