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'Airbus Explored' - Part Four

The Airbus site in Filton, Bristol

We've been given special, behind the scenes access to one of the South West's biggest employers. We will be giving you an insight into various departments from across the Airbus site in Filton. Part Four of our series takes a look at the A400M department.

The A400M is a massive aircraft that's one of the most advanced and certified airlifters available. 

It's primarily used as a transportation aircraft for troops from our armed forces, as well as their equipment or the delivery of aid and relief packages and airdrops. 

It's designed to operate, land and take-off in difficult terrain, and has short landing and short take-off capabilities. It also has the ability to manoeuvre in any given situation, such as flying through a war zone, and is fully equipped and specially designed in order to protect it in these kind of environments. 

It can essentially do 3 things in 1, and can carry out tactical airlift missions (delivering personnel or goods into active areas), strategic airlift missions (transporting or delivering outsized and heavy vehicles or equipment) and air-to-air refuelling missions (refuelling other planes whilst they're airborne). 

Press play on the video below to see the A400M up close and in action.

In the A400M department at Filton, they produce the wings for the aircraft, and do the full wing build and testing before delivering a full set of wings to their site in Seville, which are then mounted onto the aircraft. 

There's around 174 people in the operations team, who actually work on the aircraft parts, and then there's extra staff in support function roles within A400M.

The parts for the wing are sent to the team from across the world, with a huge supply chain of customers involved in the development and making of the parts. 

Press play on the clip below to hear James Vincent, a launch leader for new work packages on the A400M team, explain the typical production cycle of the wing. 

The team within the A400M department have to have a solid understanding of how the production cycle works, so a lot of them have worked in a number of roles within the department. 

''During my apprenticeship, I spent 6 weeks at a time working in support functions such as quality, logistics, manufacturing and engineering so I could get a better understanding of what we would be going into, and to also understand how we are supported once we get out onto the shop floor'' said Luke Pannell, and Aircraft Fitter on the team. 

''After that, I went onto 6 week rotation in roles around the building doing structure assembly, pre-equipping and then final equipping, and for me experiencing all of these sections gave me a sound basis to understand that if something went wrong later on down the line, perhaps something I learnt in stage one of my training in the assembly could help me solve the problem by knowing who to raise the issue with, or what sort of process goes on behind the scenes at each stage''. 

''Quality is driven into us every single day - along with the safety aspect of things - meaning the quality of our builds is really important, not only for the safety of the customer, but also for the safety of everybody who uses the product''.

''At the end of the day, we're building something very high profile. There's no pit-stops in the sky, so getting that quality right first time is a good mindset to get into. Going around each department and experiencing different problems and aspects of what can go wrong or right gave me a great understanding going forward, and helped me in different parts of the wing build'' said Luke. 

To hear Luke talking about what it's like to see a part he's worked on operating on a finished and fully functioning A400M, click play on the clip below. 

A lot of the customers the team deal with are international governments, who order an A400M for their armed forces to use. 

The A400M was designed to take over from the Hercules, after several countries realised they'd need a replacement for it as it was coming to the end of its life and usage span.

The customer is able to customise their model, so each one the team build is bespoke and slightly different depending on the needs and intended use of the finished aircraft. 

The team can make the wings bullet-proof and lightning-proof amongst other things. 

Press play on the clip below to hear James talk about how the customer comes to inspect the finished product. 

Once the wings are finished, and the customer is happy with their product, the wing is loaded onto the back of a special lorry, which then leaves the site in Filton in the middle of the night in order to minimise disruption to traffic. 

It then heads to Portbury and gets on the barge to Saint-Nazaire, when it's then transported to the final assembly line in Seville. 

Make sure you come back for the fifth and final part of our 'Airbus Explored' series, where we will be finding out about the future of Airbus in Filton by speaking to several of their apprentices.

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