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Time Called on A380

Is it true? Afraid so……….Airbus has called time on the “Super Jumbo” A380-800. The final aircraft to be manufactured left Airbus – Toulouse on March 17th with test registrations F-WWSH, flying to the company’s Hamburg facility for finishing touches before being handed over to customer Emirates Airlines, with an eventual registration A6-EVS.

Photo by Fenix

After the initial 13:40 departure, the historic flight was marked by the A380 performing a low-level fly-past at 325 ft, directly above the runway before banking off line to fly overhead the Toulouse facility and completing a significant “wing-wave” as a tribute to the staff involved. From here the “Super Jumbo” climbed out heading south to an altitude of 20,000 ft at the foot of the Pyrenees for further flight analysis. The aircraft tracked back and forth at various altitude and speed, close to Carcassonne, continuously testing and monitoring during this, its first flight.


Passing Perpignan, across the Balearic Sea to Marseille, climbing to 35,000 ft before following the line of the Southern Alps in a northerly direction, saluting Geneva, Bern & Zurich on its way ascending to a height of 43,000 ft. for the transiting of Germany flying north, arriving at Airbus - Hamburg Finkenwerder on the banks of the river Elbe, after a flight time of 3hrs 19mins.


Photo by David Barrie

The disappointing announcement of the type’s end of production, was made almost two years ago and while some continued in hope for an eleventh hour reprieve of this decision, the Coronavirus pandemic sealed its faith, a final nail in its coffin. If the A380’s future appeared bleak prior to C-19, the seismic shock the aviation industry has suffered plus the projected slow recovery, not only to air travel but in particular, long-haul flights and large capacity airliners, emerging from the gloom, the aviation landscape will experience a purge resulting in a leaner air transportation sector.


Designed to deliver maximum number of passengers in comfort to major airports on long-haul routes, the A380 accomplished its brief in this regard. Most people’s experience of flying onboard the ‘double decker’ is positive, many remarking the level of comfort and ride quality. Possibly the sheer size of the aircraft played a part in smoothing out turbulence, providing a ‘floating’ ride and a quieter flight certainly on the upper deck due in part to the cabin being further distanced from the engines.

Photo by Fenix

Flight crew also communicate praise for the A380 as an enjoyable and rewarding aircraft to operate. Despite its enormous size, reports from the flight deck indicate excellent handling and control characteristics, a credit to the Airbus design team. A mammoth challenge at the time for the European manufacturer in creating the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft, with an excellent safety record to date.


From the 251 air-frames produced over the 15 year production span (2007 – 2021 Incl.), almost 50% were operated by Emirates Airlines, with final total received, 123 aircraft. In more recent times, some of the airline’s fleet were rostered to medium and at times even short-haul routes. It’s fair to say Emirates were the A380’s No.1 customer with a loyal following for the type. This privileged position Emirates found themselves in, provided the airline with considerable leverage at times when discussing and negotiating terms and requirements related specifically to the A380’s continued development and in-service life.

Photo by David Barrie

One “elephant in the room” when discussing the A380, (and there were several), was its startling absence from the fleet of any US airline. This always stood out as an intriguing omission by the industry in the US, with a credible explanation seldom forthcoming. While a considerable number of airlines around the world operated the US produced Boeing 747, during its half-century in production, elevating it to the ‘world’s favourite airliner’, operation of the Airbus product in the States was not reciprocated, at all. Sour-grapes? Surely not.


While on “Super Jumbo” metaphors another issue or “elephant”, was the restrictions the A380 faced at some airports. Docking for loading and unloading passengers at many airports early on became problematic. Deemed unsafe and unrealistic for passengers on the upper deck to be expected to use internal stairs to arrive on the lower deck in order for all to use standard air-bridges attached at lower level, new air-bridges able to extend reaching doors on the upper level were required, putting airports to considerable expense and reorganising of terminal’s and aprons.

Photo by Fenix

One airport in question was Manchester, which provided these alterations and additions to accommodate the A380. Dublin Airport explored the possibility of receiving the A380, parking at the end of Terminal 2 but unfortunately decided against.


Cabin configuration of A380’s with individual airlines varied. The dilemma as to where First Class should be located was a topic debated in boardrooms of A380 operators. For example, Air France located its 9 No. La Premiere seats (First Class) on the lower deck, at the front section of the aircraft with 95% of Economy also on the lower deck. The upper level facilitated Business Class in the forward area, Premium Economy and Economy at the rear.

Photo by David Barrie

Emirates seating hierarchy is more straight forward. First Class is found on the upper deck at the front with Business also on the upper level taking the main body. Economy is entirely on the lower deck. British Airways, took an alternative approach, with First Class found at the front on the lower level and Business positioned next midway and Economy to the rear. On the upper deck it was Business in the front half, then midway Economy Plus and to the rear, Economy. Each to their own it appears.


Those finishing touches provided at Hamburg for the final A380 referred to earlier, include painting in Emirates livery and cabin fit-out. It would be a missed-opportunity for the airline not to mark the occasion with special titles incorporated into a one-off livery.

Photo by matdu20eme

A final mention must be given to the time spent at the Airbus A380 production facility at Broughton, North Wales, by Airliner Experience a few years back, where of course the mighty wings were manufactured. The group visit was a joy, each of us amazed by the enormous size of the wings when seen in all they’re expanse in front of us. The special visit also included a form of “whale” spotting, as the group was positioned around the airfield for Airbus Beluga movements. Rare sights indeed…………..


Photos by Fenix, David Barrie & matdu20eme

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