This afternoon sees the inauguration of the Airbus 380 assembly plant in Toulouse, France, attended by no less than French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and 3000 staff and luminaries.
This is a big moment for a big aircraft: the A380 is a 73m (239ft) long double-decker monster designed to carry 555 passengers over 15,000km (8,000nm). The "envirnomentally-friendly" plane (less noise and fewer emissions than today's jumbos, the company boasts) will enter service in 2006 with Singapore airlines, and Airbus already has 129 orders on its books with whole terminus of major players - Air France, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic Airways included.
Naturally, a giant of the skies needs a production facility to match. Components for the A380 are built at various European locations, then flown to Toulouse to be bolted together. According to Airbus: "The assembly building is one of the largest in the world, measuring 490m by 250 m, with a height of 46 m. It is the largest of several buildings on the site which, together, incorporate more than 32,000 tonnes of steel - the equivalent of four Eiffel towers or the Millau viaduct - plus 250,000 cubic metres of concrete."
For those enthusiasts who cannot wait until 2006 to train their binoculars on the 560-tonne leviathan, here are a few tasty specs to be going on with:
- Overall Length: 239ft 3in - 73m
- Cabin Length: 166ft 3in - 50.68m
- Max. Cabin Width Main Deck: 21ft 7in - 6.58m
- Max. Cabin Width Upper Deck: 19ft 5in - 5.92m
- Height: 79ft 7in - 24.1m
- Wheelbase: 99ft 8in - 30.4m
More technical info is available here. ®
We are reliably informed that the A380 wings are too large to be transported by air and are therefore shifted by road, river and sea from the UK. Thanks to Richard Dudley for the correction.