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Hollingbury and the Airbus (Part 6)

1988 Upgrade

By the mid 1980’s, with air travel even increasing, an extension to the 200 Series was planned.  This was completed in 1988 by the addition of another 21 metres of X bed and a third 5 axis Gantry and cutting spindle.  This made the machine 87 metres long, more than 4 cricket pitches, with a total weight of around 750 tons.  It was now capable of simultaneously cutting 3 wings skins each 24 metres long, or even the latest larger Airbus wings, which were now over 40 metres long.

Schoolboys of the 1980s

While schoolboys of the 1980’s were well aware of huge aircraft wings being flown to France, probably they speculated on how this was achieved?  It was made possible thanks to the huge Boeing Super Guppy transport plane (at Boeing it was a standing joke that “every Airbus was delivered by Boeing”)!  Like the fascination the schoolboys had then, readers now may speculate on how it was possible that this huge machine, with massive X-axis motors fighting against each other to eliminate backlash, was able to position the 35 ton Gantry beam, to an accuracy of just over 2 microns, twenty-five times smaller than the thickness of a human hair?  It was all made possible thanks to KTM and the engineers from Brighton.

The 200 Series Maxetrace, after the 1988 upgrade, showing the 3 gantries and now 87 metres in length
From the private collection of Dick Duly
The Boeing Super Guppy Transport Plane, used to transport Airbus components between European factories
From the private collection of Peter Groves

Comments about this page

  • Thanks Peter for the informative and well illustrated ‘Hollingbury and the Airbus’ contribution. Having worked for KTM at the time of the aerospace projects and contributed to their manufacture, it’s nice to have this project documented for future reference. Peter’s article also shows future readers of this informative website the manufacturing skills that were once in abundance in the area. Brighton’s local engineering industry which was probably started by the locomotive works in the 1850s, reached its peak in the 1950s and 60s and was all but lost by the 90s, is now being well documented by this website. After generations of father and son engineers working in Brighton, that tradition has now dwindled to a trickle as there is little manufacturing left in the area.

    By Michael Brittain (13/01/2012)
  • I used to see this plane flying over my village in North Wales on a Wednesday, I think. My sons called it ‘the whale’. It was huge. I worked in Hollingbury (Leytool, Chubb Cash and STC) before I moved away from Brighton and it is a surprise to see the photo here connected to Hollingbury!

    By Zulema Gonzalez (30/08/2013)

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