More than 30 percent of the A400M’s aerostructure comprises composites, and the material is a vital part of Airbus’ efforts to reduce aircraft weight, increase fuel efficiency and extend service range. The largest single composite parts on the plane are the one-piece wingskins, each of which is 19m/62 ft long and 12 to 14 mm (0.47 to 0.55 inch) thick. When conceived and implemented, it represented one of the composites industry’s largest design, engineering and assembly challenges. Evans notes, in fact, that Airbus’ experience with carbon fiber composites on the A400M laid the groundwork for the company to do the same — more easily — on its A350 XWB. “It set up Airbus well to design and manufacture the more advanced A350,” says Evans.
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