Huge Airbus 380 makes history with maiden flight

27th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

TOULOUSE, France, April 27 (AFP) - The Airbus A380, the biggest airliner ever built, completed a momentous maiden flight on Wednesday, winning praise from one of the pilots as a "magnificent machine" and opening a new era in aviation history.

TOULOUSE, France, April 27 (AFP) - The Airbus A380, the biggest airliner ever built, completed a momentous maiden flight on Wednesday, winning praise from one of the pilots as a "magnificent machine" and opening a new era in aviation history.  

"We had a very successful first flight and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it," said Claude Lelaie, one of the two pilots and the head of the Airbus flight division,.  

"There are of course a lot of things to be done, but after this first experience, we now really sense the potential of this magnificent machine," he said in a statement.  

Tens of thousands of spectators cheered as the A380 touched down at 2:23 pm (1223 GMT) at the Toulouse-Blagnac airport near the south-western city of Toulouse, home of the European aircraft maker Airbus Industrie, after a flight of three hours and 54 minutes.  

The flight represented a pivotal moment for Airbus, the European aircraft maker that has punched its way to the top of the civil aircraft industry to challenge the Boeing 747's long dominance of the jumbo jet market.  

Before landing, Lelaie and his co-pilot Jacques Rosay circled the super-jumbo plane over the airport, framing it against a blue sky air-brushed with cirrus clouds.  

"It's as big as a building," one observer said as the crowd applauded the fly-by some 300 feet 100 meters (300 feet) overhead.  

The Airbus prototype plane took off and landed on runway 32, dubbed the Concorde, from where the world's only supersonic jetliner made its maiden flight in 1969, across from a 500-place press stand and banks of television cameras.  

The landing, previously expected at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT), was slightly delayed so as not to interfere with the landing of an emergency helicopter at a hospital in the area, an Airbus spokeswoman said.  

Some 40,000 spectators applauded as the huge plane gently touched the ground, its massive weight borne by the broad wingspan.  

The plane lifted off the ground for the first time at 10:29 am, Airbus said, preceded by a small "chase" plane that scouted conditions for the six-man crew aboard the A380.   The superjumbo had headed northwest, turning its back on Toulouse and its 700,000 inhabitants, as required for a test flight.  

The takeoff was markedly quieter than the others heard at the airport Wednesday morning, despite the immensity of the behemoth.  

At takeoff, the prototype plane weighed 421 tonnes, the heaviest civil airliner to date, the company said. Its maximum takeoff weight is 560 tonnes.  

While the plane was still airborne, Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard expressed "pride" in its successful, punctual and relatively quiet takeoff.  

"The A380 is extremely quiet, that is one of our most ambitious goals. It is three decibels below the competition, and I am thrilled that officials at the Los Angeles airport here can attest to that."  

Forgeard also noted the departure was "eight seconds exactly" from the scheduled 10:30 am take-off.  

The company baptized its 21st flagship the A380 for two reasons: the number "eight" suggests the double-decker feature and also is considered a lucky number in Asia, where Airbus sees its fortunes growing the most.  

The plane, which was officially unveiled at an Airbus hangar in January, is to be used for decades as the test model for changes to the A380 over the duration of the program.   The company had announced the much-anticipated maiden flight date Monday after several delays.  

The A380 is a long-haul, four-engine superjumbo that can carry between 550 and 840 passengers and fly 8,000 miles (15,000 kilometres) non-stop.  

The gleaming white prototype, sporting the new Airbus trademark blues on its tail, was powered by four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.  

"The takeoff was absolutely perfect, the progression and the control of the plane had been exactly like that on the simulator," chief test pilot Jacques Rosay told reporters in a live broadcast from the airplane.  

Rosay co-piloted the plane with Lelaie in a six-man crew including four test engineers.   The Number One prototype plane is strictly a test aircraft, equipped with about 20 tonnes of equipment, including work stations to monitor in-flight data and other parameters.  

The Airbus shareholders, parent company EADS, with an 80 percent holding, and BAE Systems of Britain, with 20 percent, have already invested heavily in the program: more than EUR 10 billion (USD 13 billion), and another EUR 1.45 billion may be needed.  

The big plane has been a big draw: 15 airlines have already signed contracts for 154 planes, of which 144 are firm. The tally comes close to Airbus's forecasts of selling 150 planes by mid-2005.  

The order book is massive - the catalogue price of an A380 is between 260 and 290 million dollars. Singapore Airlines was the first to order, while US and Japanese airlines have proven more difficult to lure.


Subject: French News

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