The first of the three Airbus A350-100 test-bed aircraft that Airbus will use during the next months of grueling airworthiness tests took off from Toulouse-Blagnac airport at 09:43am GMT with a seven member test-crew including pilots Hughes van der Stichel, Christophe Cail and Frank Chapman.
Hundreds of persons led by Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier witnessed the maiden flight under an overcast and rainy sky.
It is scheduled that the inaugural flight of the latest member of the A350 family will remain airborne some four hours before landing on the same Toulouse runway, which was specifically built in the 1960’s for the Concorde.
To date, Airbus has received 11 client orders accounting for 195 aircraft units; the first airline to receive the new A350-1000 will be Qatar Airways in about a year.
The A350-1000 has a length of 73,78 meters and will enable it to carry 40 passengers more.
It is driven by two Rolls Royce Trent XWB-97 turbofan power plants, giving it a range of 7,950 nautical miles (around 14,700 km) which will enable it to compete with various versions of the Boeing 777 family.
Among its best selling points is the massive use of composite materials, titanium and different aluminum alloys, representing 70 percent of its total weight and making it extremely lightweight for its size.
This means Airbus can boast the A350-1000 will be capable of saving up to 25 percent in fuel costs per passenger seat compared to the Boeing 777, a market segment which Airbus hopes to corner with its new high-tech carbon-fiber jewel in the sky.