tip off

First flyable A350 becomes towable in Toulouse

It’s nowhere near to being ready to fly, but the latest Airbus, the A350, is now able to move on its own wheels

While it remains a work in progress the first Airbus  A350-900 that will take to the air in mid-2013 has been towed between adjacent facilities in Toulouse.

The short journey marks the the end of the major structural assembly of the airframe of the mid sized wide body jet which is now expected to enter service late in 2014.

Its  nearest competitor, the Boeing 787-9, which is the second version of the Dreamliner, is officially due to begin its final assembly phase in the late northern spring or early summer next year.

But as a derivative of the -8 version which has been in service for more than a year, the -9 Dreamliner is expected to progress more rapidly than the A350-900 to entry into service, and start carrying passengers for launch customer Air New Zealand by around the middle of 2014 rather than the end of that year in the case of the Airbus design for its launch customer Qatar Airways.

Or so Airbus and Boeing advise. Both programs are running late.

Airbus said last night that it had completed the main structural assembly and system connection of A350 XWB ‘MSN-001’ – the first flight-test aircraft.

The aircraft is depicted here on its wheels for the very first time moving out of the main assembly hall (Station 40) at the recently inaugurated “Roger Béteille” A350 XWB Final Assembly Line in Toulouse. It then entered the adjacent indoor ground test station (Station 30).

The assembly work performed in Station 40 included the successful electrical power-on of the aircraft’s entire fuselage and wings. Soon work in Station 30 will start by testing the aircraft’s hydraulic system, followed by the full electric and hydraulic power-on of the aircraft which will be completed by around the end of the year. This will mark the start of several weeks of comprehensive functional system testing.

After the A350 XWB MSN-001 exits station 30, the aircraft will go through a series of extensive production and certification / development tests, be painted and have its engines installed. It will then be delivered to the flight-line and be readied for its first flight in mid-2013.

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