Page last updated at 14:55 GMT, Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Debut A380 flight lands in London

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380
Singapore received its first A380 in October 2007

The Airbus A380 super-jumbo has completed its first European commercial flight after a plane from Singapore landed at London's Heathrow airport.

Singapore Airlines is the first carrier to operate the new double-decker aircraft on revenue-earning services.

Flight SQ308 arrived at Heathrow 15 minutes before its 1505 GMT schedule.

British Airways has ordered 12 of the airliners, due to be delivered from 2012, while Virgin Atlantic has ordered six, to arrive from 2013.

The Singapore Airlines flight carries 470 passengers, each of whom will receive a personalised certificate to commemorate the historic first flight to the UK.

The carrier has three A380s in service, with 16 more on order, and has been using them on flights between Singapore and Sydney, Australia, since October 2007.

Environmental claims

The A380 made its Heathrow debut in May 2006, when a pre-production aircraft arrived to test facilities.

Heathrow's owner BAA has constructed a special pier at Terminal 3 to accommodate A380s, which will also be flown to the airport by Dubai-based Emirates.

Pier 6, as it is known, was completed in 2006 at a cost of 105m and provides space for four of the double-deck airliners.

Other works, costing more than 340m, had to be carried out on the airfield to allow for operations by the world's largest commercial airliner.

I saw the A380 when it came to Farnborough in 2006 and thought it looked terrific
Mark Wright
Passenger on inaugural flight

Runways had to be resurfaced, lighting upgraded and taxiways changed in preparation for the A380.

Terminal 5, which was opened by the Queen last Friday, will also be able to handle the airliner when it enters service with British Airways.

Airbus is making bold claims for the A380's impact on the environment, saying the aircraft burns 17% less fuel per seat than the current largest airliner.

The company argues that equates to the airliner producing 75g of CO2 per passenger and per kilometre.

Inaugural flight

Friends of the Earth is not convinced by that argument, saying that while cleaner aircraft are required, it expects any benefits to be undermined by the forecast rapid growth in demand for air travel.

Singapore Airlines say the start of commercial A380 services to London will be a "proud moment" for the UK aviation sector.

The airliner's wings are made at Broughton in north Wales and at Filton in Bristol. The Rolls-Royce engines that power Singapore's fleet are built at Derby.

Among those on board the inaugural flight will be Mark Wright from Northamptonshire.

He is a member of the enthusiasts' group First to Fly - who have been onboard a number of inaugural flights.

"I have long been an aviation enthusiast and was really keen on Concorde although I was never fortunate to fly on it," he said.

"I saw the A380 when it came to Farnborough in 2006 and thought it looked terrific. I was particularly impressed with the wings. They were amazing."

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