MIAMI — Airbus is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the A380’s first flight. Since that historic day, airlines have ordered 317 of these “Superjumbos.” 2015 is a key year for the program, as Airbus will decide on whether or not to proceed with an upgrade of the A380. On this Flashback Friday, we look back at the day of the first flight and offer a current status of this giant among passenger airplanes.
The first Airbus A380 performed its maiden flight on April 27, 2005, just over three months after rolling out of the manufacturer’s plant at Toulouse Blagnac International Airport on January 18, 2005. The “Superjumbo”, registered F-WWOW and powered by Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines, took-off at 10:29 local time (8:29 GMT) and landed thee hours and 54 minutes later at 14:23 local time (12:23 GMT). The pilots-in-command were Claude Lelaie, Senior Vice President Flight Division, and Jacques Rosay, Chief Test Pilot and Vice President.
Four other crew members were aboard for the first flight: Fernando Alonso, Vice President Flight Division, Flight Test Engineering and test flight engineers Jacky Joye, Manfred Birnfeld, and Gérard Dubois. The aircraft also broke a record for take-off weight at the time by departing with 421 metric tons (928,300 lb or 421,000 kg). During its first flight, the A380 flew around southwest France. In addition, the systems tested the landing gear in up and down configuration, all flaps and slats settings, and performance during cruise altitude, to include a crew evaluation of the comfort and noise levels in both decks.
Aibus Video on A380’s Maiden Flight:
Airbus Video on 10th Anniversary of A380’s Maiden Flight
After landing, the crew confirmed the A380 handled as anticipated. Lelaie said, “We had a very successful first flight and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. 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. And even on the ground, as already felt during initial ground tests, the A380 handles as easily as any other aircraft. Also, the systems and the Rolls Royce engine performed satisfactorily.”
Rosay commented, “Within the first minutes of the flight, we were impressed by the ease of handling of the aircraft, which was in line with what we had felt in the simulator. We have no doubt any Airbus pilot would feel immediately at home in the A380; it is a true member of the Airbus aircraft family. We could also appreciate that the new features in the cockpit, including interactivity, vertical display, new interfaces that make the work of the crew very easy and efficient, and I want to thank the customer airline pilots who have greatly contributed to this design.” Furthermore, Rosay added that flying the A380 had been “like handling a bicycle” and that “this aircraft is very, very easy to fly.”
Alonso stated, “In terms of systems, everything worked fine,” and added the A380 is “an extremely comfortable aircraft. Airbus president and CEO Noël Forgeard and executive vice president for the A380 Charles Champion said they were “extremely proud of everyone who made this happen.” The first flight marked the beginning of testing program consisting of five aircraft, including one powered by the second engine option – Engine Alliance GP7000, and 2,500 flight hours. On October 15, 2007, after several delays related to wiring and software problems, Airbus delivered the first commercial passenger A380 to Singapore Airlines, which introduced the airplane into service on October 25, 2007.
The full designation of the Airbus A380 is A380-800, and it can seat 544 passengers in a typical first, business, economy plus, and economy configuration, allowing it to fly 8,200 nmi (9,436 mi or 15,186 km). Furthermore, in a maximum 853 passenger all-economy arrangement, the main deck can theoretically have an 11-abreast seat setting in its main deck, which has a maximum cabin width of 21.4 ft (6.54 m). The aircraft measures 238.58 ft (72.72 m) in length; has a wingspan of 261.65 ft (79.75 m); and its height is 79.04 ft (24.09 m). In addition, the A380 has a typical cruising speed of Mach 0.85 (493 kt or 567 mph or 913 kmph) and a maximum ceiling of 43,000 ft (13,106 m).
Airbus has delivered 156 of the 317 A380s on order. The largest A380 operator is Emirates, with 60 in service and 80 on order. Moreover, Emirates asked Airbus to develop a neo (new engine option), with the intention to order up to 200 examples to replace current ones, as well as to expand its “Superjumbo” fleet. Airbus will likely make a decision on the future of the A380 program before the end of 2015. Other airlines currently operating the A380 include Air France, Asiana Airlines, British Airways, China Southern Airlines, Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways International.