Today in History: The World's Largest Commercial Jet Takes to the Air
by M.C. Millman
On January 18, 2005, France unveiled the Airbus A380, the world's largest commercial passenger airliner and the only full-length double-deck jet airliner, which still takes to the air today.
The aircraft is large enough to accommodate a standard configuration that seats 525 passengers but can also hold a maximum capacity of 853 passengers. It can fly non-stop from Europe to Asia, North America, and South America. The Airbus A380 features three cabins on two levels.
The assembly of the Airbus required a new system that would allow for transporting the huge wings, fuselage sections, and horizontal tailplanes. The parts were loaded onto a specially-built ferry, followed by a barge. Then the parts were delivered overland to Toulouse from multiple manufacturing sites in France, Germany, Spain, and Britain.
While the A380 is too big, expensive, and inefficient for most operators, when the first A380 came off the assembly line, there were already 149 orders for the new Airbus and its freighter version, the A380F.
On January 18, 2005, the first complete A380 was revealed in front of national leaders from Britain, France, Spain, and Germany. Five thousand other guests were also in attendance, including customers, suppliers, and journalists in the hundreds, all of whom had arrived to witness the historic unveiling of the new Airbus.
The big reveal ceremony was held in the A380 Final Assembly Facility. The much-touted event included a fireworks display and dry ice fog interplayed with lasers and dancers. Images of all the many Airbus aircraft models were projected to appear as if they were flying around the hall. At the same time, a hologram wizard spoke of the magic of aviation and the dream of the A380, which had become a reality at long last. The Airbus website live-streamed the ceremony, which recorded a record number of visitors to the tune of hundreds of thousands of people.
Some of the A380's most popular features, which can vary by airline, include the fact that the planes boast the quietest cabins ever built and a much smoother ride that has far less turbulence than its smaller counterparts.
The feeling of spaciousness when on board is another plus, as the plane has higher ceilings and fewer seats per row, with fifteen percent more space for hand luggage storage per passenger. The two wide staircases on the front and back of the A380 also add to the feeling of spaciousness and add a touch of elegance.
The Airbus has enhanced LED lighting that changes according to the time of day. This feature is designed to alter the passenger's natural wake/sleep cycle gradually and is set to match the flight's destination to reduce jet lag.
The two middle seats in the premium A380 section of most airlines can expand into double beds.
The first-class cabin boasts spacious bathrooms with benches, large mirrors, sit-down vanity counters, and the luxury of a five-minute hot shower that needs to be reserved in advance.
Glamourous onboard lounges are a part of the premium cabins of some airlines that fly the A380. For those who prefer to travel alone, first-class luxury apartments are available on some Etihad Airways flights to Abu Dhabi, while other airlines have suites instead. The apartments have room to walk around after closing the privacy door and contain a large leather armchair and a bed.
Etihad Airways also boasts a three-room Residence on board some flights. The Residence has a living room with a sofa, two dining tables, a separate bedroom with a double bed, and an ensuite shower room. The Residence also comes with its own butler whom the Savoy Hotel trained in London.
The A380's first flight took place in Toulouse on April 27, 2005, as the world looked on. The A380, powered by four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, took its first historic flight and flew for three hours and 54 minutes.
The new A380 Airbus helped to secure the company's position as one of the world's leading aircraft manufacturers.