April 27, 2005
The world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, has made its maiden flight after lifting off from Toulouse in France.
The take-off, at 08:30 UTC, was apparently normal and took place exactly on time. The aircraft flew into clear blue skies with a flight crew of six (all wearing parachutes as a safety precaution) and twenty tonnes of test equipment on board.
Around 50,000 people watched the maiden flight, many sitting on grass banks lining the runway. More people watched the flight on a giant screen erected in the centre of Toulouse.
The test flight lasted four hours, with the aircraft flying no higher than 10,000 nor further than 100 miles from Toulouse as it circled the Bay of Biscay.
The A380, known for many years during its development phase as the Airbus A3XX, will be the largest airliner in the world by a substantial margin when it enters service.
The first A380 prototype was unveiled during a lavish ceremony in Toulouse, France, on January 18, 2005. Its manufacturer’s serial number is 001, and it is registered F-WWOW.
The new Airbus will initially be sold in two versions: the A380-800, a full double-decker configuration, able to carry 555 passengers in a three-class configuration or up to 800 passengers in a single-class economy configuration. Range for the A380-800 model is expected to be 8,000 nautical miles (14,800 km). The second model, the A380-800F dedicated freighter, will carry 150 tons of cargo 5,600 miles (10,400 km).
The cost of the project so far is £8.4bn, £1bn over budget. 144 planes have already been ordered. Singapore Airlines, which will be the first company to operate the new air giant, in July 2006, have opened a reservation site for this first regular flight.