An Airbus signage is pictured at the new Airbus Asia Training Centre in Singapore April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

An Airbus signage is pictured at the new Airbus Asia Training Centre in Singapore April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo (Copyright Reuters 2016)

Airbus A350-1000 stages maiden flight

Features Reuters

Europe's largest twin-engined passenger jet, the Airbus A350-1000, took to the skies for the first time on Thursday, seeking to grab the spotlight from Boeing's popular 777.

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The lightweight carbon-fiber Airbus , 7 meters (yards) longer and able to carry 40 more people than A350s already in service, began a three-hour debut flight at just after 0940 GMT (4:40 a.m. ET), watched by some of the airline bosses who have invested in the $356 million jet.

The 366-seat A350-1000 was designed to break Boeing's virtual monopoly in the lucrative "mini-jumbo" segment, typically involving large twin-engined jets carrying 350 people.

It is a larger cousin to the new-generation A350-900, which entered service last year. Both are built from similar advanced materials to Boeing's mid-sized 787 Dreamliner in a race between planemakers for fuel savings and better passenger comfort.

The aircraft involved in Thursday's Toulouse debut is one of three test planes facing a winter of intensive flight testing before the A350-1000 enters service in the second half of 2017.

Fabrice Bregier, chief executive of Airbus, added he was confident the A350-1000 would be delivered on time next year.

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(Reporting by Tim Hepher, Johanna Decorse; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)