How the Airbus A380 Works

        Science | Modern

It's the largest passenger jet ever built -- so huge that airports have to be redesigned to accommodate it. It can pack in more passengers and cargo than any other commercial airliner, yet its designers claim it will actually increase efficiency, use less fuel and generate less noise.

A380 is revealed to the public.
Photo courtesy Airbus SAS
A380 is revealed to the public.

The Airbus A380 is generating a lot of excitement in the airline industry, with many people wondering if the world is ready for a plane this big.Plus, the program has been plagued by expensive delays. Although it has taken three test flights -- one in September 2006 and two in March 2007 -- the delays still lead some to wonder if it will ever be finished and ready for commercial production.

In this article, we'll find out just how big it is, how many people it can carry and whether it will revolutionize commercial aviation or turn out to be another "Spruce Goose."

The Airbus A380 is truly a giant. It has a wingspan of 261.8 feet (79.8 meters), a length of 239.5 feet (73 meters) and a maximum take-off weight of more than 1.2 million pounds (540,000 kg).

The A380 has a wingspan of 261.8 feet (79.8 meters), a length of 239.5 feet (73 meters) and a maximum take-off weight of more than 1.2 million pounds (540,000 kg).

While it is the largest passenger airliner ever made, it is not the biggest airplane in the world -- this honor belongs to the Ukrainian An-225 Cossack.

A plane this size can potentially carry hundreds more passengers than today's airliners. The A380's two passenger decks (with a cargo deck below) could be outfitted in a single-class configuration to take on up to 840 passengers. However, Airbus isn't focusing on that option, instead designing a three-class configuration for 555 passengers. That's still a marked increase over the 416 passengers that can fit into a Boeing 747-400, the current leader in passenger capacity.

In the next section, we'll talk about the A380's interior arrangement.

The Cost of Greatness
Airbus has spent an estimated $15 billion on the development of the A380. The price for a single plane is listed at $300 million. Industry experts point out that airlines rarely pay full list price, especially if they order large numbers of planes, so it is difficult to determine exactly how many planes Airbus needs to sell to recoup the development costs. It's important to remember that a new airplane design will be modified and upgraded for decades -- Airbus has said that it's looking toward 2020 in designing the A380. The Boeing 747 has been flying since 1970.