First cabin-fitted A350 ready for final assembly

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Fuselage sections for the first Airbus A350 test aircraft to have a fitted cabin have been delivered to the airframer's final assembly line.

The aircraft, MSN2, is scheduled to join the flight programme around January 2014.

Its forward fuselage and cockpit, plus the central and aft fuselage sections have been transported to the line in Toulouse, Airbus states.

MSN2 will have a 252-seat interior cabin and will undertake early long flight and evacuation tests.

Sections of MSN3, which will share with MSN1 much of the heavy flight systems work during certification, have already been delivered.

Airbus's flight-test fleet will include a second cabin-fitted aircraft, MSN5, which will perform route-proving and extended twin-engined operations testing.

MSN5 will also be used to test the nickel-cadmium battery installation to which the airframer belatedly switched in the wake of the problems affecting the Boeing 787.

Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy defends the change, insisting that, while the battery will be heavier, the overall effect will be negligible.

"You don't' do things like putting in cutting-edge technology just to save 66kg," he said during the IATA annual meeting in Cape Town on 3 June. "On an aircraft this size, with all the potential risk, that's silly.

"We don't want to put anything in the A350 that isn't mature technology. We're not going to be different just to be different."