Airbus is expecting to fly its second A350-900 prototype, MSN3, next month and begin final assembly of the first customer aircraft by the end of this year.
Chief executive Fabrice Bregier, speaking after joining a flight of MSN1 for auxiliary power unit tests, said the second aircraft would "probably" by flying in October. The first cabin-fitted twinjet, MSN2, would join the test fleet afterwards.
Five A350s will feature in the test fleet. MSN1 performed its maiden flight on 14 June and Bregier says there is a "pretty good level of maturity" evident after just 150h of testing.
"We have to prepare the ramp-up, we have to manage the supply chain, and we need to deliver the first aircraft," Bregier says. Qatar Airways is to receive the first production aircraft in the second half of 2014.
Bregier adds: "The first Qatar Airways aircraft will start the final assembly line operations by the end of this year. And we also have to work very hard on the development of the next member of the family, which is the -1000."
Airbus is due to introduce the smaller -800 before the -1000 and insist that Bregier's reference to "next" relates to development work for the -1000, which will involve broader changes to the basic -900 design - including wing and powerplant modification - than the simple -800 shrink.