European plane-maker Airbus announced the first flight of its new A350 XWB passenger jet is set for Friday, just days ahead of the Paris Air Show, the world's premier aviation showcase.
Weather conditions permitting, the A350 XWB will take off from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France about 1 a.m. PDT, the company said.
The Paris Air Show, set to run from June 17 to June 23, is where airlines and aircraft leasing companies go on buying sprees, announcing orders worth billions of dollars. It's held every other year.
Airbus executives want the new jet to make a big splash. The A350 XWB is a direct competitor to rival Boeing Co.’s beleaguered 787 Dreamliner in the long-haul market.
The A350 XWB seats 270 to 350 passengers in typical three-class layouts. Airbus listed the jet at $254.3 million to $332.1 million, depending on the version ordered.
The plane, which is made largely with lightweight carbon fiber, has been beset by delays, but in recent months several key tasks have been completed, including flight test instrumentation verification, engine installation and a subsequent intensive phase of ground vibration tests.
Airbus is looking to cash in after Boeing's misfortune with its 787. That plane was returned to service in May after being grounded for three months in connection with two separate incidents in less than two weeks in which the plane's lithium-ion batteries were found to be overheating.
Since then, investigators have probed the 787's battery design and certification process, but the root cause remains a mystery.
Airbus had planned on using lithium-ion batteries on the A350 XWB because it saved weight and therefore produced fuel savings, but the company switched to more traditional nickel cadmium batteries when Boeing's problems began making headlines.
Airbus said the A350 XWB has already won 613 firm orders from 33 customers worldwide. The company hopes the jet will be ready for entry into service in the second half of 2014.