April 27th is a very important date, as this is the day the first flight of the Airbus A380 commenced in 2005. The aircraft completed a test flight after three years of production.
To date, this is the largest commercial jet in the sky, with record-breaking seating capacity, wingspan and height. However, one metric where the Boeing 747 is bigger is the length of the aircraft! The Airbus A380 measures at 72.72 meters, while the 747 is 76.3 meters long. Other than that, the Super Jumbo is bigger in every aspect.
And that competition between the A380 and the 747 has stayed throughout the history of both jets. Although the 747 saw daylight much sooner – Boeing revealed the Queen Of The Skies in 1959.
Airbus developed the A380 to compete with the Boeing 747, as Boeing completely dominated the segment of ultra-high-capacity aircraft. In 2000, Airbus‘ board officially approved the A3XX program and re-named it to the A380. 6 airlines lined up for the new jet and Airbus immediately secured 50 orders.
Airbus finalized the design in 2001 and production began just a few months later, in 2002.
The production of the Super Jumbo is quite a complex one. Especially logistically, as parts had to be delivered from Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom via air, sea and land.
To test the aircraft, Airbus built 5 A380s. The first A380 model to roll out of Airbus‘ plant in Toulouse, registered F-WWOW, conquered the hearts of everyone as soon as it took to the sky.
The event, which many aviation journalists have attended, was widely covered around the world. Everyone was excited for the newest Airbus jet, as it was about to redefine the passenger experience on an aircraft.
The first Airbus A380 flight took off on April 27th, 2005 at 10:29 AM local time, with 6 people on board. The two co-captains, Claude Lelaie and Jacques Rosay flew the aircraft. Fernando Alonso (not the F1 racing driver, the Airbus engineer), Jacky Joyce, Manfred Birnfeld and Gérard Desbois were also present on board.
Airbus A380 First Flight Crew
After 3 hours and 54 minutes, the aircraft landed back at Blagnac International Airport in Toulouse.
The Airbus A380 ticked off every box on the primary flight test objectives list. The pilots were also extremely happy with the A380’s performance.
Claude Lelaie said that “[…] we now really sense the potential of this magnificent machine. And even on the ground, as already felt during the initial ground tests, the A380 handles as easily as any other aircraft.”
While the other captain, Jacques Rosay, confirmed Claude’s comments: “Within the first minutes of the flight, we were impressed by the ease of handling of the aircraft […]”.
After rigorous and tough testing, many changes to the structure of the aircraft, the Airbus A380 made its commercial debut on October 25th, 2007. The launch customer of the type was Singapore Airlines, as the airline used the A380 on Flight SQ380 from Singapore to Sydney.
The Airbus A380 brought unprecedented luxury to the aviation industry. The jet provided an opportunity for airlines to make an aircraft into a flying hotel, as Singapore Airlines did so, a spa or a cocktail lounge. Flying the A380 is truly a unique experience that no other aircraft offers.
Airbus A380 Hotel Suite
In total, 15 airlines fly the Airbus A380. The newest airline to operate the aircraft is All Nippon Airways, which will launch their first flights with the Airbus A380 on the 24th of May, 2019.
And the biggest operator of the Airbus A380 is, of course, Emirates. The Middle Eastern airline operates 109 out of the 235 A380 jets that Airbus has delivered. Emirates has ordered 169 Airbus A380s altogether.
According to Airbus, the A380 flies to more than 60 destinations in various airports around the world.
Unfortunately, the A380’s fortune ended much sooner than Airbus expected. On 14th of February, 2019, Airbus announced they are canceling the Airbus A380. While the Super Jumbo has a lot of features that are unique to it, but it has its fair share of problems as well.
The high-profit margins, limited destination count and insanely high fuel consumption left the Airbus A380 to only operate on very specific routes.
The bittersweet Valentine‘s day marked the end of something special, that probably won‘t return anytime soon, as airlines are moving away from quad-engine aircraft like the A380. The production of the Super Jumbo will end in 2021.