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Last Updated: Monday, 4 September 2006, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Airbus A380 completes test flight
The Airbus A380 taking off on its test flight on Monday
The plane took off from Toulouse this morning

An Airbus A380 super-jumbo has landed back in southern France to complete its first test flight with passengers.

With 474 Airbus staff filling seats in first, business and economy class, they tested everything from the plane's televisions to its toilets.

The seven-hour flight is due to be the first of four this week designed to check all the A380's on-board services.

Airbus also said that it was replacing the head of the A380 project, which has been hit by delay problems.

It said Charles Champion is to be replaced by Mario Heinen, the current boss of the A320 plane.

'Human feedback'

A total of 1,900 Airbus employees have been selected for this week's test flights.

Airbus A380 interior
The A380 has two full floors of seating

Their names were picked at random from the 15,000 staff who applied for the mission from Airbus offices around the world.

"These four test flights with real passengers will give us human feedback on life on board this plane which can do distances of up to 15,000 kilometres [9,300 miles]," said chief test pilot Jacques Rosay.

Mr Champion's departure is the latest problem to befall the A380 programme since it was announced in June that the first deliveries would be delayed by six months because of a problem with the plane's wiring.

The delay has already led to the resignation of former Airbus chief executive Gustav Humbert.

It also contributed to the departure of Noel Forgeard, the then co-chief executive of Airbus' main parent company EADS.

Mr Forgeard departed after he was accused deliberately selling EADS shares before the delays to the A380 were announced to the markets, something he denies.

Possible sale

The first deliveries of the A380 will be made in December to Singapore Airlines.

So far 16 airlines have ordered 159 of the aircraft.

Airbus employs a total of 57,000 people around the globe.

In the UK it has a workforce of 13,000 people who design and build the wings for its planes across two main sites - Broughton in north Wales and Filton near Bristol.

While EADS owns 80% of Airbus, the other 20% stake is currently in the hands of UK defence and aerospace group BAE Systems.

However, BAE Systems is currently exploring a possible sale of its share in Airbus.


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