updated 11/13/2006 12:35:43 PM ET 2006-11-13T17:35:43

An Airbus A380 took off Monday for Asia on the first in a final series of test flights intended to lead to airworthiness certification for the superjumbo program that has been hit by a costly two-year production delay.

The A380 took off from Toulouse, southern France, on a round trip to Seoul, South Korea, with a stopover in Singapore planned on each leg.

The four last trips in the test flight schedule, ending Nov. 30, are designed to put the 555-seater A380 through 150 hours of flights under the kind of operating conditions it will experience with airlines.

Representatives of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency are traveling aboard the final series of test flights.

The superjumbo, which takes off again Friday for Hong Kong and Narita, Japan, is on track for certification by mid-December, Airbus spokeswoman Maggie Bergsma said.

Singapore Airlines will be the first carrier to fly paying passengers aboard the A380 after it receives its first superjumbo in October next year — a year later than originally planned. Subsequent deliveries have suffered longer delays, averaging two years.

Airbus and its parent company European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. have blamed wiring problems for the holdups, which are set to wipe 4.8 billion euros ($6.2 billion) off profit over the next four years and are complicating plans for a still-unlaunched mid-size jet to compete with Boeing Co.'s 787.

Airbus separately announced orders for eight single-aisle A320 jets on Monday, from Pakistani airline Airblue and Kuwaiti leasing company ALAFCO.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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