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VIDEO: Airbus A350 makes maiden flight

AFP/The Local · 14 Jun 2013, 10:25

Published: 14 Jun 2013 10:25 GMT+02:00

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Airbus's new A350 plane took off on its first flight on Friday, a milestone for an aircraft the firm hopes will help close the gap with rival Boeing in the lucrative long-haul market.

With hundreds of cheering supporters looking on, the plane took off from the airport in the French city of Toulouse for a flight due to last four hours.

The next-generation plane lifted off at 10am French time with six people on board  a British and a French test pilot, a flight engineer and three other engineers at the back.

The test flight of the long-haul plane  more than half of which is made of composite materials  comes just days ahead of the Bourget air show where Boeing and Airbus traditionally vie for the spotlight over plane orders.

"All recent programmes before it, both by Airbus, Boeing and others, have had reasonably horrendous technical problems and delays," said Nick Cunningham, an aviation analyst at the London-based Agency Partners.

"So every time you hit a milestone (such as a test flight), it's good news because it means that you've missed an opportunity to have another big delay."

If the maiden flight is successful, Airbus will enter a test flying period it hopes will last less than 18 months, and plans to deliver its first A350 at the end of next year.

The A350 will complete Airbus's long-haul stable, which includes the A380 super jumbo, and will gradually replace the older A330, a plane that has generated almost half of the firm's revenues in recent years, Cunningham said.

The extensive use of carbon-based composites means the new plane will be lighter and deliver fuel economy  much like its rival, Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

Despite dethroning Boeing in the medium-hall segment, Airbus still needs to catch up with its rival in the long-range market, where the US firm dominates with its 777 and Dreamliner, despite the latter's recent technical problems.

Initially meant as a direct competitor to the Dreamliner, Airbus has now positioned the A350 between Boeing's popular 777 and the new 787, hoping to eat away at both planes' markets.

Story continues below…

From France 3 TV, here is a clip of the take-off...

...and the landing.

AFP/The Local (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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