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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Airbus A380 jet lands at Heathrow
The Airbus A380 landing at Heathrow Airport
The A380 has earlier flown over Airbus' UK plants

The Airbus A380, the world's biggest passenger jet, has landed at London's Heathrow Airport for the first time.

Making its UK debut after a flight from Berlin, the giant twin-deck plane had earlier flown over the two UK Airbus sites that designed and made its wings.

Staff at the facilities in Broughton, Flintshire, and Filton, near Bristol, cheered as it passed low above them.

The 555-seat aircraft and its crew are visiting Heathrow to test the airport's facilities before flying out on Friday.

"This is truly a monumental day in aviation history," said Heathrow's managing director Tony Douglas.

Aviation milestone

Heathrow operator BAA is spending 450m so that it is ready to handle the A380 when it starts making commercial flights later this year.

It's an efficient and clean and environmentally friendly aircraft, and it has lower fuel consumption per seat, and produces less noise and emissions than older aircraft
David Gamper
Airports Council International

The plane was met at the airport's new 105m pier 6 at Terminal 3 by dignitaries including Chancellor Gordon Brown.

"I think it's a great success story for European co-operation. I think it's also a big triumph for British manufacturing, British technology, British science," said Mr Brown.

"British science has contributed a great deal to this and I think this is going to be a widely used aircraft. You can see the popular interest in it already here at Heathrow and I think it's going to be a huge commercial success and I do pay tribute to all who played a part in making this possible."

The new pier 6 has been specially designed to handle the A380's twin decks.

Money has also been spent at Heathrow resurfacing runways, upgrading lighting and building new taxiways in preparation for the plane.

Together with Mr Brown were the heads of some of the 16 airlines that have already ordered the 73-metre-long aircraft, which will go into passenger service in December this year.

During the visit, airport officials will test whether the plane does indeed fit the airport.


Developed by the European Airbus consortium for about 6bn, the A380 has been heralded as a major milestone in aviation history.

The jet maker has taken 159 firm orders for the plane from 16 carriers, including Singapore Airlines, which will make the inaugural commercial flight on its route between Sydney, Singapore and London later this year.

A spokesman for the world's airport operators told BBC Radio Five Live that the A380 was more environmentally friendly than older aircraft.

"It's an efficient and clean and environmentally friendly aircraft, and it has lower fuel consumption per seat, and produces less noise and emissions than older aircraft, and for airports it should increase their ability to handle passengers," said David Gamper of the Airports Council International.

Rival plan

Airbus sees the giant A380 as the future of aviation, responding to airline calls for a bigger plane to meet increasing passenger numbers flying between major hubs.

Its great rival, US giant Boeing, is taking a different track, predicting that the future growth sector will be for additional medium-sized planes that can service more of the smaller airports that cannot handle the A380.

For that reason, Boeing has developed a new medium-sized plane called the 787 Dreamliner.

Environmental campaigners argue against both planes, saying that the world needs to move towards less air travel as a means to help combat global warming.

Have you spotted or photographed the A380 flying over your area? If so, send us your photos to yourpics@bbc.co.uk

Comparison of Boeing 747 and Airbus A380
Typical 416 (max 568)
Cruising speed:
0.855 Mach
Flight range:

Typical 555 (max 853)
Cruising speed:
0.85 Mach
Flight range:


Take a tour inside the Airbus A380

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