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Airbus A350 takes off on first flight with high sales hopes

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the Airbus factory in Toulouse
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the Airbus factory in Toulouse Reuters/Remy Gabalda/Pool

Airbus's new A350 airliner took off from Toulouse airport, near the factory where it was built, on Friday morning. With a first test-flight just before the Le Bourget airshow opens, the European company hopes the plane will help it compete with the US's Boeing.

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The MSN001 test model of the A350 set off on its maiden flight from Toulouse-Blagnac airport at 10.00am local time.

The flight, with a crew of six including two pilots, was expected to last four hours.

More than 50 per cent of materials used to build the plane are composites, which reduce its weight.

The A350 is scheduled to start commercial flights in the second quarter of 2014 after thousands of hours of tests.

More than 11 billion euros have been invested in the programme.

The test flight allows Airbus to grab headlines ahead of Paris's Le Bourget airshow, which opens on Monday, and Airbus hopes it will boost orders in competition to Boeing's Dreamliner.

It aims to sell 5,000 A350s over the next 20 years.

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