Airbus' Newest A350 Jet Completes Maiden Flight

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The newest version of Airbus’ A350 passenger jet completed a maiden flight Thursday during a well-attended event to see the long-haul market contender in action. The A350-1000, one of three test aircraft assembled at Airbus’ main facility in France, departed early Thursday before crowds of employees and potential customers, returning to Toulouse after a three-hour flight. The test models, the largest of the A350 series, will undergo about 1,600 hours of flight tests for certification, according to Reuters’ report on this week’s debut. The standard 1000 version will have 366 passenger seats, a beefier version of the A350-900 that’s now in service and making it a contender against Boeing’s 777 series. Airbus contends that the composite-built A350-1000 will cost 25 percent less to operate than the B777-ER, according to the Reuters report. The A350-1000 is slated to enter service in 2017.

Meanwhile, Airbus, which also is undergoing a consolidation of its Toulouse operations to cut costs, faces potential roadblocks in completing deliveries of its current aircraft. Delays from suppliers have left incomplete A350-900 jets parked in Toulouse waiting for their cabins to be finished. Meanwhile, some smaller A320 jets waiting to be delivered don’t have engines from Pratt & Whitney – all of which a Reuters report indicates is a sign of suppliers struggling to keep up with demand for new components. But officials said the A350-900 is still on schedule for 50 deliveries this year despite ongoing concerns over suppliers. “It has improved, but it is not where it should be and we are watching them very carefully,” an Airbus official told Reuters.

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