An Airbus A380 superjumbo has been flying from France to Asia on the first of four final test flights this month needed to gain its airworthiness certificate to enter commercial service. Representatives from the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration were on board with Airbus test crews as they carried out reliability checks.
For these flights, there are only around 30 people on board. The plane, the biggest thing in the skies, can carry over 800 passengers. At 73 metres long and 24 metres high the A380 can travel for 15,000 kilometres and each costs 240 million euros. But even at that price, Airbus now says it will not make a profit until it has sold 420 of them. Because of delays the company is losing orders rather than gaining them. Fed Ex has pulled out of buying 10; Emirates has warned it might cut back its order for 43 planes, while Virgin Atlantic has deferred its order until 2013.
On this trip the A380 will visit Singapore, and the South Korean capital Seoul. Subsequent test flight will take it to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in China, the Japanese city of Narita, as well as Johannesburg in South Africa, Sydney, Australia and Vancouver, Canada.