Airbus’ first commercial jet in six years, the A350-XWB, took off Friday for the first time from the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in the south of France, headed for the biennial Paris Air Show, the world’s largest aerospace expo, which opens to the public on Monday at Le Bourget Airport, north of the French capital.
The twin-engine wide body jet comes after last year’s failed merger between parent company EADS NV (EPA:EAD) and Britain’s aerospace defense company BAE Systems plc (LON:BA). With its defense segment hopes dashed, EADS is hoping the rollout of the A350 will put to rest criticisms it received in the costly delays to the 2005 rollout of the A380 superjumbo. The A350 came out on time as scheduled, which is an important development where delays in this capital-intensive industry mean huge increases in costs and canceled orders.
The new plane directly competes with The Boeing Company’s (NYSE:BA) 787 Dreamliner. Airbus is touting its new jet as more comfortable, with an extra inch of seat, and nearly 7 percent more efficient than the Boeing-equivalent while carrying more people.
Powered by engines manufactured by Britain’s Rolls-Royce Holding PLC (LON:RR), and displaying distinctive curved wing-tips called Sharklets that help increase fuel efficiency by decreasing drag, the plane took off at around 10 a.m. local time as Airbus employees that manufacture the plane and members of the press watched from the tarmac, BBC reports.
The A350’s debut at the Paris Air Show, expected to draw 350,000 members of the global aerospace community, was a conscious decision by the company; there’s no better venue than that for a show-stealing display.