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Biggest Airbus 350 makes debut in France

By Allen Cone

TOULOUSE, France, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Airbus' biggest version of its A350 -- a plane that will seat between 366 and 440 passengers -- made its debut flight Thursday.

The twin-jet A350-1000 took off from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport at 10:42 a.m., flying for several hours over southern France before it returned.

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With a range of 7,950 miles, it can fly between cities such as Boston, Mass., and Shanghai or Los Angeles, Calif., and Manchester, England, according to Airbus.

The Trent XWB engine, manufactured by Rolls-Royce, is capable of outputting 97,000 pounds of thrust.

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The first A350 was launched in 2006. The 900 version, which went into service in late 2014, now seats 325 in a standard configuration and can fly 200 miles farther than the 1000.

Airbus has 195 firm orders for the A350-1000 with 11 airlines and 810 for the entire A350 program. Airbus plans to first deliver the jet to Qatar Airways late next year.

The 1000 is Airbus' bid to compete against Boeing, which has dominated the twin-engine long-haul jet market.

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Airbus claims the 1000 is 25 percent more fuel efficient and 30 tons lighter than the Boeing 777-300ER.

"The 1000 has killed the 777-300ER," Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier told USA Today during an interview Thursday. "What we wanted has been achieved, without having even demonstrated it in flight," he added, noting the performance capabilities of the 1000."

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Boeing launched the 777X program in 2013. The 777-9X and 777-10X can carry more than 400 passengers in a three-class configuration.

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The latest version of the jumbo Boeing 747, a four-turbine aircraft, seats 410. The Airbus A380's standard payload is 525 passengers, though the double-decker could accommodate as many as 800 seats in a single class.

"As long as fuel prices remain at elevated levels then two-engine jets will clearly prevail," Zafar Khan, an analyst at Societe Generale in London, told Bloomberg News.

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