Skip to comments.Airbus A380 completes historic 1st flight
Posted on 04/27/2005 6:21:34 AM PDT by RedBloodedAmerican
BLAGNAC, France (AP) -- The world's largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, completed a maiden flight Wednesday that took it over the Pyrenees mountains, a milestone for aviation and for the European aircraft-maker's battle with American rival Boeing Co.
The double-decked, 308-ton plane landed successfully to applause at 2:22 p.m (8:22 a.m. EDT) after a flight of nearly four hours. About 30,000 spectators watched the white plane with blue tail take off and touch down, 101 years after the Wright brothers achieved the first controlled, sustained flight.
Before it landed, its front lights shining, the A380 did a slow flyover above the airport in Blagnac, southwest France, where it had taken off at 10:29 a.m. (4:29 a.m. EDT).
The plane carried a crew of six and 22 tons of on-board test instruments. It can carry as many as 840 passengers on commercial flights.
"The takeoff was absolutely perfect," chief test pilot Jacques Rosay told reporters by radio from the A380 cockpit as he flew at 10,000 feet just north of the Pyrenees mountains, about an hour into the flight. "The weather's wonderful."
The pilots checked the plane's basic handling characteristics while the on-board equipment recorded measurements for 150,000 separate parameters and beamed real-time data back to computers on the ground.
Rosay, co-pilot Claude Lelaie and four fellow crew members took no chances - donning parachutes for the first flight. A handrail inside the test plane lead from the cockpit to an escape door that could have been jettisoned had the pilots lost control.
In Paris, French Cabinet ministers broke into applause when President Jacques Chirac told them of the successful start to the flight. The head of competitor Boeing's French division, Yves Galland, said he watched the televised takeoff and, just this once, "shared the emotion of the people of Airbus."
The flight capped 11 years of preparation and $13 billion in spending.
Orville and Wilbur Wright, by comparison, spent an estimated $1,000 developing their skeletal flyer, which stayed airborne for 12 seconds on the sands of Kill Devil Hills, N.C., the morning of Dec. 17, 1903.
Built of spruce and ash covered with muslin, the Wright brothers' flyer weighed 605 pounds, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
The A380 weighed 464 tons on takeoff, including its bulky test equipment, fittings and fuel, Airbus said. That is about 75 percent of its maximum authorized takeoff weight for commercial flights.
Spectators camped out by the airport to be there for what some said was Europe's biggest aviation event since the first flight of the supersonic Concorde in 1969. About 30,000 people gathered around the airport to watch, police said.
Emergency services took no chances and stationed fire trucks at regular intervals along the runway, although aviation experts say modern computer modeling and wind-tunnel tests have made maiden flights safer than ever.
Problems are more likely, but still very rare, later in the test-flight program, when the pilots deliberately take the plane to its limits. An Airbus A330 prototype crashed here in July 1994, killing chief test pilot Nick Warner and six others as they conducted a simulated engine failure exercise.
Airbus says the A380 test-flight program is likely to take over a year and finish soon before the plane enters service for Singapore Airlines in mid-2006.
The A380, with a catalogue price of $282 million, represents a huge bet by Airbus that airlines will need plenty of large aircraft to transport passengers between ever-busier hub airports.
So far, Airbus has booked 154 orders for the A380, which it says will carry passengers 5 percent farther than Boeing's longest-range 747 jumbo at a per-passenger cost up to one-fifth lower.
But Airbus has yet to prove that it can turn a profit on its investment, a third of which came from European governments. Some analysts say signs of a boom in the market for smaller, long-range jets like Boeing's long-range 787 "Dreamliner" show that Airbus was wrong to focus resources on the superjumbo at the expense of its own mid-sized A350 - which enters service in 2010, two years after its Boeing rival.
Just this week, Air Canada and Air India announced a total of 82 new orders for Boeing jets - including 41 787s - taking Boeing's Dreamliner order book to 237.
But Airbus CEO Noel Forgeard played down Boeing's recent orders and the 787's development lead, saying the battle for the market in smaller planes would be fought out over 20 years, not two.
"Our competitor Boeing has woken up and gets a wave of orders," Forgeard told reporters attending the A380 test flight. "Good! Competition is an excellent thing."
Forgeard, who steps down later this year to become joint CEO of Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., congratulated the A380 development and test-flight team for a "fantastic collective effort" and said the plane would enter service in the "second half of 2006" - about three months behind the previous schedule.
Part of the delay is down to the superjumbo's struggle with a weight problem that consumed months of engineering time and pushed the program's cost overrun to $1.88 billion. Competitive pressure on airlines to offer plusher, heavier business-class seating tightened the squeeze.
You mean it didn't crash? Golly, gee whiz, shucks!
That was my thought, too. Will this replace the Concorde?
Really? I did a search and no returns. Got a link??
If this baby crashes, it'll be like an asteroid hitting the earth!
I'm kind of amazed it didn't crash.
Oh, yep! Found it. I searched using 380 before posting. Found it using a380 this time. Thanks
It bad enough trying to get off a 757 with 150 other grumpy passengers. Can you imagine what it will be like with 450-500 people on board!!!2/3s of them will be in a hurry to catch a connecting flight. I think once people see these as cattle cars, they're doomed.
I didn't know that mattered to Socialists.
They make great planes, as long as the tail fins stay attached...
Who is going to pay for the reconfiguration of airline gates to get these people on and off?
This plane will never touch down in the USA.
Telling, and a point of weakness. Modern computer design programs can calculate the weight of the plane before it is built. They shaved some things down or re-engineered them after they already started building the plane. Look for precisely those areas that were re-designed to give maintenance problems in the future.
And, just in time, too!! Now Chirac will be able to pick up 800 specially trained Jamaican, Haitian and Cuban multi-voters from Miami and fly them to many, many cities in France where they will be able to vote, well, multiple time, for the Eurinal Consitution! They don't call him "Lucky Jacques" for nothing!
This bit cracked me up.
Is this common practice for test flights with commercial aviation airliners?
Seriously though, if the plane is OK and flies well, then jolly good luck to them.
I like 4 engine planes. The more engines the better, as far as I'm concerned.
Wow, what a truly big airplane.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.