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The Airbus A380 is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine airliner manufactured by the European corporation Airbus, an EADS subsidiary. The largest passenger airliner in the world, the A380 made its maiden flight on 27 April 2005 from Toulouse, France,[1] and made its first commercial flight on 25 October 2007 from Singapore to Sydney with Singapore Airlines. The aircraft was known as the Airbus A3XX during much of its development phase, but the nickname Superjumbo has since become associated with it.

The A380's upper deck extends along almost the entire length of the fuselage, and its width is equivalent to that of a widebody aircraft. This allows for a cabin with 50% more floor space than the next-largest airliner, the Boeing 747-400.[2] and provides seating for 525 people in standard three-class configuration[3][4] or up to 853 people in all economy class configuration.[5] The A380 is offered in passenger and freighter versions. The A380-800, the passenger model, is the largest passenger airliner in the world, but has a shorter fuselage than the Airbus A340-600 which is Airbus' next biggest passenger aeroplane. The A380-800F, the freighter model, is offered as one of the largest freight aircraft, with a listed payload capacity exceeded only by the Antonov An-225.[6] The A380-800 has a design range of 15,200 kilometres (8,200 nmi), sufficient to fly from Boston, Massachusetts to Hong Kong for example, and a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 (about 900 km/h or 560 mph at cruising altitude).[3] It is the first commercial jet capable of using GTL-based fuel.



In the summer of 1988 a group of Airbus engineers, led by Jean Roeder, began working in secret on the development of a ultra-high-capacity airliner (UHCA), both to complete its own range of products and to break the dominance that Boeing had enjoyed in this market segment since the early 1970s with its 747.[7] McDonnell Douglas unsuccessfully offered its smaller, double-deck MD-12 concept for sale. As each manufacturer looked to build a successor to the 747, they knew there was room for only one new aircraft to be profitable in the 600 to 800 seat market segment. Each knew the risk of splitting such a niche market, as had been demonstrated by the simultaneous debut of the Lockheed L-1011 and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10: both planes met the market’s needs, but the market could profitably sustain only one model, eventually resulting in Lockheed's departure from the civil airliner business.

Roeder was given approval for further evaluations of the UHCA after a formal presentation to the President and CEO in June 1990. The project was announced at the 1990 Farnborough Air Show, with the stated goal of 15 % lower operating costs than the 747-400.[8] Airbus organized four teams of designers, one from each of its EADS partners (Aérospatiale, DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, British Aerospace, EADS CASA) to propose new technologies for its future aircraft designs. The designs would be presented in 1992 and the most competitive designs would be used.[9]

In January 1993, Boeing and several companies in the Airbus consortium started a joint feasibility study of an aircraft known as the Very Large Commercial Transport (VLCT), aiming to form a partnership to share the limited market.[10]

In June 1994, Airbus began developing its own very large airliner, designated the A3XX. Airbus considered several designs, including an odd side-by-side combination of two fuselages from the A340, which was Airbus’s largest jet at the time.[11] The A3XX was pitted against the VLCT study and Boeing’s own New Large Aircraft successor to the 747, which evolved into the 747X, a stretched version of the 747 with the fore body "hump" extended rearwards to accommodate more passengers. The joint VLCT effort ended in April 1995,[12] and Boeing suspended the 747X program in January 1997. From 1997 to 2000, as the East Asian financial crisis darkened the market outlook, Airbus refined its design, targeting a 15 to 20 percent reduction in operating costs over the existing Boeing 747-400. The A3XX design converged on a double-decker layout that provided more passenger volume than a traditional single-deck design.

Design phase[]

File:A380 Reveal 1.jpg

The first completed A380 at the "A380 Reveal" event in Toulouse, France.

On 19 December 2000, the supervisory board of newly restructured Airbus voted to launch a 8.8 billion program to build the A3XX, re-christened as the A380, with 55 orders from six launch customers. The A380 designation was a break from previous Airbus families, which had progressed sequentially from A300 to A340. It was chosen because the number 8 resembles the double-deck cross section, and is a lucky number in some Asian countries where the aircraft was being marketed.[11] The aircraft’s final configuration was frozen in early 2001, and manufacturing of the first A380 wing box component started on 23 January 2002. The development cost of the A380 had grown to €11 billion when the first aircraft was completed.

Boeing, meanwhile, studied multiple 747-400 derivative designs before finally launching the Boeing 747-8 in November 2005 (with entry into service planned for 2009). Boeing chose to develop a variant for the 400 to 500 seat market, instead of matching the A380's capacity.


Major structural sections of the A380 are built in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Due to their size, they are brought to the assembly hall in Toulouse in France by surface transportation, rather than by the A300-600ST Beluga aircraft used for other Airbus models. Components of the A380 are provided by suppliers from around the world; the five largest contributors, by value, are Rolls-Royce, SAFRAN, United Technologies, General Electric, and Goodrich.[13]

File:Ville de Bordeaux.jpg

A380 transporter ship Ville de Bordeaux

The front and rear sections of the fuselage are loaded on an Airbus Roll-on/roll-off (RORO) ship, Ville de Bordeaux, in Hamburg in northern Germany, from where they are shipped to the United Kingdom.[14] The wings, which are manufactured at Filton in Bristol and Broughton in North Wales, are transported by barge to Mostyn docks, where the ship adds them to its cargo. In Saint-Nazaire in western France, the ship trades the fuselage sections from Hamburg for larger, assembled sections, some of which include the nose. The ship unloads in Bordeaux. Afterwards, the ship picks up the belly and tail sections by Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA in Cádiz in southern Spain, and delivers them to Bordeaux. From there, the A380 parts are transported by barge to Langon, and by oversize road convoys to the assembly hall in Toulouse.[15] New wider roads, canal systems and barges were developed to deliver the A380 parts. After assembly, the aircraft are flown to Hamburg, XFW to be furnished and painted. It takes 3,600 litres (950 gallons) of paint to cover the 3,100 m² (33,000 ft²) exterior of an A380.

Airbus sized the production facilities and supply chain for a production rate of four A380s per month.[14]


File:1er vol de l' A380.jpg

A380 MSN001 about to land after its maiden flight

Five A380s were built for testing and demonstration purposes.[16]

The first A380, serial number MSN001 and registration F-WWOW, was unveiled at a ceremony in Toulouse on 18 January 2005. Its maiden flight took place at 8:29 UTC (10:29 a.m. local time) 27 April 2005. This plane, equipped with Trent 900 engines, flew from Toulouse Blagnac International Airport with a flight crew of six headed by chief test pilot Jacques Rosay. After successfully landing three hours and 54 minutes later, Rosay said flying the A380 had been “like handling a bicycle” .[17]

On 1 December 2005 the A380 achieved its maximum design speed of Mach 0.96 (versus normal cruising speed of Mach 0.85), in a shallow dive, completing the opening of the flight envelope.[16]

On 10 January 2006 the A380 made its first transatlantic flight to Medellín in Colombia, to test engine performance at a high altitude airport. It arrived in North America on 6 February, landing in Iqaluit, Nunavut in Canada for cold-weather testing.[18]

File:A380 Flyby ILA2006.jpg

A380 flying a banked turn at the ILA 2006

On 14 February 2006, during the destructive wing strength certification test on MSN5000, the test wing of the A380 failed at 145% of the limit load, short of the required 150% to meet the certification. Airbus announced modifications adding 30 kg to the wing to provide the required strength.[19]

On 26 March 2006 the A380 underwent evacuation certification in Hamburg in Germany. With 8 of the 16 exits blocked, 853 passengers and 20 crew left the aircraft in 78 seconds, less than the 90 seconds required by certification standards.[20]

Three days later, the A380 received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to carry up to 853 passengers.[21]

The maiden flight of the first A380 using GP7200 engines - serial number MSN009 and registration F-WWEA - took place on 25 August 2006.

File:A380 teststation fb06rs.jpg

Flight test engineer's station on the lower deck of A380 F-WWOW .

On 4 September 2006 the first full passenger-carrying flight test took place.[22] The aircraft flew from Toulouse with 474 Airbus employees on board, in the first of a series of flights to test passenger facilities and comfort.

In November 2006, a further series of route proving flights took place to demonstrate the aircraft's performance for 150 flight hours under typical airline operating conditions.

Airbus obtained type certificate for the A380-841 and A380-842 model from the EASA and FAA on 12 December 2006 in a joint ceremony at the company's French headquarters.[23][24] The A380-861 model obtained the type certificate 14 December 2007.[24]

As of February 2008, the five A380s in the test programme had logged over 4,565 hours during 1,364 flights, including route proving and demonstration flights.

Delivery delays[]

Initial production of the A380 was troubled by delays attributed to the 530 km (330 miles) of wiring in each aircraft. Airbus cited as underlying causes the complexity of the cabin wiring (100,000 wires and 40,300 connectors), its concurrent design and production, the high degree of customization for each airline, and failures of configuration management and change control.[25][26] Specifically, it would appear that German and Spanish Airbus facilities continued to use CATIA version 4, while British and French sites migrated to version 5. This caused overall configuration management problems, at least in part because wiring harnesses manufactured using aluminium rather than copper conductors necessitated special design rules including non-standard dimensions and bend radii: these were not easily transferred between versions of the software.[27]

Airbus announced the first delay in June 2005 and notified airlines that delivery would slip by six months. This reduced the number of planned deliveries by the end of 2009 from about 120 to 90–100. On 13 June 2006, Airbus announced a second delay, with the delivery schedule undergoing an additional shift of six to seven months. Although the first delivery was still planned before the end of 2006, deliveries in 2007 would drop to only 9 aircraft, and deliveries by the end of 2009 would be cut to 70–80 aircraft. The announcement caused a 26% drop in the share price of Airbus's parent, EADS, and led to the departure of EADS CEO Noël Forgeard, Airbus CEO Gustav Humbert, and A380 programme manager Charles Champion.[28] On 3 October 2006, upon completion of a review of the A380 program, the CEO of Airbus, Christian Streiff, announced a third delay, pushing the first delivery to October 2007, to be followed by 13 deliveries in 2008, 25 in 2009, and the full production rate of 45 aircraft per year in 2010.[29] The delay also increased the earnings shortfall projected by Airbus through 2010 to €4.8 billion.[30]

As Airbus prioritized the work on the A380-800 over the A380-800F, freighter orders were cancelled (FedEx,[31] UPS[32]) or converted to A380-800 (Emirates, ILFC[33]). Airbus suspended work on the freighter version, but said it remained on offer,[34] albeit without a service entry date.[35] For the passenger version Airbus negotiated a revised delivery schedule and compensation with the 13 customers, all of which retained their orders with some placing subsequent orders (Emirates,[36] Singapore Airlines[37] Qantas,[38] Air France,[39] Qatar,[40] and Korean Air[41]).

The first A380 with redesigned wiring harnesses achieved power-on in April 2008, with a 3 1/2 month delay.[42] On 13 May 2008 Airbus announced reduced deliveries for the years 2008 (12) and 2009 (21).[43]

Entry into service[]

File:A380 singapore airlines takeoff arp.jpg

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 9V-SKA takes off from London Heathrow Airport.

The first aircraft delivered, MSN003, (registered 9V-SKA) was handed over to Singapore Airlines on 15 October 2007 and entered into service on 25 October 2007 with a commercial flight between Singapore and Sydney (flight number SQ380).[44] Two months later Singapore Airlines CEO Chew Choong Seng said that the A380 was performing better than both the airline and Airbus had anticipated, burning 20% less fuel per passenger than the airline's existing 747-400 fleet.[45] Singapore Airlines operated its first two aircraft, in a 471-seat configuration, between Singapore and Sydney. This was then expanded to include SingaporeLondon from 18 March 2008 after the third aircraft was delivered.[46] A fourth aircraft was delivered to Singapore Airlines on the 26 April 2008 which enabled it to use the type on the Singapore-Tokyo route from 20 May.[47] On 2 August 2008 Singapore Airlines began the temporary use of the A380 to Beijing to meet increased demand for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing,[48] and on 4 August made the company's 1000th commercial flight with an A380.[49] Singapore Airlines operates six A380 aircraft as of September 2008.[50]

Emirates Airline was the second airline to take delivery of the A380 (registered A6-EDA) on 28 July 2008 and started flights between Dubai and New York [51] on 1 August 2008. [52] Emirates will begin flights between Dubai and London on 1 December 2008 and Dubai to Auckland (via Sydney) on 1 February 2009. [53]

File:September 21 - Airbus A380 Qantas 146.jpg

Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQA at Sydney Airport.

The first aircraft for Qantas (third airline to take delivery of the A380), MSN014, (registered VH-OQA) was delivered to Qantas on 19 September 2008.[54] Qantas has announced it will use the A380, in a 450-seat configuration,[55] on its Melbourne to Los Angeles route from 20 October 2008. Subsequent routes include Sydney to Los Angeles and London [56]starting on the 24 October 2008.

Air France has said that its A380s will be used on its Paris to Montreal and New York routes. Lufthansa will be using the aircraft for its long-haul destinations to North America and Asia.


File:Airbus A380 cross section.svg

A380 cabin cross section, showing economy class seating

The new Airbus is sold in two models. The A380-800 was originally designed to carry 555 passengers in a three-class configuration[57] or 853 passengers (538 on the main deck and 315 on the upper deck) in a single-class economy configuration. In May 2007, Airbus began marketing the same aircraft to customers with 30 fewer passengers (now 525 passengers in three classes) traded for 370 km (200 nmi) more range, to better reflect trends in premium class accommodation.[4] The design range for the -800 model is 15,200 km (8,200 nmi).[3] The second model, the A380-800F freighter, will carry 150 tonnes of cargo 10,400 km (5,600 nmi).[58] Future variants may include an A380-900 stretch seating about 656 passengers (or up to 960 passengers in an all economy configuration) and an extended range version with the same passenger capacity as the A380-800.[11]

The A380's wing is sized for a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) over 650 tonnes in order to accommodate these future versions, albeit with some strengthening required.[11] The stronger wing (and structure) is used on the A380-800F freighter. This common design approach sacrifices some fuel efficiency on the A380-800 passenger model, but Airbus estimates that the size of the aircraft, coupled with the advances in technology described below, will provide lower operating costs per passenger than all current variants of Boeing 747. The A380 also features wingtip fences similar to those found on the A310 and A320 to alleviate the effects of wake turbulence, increasing fuel efficiency and performance.


  • Emirates Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines


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  8. Norris, 2005. p. 16-17.
  9. Norris, 2005. p. 17-18.
  10. Norris, 2005. p. 31.
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  55. About Qantas - Newsroom - Introducing The Qantas A380
  56. About Qantas - Newsroom
  57. Airbus A380 Cabin
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  • Norris, Guy [2005]. Airbus A380: Superjumbo of the 21st Century. St. Paul, Minnisota: Zenith Press. ISBN 0-7603-2218-X. 

External links[]


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