Europe’s largest twin-engined passenger jet, the Airbus A350-1000, took to the skies for the first time on Thursday, seeking to grab the spotlight from Boeing’s popular 777. The lightweight carbon-fibre Airbus, 7 metres (yards) longer and able to carry 40 more people than A350s already in service, began a three-hour debut flight at just after 0940 GMT, watched by some of the airline bosses who have invested in the $356 million jet.
The 366-seat A350-1000 was designed to break Boeing’s virtual monopoly in the lucrative “mini-jumbo” segment, typically involving large twin-engined jets carrying 350 people.
It is a larger cousin to the new-generation A350-900, which entered service last year. Both are built from similar advanced materials to Boeing’s mid-sized 787 Dreamliner in a race between planemakers for fuel savings and better passenger comfort.
The aircraft involved in Thursday’s Toulouse debut is one of three test planes facing a winter of intensive flight testing before the A350-1000 enters service in the second half of 2017. Fabrice Bregier, chief executive of Airbus, added he was confident the A350-1000 would be delivered on time next year.