Airbus wings made in Filton begin their long trip from Bristol to Spain ... by sea
THE first wings for an Airbus plane built at Filton and to be transported by sea were loaded on a giant ship at Avonmouth this week.
There were fears that the closure of Filton Airfield would lead to the loss of work at the giant Airbus factory in South Gloucestershire.
The firm was one of the biggest users of the airfield until it closed in December of last year. Under the old system wings built at the giant factory were loaded onto Beluga aircraft at Filton and then flown to assembly plants in North Wales, Germany, the south of France and Seville.
And there were concerns that the decision to close down the airfield would be a massive blow for the Airbus factory and its 4,000 strong workforce.
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But Airbus has always insisted that contingency plans were put into place. This week the huge logistical operation to transport wings built in Bristol to the south of Spain swung into action.
The wings designed and built in Filton are for the A400m military aircraft – which is better known as the Grizzly.
The plane is assembled and built in Airbus's military factory in Seville and the 1,500-mile journey usually takes around four hours by plane.
Under the new arrangements the 20 metre long wings were transported to Avonmouth by road and loaded onto an Airbus-owned container ship.
The journey to the southern coast of Spain will take three days and then the wings will be loaded onto a trailer and transported by road to the Seville factory.
The unions had raised concerns about the impact of the closure of the airfield on the Airbus factory but Airbus has always insisted a robust transport system was in place.
A similar operation in North Wales recently ran into trouble when the cargo ship involved became marooned on a sand bank in the Dee Estuary.
The Ciudad de Cadiz had to be re-floated after it was stuck for more than a week. It is undergoing extensive tests to make sure it suffered no damage. The 125m vessel became stranded after slipping its moorings outside Mostyn Docks, where the ship was due to pick up plane wings made at the Airbus factory in Broughton.
It is one of three ships used by the company to ferry wings to its assembly factory at Toulouse in southern France and in Spain.
Earlier attempts to refloat the vessel had to be abandoned due to high winds and low tides.
Even though Airbus is no longer the world's leading aircraft manufacturer the firm is still breaking records for orders.
It has concentrated its research and development operation in Filton. Last month the firm announced 200 new jobs with the help of a Government grant.
Government minister Michael Fallon announced that Filton would get a slice of the Regional Growth Fund to fund the posts.