Production of the first new-generation Airbus A340-500/600 model is gathering momentum, with the delivery of the first two fuselage sections to the assembly line in Toulouse.

The subassemblies of A340-600 number one, built by Aerospatiale Matra at its St Nazaire plant, arrived at Toulouse in early April, in preparation for final assembly. The first example of the stretched Rolls-Royce Trent 500-powered A340 model will be completed by the start of next year. Service entry is set for March 2002.

The 380-seat -600 will be followed into service by the smaller, longer range 313-seat -500 later in 2002. The baseline price of the A340-500 has been revealed by Airbus managing director Noel Forgeard as $151 million and $161 million for the -600.

Aerospatiale Matra says production of both types will start at four this year, all of which will be dedicated to the flight test programme. During 2002, a total of 23 will be delivered, including 15 -600s to four customers - Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Swissair and ILFC and eight -500s to three airlines - Air Canada, Emirates and Singapore Airlines. A further 35 are earmarked for delivery in 2003.

Source: Flight International