The first aircraft sections left Airbus's Hamburg plant as scheduled this week for the new A320 final assembly line in Tianjin, China, where production is due to begin in August.

The forward and rear fuselage sections for the first aircraft (A320 MSN3591), as well as the wing, engine pylons, horizontal stabiliser and vertical fin, were barged from the Finkenwerder plant on the River Elbe to Hamburg's container port on 24 June, from where they are being shipped to Tianjin port. The sections will then travel 20km (12 miles) by road to the Tianjin Airbus facility.

Transport to China will take less than a month, says Airbus. "Construction work on the site is progressing successfully and the training of the Chinese workers at our production facilities in Toulouse and Hamburg is going very well," it adds.

Assembly of the first Chinese-built A320 will begin on 18 August. Delivery to Sichuan Airlines is scheduled for June next year.

The Tianjin plant, which comprises an all-new joint venture assembly facility (with Airbus holding 51% and a consortium of Chinese industries the remainder) and Airbus-owned delivery centre, will build A319s and A320s. By year-end around 300 Chinese and European staff will be employed at the Chinese final assembly line, with this number rising to around 500 when output reaches four a month in 2011.

Source: Flight International