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In Battle of Big Twinjets, Airbus to Fly Biggest A350

In Battle of Big Twinjets, Airbus to Fly Biggest A350
Stepping up a war for sales in a market segment dominated by U.S. rival Boeing, Airbus is preparing to stage the maiden flight of its largest twin-engined airplane, the A350-1000.
As the dominant planemakers vie to outdo each other in size and efficiency in a category expected to generate $1 trillion in orders over the next 20 years, this move is viewed as part of a game of leapfrog at the top of the market for twin-engined long-haul jets.
And at a time of protectionist pressures on both sides of the Atlantic, it is also at the center of a new subsidy row between Europe and the United States. Boeing received at least one strand of banned support for its response to the A350-1000, known as the 777X is what the World Trade Organization is expected to rule in coming days.
In an outing that marks the start of roughly a year of flight testing, the A350-1000 was scheduled to take off from its Toulouse base at around 0930 GMT on Thursday, returning there later, Airbus said. this craft is a stretched version of the model which entered service last year.
In a dispute likely to rumble on long after the A350-1000 enters service in the second half of 2017, the United States says the plane and its smaller A350 sister model could only get off the drawing board thanks to damaging European subsidies.
The Boeing's 777-300ER, the most successful version of the U.S. planemaker's popular 777 family, is the prime competitor of the aircraft, which sells for $356 million at list prices.
Up from 35 percent, it will help it reach 50 percent of wide-body aircraft deliveries, Airbus hopes. But critics say that despite an upgrade in engine design the aircraft failed to deliver the knockout blow to the older 777 it had hoped.
Compared with 809 sales of the 777-300ER, Airbus has sold 195 new-generation A350-1000s out of 810 total A350 orders.
Boeing responded by launching the "777X", including the 406-seat 777-9, unwilling to cede a lucrative spot at the top of the market for twin-engined jets. The European rival has been looking for new and bigger solutions due to this development
A potential 400-seat version called A350-2000 which is being offered to key airlines has eclipsed the A350-1000 even before taking flight, industry sources say. However the decision to develop A350-2000 was recently deferred by Airbus.
Boeing is mulling plans for an even larger "777-10X" which could seat some 450 people, in one final throw of the dice.
CNN reported this month that a decision on which of those two concept jets to order would be taken by Singapore Airlines by year-end.
"The category killer has been the 777-300ER and the A350-1000 fits there. The question is where the market is?: The sweet spot may not be the largest aircraft, but manufacturers don't yet know," said Agency Partners analyst Nick Cunningham.
Sparking a parallel battle between Boeing ally General Electric and Airbus supplier Rolls-Royce, the growth of the big twinjet is driven by advances in the largest engines.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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