A380 Takes Off As Dreamliner Sales Skyrocket

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The world's largest passenger plane lifted smoothly from Toulouse Airport in France Wednesday, officially launching the highly polarized battle between Airbus and Boeing over the future of air travel. Airbus is gambling its massive A380, which flew for four hours on its maiden flight, is the shape of things to come, promising greater comfort, efficiency and lower fares. However, company officials weren't taking any chances with safety on the first flight. Crew members all wore parachutes and fire trucks lined the runway for the event, which drew 30,000 spectators. But while Airbus is claiming the PR high ground for now, Boeing's vision of future flight, the 787 Dreamliner, earned some pretty substantial votes of confidence on the order book earlier this week. On Monday, long-time Airbus customer Air Canada announced that Boeing models, including up to 60 787s, would form the core of its future long-haul fleet. The airline announced 14 firm orders for Dreamliners with options for 46 more, and 18 orders for 777s with options for 18 more. CEO Robert Milton also said Air Canada would be phasing out the A340 and A330 jets that now do the bulk of the overseas flying. The short-haul market will continue to be based around Air Canada's fleet of more than 100 single-aisle Airbuses. On Tuesday, Air India announced it would buy 27 Dreamliners. That brings the total number of firm orders for the Dreamliner to 244.