The manufacture of the A400M is the result of cooperation between many different European countries, involving centres and factories from all over the world, including Hamburg, Filton, Ankara, Saint Nazaire, Bremen, Getafe, Cádiz and Seville.
With regard to the Andalusian industry, the main entities of Hélice - the Andalusian aerospace cluster involved in the A400M programme - are Aeroestructuras Sevilla, Aertec, Airgrup, AyG Sevilla, Elimco, Galvatec, Industria Siderometalúrgica Giennense, Inespasa, Carbures, Navair, Alestis, Aerospace, Sevilla Control, UMI Aeronáutica, Titania, Mecatecnic and STTS. In addition, the A400M works have indirectly benefited from more than 63% of the Andalusian auxiliary industry, composed of 120 companies.
The horizontal tail plane (HTP) of the A400M is manufactured at the Airbus plant in Tablada, Seville. Wholly assembled in Spain, the part is manufactured using 90% carbon fibre and 10% lightweight metals, mainly aluminium and titanium.
The Tablada plant is also responsible for manufacturing components, although the majority of the parts of the HTP come from different companies and locations, including Andalusian firms such as Alestis, Carbures, Airgrup, the Airbus San Pablo site), Meupe and Consur. Assembly and installation of the systems is carried out in the factory at Tablada. In addition, the aircraft's flap fairings are made wholly from carbon fibre using different production technology, including fibre placement.
The Centro Bahía de Cádiz site – better known as CBC - is responsible for its manufacture and has become a reference in this field. Andalusian materials testing company, Titania, works closely to CBC, controlling the manufacturing process of different parts such as spars, skins, ribs and stringers for the HTP. Titania also works with Airbus DS in acceptance testing for the purchase of raw materials such as fasteners, sealants and paint. It also controls manufacturing processes undertaken by the subcontracting supply chain of other items.
Andalusia means business!
Andalusia also participates in the cowlings for the A400M. The Tablada factory is responsible for making complex machined parts from titanium, while the CBC factory produces sheetmetal. The cowling manufacture also involves the collaboration of Alestis, which produces about 200 pieces of the rudder in carbon fibre, and the firms Sevilla Control and Airgrup in relation to machined and welded parts. Other companies also participate in the A400M programme as subcontractors, such as ELIMCO, Navair, Carbures, Ghenova, CESA, Inespasa, TEAMS and STTS.
Two other Andalusian tier 1 companies, Aernnova and Aciturri, are also involved in the A400M programme. Aernnova performs miscellaneous parts and ribs of HTP and common cowls, whilst Aciturri, specialises in the manufacture of carbon fibre aerostructures and is in charge of the manufacturing and assembly of the sponsons; design and stress, certification and manufacturing of flaps and vanes; and manufacturing of wing to fuselage fairing and spar.
Spanish company Tecnatom undertakes inspection of the A400M aircraft using NDT techniques. This work is included within the framework of the agreement between Tecnatom and Ensia Expert, S.L. for the rendering of services, and comes in the wake of Tecnatom's certification in accordance with the UNE-EN9100 (manufacturing work) and UNE-EN9110 (maintenance work) standards in relation to the aerospace sector. Various components (landing gear access ramp, upper/lateral panels junction, crew entry door, cockpit, etc.) are being inspected within the ‘tear-down' process (the inspection of certain aircraft components, previously cut and disassembled, following a period of fatigue testing). Manual inspection is performed using different NDT methods, such as ultrasonics, eddy currents and visual inspection.
The aerospace sector in Andalusia has acquired huge significance, not only due to the workload it has assumed under the A400M programme, but also because for the first time in its history, a Final Assembly Line (FAL) has been located within its territory. This has placed Andalusia on the global aerospace stage, and has made the region the third most important aerospace cluster in Europe, behind Toulouse and Hamburg.
Spain gains ground
The FAL for the A400M is located next to the Airbus San Pablo Centre in Seville and has a total surface area of 145,000m2. This plant has a main hangar for the assembly of the aircraft and five other hangars that can house up to 10 aircraft under construction. The expansion of the San Pablo Centre and the FAL facilities has continued with the rental of a new hangar of 6,000m2 for maintenance and modernisation of the A400M aircraft.
Aertec Solutions actively participated in the design of the FAL's industrial organisation, both defining the number and type of stations and buffers until further implementation. Once launched, the multinational consultancy and engineering firm is in charge of the planning, production control and logistics. As systems suppliers, Aertec Solutions has collaborated in the development of the A400M test system Computer Aided Test System (CATS) and the design and implementation of aircraft interface modules. In addition, it also collaborates with Airbus in joint R&D initiatives of application to the A400M, as well as own initiatives such as data collection systems in tablets or expert remote support tools for further application at the A400M, using tablets and Smart glasses, and with the intention to explore the use of augmented reality.
The FAL has also brought another major aerospace project: the A400M Training Centre which began as a means of providing basic training regarding the new aircraft for future pilots of the military airlifter, although the project has ended up extending its role to act as a training centre for pilots and crew of the aircraft. More than 10,000 trainees, flight crew, and ground crew have been trained by Airbus Military over the last 20 years. This centre is the result of a collaboration agreement between the Andalusian Foundation for Aerospace Development (FADA) and Airbus Military. The facilities were built respecting the traditional Andalusian architecture and counts on two blocks: the first devoted to administration offices and classrooms and the second one houses the simulators and associated support areas. Next to the simulator bays, there is an area dedicated to loadmaster training – the CN235 P1 and A400M cargo hold trainer (CHT).