Friday, June 6, 2014

Airplanes are built one GIANT piece at a time (6-06-2014)

It's obvious from photos that Toulouse is a city rich in history and full of beautiful architecture. But Toulouse is also at the heart of Aerospace Valley - a region in the Mid-Pyrennees and Aquitane regions of France that make up the largest pool of aerospace jobs in all of Europe.

Toulouse is home to headquarters and smaller offices of many companies and is the industry my husband is working in here with Rockwell.

This is NOT a wing
It is the tail fin

One of the largest companies in Toulouse is Airbus.Click here to read more about Airbus: The following information was taken from the airbus website.

Nearly 11,500 people in the Toulouse area are employed by Airbus. Toulouse is where the final assembly of the A320 Family, A330, A380, and A350 XWB takes place. To put the airplane together they join the fuselage to the wings, followed by the installation of the horizontal tail plane and vertical fin, engine pylons, landing gear and engines. After cockpit outfitting, system tests are performed on all aspects of the plain and test flights are conducted prior to final delivery.

Tail Fin
Much smaller than a wing
It is important to understand that ASSEMBLY is done in Toulouse, but the massive parts such as the fuselage and wings are built elsewhere and then transported to Toulouse for final assembly.  If you haven't seen and A380 up close think REALLY REALLY big plane.

The coordination of the large pieces needed to complete the final plane is a masterpiece of planning - not just for each individual delivery but the initial long-term planning that was implemented many years ago to allow the company to accommodate this important industry. Entire roads were built in France specifically to transport these enormous loads. There is one such road very close to our house. It is closed to vehicle traffic but may be used by bicyclists and runners. Every few weeks the are opened up to transport plane parts.

The transportation includes not only specially built roads but also special barges. Parts come in to major ports such as Bordeaux and make their way to Toulouse. Rather than trying to explain it all here I recommend going to this link where Airbus describes the process in detail.

One of the most interesting stages of the transport is when the parts must go through a town or village. One of those villages, Levignac, is very close to our home. Last week we drove there to watch the 11:00 pm arrival of the transport through town. It is a common attraction for locals and tourists alike and if you are ever in the area during a transport I highly recommend it. Surprisingly it only takes a few minutes for the convoy to move slowly through town. Not surprisingly it is all done with expert precision by the French police and transport employees involved in the convoy.

The photos included in this blog were taken by my husband Paul the night we went to Levignac.

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