The world’s largest commercial aircraft, the Airbus A380, left Toulouse, France and touched down at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) at 9:28 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, Monday, March 19th, for its first landing in California and the West Coast.
The aircraft, numbered MSN001, powered by four Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines, was at LAX on Monday and Tuesday, March 20th, to carry out airport function and compatibility checks in conjunction with Los Angeles World Airports and Qantas Airways.
Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is the City of Los Angeles agency that owns and operates the city’s four airports, including LAX.
Qantas brought the historic landing to LAX on the nonstop flight of over 12 hours and is the first airline to regularly schedule nonstop commercial flights of the A380 out of LAX.
In 2008, Qantas will operate regularly scheduled nonstop flights between LAX and Australia with 20 A380s purchased at $300 million per aircraft from Airbus, a Toulouse, France-based subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS).
EADS is an aerospace corporation formed in 2000 by the merger of AÈrospatiale-Matra of France, Construcciones Aeron·uticas SA of Spain and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG of Germany.
A sister Airbus A380 operated by Lufthansa left Germany’s Frankfurt International Airport and touched down at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport at 12:11 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, 17 minutes before MSN001 landed at LAX.
The nonstop Lufthansa Flight 8940 carried 550 people, including four pilots, four Airbus crew members and 23 Lufthansa crew members. Passengers consisted of Airbus and Lufthansa employees, reporters and photographers.
Lufthansa, which ordered 15 A380s for its international routes from Germany to Asia and North America, operated Flight 8940 as if it were a commercial flight complete with an array of dining, entertainment and other passenger services.
The A380 at LAX was not configured or equipped for commercial passenger seating and carried 22 crew members, including two test pilots, and instrumentation for the test flight.
While at LAX, Qantas and airport crews tested airfield maneuvering, docking at a terminal gate, ground handling services, equipment and fueling.
Los Angeles World Airports has spent $49 million to date, with another $72 million in future projects scheduled, to accommodate the A380 and a new generation of passenger airplanes at LAX and LA/Ontario International Airport.
“As we welcome the landing of the world’s largest airliner in Los Angeles, we are celebrating the takeoff of a greener, cleaner future for air travel,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “Quieter, cleaner, more fuel-efficient jumbo liners like the A380 are the future of air travel.
“The A380 will carry more passengers with fewer flights than any commercial aircraft in the history of the world.”
The A380 will be the largest passenger plane in the skies, with a wingspan of almost 262 feet, nearly the size of a football field.
Equivalent to an eight-story building, the height of the double-deck jet is more than 79 feet.
Although the plane can accommodate 800 passengers, Qantas is configuring its A380 fleet with three-class service and a capacity of approximately 500 seats.
New-generation engines such as Rolls Royce Trents, combined with an advanced wing and landing gear system, make the A380 quieter than other large aircraft, provide better fuel efficiency and emit less air pollutants.
By comparison, the Boeing 747-400, built by Airbus’ rival, can carry up to 568 passengers, according to published reports. The 747 series was for decades the world’s largest passenger aircraft until the Airbus A380 arrived.
“Jumbo airliners [such as the Airbus A380] are better for the environment, better for travelers, better for our airports, better for our economy and better for our surrounding neighborhoods,” Villaraigosa said.
Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus North America Holdings, Incorporated, said the A380 “was perfectly designed for Los Angeles and LAX.”
“The airlines can deliver a better service with more space per passenger and less cost,” McArtor said. “No airline will be able to compete with an Airbus on the same route.”
With an A380, airlines can fly more passengers with fewer takeoffs and landings, which reduces noise and air pollution.
“We are pleased that Airbus and Qantas have chosen to debut their new A380 aircraft in Los Angeles at LAX and congratulate Airbus on its accomplishment of this milestone event,” said Denny Schneider, president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC).
“We look forward to when they also land their aircraft at Ontario and Palmdale airports. All communities and businesses of this region deserve convenient access to air commerce.”
Airbus officials project that LAX will be second only to London’s Heathrow Airport in terms of airlines using an A380.
McArtor said other commercial airlines that have expressed an interest in using the A380 at LAX include Singapore Airlines, Korean Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Air France, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
Fourteen airlines throughout the world have confirmed 156 orders for the A380 for use on international routes.
No United States-based airline has ordered an A380. Executives from U.S. airlines believe the A380 is not economically feasible with a $300 million price tag and have placed orders for Boeing’s upcoming 787 Dreamliner.
Each new Airbus order means new business for American companies and Airbus spent $10.2 billion with suppliers last year in more than 40 states, supporting more than 190,000 American jobs, McArtor said.
In the Los Angeles basin, Airbus has more than 100 suppliers, whose employees have contributed to the development of the A380.
Qantas is the largest international airline flying out of LAX and chose to use its A380 fleet at the airport because of its ranking as the number one gateway airport to Asia and the Pacific Rim, according to LAWA officials.
“Qantas is pleased to continue its long tradition of industry leadership and aviation innovation by being the first airline to bring the A380 aircraft to LAX, an important gateway for our operations in North America,” said Wally Mariani, senior executive vice president for Qantas Airways, The Americas and Pacific.
Mariani is responsible for Qantas operations in the United States, Canada, South America, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
The Los Angeles City Council approved the purchase of 640 acres of farmland in 1928 to create what later became LAX in response to Oakland being the departure site for the first trans- Pacific flight to Australia, he said.
“Here we are 80 years later and I think the airport is on the edge of history again,” Mariani said. “It’s nothing new from Qantas to be making history.”
In 1956, Qantas was the first airline outside of the United States to place an order for the Boeing 707, the first to introduce around-the-world air travel in 1958 with an aircraft called the Super Constellation and in 1979, the first airline in the world to introduce a business class section, according to Qantas.
In 2002, the airline was the first in the world to accept delivery of the Boeing 747 extended range aircraft.
Of the A380 and its environmentally-friendly design, Mariani said “there are benefits to Qantas of an economic nature, but then there are also benefits to the communities” that surround LAX such as Westchester, Inglewood and El Segundo.
With the A380, Villaraigosa said Airbus, Qantas and Los Angeles World Airports are “cementing LAX’s place as a central hub for international travel for generations to come.”