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Last Updated: Monday, 5 April, 2004, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK
Jumbo wing starts marathon trek
The A380 superjumbo wing
The A380 superjumbo wing has left Broughton to begin its journey
The first wing of the A380 superjumbo came off the Airbus production line in north Wales on Monday morning.

A massive operation to transport the wing from Flintshire to Toulouse in France will take four weeks - by land, river and sea.

But Airbus says the long-term future of the operation is under threat if a ban on the company dredging in the Dee Estuary continues.

The Port of Mostyn was refused permission to dredge last month.

It's an event that will go down in aviation history
Brian Fleet, Airbus
Despite this, Airbus has pledged its support to Mostyn.

The port wants the estuary to be dredged so barges can get in and out at all times of the day.

So far permission has been refused by the Environment Agency over concerns about wildlife living in the river Dee.

"We need it to be dredged so the wings can go out in the medium term from the facility," explained Brian Fleet, director of manufacturing for Airbus.

"There is no other way - we have spent the money and we are fully committed to it. This is part of an integrated transport system."

The workforce at Broughton has spent several years designing the wings, which span 80 metres.

Hundreds of workers lined the route to watch the wing start its journey from the plant.

Workers spoke of their pride but it was mixed with a little anxiety as they watched it begin its trip by land and sea.

"The wing's never been taken out of here before, it's never been put on the barge before so we're a bit anxious," said Airbus worker Steven Hardwick.

"The other half of the job is actually getting it there when you see how far it's got to go, I think we're more bothered about that than building it."

The first wing was lifted onto a huge transporter, with a 96-wheel trailer, it then travelled along a special track to the River Dee where it was loaded onto a barge.

The wing and workers
Workers followed the wing through the plant

The barge is not expected to leave for Mostyn docks for a few days.

Iain Gray, Airbus UK managing director, said: "Much has been achieved in such a short space of time, especially considering the complexity and enormity of the A380 project."

The first superjumbo, which will carry 555 passengers, will take to the skies in test flights in 2005.

The delivery to Airbus' first customer, Singapore Airlines, will be made a year later.

On-board services are expected to include shops, sleeping areas, crèche and exercise rooms over two decks.

"It's an event that will go down in aviation history," Brian Fleet said.

"The A380 will be the aircraft of the future, it will be the aircraft of the 21st Century.

'Huge pride'

"Where Concorde had the speed for the 20th Century, the A380... is absolutely colossal.

"I think for the workforce there will be a huge sense of pride - this has been a real technical challenge of pure size, the scale and the complexity."

Air France, Emirates and Qantas are among the airlines committed to buying the aircraft.

Airbus believes that hundreds of ultra-large aircraft will be needed over the next two decades.

Four years ago the company listed the cost of an A380 superjumbo at about £150m - not much more than a traditional Boeing 747 jumbo jet which seats about 413 people.

The wings, together with their transportation jig and multi-purpose vehicle weigh 200 tonnes, and are far too heavy to be transported by air.

Airbus became worried about transporting the wings via Mostyn after P&O announced it was halting ferry trips between the Flintshire port and Dublin.

The company ran the last service from Mostyn to Dublin on Sunday.

The BBC's Simon Montague
"Hundreds of workers watched as the biggest wing ever built for a passenger jet rolled out"

In Pictures: Airbus launch
05 Apr 04  |  Photo Gallery
The super jumbo fact file
23 Jun 00  |  Business
Super-jumbo cleared for take-off
19 Dec 00  |  Business
Airbus warning over docks
28 May 03  |  Wales
Wings to go by land and sea
06 Feb 02  |  Wales
Superjumbo petition for leaders
31 Mar 04  |  Wales

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