Airbus' A318, the latest member of Airbus' popular single-aisle family, was cleared for its maiden take-off from the Finkenwerder airfield in Hamburg this morning. The first A318 took to the skies at 10:11 hours local time (8:11 GMT).

The flight is captained by Bernd Schaefer, Chief Pilot, Hamburg, with Jacques Rosay, Airbus Chief Test Pilot, as first officer, Manfred Birnfeld and Hermann Schmoeckel as flight test engineers and Bernard Kamps as test flight engineer.

The A318 took off at a weight of 57.5 tonnes (126,800 lbs). Around 7 tonnes (15,400 lbs) of flight test instrumentation, including 94 km/58 miles of electrical wiring, are used to record the thousands of parameters necessary for a full and thorough analysis of the aircraft's in-flight performance. Today's first flight is powered by PW6000 engines from Pratt & Whitney.

The A318 was launched in April 1999 to extend the benefits of Airbus commonality and comfort standards to the 100-seater market. Designed to serve high-frequency low-density routes, the A318 further strengthens the A320 Family's position as the most versatile, economical and best-selling single-aisle aircraft available today. 114 A318s are currently on order from 9 customers. The A318 will be certified first with CFM56-5 engines. Entry into airline service is scheduled for the third quarter of 2003.

With some 4,400 orders booked to date from 180 customers worldwide, Airbus is a leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft seating more than 100 passengers and offers the most modern and comprehensive airliner family in the world. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is a joint EADS Company with BAE SYSTEMS.