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The crowning achievement of a European adventure...

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The crowning achievement of a European adventure...

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That’s how one leader described the world’s largest ever passenger plane as it was unveiled before a stunned audience. The A 380 Airbus’s flagship product, is the result of a pan-European vision and the fruit of many years of labour. It is the brainchild of France, Britain, Germany and Spain. Conceived as the secretive project A3XX in the late 1980s, it finally saw the light of day at anelaborate ceremony near the French city of Toulouse.

A dazzling American-style show recounting humanity’s achievements in flight showcased the European titan which could end American dominance of giant airliners. The heads of state of the founding nations were present, as were shareholders, airline company bosses and other business leaders. Speakers hailed the project as a triumph of European ingenuity, technical prowess and shared culture. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said it showed that “Old Europe” was shaping developments in the 21st century. Airbus and Boeing represent two very different visions of air travel. The Americans are going for “small is beautiful”, while the Europeans are betting on “build them big and pack them in”. The next generation of air travellers will see who is right.