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World’s largest passenger plane in ground tests

The Airbus A380 began its first full day of ground tests on Thursday, a day after being consigned to the team of engineers and test pilots who will give the world’s largest passenger plane its first flight.
The Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, is pulled from the ground test area to the flight test department at Toulouse airport Wednesday.
The Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, is pulled from the ground test area to the flight test department at Toulouse airport Wednesday. AP
/ Source: Reuters

The Airbus A380 began its first full day of ground tests on Thursday, a day after being consigned to the team of engineers and test pilots who will give the world’s largest passenger plane its first flight.

The huge double-decker was formally delivered to the flight testing department at European planemaker Airbus on Wednesday.

The first A380 known as MSN 001 — registration F-WWOW — is expected to make its first test flight in the second half of this month after taxi and other tests designed to test the aircraft’s performance on the ground, Airbus officials said.

It is expected to make its first official appearance before the general public at the Paris air show in June but those hoping to watch the largest civil airliner ever built performing an aerial display will be disappointed.

“I can only tell you that this plane will be at Le Bourget. It won’t make a flying display, despite what some people have said, simply because this isn’t an aerobatic aircraft,” Airbus operations chief Gerard Blanc told Reuters.

“It will be at Le Bourget from June 11 for a static presentation, but it won’t stay until the end of the (June 13-19) air show for the simple reason that it will be in test-flight mode, which is a period when every hour of work conducted on the plane is precious,” Blanc said.

For now, the mammoth aircraft, with a wingspan of 79.8 metres (261 ft 10 inches), is standing at a test preparation facility at the Toulouse assembly plant known as the “trough.”

Preparations for the first test flight have gripped aviation enthusiasts and influenced the shares of Airbus parent EADS, the European aerospace group which owns 80 percent of the planemaker, with the rest held by Britain’s BAe Systems.

The A380 will enter service next year. It is capable of carrying 555 passengers during its normal configuration but can seat 853 in its densest all-economy layout.

The first phase of tests begins by supplying electricity throughout the plane followed by engine tests in a static position, Airbus officials said. Then it will roll on the runway at speeds brought gradually closer to take-off speed.

The precise date for the first flight has not been set. Airbus says the first flight should take place in the second half of April.

Company officials say the latest guess is that the first flight could be between April 14 and April 19, though this could be pushed back to late April or early May. The maiden flight had originally been set for early April.