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Jeff in France checking out the Airbus.
Jeff in France checking out the Airbus.
Inside the magnificent Airbus.


Thursday, October 4, 2001
Once you spot this sucker, there's no way you'll fly anything else — this is pure opulence.

1969 was an important year in the history of commercial aviation. It saw the first flights of two revolutionary aircraft — the Concorde, which was never destined to be a commercial success — and the Boeing 747 Jumbo jet, which was then the biggest commercial passenger jet in the world. At Airbus in France, they are building an even bigger one.

The Airbus A380 is the largest-ever commercial passenger aircraft. It can carry 555 passengers and weighs 560 tonnes. To ensure it can use the world's major airports without its weight breaking the runways, the weight will be spread over an undercarriage with 20 wheels.

Qantas has ordered 10 of the double-decker jumbos, which have two wide-bodied cabins running the full length of the aircraft. The first one won't fly until 2003, and it will enter service in 2006.

The A380 is being assembled in Toulouse in France, though components are also built in Germany, Britain and Spain. Australia also played a small part — the winglets were made in Sydney.

The 380 is the biggest plane in the Airbus fleet. They also make a range of smaller aircraft, including 300 and the 330-340 range. Only when you get inside the hangar do you realise what a huge operation it is.

The new super jumbo will be a massive 200 tonnes heavier than a 747, but only 3m longer. On the ground, the A380 looks like a double-decker version of the Airbus A340-600 series, which, at 73m, is longer than a 747.

The 80m wings for the new super jumbo are being built in North Wales and are too large to be transported to France by air. They will be taken by sea from Liverpool to the French port of Bordeaux, and then travel by canal. Roads are to be widened to accommodate special trailers carrying the wings, and the final stage of the journey will be along the Garonne River in Toulouse.

Before Qantas takes delivery of its Airbus A380s, it will receive the smaller A330. They are configured eight abreast in economy class and six each in business and first class. Economy seats will be a whole 2cm wider!

Your trip to London won't be any faster than today's 747s, but it should be quieter.

Eight airlines have ordered the super jumbo, and with all that extra room, you could imagine things on board to amuse bored passengers — a gym, children's creche, duty-free shop, casino? Well, that probably won't happen. More realistically, airlines want lots of extra seats with paying passengers sitting in them.

Airline pilots spend more time in the flight simulator than they do in the air. It is certainly cheaper for them to train that way, and the equipment is so sophisticated, it's just like the real thing.

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