Launching a new era in aviation, the world’s biggest airliner, the Airbus A380 double-decker, has taken off successfully on its maiden flight from Toulouse in southern France. Cheers rang out from the crowd of more than 50,000 that had gathered in bright sunshine around the perimeter fence of Airbus’s production centre for the historic event
Carrying a test crew of six and tons of monitoring equipment, the super-jumbo rose into the air a little over 30 seconds after it began rolling down the runway. There was tight security, with the airspace around Toulouse being patrolled to intercept any suspicious planes. The maiden flight out over the Bay of Biscay was the start of an intensive testing programme that will last more than one year.
During the flight there was a live satellite feed of data monitored by teams of experts on the ground at the Airbus mission control. The crew, led by the head of Airbus’s flight division Claude Lelaie, carried out a series of manoeuvers and checks.
They were equipped with parachutes in case anything should go wrong. This particular plane will not be delivered to an airline, but will serve as the test model for changes to the A380 programme.