Airbus superjumbo is introduced to the world
18 January 2005, TOULOUSE - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder joined other European leaders in the French city of Toulouse on Tuesday for the public unveiling of the largest passenger plane ever built, the Airbus A380.
18 January 2005
TOULOUSE - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder joined other European leaders in the French city of Toulouse on Tuesday for the public unveiling of the largest passenger plane ever built, the Airbus A380.
Schroeder was among 5,000 invited guests, including French President Jacques Chirac, and the prime ministers of Britain and Spain, Tony Blair and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, for the launching of a prototype of the giant plane.
The unveiling was accompanied by a multimedia show that recounted the history of Airbus and the story of the conception and construction of the A380.
In a speech to the assembled guests, Chirac called the aircraft "a great success for Europe" and urged Europeans to show the same ambition in the field of high technology.
"The adventure of the A380, your adventure, is a great success for Europe," Chirac said. "To our partners, with whom we built this formidable success, I say that we should, we must, go farther down this road of European construction, so essential for growth and employment."
Chirac added: "We need many more projects of this size and ambition."
Airbus head Noel Forgeard called the plane a "mix of rigour and dream" and the fruit of "a unique, fruitful alliance".
The European aerospace conglomerate EADS owns 80 percent of Airbus, with the British BAE systems holding the remaining 20 per cent. In addition, France, Britain, German and Spain contributed public funds to the development and construction of the A380.
The full-length double-decker A380 stands as tall as a seven-storey building and can seat between 480 and 853 passengers, depending on how many lounges and other comfort areas are installed.
Airbus has already sold 149 such planes including 22 freight versions, to 14 companies, whose heads took part in the ceremony. Deliveries are to begin in spring 2006, with the first of the A380s going to Singapore Airlines.
The head of Singapore Airlines, Chew Choon Seng, said his company's A380s would have fewer than 480 seats to better emphasize "space and luxury" in three passenger classes.
Richard Branson, the head of Virgin Airways, said his airline would run the superjumbo like an ocean liner, with beauty salons, bars and a casino.
Airbus has invested more than EUR 10 billion into the aircraft, which has a unit catalogue price of between USD 263 and USD 286 million.
Earlier Tuesday, Forgeard told RTL radio the first test flights of the A380 will be carried out at the end of March or early April.
The prototype introduced Tuesday will carry out the first of the test flights, Airbus said.
Subject: German news