The Airbus A380


A brief history of Airbus and the A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world.



Since the Wright brothers' successful flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903, the U.S. had been at the forefront of aeronautic technology and design. But in 1970, a new European consortium known as Airbus Industrie was formed that would command half the global market for new aircraft by 2000. Now in 2006, Airbus is preparing to release the A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world.


A brief history of Airbus


Airbus' beginnings weren't nearly so grandiose. Their first plane, the A300, was a twin-engined widebody aircraft with a capacity for 266 passengers. The Airbus A320 began delivery in 1988, along with the long-range Airbus A340, which is still the longest airliner in the world. All three planes are still in service, though Airbus plans to end production of the A300 in July of 2007.


Airbus' long-range jets such as the A340 are known for their efficient wing design. Airbus is also known for its use of fly-by-wire technology, which replaces physical control of planes with an electrical interface.


The Airbus A380


It is an airliner that has been long in the making. Over 10 years and 12 billion Euros (about $15.5 billion in U.S. dollars) have been spent on development of the Airbus A380. Its size is truly impressive. It is the first aircraft to offer three full cargo decks, and its seating capacity of 555 passengers is 35% more than its competitor, the Boeing 747-400. If configured for economy class only, the seating capacity increases to 853 passengers.


Along with wider seats, the Airbus A380 will contain room for amenities such as bars, shops, showers, and beauty salons. But size isn't the A380's only innovation. The freighter version, the A380F, will feature aluminum-lithium skin in the wings and on parts of the fuselage for lighter weight and better corrosion resistance. The A380 also has a totally paperless cockpit thanks to its Network Systems Server.


The first Airbus A380s should be delivered to Singapore Airlines in the last quarter of 2006.


--Joshua Avram

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