A380 Takes Off for Inaugural Display Flight

LE BOURGET, France (AP) -- The Airbus A380 took off for its inaugural display flight Monday at the Paris Air show, with dignitaries including French President Jacques Chirac looking on.

The superjumbo looks set to be the star of the aerospace industry's biggest gathering, with flights planned for every day of the show. But Le Bourget comes at a time when Airbus and its parent European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. are struggling to maintain the lead that Airbus took over Boeing in 2003.

The A380 had its maiden test flight in Toulouse in April, but this was its first flight at an air show.

More than 200 planes and helicopters went on display alongside aeronautical and military hardware from 41 countries as the air show opened. Organizers expect about 300,000 visitors at Le Bourget airfield, north of the French capital, for the weeklong gathering.

Chirac arrived to inaugurate the show and toured of the exhibits before witnessing the A380 display flight. The 555-seater Airbus drew crowds when it arrived Sunday for its first air show appearance.

Bur rival Boeing has seen sales of its fuel-efficient 787 ''Dreamliner'' soar in recent months, while Airbus has yet to get its own mid-size rival A350 off the ground. A decision to launch the A350, initially expected during Le Bourget, has been postponed until September at the latest, EADS said last week.

The newest addition to Boeing's airliner family, the 777-240LR, flew in early Friday and will be part of the static displays.

On the military side, another pair of trans-Atlantic rivals, the Boeing F-15 Eagle and Rafale, from France's Dassault Aviation, will go head-to-head with aerobatic displays as the two fighters compete for a 20-plane order from Singapore.

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