Airbus has achieved power-on for the first flying prototype of the A350-900, MSN1, and is reaffirming its plans to conduct the maiden flight in the middle of this year.
While chief executive Fabrice Brégier shied away from any indication that the aircraft would fly in time for the Paris air show in June, he maintained the airframer's aim to have the twinjet airborne "around mid-2013".
Airbus is keeping to this schedule despite the wing-drilling problems which afflicted the programme last year, and pushed initial deliveries into the second half of 2014.
The airframer achieved power-on for the MSN1 in December 2012 and Brégier says the first flight is the "next big challenge".
Progress on the A350 has been "reasonably good", he says, but he remains "very humble" over the programme, acknowledging that the manufacturer has experienced problems with suppliers as well as the drilling issue.
He says, however, that these issues are "largely behind us" and says the assembly of the A350 prototype has gone smoothly.
"Tolerances of the fuselage parts are very good," he says, adding that workers expressed surprise that they "didn't have any problem to assemble the fuselage of this aircraft".
Brégier adds that assembly of MSN3, the next A350 airframe, will start in early 2013.
"I'll not claim victory for now but I'm pretty satisfied with progress in 2012," he says.