Superjumbo Airbus A380 rolls out of hangar

The world's largest passenger carrying aircraft, the Airbus A380, is being unveiled this morning at a lavish ceremony in Toulouse, France.

Attending the ceremony are the heads of state for the main countries involved in the multi-national European project, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Mr Blair joined with other European leaders to praise those involved in the "stunning" A380 project, which he said was a symbol of European cooperation: "This is the most exciting new aircraft in the world, a symbol of economic success and technical innovation. Above all, it is a sign of confidence that we can compete and win in the global market".

The massive £6bn ($11bn) aircraft is the first to have two complete decks and is capable of carrying 555 people, some 150 more than its nearest competitor, the Boeing 747 'Jumbo' jet. The airliner has been designed to accommodate increasing passenger numbers on tight landing schedules at major airports that have few available slots.

Airbus make much of the 380's mpg which at around 95 (per passenger) miles to the gallon of aviation fuel is better than other comparable large passenger jets.

Airbus has received orders for the airliner from 14 airlines - 11 of them passenger airlines - and to date there are firm orders for 149 aircraft and options on another 100. While there are high hopes for the aircraft, it will take around 250 orders for the €11bn project to break even, but Airbus Chief Executive Noel Forgeard said he hoped that up to 700 of the aircraft would be built during the production life of the aircraft.

US aircraft giant Boeing shelved a project to build their own superjumbo in 2001, preferring instead to develop the mid-sized 7E7 'Dreamliner'. Due to be launched in April this year the 7E7 can accommodate up to 300 passengers and is a direct replacement for aging Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft.


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