Media crowd takes a joy-ride on A380

Some 200 journalists sampled the Airbus A380 jet during a special media flight. The largest airliner in history flew over the Pyrenees and landed back in Toulouse in France.

The first commercial flight of the A380 is scheduled for October. As a prelude, a chance came for a planefull of journalists to sample the mammoth of the skies. After a very smooth take-off, everyone was just amazed how quiet it was.

In 15 minutes the plane was over the Pyrenees, where it met another aircraft, which followed the A380, taking exterior pictures. Cabin staff could hardly move between the cameras, but they said the working conditions were far better than on any other aircraft.

First and business class passengers will surely get more perks on this biggest passenger aircraft ever, but how to allocate space is something really up to the airlines. In a typical 3-class layout, the A380 would carry 555 passengers, while a single class version can accommodate up to 830 – a record in civil aviation.

The plane is meant to travel between so-called hubs – large airports like Frankfurt, London or Singapore. Currently several flights depart from cities like these to the same destinations within half-an-hour of each other, because everybody wants to fly at convenient times. The A380 will solve this problem, as one such aircraft capable of carrying more that 500 people will replace two or even three different flights.

“As Russian aviation expands – and I think it’s expanding rather rapidly – Moscow will clearly become a hub. I would see a need for some A380s in Aeroflot if maybe not today, but in some five-seven years. And actually if you placed an order in 2007, you wouldn’t get the airplane right now, with the backlog we’ve got until 2012. So this airplane will certainly fly at some point in Russian colours,” thinks John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer.

Having spent two hours in French airspace, the A380 landed back in Toulouse. The captain and Airbus managers say they are looking forward to seeing everyone on board regular A380 flights in the future, but what they really seemed to expect was a positive feedback and new orders, which would let Airbus overtake its rival Boeing once again.

It has in all senses been a regular flight with ordinary passengers stepping on board of the A380 for the first time. The journalists got even boarding cards where Toulouse was mentioned both as destination and origin. It may however be another 8 months before anybody has a chance to take a regular commercial flight on an A380.