Luck was with me last week and I had the chance to spend three days in Toulouse where Airbus had invited about 150 journalists for an annual technical briefing at its headquarters.
Besides two days of briefings where we got updates on various programmes such as the A350, A380 and the much talked about sharklets, we were also given a short tour of the facility.
More specifically, we got to check out the A350 final assembly line and also the A330-340 cabin interior and engine fitting centre.
Time was tight and the tour was brief but still we managed to see some cool stuff - like the first static A350-900, MSN5000.
The front, centre and aft fuselage sections have been fused and the nose landing gear also installed. (we were only allowed to take photos from a single vantage point, so here it is)
Donning a protection cap, we were also allowed onto the 60 metre long fuselage where engineers were still busy at work. We were told that once work is completed at Station 50, the joined fuselage would be rolled out to Station 40 where the wings of the aircraft will be fitted, and also the main landing gear installed.
Then we saw the A330-340 cabin interior and engine fitting centre where everything you can find in an aircraft - carpets, seats, overhead cabin compartments etc are fitted. No photos were allowed though!
On the second day of our briefings, AirAsia's Tony Fernandes also made a surprise visit. The outspoken CEO was in Toulouse to take delivery of the carrier's 100th A320, which Fernandes had named after outgoing EADS chief Louis Gallois, and had been asked by Airbus to speak on how he grew his carrier from two to 100 aircraft in 10 years.
Fernandes is a man with a sense of humor and pretty much a "quote machine", so when the chance to take a dig at neighbouring carrier Singapore Airlines came up, he went for it: "Singapore Airlines is a confused airline. They have SIA, Silkair, Tiger, and a really ridiculously named airline called Scoot."
He then closed the session saying that the carrier's success really was because he dared to dream the impossible.
And of course, he had a slide to put his point across:
Another thing about being at Airbus' facility in Toulouse is that you don't have to try very hard to spot cool planes:
There was the Malaysia Airlines' A380, due to be delivered this week: