The first A350XWB, which will be used for static testing, is undergoing final assembly in a new dedicated assembly facility in Toulouse.  As our readers know, several pieces of the fuselage have been completed at various facilities, and have been delivered to Toulouse for final assembly.The front and center fuselage sections, manufactured in St. Nazaire, France have already been delivered.

These will be joined with the aft section manufactured in Hamburg, Germany and the wings, manufactured in Broughton in the UK later this year as the program reaches another milestone.

It is always interesting to see a new airplane make the transition from paper to reality, and the A350XWB, which will contain 53% reinforced plastic and an additional 17% in other advanced materials, including titanium and advanced aluminum-lithium alloys, will be the most fuel efficient in its class, with 25% better seat mile economics than the 777.

In A350XWB FAL,  Airbus will simultaneously install interiors as the fuselage sections are joined, enabling more rapid power up and systems testing.  This manufacturing process improvement should enable more efficient production and faster throughput, as power-up and functional testing can begin much sooner than more conventional manufacturing sequences in which cabins followed separately after the entire was completed.

While much of the program slack has been absorbed, Airbus remains on track for entry into service of the first model, the A350-900, in the fourth quarter of 2013, pending unforeseen delays.  But the lessons learned from A380 and appear to be paying off, and a roll-out on schedule should take place this year.  Substantial progress is being made in Toulouse.

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