Government ministers from the UK, France, Spain and Malaysia, were in Toulouse on 18 January for a special briefing on the A380 - during a one-hour flight over the Pyrénées.
Accompanied by Airbus President and CEO Louis Gallois, Executive Vice President Programmes Tom Williams, Executive Vice President A400M, Juan Carlos Martinez-Saiz, and a group of international journalists and photographers, the group was able to tour the cabin and cockpit, as well as to discuss the aircraft with the crew.
The visit provided the ideal opportunity to review the programme, coming just a few days after the first A380 for Singapore Airlines moved to "commercial installation", thereby meeting the first milestone of the recovery schedule.
UK Minister of State for Industry & the Regions, Margaret Hodge, and Spanish Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Joan Clos joined French Transport, Minister Dominique Perben, and Malaysian Transport Minister, Seri Chan Kong Choy, who had earlier attended the delivery of A320 MSN3000 to AirAsia. Peter Hintze, German Parliamentary State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology, had also been due to attend, but was forced to cancel because of the storms in Northern Germany.
Margaret Hodge said that she had been particularly impressed by the technical complexity of the aircraft and the smoothness of the flight, adding that the UK had great confidence in Airbus. "We really value Airbus' presence in the UK," she said.
Joan Clos, who has his private pilot's licence, remarked on how stable the aircraft felt in the air during the flight and pledged his country's full support to the A380 programme.
For Dominique Perben, the A380's certification in December 2006 demonstrated the outstanding technical achievements of the programme so far and he emphasised that the aircraft itself would be a great commercial success once it entered into service.
Louis Gallois remarked that the ministers had all expressed nothing but praise for the aircraft and the trip had demonstrated just how quiet and smooth the aircraft is in flight. "You really don't notice take-off and landing," he added. "Passengers are going to love this aircraft."