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Fuel-saving Airbus A350 makes maiden flight

Photo: AFP

Europe’s newest passenger jet, the Airbus A350, successfully began its maiden flight on Friday in a milestone moment for the European giant as it battles against Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner for sales of fuel-saving lightweight carbon-composite jets.

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Airbus's next-generation A350 took its maiden flight on Friday, setting the stage for intensifying competition with US rival Boeing in the long-haul wide-body aircraft market.

With more than 10,000 employees and spectators looking on, the sleek jet – crewed by two British and French former fighter pilots and with tonnes of test equipment on board – took off into cloudy skies from the French city of Toulouse for a four-hour flight.

The event marks a milestone for the A350, which Airbus hopes will challenge Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in the lucrative long-haul market.

CEO of parent company EADS Tom Enders described the event as “a very special moment in an aerospace company”. The plane caps eight years of development estimated to be worth $15 billion.

More than half of the A350 is made of light composite materials that reduce jet fuel, which make up about half the cost of long-haul flights.

It is now set to enter a test-flying period that Airbus hopes will last less than 18 months, with the first delivery expected at the end of next year. Confirmed customers so far include Qatar Airways, British Airways and Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific.

The European company is predicting hundreds of orders for the A350 at next week's Paris Air Show.

Boeing is still recovering from problems with the lithium batteries on its 787 Dreamliner, but currently dominates the long-haul market with the 787 and 777.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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