Everything about the Airbus A380 being unveiled Tuesday in Toulouse is supersize – not just its 840 passenger capacity … but also the site where it is to be put together.
One thousand two hundred engineers, technicians and mechanics will work on the plane, which will rank as one of the biggest machines ever to take to the air. The project represents a massive investment, creating jobs in Germany, Britain and Spain, but particularly in the Toulouse region of southwestern France. The assembly hall is the largest in Europe – half a kilometre long, a quarter of a kilometre wide, and nearly 50 metres high – as tall as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It is a source of pride to all concerned. Florent Verge, fuselage constructor: “When you start something and you see it finished, for me that’s great. When we started we had no idea, apart from blueprints and computer images, what it would look like.” For the town of Blagnac, a few kilometres from Toulouse, the project is a boon to suppliers and sub-contractors. Two thousand new jobs have already been created. Airbus employs 16,000 people in the region, and the economic fallout is expected to spread throughout southwestern France. Jean-Pierre Mazars, president of the Blagnac employers assocation:“Ten new businesses opened in Blagnac last month. If a company has to fold, it is immediately bought out and relaunched.” More than 1,200 companies employing 85,000 people depend to one degree or another on region’s aerospace industry. They represent more than 10 billion euros in sales, second only to the Seattle region, home to US rival Boeing. A lot is riding on the success of the new superjumbo.