The new Airbus 350 XWB was unveiled today, after setting off from Toulouse-Blagnac airport to embark on its maiden flight.
The first A350 XWB flight set off at 10:00am local time from the French city, where it had been assembled.
Airbus say it is a more efficient aircraft than its predecessors, and is intended by the European planemarker to be a direct rival to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner plane.
With the ongoing battle between the two rivals intensifying, Airbus see the new aircraft as vital to its long term prosperity, having invested $15bn (£9.5bn) in the project.
Like its rival the Dreamliner, the A350 has been largely built using carbon composites and other advanced materials in an effort to minimise weight and maximise fuel efficiency.
All wings for the aircraft were built at the aerospace giant’s Broughton facility in North Wales.
Rolls-Royce, which powers the plane’s engines, hailed the flight as a proud day for the company.
“We congratulate Airbus on today’s huge achievement and look forward to supporting the A350 XWB to a successful entry into service and beyond,” he said.
“Our own employees are very proud to have delivered a global engine programme that has achieved new levels of efficiency.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he believes the new aircraft is significant for all facets of the British aerospace sector.
Mr Clegg said: “The A350-XWB’s maiden flight is significant for Airbus, Rolls-Royce and the aerospace industry – it shows that government’s long-term Aerospace Industrial Strategy is the right approach to ensure the UK remains Europe’s number one aerospace manufacturer.
“This is a big moment for the aerospace industry and the aircraft’s first flight marks the continued commitment to innovation and excellence, contributing to stable economic growth and jobs,” he added.
Due for entry-into-service in the second half of 2014, the A350 XWB has already won 613 firm orders from 33 customers worldwide.