A380 completes maiden voyage

Sydney welcomes "the big fella" as superjumbo completes first commercial flight.

    After long delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, the A380 is finally taking to the skies [AFP]

    The flight came some 18 months later than originally planned, with delays in manufacturing and delivery of the aircraft costing European manufacturer Airbus billions of dollars in overruns.


    The A380 unseats the Boeing 747 as the world's largest passenger aircraft and can accomodate up to 853 passengers in an all-economy class set up.


    Factfile: Airbus A380

    Length: 73 metres

    Wing area: 845 sq metres (enough to park 72 cars on each wing)

    Passengers: Up to 853 in an all-economy configuration

    Price: $320m

    A380 has 50 per cent more floor space than the Boeing 747

    Each A380 has 530 km of wiring

    Airbus has received 180 firm orders and commitments to buy the aircraft

    Emirates is biggest customer with an order for 55 jets

    However, Singapore Airlines has opted to install just 471 seats on its A380s, focussing on providing more space for its premium passengers in business and first class.


    Other airlines are due to begin getting their first deliveries of the A380 early next year.


    According to Airbus the A380 is the most fuel efficient and quietest passenger jet ever built, from both the inside and outside.


    The top bidder in the seat auction was Julian Hayward, a 38-year-old Briton who lives in Sydney, who bid more than $100,000 for what he called a "little bit of history".


    He flew in seat 1A.


    "It's like a party on board," said Hayward, who said he had been "pampered and spoiled" as flight attendants plied the debut passengers with champagne and caviar.


    Despite delays in delivering the first aircraft, Airbus has high hopes for the A380 in its battle with US rival Boeing.


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    The European manufacturer is banking on a future international aviation market centred on large numbers of passengers travelling on trunk routes between major hubs.


    Boeing, on the other hand, says its sees the future of air travel in midsized aircraft flying between more airports.


    As a result Boeing is putting its energies into developing its 787 "Dreamliner".


    The US aircraft maker has so far secured at least 710 orders for its 787, whereas Airbus has only 180 orders for the A380 – still well below the number analysts say the company needs to break even on the project.


    Following Thursday's inaugural flight Singapore Airlines is due to begin regular A380 flights on the busy Singapore to Sydney route on Sunday.


    As the first airline to fly the new aircraft, aviation analysts say Singapore Airlines is likely to enjoy a significant marketing advantage in the coming months.


    Dubai-based airline Emirates, the A380's largest customer with 55 on order, will not take delivery of its first aircraft until next August.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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