MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the Super Jumbo Airbus A380 performed its maiden flight in 2005 after three years of development and testing.
The behemoth double-decker came with record-breaking seating capacity, wingspan, and height, and, as the Super Jumbo moniker tells, it is the largest commercial airliner flying to date. The Airbus A380 was conceived as a direct competitor to the Boeing 747, with only its 72.72 m height less than that of the Boeing 747, which measures 76.3 m.
And so, 16 years ago, the rivalry between the A380 and the 747 began, persisting in both planes’ histories. The Airbus A380 made its commercial debut on October 25, 2007, after extensive testing and several improvements to the aircraft’s structure.
The first deliveries of the A380 began in 2007 to Singapore Airlines (SQ), and the aircraft had its prime years between 2012 and 2014. As the type’s first customer, SQ first operated the Super Jumbo on Flight SQ380 from Singapore to Sydney.
Development and Testing
As Airbus introduced the hub-to-hub concept, it envisaged the construction of specific satellites for the transit of the A380; specifically, with terminals dedicated only to type, and most importantly, with four fingers (jet bridges).
In truth, Airbus developed the A380 to go toe-to-toe with the Boeing 747, which had dominated the ultra-high-capacity aircraft market for a good while. The A3XX program was formally accepted and renamed the A380 by Airbus’ board of directors in 2000. Six airlines had already placed orders for the new aircraft, and Airbus had already received 50 orders.
The concept was completed by 2001, and development began the next year. Logistically, the Super Jumbo production was one of a kind since sections had to be transported by air, sea, and land from Germany, Spain, and the UK.
Airbus constructed five A380s to test the type. The first A380 out of Airbus’ Toulouse factory left with registration F-WWOW.
Maiden Flight of the A380
The A380’s first flight drew a large number of aviation journalists, as all eyes were anticipating the arrival of the newest Airbus jet, which was set to redefine the passenger experience on a plane.
The type’s maiden flight took off today in 2005 at 10:29 am local time with six passengers on board. Claude Lelaie and Jacques Rosay, the two co-captains, piloted the double-deck A380. Also on board were Airbus engineer Fernando Alonso, Jacky Joyce, Manfred Birnfeld, and Gérard Desbois.
During the flight, every item on the primary flight test objectives list was checked off by the Airbus A380. After 3 h and 54 min, the flight landed at Toulouse’s Blagnac International Airport (TLS).
Of the A380’s performance, Lelaie commented that as was evident during the initial ground checks, the A380 performed as well as any other aircraft on the ground. On his part, Rosay echoed Claude’s remarks, saying, “Within the first minutes of the flight, we were struck by the aircraft’s ease of handling…”
Legacy of the A380
The A380 is a modern symbol that has carried over 190 million passengers on over 500,000 revenue flights. This includes over 300 commercial flights a day, which take off or land every two minutes all over the world. According to Airbus, the type still flies to more than 60 destinations worldwide.
The Airbus A380 gave the aviation industry a new level of luxury, allowing 15 airlines to convert an aircraft into a flying hotel, a spa, or a cocktail lounge, as SQ and Emirates (EK) did, the latter its biggest customer.
Flying on the A380 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience new levels of in-flight luxury, from first class to economy. The cabin of the world’s largest and most say, comfortable passenger aircraft, allows passengers to stretch out in the widest seats while relaxing in a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.
Alas, the A380’s glory years came to a halt earlier than Airbus had expected. The company announced the cancellation of the Airbus A380 program on February 14, 2019, thus ending its production this year; compared to newer twin-engined aircraft, the type only flies on a few routes due mainly to its high fuel consumption and high-profit margins.
In addition, the retirement of the A380 came due to a lack of substantial backlog, with no basis to continue production. The shrink in the A380’s backlog was also sped up by the pandemic.
The last-ever produced Airbus A380 aircraft took off on its first test flight in Toulouse, marking the end of an era for the Super Jumbo.
The Giants Still in the Air
Emirates, the largest Airbus A380-800 operator in the world, took delivery of its 117th A380 in mid-December, 2020. The aircraft left the Hamburgo Finkenwerder plant on December 11, with its final destination, Dubai International Airport (DXB).
On its part, British Airways (BA) CEO Sean Doyle said the beast would return to long-haul flying for the airline. 12 BA Airbus A380s are currently grounded. In a March 14, 2021 interview with the Independent, Doyle asserted that the type was in BA’s plans “for the future rebuild of the airline. “Exactly when we will put the A380 back into service is something that we’re not clear on,” he conceded to the UK news outlet.
Airbus only needs to deliver six more A380 before the superjumbo production ceases this year. The 118th will be delivered to EK as a special version with a new onboard premium economy product.
As for the type’s launch customer, SQ plans to have all A380s include new top-quality first-class suites and business-class seats as the carrier heads back to the skies amid the ongoing pandemic.
The Airbus A380-841, registration 9V-SKQ, left Alice Springs on February 22, 2021. Now, in SQ’s hands, the type’s first operator is prepping its Super Jumbo fleet’s return to service.
Featured image: Singapore Airlines 9V-SKW. Airbus A380-841. Photo: Brandon Farris/airways