What you're looking at here is history -- the triumph of seven years of design and engineering. Today, the Airbus A350 XWB completed its first flight.
Here's the video of the mammoth taking to the skies:
Far from just another tin tank, the A350 is a carbon fibre miracle. Its frame is made from 53 per cent composite materials -- more than competing planes -- as well as a fuel-conscious amenities inside, like LED lighting. Altogether, these features make the A350 the most efficient, large twin-engine bird to ever fly -- at least according to Airbus' numbers.
The A350 sailed off a runway in Toulouse, France, and completed a four-hour test flight as scheduled early this morning. This is just the beginning of the airplane's one-year, 2500-hour certification process. If all goes well, the aeroplane could be taking off from an airport near you by 2014.
The European-build A350 is considered the key competitor to Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner, and the larger Boeing 777. The Dreamliner is a considerably smaller plane than the A350.
The 787 can hold up to 250 passengers while the A350 can fit up to 350. The reason the two planes are considered competitors is due to their advanced composite bodies and fuel efficiency. Indeed, that the Airbus bird is made of 53 per cent composites is a not-so-subtle answer to the Dreamliner's 50 per cent composite build.
The Dreamliner, which first took off last year, had the first-mover advantage.
It was supposed to vanquish the A350 with ease. Except the plan completely backfired. The Dreamliner has been plagued with problems. Earlier this year, a Dreamliner caught fire in boston following the failure of its experimental power system, which uses lithium-ion batteries. In fact, just a few days ago, the world's second largest operator of Dreamliners cancelled service with an aircraft after one plane's engines refused to start on the runway -- it's happened three times in a week.
Airbus might have been a little late to the party, bit it learned from Boeings failures and scrapped plans for a lithium-ion battery. [Airbus]