A380 takes first passengers

September 6, 2006

Brussels, 05 Sep 2006

The Airbus A380 - the world's largest passenger aeroplane - has taken its first passengers on a flight from Toulouse, to test the interior and its passenger comfort for long-haul flights. The 474 passengers are all Airbus staff, split into three passenger classes, in what will be the conventional airline service configuration. Finished A380s will be able to take up to 800 passengers. The tests mark a significant milestone for the A380, which has faced some delays.

'In the overall objectives, we have four flights this week, to test the cabin functioning in a long-haul flight environment,' said Airbus spokesperson Maggie Bergsma. 'Today [September 4] we have a seven hour flight, tomorrow a 10 hour flight, on Wednesday a 12 hour flight and on Friday a 14 hour flight. Each flight will test the equipment, the entertainment systems, the toilets, the safety features,' she said.

Although the flight will not go anywhere in particular, the idea is to test normal flight conditions, to see how passengers interact with the giant aircraft. This is a major test for a passenger plane.

The Airbus project has been a great driver for European research. Airbus employs some 57,000 employees around the world, and research has been part funded through successive Framework Programmes. ACARE (the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe) is currently pushing for Commission approval for its proposed CLEAN SKY Joint Technology Initiative, which will provide an infrastructure for further research, which will be essential in developing successors to the A380.

The A380 will move on to trail runs along real passenger routes later in the year. 'We will conduct route proving tests, which will involve going to normal destinations, and working the turnaround to see how the plane works under these conditions,' said Ms Bergsma.

Airbus is a joint venture between the French company EADS and UK BAE Systems. The project has benefited from substantial EU investment, which has filtered down to many smaller companies supplying specialised equipment or expertise to the project.

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