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Earlier today (sep.9th), I finally visited the huge #airbus plant here in #hamburg Finkenwerder (known as "Finky" among the workers) and these are the only pictures I could legally take, outside the gate! If the lack of meaningful pictures deters you from reading the rest of the post, at least allow me to say that it's totally worth a visit if you happen to have half a day free in Hamburg that you know of a few days in advance: the tour itself takes 2.5 hours but getting there from the central station takes 1 hour, not counting the traffic and the queues that sometimes form in the new Elbe tunnel.

This fun story begins with a casual sighting: from the vantage point of Stadtpark, I caught sight of a "Beluga" on final approach, close enough that the shape was unmistakeable. A few minutes later I observed another airplane passing us almost overhead and that's when I reached for OpenStreetMap to double-check: sure enough, the second plane came from the main airport and the Beluga was landing at a secondary airport. Being as it was that I had no connectivity and we were having a few beers in the shade, weather so far was being almost impeccable, I let the matter rest until the following weekend. Then, as I was visiting the posh suburb of Blankenese, I had a clear view of what was on the other side of the Elbe river: huge buildings marked "Airbus". Now my curiosity was at full blast and, once I got home and online, I found out that not only Airbus had a manufacturing plant here (as opposed to ordinary maintenance) but, be still my beating heart, they also gave guided tours! The monkey on my shoulder was now frantically jumping up and down: over the following days, writing in German and with my teacher double-checking the key points, I managed to book the tour: while it's offered in both German and English and I had originally asked for a German tour a day earlier (birthday self-present), mine was in English and I'm happy that it was so because my technical vocabulary in English is far richer than in German.

Airbus is the second largest employer in the city, coming up right after the Port Authority. Do your homework and look up the stats for Hamburg Port traffic to get an idea but we're talking about 12k. They have the world's third biggest hangar but, taking into account the multiple production sites, they come out ahead of Boeing which is entirely in Seattle. Right before passing the main gate, we were advised in no uncertain terms that photos and recordings were most definitely not welcome and that in fact phones had to be put in airplane mode (oh, the irony!) or switched off altogether for security reasons. That or the shame of a "Hello Kitty"-themed Nissan Micra which I saw parked outside one of the buildings in the sprawling complex. Seriously, don't try it: there was an Airbus employee on tour with us and he was scolded quite strongly for taking a business phone call and slightly breaking away from the group; I'm pretty sure that if anyone else had tried the same they would have been booted of the plant altogether. There is a security guard trailing each group, so the guide can focus on touring and answering questions.

The site has an older part that predates Airbus and a newer part that is built on landfill, subtracted to the Elbe and reinforced with pillars to hold the weight above. They made it as eco-friendly as they could and even went as far as drawing water from the river for the toilets to reduce the footprint as much as possible.

After a brief introductory video, we were shown inside one of the seven A320 assembly lines: the floor was spotless because, the guide explained, the jigs used to move the parts use air-cushions to minimize friction, of course FOD warnings were all over the place. They also had Kuka movers, capable of travelling side-ways, and Thyssen cranes at the top of up to 30m high hangars (consider that the vertical stabilizer of an A380 is about 24 meters, plus a little clearance). Having worked 5 years at Boeing and 16 at Airbus, our guide could both make comparisons and poke fun at Boeing, even if the pride in his job was evident.

One important bit of information I learnt is that airframe life, measured in cycles (takeoff to landing), is not limited by the stress of pressurization / depressurization but by the impact of landings: the hardpoints supporting the main landing gears have a given amount of margin before the deformation is too severe, once the cumulative effect of all landings exceeds the tolerance the airframe is toast.

During assembly:
- spars and skin are laser-welded to reduce rivet count and thereby save weight
- some 3D printed structural parts are already in use: it saves time on machining the full piece only to recycle most of the material anyway.
- all that can be fit here will be, especially parts too big to pass through the door of the finished fuselage.
- on a green (raw) fuselage, discoloured patches indicate a rework because a rivet was not flush with the fuselage and had to be sanded down
- the A320 line takes less than 3 days to complete and, on average, every day Finky produces 2.5 airplanes.
- following assembly, the airplane undergoes a further 40 days of internal testing before the customer airline pilots are invited for acceptance testing and delivery
- customers may come unannounced to see progress on their orders and are always given access.

On Airbus:
- the total backlog stands at slightly more than 6000 planes; with production forecast for 2016 at 600+ airplanes, if you order NOW you'll get yours 10 years!
- they operate in USD "because it's more stable" so they're no immediately affected by the #brexit (wings and landing gears come from the UK)
- the production line for A380 has enough work for only 5 years, since it is not selling as quickly as they had imagined; they're building 2 per month, at present.
- 90% of the sales are for the A320 family
- the tour used to be longer but they decided to show just the final assemblies instead of previous steps for all lines, pity.
- "Super Guppy" is the only Boeing parked there, it was replaced by the larger Beluga, which will in turn be replaced by an even larger transporter: only the vertical stabilizer of the A380 can fit inside the Beluga, not the fuselage sections. Those are shipped by sea, put together in Toulouse then aircraft files back here as "green" (meaning, only aluminum primer and anticorrosion is applied) for final fittings.
- at the beginning of the A380 program the most senior engineers came from the Concorde team, later on the group was expanded and a younger generation brought in
- together with other manufacturers, they're moving towards fuelcells for APUs.
- sharklets are painted before installation, possibly the only part for which this is done, because it's easier to paint the logo on a table :)
- it takes 500kg of paint for the A380 (in three layers)

On finished aircraft:
- the main landing gear assembly is the second most expensive system after the engines
- fuel consumption on the A320neo is 2.5l/100km/pax due to the adoption of "sharklets" (the bent wingtips which prevent vortex formation); all types will get them in time, to improve fuel efficiency.
- the wingtip on an A380 flexes up to 8.5m between fully loaded and flying (if encountering an air pocket) or up to 4.5m (when the ride is not bumpy).
- you have no fucking idea how gigantic an A380 is until you have seen one up close and personal and for me it also was the first time I saw one on jacks, because they were doing swing tests on the main landing gears (we didn't actually see them moving, unfortunately)
- upon delivery, departing planes roll slightly, both ways, as a salute, and go directly into service.
- in the delivery area were 2 A380 for Emirates (the arabic script on the engine cowlings simply means "Emirates", no fancy slogan)
- it takes 21 tankers to fill up an A380, which has a fuel capacity of 320.000 liters and a MTOW of 560 tons.
- the Saudi king has an executive version of the A380 with a swimming pool. Of course I had to ask about sloshing on takeoff and landing: they use baffles to control it and make the pool safe for flight.

I asked a few questions during the tour, my biggest one concerned the rating of Service Bulletins: I wanted to know if the manufacturer had external regulations to adhere to when rating an upgrade / modification as "recommended" rather than "mandatory" or if it came down to experience and company policy. Although the guide was quite experienced, he didn't really answer this question: either he didn't understand it, or he was very skilled in pretending ;)

Booking: https://werksfuehrung.de/en/factorytour/
Ping +Fred Robel​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ for obvious reasons and +Alma Mazziotta​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ for, well, reasons XD

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Just saw that there are some Airbus-approved pictures on the site as well: werksfuehrung.de - impressions: Die Werksführung
(incidentally, I think the A380 picture is mislabeled: the size of the door compared to the fuselage makes me think of the A320 family)
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They are probably the same age!
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The only golden shower I approve of.
And I'm not trolling Trump alone :P
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Eight men own more than 3.6 billion people do: our economics is broken
#youdontsay
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Very cool!
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È bellissima! 
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ooooooohhhhhh
( I saw the current incarnation of Beluga in flight and it's quite a sight: https://goo.gl/oMAvwp )
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già ampiamento notato e segnalato a chi di dovere ;)
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"Just Do It Later" is our latest great tee on https://www.qwertee.com/ryjw8mzao going live in just 15 minutes. Get this great design now for the super price of £8/€10/$12 for 24 hours only. Be sure to "+1" this for 1 chance at a FREE TEE today, "Share" it for 2 chances and "Comment" on it for a 3rd chance. Thanks Guys!

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Che troll :D
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Che manica di imbecilli 😂
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