A380 put through its paces in Hong Kong

25th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

HONG KONG, March 25, 2007 (AFP) - The giant A380 superjumbo has been put through its paces here to demonstrate the features troubled Airbus says make this flagship project a world beater that no airline can afford to be without.

HONG KONG, March 25, 2007 (AFP) - The giant A380 superjumbo has been put through its paces here to demonstrate the features troubled Airbus says make this flagship project a world beater that no airline can afford to be without.

Arriving from Frankfurt on a route-proving flight by Lufthansa, which has ordered 15 of the planes, the A380 dwarfed Boeing 747s nearby at Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport which was designed with such huge aircraft in mind.

Ground crew crowded round, getting their colleagues to snap their picture with the plane as the backdrop while passengers stopped to look and point in the bustling terminal where it made an undeniable impact.

It is simply very big -- the biggest passenger jet ever built, the tallest, the widest, the quietest, the most comfortable and most economical, a series of superlatives Airbus says make it so unique that it will radically alter how we travel, just as the original 747 jumbo did when it first flew in 1969.

The A380 "is changing the game ... a plane that will give airlines a competitive advantage" over their rivals in a fast growing industry being led by Asia, said Ian MacDougall, deputy vice president for marketing.

Expanding 4.8 percent a year globally, 22,000 aircraft worth 2.6 trillion dollars will be built by 2025, of which 1,665 will be wide-bodied models worth 20 percent of the total, MacDougall said.

Stressing Airbus' strategy of building planes to fly between major hubs, and with Hong Kong slated to emerge as the largest in Asia, he said the A380 was "designed for world growth."

Rival Boeing, while upgrading the venerable jumbo to a larger 747-8 model, is instead counting on a lower-density, point-to-point strategy based on its 787 Dreamliner which has attracted hundreds of orders so far.

The A380 has 156 but it has run into serious delivery delays after technical problems in making the plane which led US logistics giant UPS to drop an order for 10 of the freighter versions earlier this month.

Airbus officials reiterated Saturday that those technical issues have been resolved and that the project was back on track, with first delivery to launch customer Singapore Airlines due in October.

Significantly missing on the roster of A380 customers is Cathay Pacific, the high profile Hong Kong flag carrier whose biggest single order to date was for 36 long-range Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in late 2005.

At the time, the deal was seen as a blow for the A380. Asked about the issue Saturday in its home base, MacDougall would only say: "Cathay Pacific is the sort of airline that needs 380s for the future."

Analysts say the problem for Airbus is that Cathay Pacific's strategy is based more on the point-to-point model espoused by Boeing.

An official at the Sydney-based Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation told AFP that Airbus was pitching the A380 strongly in Asia, highlighting its capacity for huge passenger numbers and long range hub connections.

However, some Asian airlines such as Cathay Pacific wanted to pursue a different strategy, he said.

"They're looking at flying smaller numbers of passengers on more frequent flights. So where you might only have one service a day to a particular city on the A380, you could have two or three on a smaller aircraft, offering business passengers more flexibility."

As for the A380's virtues? On a two-hour demonstration flight for the press Saturday, there was no denying the smoothness of the ride, the quiet of the cabin -- set up for 525 passengers, not the maximum 840 -- and the soothing tones of the pastel coloured interior, all light yellows, lilacs and greens.

There was the novelty too of actually going for a walk on board, upstairs and downstairs, which seemed obligatory, and standing up against the small bar in the first class section, also a must.

It all seemed very calming and comfortable, like a flight should be but so often is not when one is crammed into economy class.

The passengers on the incoming flight wandered around a lot when they first came on board to check out all the new features, said one Airbus official.

"After that, they just settled down and went to sleep for the journey."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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