Members of the international press and television got their first chance to experience flying in the A380 during a two-hour flight over the Pyrénées today. Also onboard to answer their questions and show them around the cabin were members of Airbus' senior management and marketing teams. The A380 used for the flight is powered by four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, has a fully furnished cabin with seating for 519 passengers in a three class configuration.
Before take-off, John Leahy, Chief Operating Officer, Customers and Mario Heinen, Head of the A380 Programme, briefed the media on the current sales and production status of the aircraft. John Leahy described the A380 as a "game changing aircraft". It is more economical, has a wider cabin and offers airlines better and quieter performance than any other competing aircraft. "It is certainly worth the wait," he said.
John Leahy also said that he expects to announce 20 more orders for the aircraft from two customers this year and that he believed that Airbus' current sales estimate of 1,600 A380s over the next 20 years may even prove to be conservative, judging by the rapid growth in the aviation market. The A380 is ideal for addressing the needs of airports and airlines alike - carrying more people on fewer flights and giving airlines the chance to offer a more comfortable experience for all passengers. And the airlines are choosing layouts of around 500 to 520 seats, allowing them to provide more luxurious interiors and give the space to the passenger.
Finally, John Leahy outlined the performance advantages of the A380, including its fuel consumption of 2.9 litres per passenger kilometre - the current industry average is 5 litres per passenger kilometer -, and its reduced emissions and noise levels.
By 2011, the A380 will be flying to 70 airports across the world and, as Mario Heinen explained in his presentation, it has already demonstrated compatibility with 38 airports, as part of its flight test campaign and world tour, and more will follow in the coming months. "This has been the most comprehensive flight test campaign ever," he said. "As of yesterday we reached 2,900 hours and 1995 take-offs with the five test aircraft."
Mario Heinen said that the A380 is an excellent aircraft and represents a huge step forward technologically, something that has now been officially recognised with its certification on 12 December 2006: "The aircraft's outstanding handling qualities have been praised by the European Aviation Safety Agency, the US Federal Aviation Administration and pilots alike," he added.
With regard to the industrial problems experienced by the programme, Mario Heinen explained that corrective actions to meet short and long-term goals were in place and already delivering results. In preparation for its entry into service, the A380 programme team is working to ensure the best possible service readiness and provide an enhanced programme of support for customers.
"We are determined to secure a successful entry into service, meeting and exceeding our commitments to customers," he said. "This aircraft is the flagship of the 21st century and it will change the way we fly."