Hundreds of Airbus employees lined the edge of the runways at Toulouse airport, impatient to see the first A350-1000 maiden flight. The new twin-engine, long-haul jet took to the skies at 10:40 am on 24th November – in a race to rival Boeing’s popular 777.
The successful take off signals the launch of a series of intensive test flights. These are likely to be several months faster than usual, because of experience already acquired by its “kid brother”, the A350-900.
But Airbus will still need to check the behaviour of this longest-fuselage version of the A350, especially at top speed.
The A350-1000 has been nicknamed “the 777 killer” by Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier, because it consumes 25% less fuel than its rival, the Boeing 777-300ER.
But in all other respects, the two aircraft compete in the same field. Airbus’ twin-engine passenger jet carries 366 passengers over 9,000 miles (14,600 km). Qatar Airways will take the first delivery, scheduled for late 2017.
And if the shorter version, the A350-800 appears to have been left on the side-lines, Airbus doesn’t rule out an even longer version, an A350-2000.