PICTURE: Airbus starts final assembly work on fourth A400M

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Airbus Military has begun final assembly activities on its fourth of five A400M flight-test aircraft, and expects MSN004 to make its first flight before year-end.

The schedule appears to improve on previous information provided by the EADS company, which said late in 2009 that MSN004 was expected to fly in January 2011.

The aircraft's availability will follow that of MSN002, which should fly in March, and the programme's third A400M, which is scheduled to take to the air in May.

Airbus says MSN004's wings arrived at its San Pablo final assembly site near Seville, Spain, on 21 January in an Airbus A300-600 Beluga transport. Its vertical tailplane is scheduled to arrive in mid-February, with the aircraft's fuselage and nose section due to also be on-site next month.

 
© Airbus Military

The aircraft will be one of two test aircraft to be based in Seville, and will also be the first A400M equipped with a production-representative cargo hold. The programme's three other flight test assets will be operated from Toulouse, France.