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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Timeline - Airbus A380 'superjumbo'
It's been a long, incident-packed journey from drawing board to reality, but the world's biggest passenger aircraft is finally here.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) hopes its Airbus A380 will transform air travel.

And by carrying a third more passengers than its rival, the Boeing 747Jumbo Jet, it is being hailed as an environmentally friendly jumbo.

These are some of the key steps along the way.

1970 - Airbus Industrie, forerunner of the current multi-nation consortium, is formed.

1991 - Airbus begins talks with major international carriers about requirements for a super-large passenger aircraft. Its member partners work on individual schemes which later lead to the A3XX project.

January 1993 - Rival Boeing reveals it has begun studies into "very large" commercial aircraft - with the four Airbus partners - Aerospatiale, Daimler-Benz Aerospace Airbus, Construcciones Aeronauticas and British Aerospace.

June 1993 - After Boeing opts instead for smaller "jumbos", Airbus partners set up A3XX team to focus on the "super-jumbo" project.

1996 - Airbus Large Aircraft Division formed, and project chiefs opt for specially designed engines rather than adapt existing types to cope with the size of the aircraft.

2000 - Commercial launch of the A3XX, later to become the A380.

2001 - Airbus consortium formally becomes a single integrated company, comprising the four partners from France, Germany, Spain and the UK.

2002 - Work begins on manufacturing key components, including the wings in Filton, near Bristol, and at Broughton, north Wales.

February 2004 - The first Airbus engines are delivered by Rolls-Royce to the Airbus factory in Toulouse, southern France, while two months later the first wing rolls off the north Wales production line.

April 2004 - Major redevelopment work begins at London's Heathrow airport to accommodate the new giant.

May 2004 - Assembly begins in the giant 240m factory.

December 2004 - Airbus owner EADS reveals the project is 1bn (1.45bn euros) over budget, at more than 8.4bn (12bn euros).

January 2005 - After Airbus and Boeing agree to talks to resolve their row over unfair subsidies, Airbus finally unveils the A380 to the media and dignitaries.

27 April 2005 -The plane makes its maiden flight, taking off in Toulouse, France, and circling the Bay of Biscay for four hours before returning to base. The maiden flight is followed by a year of flight-testing and certification-programme work.

June 2005 - Airbus announces that the plane's delivery schedule will slip by six months.

March 2006 - The plane passes a key evacuation test, with 850 passengers and 20 crew managing to leave the aircraft within 80 seconds, even though half the exits were blocked.

July 2006 - The A380 suffers another production delay, with Airbus predicting a delay of another six to seven months.

October 2006 Airbus announces a further delay of one year for the A380; the first plane will now go into commercial service about 20 months later than originally planned.

October 2007 The super-jumbo is set to take off as a commercial airliner, with Singapore Airlines operating the first trailblazing aircraft.

Others, including Qantas and Emirates, should follow soon after.


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