A new Airbus facility opened to battle Boeing for new wing designs

Airbus has officially opened its new Wing Technology Development Centre (WTDC) in Filton, UK. The plant will further its "Wing of Tomorrow" program.
Christopher McFadden
Representational image
Representational image


Airbus has officially opened its new wing technology plant in Filton, England. Inaugurated by British Industry Minister Nusrat Ghani, the new plant is a fundamental part of Airbus' plan for its so-called "Wing of Tomorrow."

The plant's primary mission, at present, is to further development of Airbus' designs for wings that are longer, lighter, more slender, and feature folding wingtips to fly more sustainably.

The plant will develop innovative wing designs

The research will enhance the speed of designing, building, and testing wings for next-generation aircraft. Utilizing cutting-edge technology and world-class demonstrators, the facility will also seek to optimize the performance of the wings.

A new Airbus facility opened to battle Boeing for new wing designs
Wing Technology Development Centre

The extension of wings, making them more streamlined and lighter, is a significant opportunity to increase fuel efficiency, decrease CO2 emissions, and eventually achieve the aviation industry's objective of attaining net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Airbus explains.

“The new Wing Technology Development Centre will help us to ground our research in practicality. A key element of how we deliver technology for next-generation aircraft wings is through Wing of Tomorrow (WoT), our largest research and technology program led by the team in the UK," said Airbus Head of Filton site and Wing of Tomorrow Programme Sue Partridge.

“Last week, we achieved a critical milestone in the program when our second wing demonstrator was completed by the team in Broughton, Wales, and delivered to the WTDC. Here it will be prepared for structural testing in our Aerospace Integrated Research and Technology Centre (AIRTeC)," she added.

"This is about getting [the] technology ready for a future single-aisle product, so a high (production-)rate product," Partridge said of a set of demonstrator models," she also explained.

"We need to develop composite technologies to get weight out of the wing, but they need to be at the right cost and the right production-rate capability," she added. Through the WoT program, Airbus can develop and investigate innovative manufacturing and assembly technologies to ensure that the coming generations can still enjoy the benefits of air travel.

“It’s about preparing our people, technology, industrial system, supply chain, and digital and physical capabilities for next-generation aircraft. We’re leveraging industry partners and the very best digital tools and automation to identify potential technology bottlenecks that may slow us down in the future. The foundations we lay now will help us build better and faster when the time comes," said Partridge.

The research is also receiving healthy funding, with the Aerospace Technology Institute has been awarded Airbus £117 million in 2014 for its "Wing of Tomorrow" program.

The wings may be used on future Airbus airliners

The A320/321 and Boeing 737 are best sellers and are currently built with aluminum. However, designers are optimistic that using composites will enable the creation of wings with new, efficient tapering techniques. The challenge lies in the fact that composite parts are more expensive to manufacture, and it is more difficult to offset these costs on the economically-priced A320 and 737 compared to larger aircraft already constructed with composites.