First Airbus A350 XWB takes flight

First Airbus A350 XWB takes flight

European aircraft maker yet to confirm whether plane will appear at next week's Paris Air Show
Airbus' first completed A350 XWB is unveiled with a full paint-job in Toulouse, France on May 13.

The inaugural Airbus A350 XWB test flight took off from France's Toulouse-Blagnac airport at around 10 a.m. local time (8 a.m. GMT) Friday morning. 

The European aircraft maker says the “MSN1” test aircraft flight will take around four hours. 

Airbus has set up a website, www.a350xwbfirstflight.com, for those who want to watch the A350's inaugural flight and interviews with company officials live online. It will also be broadcast live on Airbus' Youtube page.  

“I knew it was going to be impressive, but I was blown away," said Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy following the take off.     

"Did you hear how quiet it was? Did you hear what you didn’t hear? We’re going to set new standards. Not just for comfort, not just for performance. But for environmental friendliness. People living around airports won’t even know we’re taking off.” 

Today's launch is in line with speculation among aviation professionals that Airbus is planning to show off its new plane at the upcoming Paris Air Show, a rumor the company has yet to confirm. 

The A350 XWB is the first in a family of super-efficient passenger planes Airbus designed to go head-to-head with rival Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 777s.

"XWB" means "extra wide body." There are three members in the A350 family: the A350-800, the A350-900 and the A350-1000, which seat 270, 314 and 350 passengers respectively, in three-class seating. 

The plane was unveiled last month at Airbus HQ in Toulouse, France. Today's flight is the latest milestone in what has been a turbulent production history for the A350 program, which was first announced in 2006.

Airbus officials say five A350 test planes will be used as part of a year-long certification program. 

Qatar Airways will be the first airline to take delivery of the A350, in late 2014.

For more on the A350, check out these CNN reports: 

Airbus rolls out new A350 XWB

- First look at the A350: What's all the fuss about?