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Exclusive Photos: First Look at a Complete Airbus A350
May 08, 2013

The first Airbus A350 XWB jetliner, the European rival to Boeing Co.'s 777 and 787 Dreamliner, made a short trip to the paint shop Monday as it readies for its coming first flight. It's an extremely rare moment in the life of any new jetliner and happens about once per decade for passenger plane manufacturers.

The shots are the first time the jet has been seen complete with its engines attached. The unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. didn't release photos of the jet's "roll out" in Toulouse, France, but an aviation photographer -- who requested anonymity -- captured the moment on Monday:

A person familiar with the 300-passenger A350's preparations say its Rolls-Royce engines could be powered-up for the first time as soon as the next two weeks once it leaves the paint shop. The rush is on to fly, but Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath won't be more specific than "summer" for the jet's maiden flight. There is much industry anticipation of the flight, which could precede the biennial Paris Air Show next month. The A350, which has been delayed a year by manufacturing issues, is slated to deliver to airlines in the second half of 2014.

Also pacing the jet's first trip to the sky are a series of structural tests on a non-flying version of the A350 tucked away at the factory. Those have to be completed successfully before the jet, Airbus's first to be made from a majority of carbon fiber composites (like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner), can fly. Mr. Schaffrath says that structural testing is going "according to plan".

The jetliner industry is in the middle of a boom, delivering new aircraft to airlines at record rates to meet demand and Airbus, Boeing and Canada's Bombardier Inc. are all planning to fly new jets this year. Bombardier is nearing the first flight of its own CSeries jetliner by the end of June and is conducting "functional testing" of the newly-installed systems on its first test jet. For Boeing, the first tail plane section of its stretched 787-9 Dreamliner recently arrived in its Everett, Wash. factory where it will be assembled.

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