European aircraft manufacturer Airbus carried out the first test flight of its A350 jet on Friday, bringing this rival of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner one step closer to use on commercial routes.
The maiden flight, which attracted a great deal of media attention at the airport in Toulouse, France, where an Airbus assembly plant is located, took off at 8:00 a.m. and lasted four hours.
It marks the beginning of a roughly 2,500-flight-hour test program for the twin-engine, commercial aircraft, which can seat between 250 and 400 passengers.
Airbus said the test campaign would lead to certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the aircraft's entry into service in the second half of 2014 by initial operator Qatar Airways.
The A350 was the first new model produced at the Toulouse factory in eight years.
Airbus, which invested more than 10 billion euros ($13.3 billion) in this model, says the A350 consumes 25 percent less fuel than the Boeing 787, the best-selling aircraft in the long-haul, mid-size segment.
The Toulouse, France-based company has experienced a year-and-a-half delay in bringing this aircraft to market, though that is less than the three-year delay that Boeing suffered with the 787, mainly due to problems with its lithium-ion batteries.
Airbus chose not to use those batteries and instead opted for more traditional equipment. EFE