Thales is involved in the A350 XWB program since 2008 for the development and supply of large avionics shipset and electrical power conversion and since 2010, for in-flight entertainment and connectivity. Thales is the most present Original Equipment Manufacturer present on the platform. All Thales avionics equipment now has A350-900 EASA Type Certificate Approval. To date over 2,000 pieces of equipment have been delivered.
Several technological leaps have been developed by Thales specifically for this platform.
To know more about what Frank Chapman, Airbus flight test chief pilot thinks about the A350-900 cockpit, click here.
Q&A with Xavier Labbé, head of the A350 XWB program at Thales
What are the main avionics innovations on board the A350-900?
I would go for three ones. The first is the Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU): this is the first civil inertial unit that has been developed, certified and produced by Thales. The unit features state-of-the-art technologies and performs as expected with a remarkable level of accuracy and stability, thus contributing to the global performance of the aircraft’s air data chain.
The second would be the six large 15-inch displays. Once again this is the first time that such large screens have been installed in an Airbus cockpit. Other than the displays that are solely devoted to avionics information (navigation screen, primary flight displays, system information), these screens also provide information from the open world. Interactions with pilots and automatic reconfiguration enable perfect homogeneity between the different display systems onboard the whole Airbus range of aircraft. Qualifications for pilots are thus facilitated with the different models between the A320 and A350-900.
Another would be the Integrated Modular Avionics, or IMA. IMA has been first implemented on the A380 and the A400M, and embarks twice as many applications than previous generations, thus allowing reduced weight, enhanced performance and lower ownership costs for airlines. For the first time on the A350 XWB, remote data concentrator located near the sensors and the actuators, produced in partnership with Diehl Aerospace, enables the optimized processing of specific interfaces. Previously, each function was hosted by separate computers.
How did the program go with our customer, Airbus?
For the A350-900 program, Airbus implemented its “new system policy”, thus giving more responsibilities to its tier-1 suppliers.
Therefore we played a key role in advising for system pre-integration, on the inertial unit for instance. We were committed to achieving maturity for the first flight. After 15 months of flight tests, checking our equipment provided a means of confirming the high level of maturity which was attained more than one year before the certification of the aircraft. Early validations combined with a perfect collaboration with our customer in total transparency allowed us to achieve such results.
What are the next steps of the program for Thales?
The most important is to succeed in quickly ramping up production thanks to an industrial maturity aimed at ensuring quality and the on-time deliveries. We are also organized in order to provide Airbus’s first airline customer a flawless support for its operations, as early as the end of the year.
At the same time, we are continuing to work on complementary developments for the A350-1000, which will mainly be devoted to new add-on functionalities.
Some other key innovations
The plane will also be equipped with the latest generation electrical power conversion system developed by Thales.
Beyond avionics equipment, the Thales AVANT, the most advanced in-flight entertainment system on the market, has already been chosen to equip the launch customer’s very first A350-900.
Thales equipement onboard the A350-900
- Cockpit systems – Control and display systems – Head Up Display
- Navigation – Air Data Inertial Reference Unit, Flight Control Unit, Integrated Stand By instruments, Airport Navigation Function
- Avionics – Core Processing input/output module, common remote data concentrator, aircraft full duplex end system
- Utilities – Doors and slides management systems, slats and flaps control computer
- Electrical systems – Electrical power conversion system
- Cabin Systems – Cabin Lighting, mood lighting, inflight entertainment depending on customer selection and connectivity system