On a wintery morning in St. Nazaire, France today, the first fuselage section of the Airbus A350 static airframe was loaded onto the A300-600ST Beluga transport aircraft. It's destination was Toulouse, France, site of the aircraft's final assembly operations. This airframe, also known as ES or MSN5000, will never fly and will be used in ground testing to validate the static strength of the aircraft's composite wings and paneled fuselage.
This particular section began mating in St. Nazaire on December 9, after it was delivered on September 27 from Aerolia which makes the Section 11/12 forward-most fuselage section in Méaulte, France.
MSN1 followed MSN5000 to St. Nazaire and had begun initial assembly as of early-November.
The MSN5000's forward fuselage will be mated to the center fuselage beginning in the first quarter next year and final assembly of MSN1 in Toulouse will begin in the second quarter. First deliveries of the A350-900 are now planned for the first half of 2014.
Additional photos are available below the fold.
Photo Credit Airbus