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Airbus Newest Plane Takes to the Sky

Airbus flew the new A350-1000 for the first time Thursday. It is the largest twin jet the European aerospace company has made. The jet took to the sky from Toulouse, France, headquarters of Airbus, at 10:42 a.m. local time (4:42 a.m. ET) and flew over France several hours before returning to the runway.

The new jet is powered by the Trent XWB engine, which is made by Rolls-Royce and can put out 97,000lbs of thrust. The A350-1000 can seat at least 350 to 440 passengers depending on airline configuration. With its 7,950-mile range, Airbus estimates the jet will be able to reach cities such as Shanghai, Boston, L.A., and Manchester, England.

Whereas traditional jets are made with aluminum, the -1000 is made of carbon fiber composite materials. The use of these materials allows for better features such as fuel efficiency, comfortable humidity in the cabin, and larger windows.

Airbus made a smaller version in 2013 called the A350-900. The -900 is smaller and able to travel 200 miles farther than the -1000. It also seats about 325 passengers.

Until the -1000, Boeing has long since conquered twin-engine, long-haul jet sales. Boeing and Airbus have been in competition for years. Each has tried to top the other by making a bigger, faster, more efficient plane. With the addition of the A350-1000, Airbus seems to be on the verge of surpassing Boeing’s 777-300.

Boeing’s 777-300 is its most popular product, selling over 809 frames, yet Airbus counters that the -1000 is 30 tons lighter and 25% more fuel efficient. Fabrice Bregier, CEO of Airbus, stated on Thursday that “The -1000 has killed the 777-300ER. What we wanted has been achieved, without having even demonstrated it in flight.”

Boeing’s 777 program includes the 777-9x and the 777-10x. The 777x was launched back in 2013 as a competitor for the A350 program. Boeing’s 777 can carry more than 400 passengers. Yet Bregier estimates that this feature works against the plane. He said, “It’s not that there is a market pushing for a bigger aircraft. They need to add seats to justify the cost per seat,” noting that the jet hasn’t sold well since 2013. However, there have been rumors the -1000 is lacking in capacity to compete with Boeing’s 777x.

Airbus already has 810 orders for the A350 program, and that includes 195 orders for the -1000. Airbus holds hope that with the new sales for this jet, along with sales for revamped versions of A330, will see it’s percent in sales rise 50%.

Since the A350 program was first launched in 2006, the -1000 is its latest installment and the first order has already been promised to Qatar Airway. Qatar Airway will be the first air carrier to fly the plane sometime late next year.

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