Airbus A340 Assembly

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A340 Assembly

The initiation of the Airbus A340/A330 project was a huge undertaking.  Both in France and in the U.K., Airbus partners invested huge amounts in a new plant to make ready for the new airliners.

British Aerospace (BAe) extended their facilities in two locations.  In Filton, Gloucestershire, near Bristol, they extended their 3 storey technical facility by an additional 15,000 square metres (160,000 square feet) at a cost of UK£7 million.  In Chester, Cheshire, a new wing production line was required and the plant had to be extended by 14,000 square metres (150,000 sq ft) at a further cost of UK£5 million.

As mentioned the wings and many other parts were manufactured in the U.K. by BAe. Contracts were also made with companies in many other countries, such as;  Austria, Australia, Canada, China, Greece, Italy, India, Japan, South Korea, Portugal, U. S. A., and former Yugoslavia. for the manufacture of all the various components required to make a state of the art airliner.  The transport of the larger components to the final assembly line, such as wings, was done by a purpose built Super Guppy, a very pregnant looking version of the  1940’s Boeing Stratocruiser. Boeing made some mileage out of the fact that every Airbus was delivered by a Boeing aircraft. These aircraft soon proved too costly to run and Airbus worked on a conversion of the A300 to come up with the  A300-600ST (Super Transporter) “Beluga” which started service in September 1995 and still ferry Airbus’ latest aircraft today.

Airbus Toulouse Assembly Plant

A340 Assembly Hall at Toulous France

A basic representation of the Toulouse Airbus assembly plant.

  • Position 18/SC – Cabin sealing and gauge testing.
  • Position 19/20 – Mounting Engines and customer requirements.
  • Position 30 – Equipment installation and fuel tank seal testing
  •  Position 35 – Joining fuselage parts and installing electrical equipment.
  • Position 40 – Joining the wings to the center fuselage section.
  • Position 42/43 – Installation of avionics equipment.


Naturally, the largest investment was going to be the actual final assembly plant.  Aérospatiale for their part constructed a US$411 million assembly plant next to Toulouse-Blagnac airfield in southern France.  In late 1988 the great assembly hall started to take shape and was named the Clément Ader assembly hall, after the inventor, engineer and aviation pioneer who lived his life in the area from 2 April 1841 until 3 May 1925.

Airbus A340 getting ready for fuselage joining.

Airbus A340 getting ready for fuselage joining.


Airbus opted for automation to many of the assembly processes.


Airbus opted for automation to many of the assembly processes.  This was reported to produce a 20 per cent cost saving and a 5 percent improvement in time for the wing to fuselage joining process alone which employed 8 robots to drill the holes.

Another automation process was called S.O.J.A. (Semi-automated Orbital Fuselage Join up Robot).  This was used to join two sections of the fuselage together and consisted of two tower arrangements standing as tall as the fuselage itself.  The towers enveloped the join area and two remote devices travelled the seam of the join and drilled, reamed and countersunk a hole. It then inserted a small about of sealant followed by the fastener.  On the inside, an operator would secure the fastener and inspect the work before S.O.J.A. would be allowed to move on to the next fastener.

A340 wing and centre fuselage section

A340 wing and centre fuselage section.

Due to the doubling of fuel prices in 2008, the A340 sales started to plummet as airlines opted for shorter routes to save on fuel.  The day of the four engined long haul airliner seemed doomed.  On 11 November 2011, Airbus announced the cessation of production of the A340 after 20 years of production.

The final two A340s were sold to AJW Capital Partners, an aviation services group based in the UK.  They were A340 500s.

If there is more you want to learn about this airliner, please visit:  Airbus A340 Home, Airbus A340 Specs,  Airbus A340 Order Book and Airbus A340 History.

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