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Biggest airliner makes first long-haul flight

The double-decker Airbus A380 made its first landing in Asia on Friday, and Airbus officials said Asian airlines that have ordered the superjumbo will be compensated for delivery delays.
(CORRECTION) The world's biggest passeng
An Airbus A380 superjumbo taxis past Changi International Airport's control tower in Singapore Friday, shortly after touching down. The  A380 landed in Singapore on its first test flight outside Europe after completing the journey from the manufacturer's headquarters in France. Roslan Rahman / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

The world’s biggest airliner, the European Airbus A380, touched down in Singapore on Friday, completing its first flight to Asia — the most competitive market for planemaker Airbus and its U.S. rival Boeing.

The double-decker superjumbo, designed to carry 555 passengers but with room for more than 800, landed at the city-state’s Changi airport after a 12-hour flight from Airbus’ headquarters near Toulouse in southern France.

The aircraft taxied around the airport to test the width of taxiways and runways before docking at a newly installed passenger boarding bridge to give airport workers and officials time to familiarize themselves with the new plane.

Singapore Airlines will be the first carrier to fly the A380 at the end of next year.

The A380, as long as eight London buses and with enough room on its wings to park 70 cars, heralds a new era in passenger travel and is a challenge to Boeing in the battle for market share in the global aviation industry.

Airbus, part of aerospace group EADS, has received 159 orders and commitments from 16 customers for the four-engined plane, still short of the 250 it says is the break-even point.

The planemaker has three A380s in flight testing and expects to attain certification in the last quarter of 2006.

Singapore Air said on Friday four of the 10 A380s for which it has made a firm order are at different stages on the final assembly line. The airline has an option on another 15 planes.

The aircraft which landed in Singapore does not have chairs for passengers and is instead packed with computers for tests as well as water tanks used as a ballast.

Unlike regular commercial jets, it also has an escape chute to allow the two pilots and two test engineers to parachute to safety should they lose control of the plane in extreme maneuvers flown as part of the tests.

The A380 has cost $14.2 billion to develop and is running up to six months behind schedule.

The plane’s Asian tour was delayed by four days because engine supplier Rolls-Royce had to replace two of its four engines before the trip after one of them overheated during a test flight two weeks ago.