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Airbus sets A350 maiden flight for Friday

The vertical tail wing of the first Airbus A350 is seen on the final assembly line in Toulouse, southwestern France, October 23,2012. REUTER
The vertical tail wing of the first Airbus A350 is seen on the final assembly line in Toulouse, southwestern France, October 23,2012. REUTER

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus has chosen Friday for the maiden flight of its newest jet, the A350, the European planemaker said.

The flight will take place at 10:00 am local time (4.00 a.m. ET) from the EADS subsidiary's Toulouse headquarters in southwest France.

The first sortie of Europe's newest passenger plane follows seven years of development costing an estimated $15 billion.

It will set the stage for fierce competition for big jet orders just three days before the June 17-23 Paris Airshow.

Airbus hopes its first aircraft built mainly from lightweight carbon composites will reduce U.S. rival Boeing's lead in the market for long-haul, wide-bodied jets where it offers the 787 Dreamliner which uses similar technology.

Both airplanes mark the shift to a new generation of fuel-efficient, carbon-plastic jetliners designed to slash airline fuel bills, which make up about a third of the industry's costs.

The world's dominant planemakers are competing for a segment of the market that Boeing estimated on Tuesday to be worth at least $1 trillion over the coming two decades.

French transport sources said on Monday preparations had been marred by an air traffic controllers' strike that forced Airbus to delay the historic flight to Friday.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher, Editing by Mark John)

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