The first test flight of Airbus's next-generation A350 plane was going smoothly and the aircraft was "performing extremely well", its pilot said on Friday, two hours after take-off.
"The aircraft is performing extremely well, we hope to reach 25,000 feet (7,500 metres) very quickly," said Peter Chandler, one of the two pilots flying the plane in the skies over the French city of Toulouse, in a video link.
With hundreds of cheering supporters looking on, some of whom arrived early to get a prime spot under a patchy sky, the plane took off at 0800 GMT from the airport near Toulouse for a flight due to last four hours.
Intended to challenge Boeing in the lucrative long-haul market, the A350 makes extensive use of light composite materials that significantly reduce fuel consumption and costs, much like its US rival's new 787 Dreamliner.
Two helicopters hovered in the sky and a jet accompanied the plane as it took off just three days before the start of the high-profile Paris Air Show, where Airbus is predicting hundreds of orders as it ups its fight against rival Boeing.
On the ground, Frank Chapman -- one of Friday's reserve test pilots who will be flying the plane in its upcoming year-long test flying phase -- confirmed everything was proceeding to plan.
The A350 is staying close to home for its first trip in the skies, remaining in the region of Toulouse with a quick dash over the nearby Pyrenees mountains that mark France's border with Spain.
Chapman said the test flying phase that will kick off after Friday's maiden flight will last just over a year, using five planes, before certification takes place.