Airbus A380 Commercial Passenger Aircraft

Airbus A380

Airbus A380 Commercial Passenger Aircraft

Airbus A380 Passenger Aircraft

The remarkable Airbus A380 is the largest commercial passenger aircraft flying in the world. With a maximum 853 passenger capacity, a 15,200 kilometre range and a take-off weight of 575 tonnes, it boasts statistics as impressive as its sheer size.

The Airbus A380 was officially unveiled in January 2005. At that point, type orders stood at 149, plus 100 options. To date (as of January 2016), 319 Airbus A380s have been ordered, of which 179 have been delivered. The type is in service with 13 airlines and can be seen at around 50 of the world’s airports, although only those with sufficiently-capable infrastructure are able to handle it. Numerous upgrade programmes – including work costing £450 million implemented at London Heathrow – were carried out to put many such airports in that position.

A380 Development

The A380’s development was multi-phased. Formed in 1970, Airbus Industrie had flown its first product – the A300 – two years later. Each subsequent type followed a sequential numbering system (A310, A320 etc) but the A380 broke that mould – the ‘8’ part of its name referencing its fuselage’s appearance when viewed head-on. Having, by the mid-1990s, met numerous markets’ needs, Airbus next looked to take on the Boeing 747’s overall dominance on the passenger capacity front. Launched in 1994, its A3XX project thereafter evolved into the A380 programme, activated in late 2000.

A380 Molding at Qatar Airport

A380 First Flight

The prototype Airbus A380 airframe, registered F-WW0W, had its first flight on 27 April 2005 and, less than two months later, made its public debut at that year’s Paris Air Show. Having taking off from Airbus’ Toulouse site at 1029hrs that April morning, it spent almost four hours in the air. During this inaugural flight, various systems were checked including its undercarriage retracting mechanism and all its flying control surfaces.

Sat in the aircraft’s cockpit, Jacques Rosay and Claude Lelaie became the first ever A380 pilots. Rosay later 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.”

The subsequent A380 test programme involved five aircraft and saw 2,500 flight hours accumulated.

A380 Engine

A380 Airlines And Airports

Wiring and software issues delayed the A380’s entry-into-service but this ultimately happened, courtesy of launch customer Singapore Airlines, in October 2007. 12 more operators have since followed Singapore Airlines’ lead, namely (in order), Emirates, Qantas, Air France, Lufthansa, Korean Air, China Southern Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, British Airways, Asiana Airlines, Qatar Airways and, most recently, Etihad.

A380 British Airways

The current list of Airbus A380-handling airports comprises Abu Dhabi International, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson, Auckland International, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, Barcelona, Beijing Capital International, Brisbane, Dallas/ Fort Worth International, Delhi International, Doha International, Dubai International, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Guangzhou Baiyun International, Hong Kong International, Houston George Bush Intercontinental, Jeddah King Abdulaziz International, Johannesburg OR Tambo International, Kansai International, Kuala Lumpur International, Kunming Changshui International, Kuwait International, Gatwick, London Heathrow, Los Angeles International, Manchester, Mauritius, Melbourne, Milano Malpensa, Miami International, Moscow Domodedovo, Mumbai International, Munich, New York John F. Kennedy International, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Perth, Rome-Fiumicino, San Francisco International, Shanghai Pudong International, Singapore Changi, Seoul Incheon International, Sydney Kingsford Smith, Tokyo Narita International, Toronto Pearson International, Washington Dulles International and Zürich.

Airbus A380 Taxiing

A380 Service Milestones

In February 2009, the one-millionth A380 passenger was flown inside a Singapore Airlines-operated machine. Three years later, some 17 million A380 passengers had been flown and the world’s in-service fleet had covered a total of two billion miles. In March 2013, Malaysia Airlines took delivery of the 100th A380 to have been built and, by September 2015, the 100 million A380 passengers mark had been reached.

Emirates and Qantas operate two especially noteworthy A380 routes – the shortest and longest of their kind, respectively. Emirates’ route covers a distance of 535 miles (861 kilometres) between Dubai and Kuwait, while Qantas’ – linking Sydney and Dallas-Fort Worth - is 8,577 miles (13,804) miles long. A 16-hour, 55-minute journey, this flight also holds the accolade of the longest non-stop commercial flight undertaken by any passenger aircraft.

A380 Features

Each Airbus A380 consists of approximately four million parts. The principal airframe components, produced in three countries (England, Germany and Spain), are made mostly from aluminium but composite materials have about a 20 per cent share of the overall mix. Final assembly – once the fuselage, wings, tail area etc have been flown or driven-in – takes place in Toulouse.

Airbus A380 Aloft

The A380’s main cabin area is 163 feet, eight inches long and features 220 passenger windows. There are two seating levels – the A380’s upper deck running the entire length of its fuselage – and a four-class configuration is standard. In the case of economy class, that yields a ten-abreast layout, with 18-inch wide seats. With 525 passengers on board, the A380’s fuel consumption equates to just over four litres per passenger for every 100 kilometres travelled. That, according to Airbus, represents a 17 per cent fuel consumption drop compared to figures associated with other large commercial aircraft. Emissions-wise, less than 75 grams of carbon dioxide is generated for each passenger on board: a figure that also compares favourably with other types.

The A38 features a fly-by-wire control system – an element Airbus included in its pioneering A320 to produce a commercial aviation first. Two types of powerplant can be used, drawn from either the Engine Alliance GP7200 or the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines series. Whichever models are fitted, A380s tend to taxi to and from airport runways with only the inboard engines running. That’s because the aircraft’s wing span is so great that, with the outer wing sections overhanging taxiway edges or grassy area positioned alongside, there’d otherwise be an FOD ingestion risk created.

A380: Key Facts

Role: Long-Haul Passenger Aircraft
Length: 238 ft 7 in (77.72 m)
Wing span: 261 ft 8 in (79.75 m)
Engines: Four RR Trent 900s or GP 7200s, producing 70,000-to-72,000 pounds thrust each
Maximum speed: 634 mph (1,020 km/h)
Maximum range: 9,400 miles (15,200 km)
Maximum height: 43,100 ft (13,136 m)
Crew: Two (pilot, co-pilot)
Passengers: 544-to-853
First flown: 27 April 2005

Singapore Airlines A380 image copyright Herve Gousse - courtesy Airbus S.A.S
A380 F-WWDD image copyright ‘Margetal’ – courtesy Wikimedia Commons
British Airways A380 image copyright/courtesy Airbus
A380 components image © Airbus S.A.S 2013 – photo by e*m company / H Gousse
A380 engine close-up image © Airbus S.A.S 2011 – photo by e*m company / H Gousse
Head-on A380 image copyright Alf van Beem – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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