The new Airbus A350 took off on its maiden flight on Friday in a move that stepped up the battle with arch-rival Boeing. The new jetliner will compete with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
The maiden flight was watched by over 10,000 staff and spectators in Toulouse, France. The aircraft’s curled wingtips helped the plane lift off into the clouds above the Airbus factory.
The Airbus A350 flew over the Pyrenees mountains with a crew of six people wearing orange jumpsuits and parachutes, in case the aircraft experienced problems.
The flight was a four-hour culmination of eight years of development that cost Airbus about $15 billion. British chief test pilot Peter Chandler, who spoke by radio from 13,000 feet, stated, “The airplane is behaving extremely well.”
French co-pilot Guy Magrin took control of the A350 for the 10:01 am local time take-off. Tom Enders, the head of Airbus parent EADS, commented after the lightweight airliner landed:
“It is a great day for Airbus. A maiden flight doesn’t happen that often. It is not like the auto industry, where you launch a new model every two years or even less.”
The maiden flight of the A350 was a milestone for Airbus as the company battles against Boeing’s Dreamliner for sales. Both aircraft represent a new generation of lightweight jets that are made from a carbon-plastic material. The new design is meant to save fuel and open up more long-distance routes.
Boeing was the first to launch the new carbon-composite technology. And the company’s Dreamliner has far outsold the A350 with current sales standing at 833 aircraft for 57 customers. But Airbus hopes to catch up.
The Airbus A350 that flew on Friday is the first of five test models that will be worked on before production begins next year. Meanwhile, Boeing is expected to announce a new version of the Dreamliner as a way to boost sales.
[Image via Don-vip]