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How the Airbus A380 Works

        Science | Modern

Logistics of Building the A380
Just putting an A380 together presented Airbus with some problems. There was no way it could create a manufacturing facility large enough to build the entire plane in one place. Various parts are built all over Europe:
  • Wings - Broughton, Wales
  • Fuselage parts - Hamburg, Germany
  • Tailfin - Stade, Germany
  • Rudder - Puerto Real, Spain
  • Nose - Saint Nazaire, France
  • Fuselage and cockpit sub-assemblies - Méaulte, France
  • Horizontal tailplane - Getafe, Spain
  • Final assembly - Toulouse, France
  • Cabin installation and painting - Hamburg, Germany
Other parts are made around the world, including some in the United States. Most of the largest parts are transported by barge.

A380 wings carried on the Dee-Dee River Craft between Airbus UK's Broughton factory and Port of Mostyn
Photo courtesy Airbus SAS
A380 wings carried on the Dee-Dee River Craft between Airbus UK's Broughton factory and Port of Mostyn

A380 fuselage components on the Garonne river, crossing the Pont de Pierre in Bordeaux, France
Photo courtesy Airbus SAS
A380 fuselage components on the Garonne river, crossing the Pont de Pierre in Bordeaux, France

The tail assemblies are the only major part that can be transported by air (using the Airbus Beluga). A convoy of huge trucks carries the parts from Langon, France, to Toulouse. To accommodate such huge components, an entire infrastructure had to be created, including special river and seagoing vessels that allow parts to "roll on and roll off," customized port facilities and widened roads.

A380 forward and center fuselage components on the floating transfer station in Pauillac, France
Photo courtesy Airbus SAS
A380 forward and center fuselage components on the floating transfer station in Pauillac, France

For more details on the manufacturing process, including photos, check out these links:

Airbus was worried that pilots would need extensive training on such a large aircraft, increasing the effective cost to airlines. With that in mind, it refined fly-by-wire technology to decrease the pilot workload and placed the cockpit midway between the two passenger decks to keep visibility high and make sure everything felt familiar to pilots accustomed to flying other passenger jets. A camera mounted in the plane's belly allows the pilot to check the location of the wheels. The control systems are meant to be similar to other Airbus models, minimizing the amount of additional pilot training needed to fly the A380.

Why the Delays?
As of March 2007, the A380 was nearly two years behind schedule. Airbus blames on-going difficulties with installing the more than 300 miles of wiring required. Currently, the company is working towards an October 2007 for delivery to Singapore Airlines.

In March 2007, the A380 made its first flight to America. One plane, loaded with employees, landed in New York City to the cheers of onlookers. A second, empty plane landed the same day in Los Angeles. The flights demonstrated both the A380's readiness and the ability of airports to accommodate it.


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