Airbus has staged the maiden flight of its largest twin-engined airplane, the A350-1000, whose wings are made in Broughton.

The plane took off from a cloudy Toulouse-Blagnac Airport at 9.42am(Uk time) today for a four hour flight.

Once operational next year the jet will be able to carry 366 passengers and support the development of long haul routes.

The wings of the aircraft are being made at Airbus Broughton, where more than 6,000 people are employed.

This outing marks the start of about a year of flight testing.

The first flight of the Airbus 350-1000 marks the start of a flight test campaign and certification process that is scheduled to conclude before the end of 2017, with delivery of the first customer aircraft to Qatar Airways.

Benefitting from the experience of the original A350-900 test campaign (accomplished in 2014), the A350-1000’s development programme will be shorter – under one year for the three aircraft which will be used in the testing process.

The overall campaign will culminate in the type’s certification followed by its entry into airline service scheduled for the second half of 2017.

Watch Airbus A350 XWB at Farnborough

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The aircraft, which sells for $356 million at list prices, is designed to compete with Boeing’s 777-300ER, the most successful version of the US plane maker’s popular 777 family.

So far Airbus has sold 195 new-generation A350-1000s.

This includes a 12 plane deal with Virgin Atlantic Airways. The aircraft will be deployed initially at London Heathrow to strengthen the trans-Atlantic network on existing business routes, and subsequently at Gatwick airport on leisure routes to the Caribbean.

Airbus is also currently considering whether to launch an even larger version of the A350, dubbed the A350-2000.