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Jumbo of the Week

cartoon, jumbo of the week

"Steroids, hormones, red wine, stinky cheese –
whatever it takes!"

Rolled Out

Paris:– Monday, 24. January 2005:– Last Tuesday's date will be historical for two reasons. Sixty–eight years ago Howard Hughes flew a monoplane he designed and built non–stop from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, averaging 332 miles per hour and setting a speed record for the transcontinental distance. The flight was on 18. January and the story was reported on the front page of the New York Times the day after.

On Tuesday in Toulouse Airbus Industrie unveiled its super–jumbo A380 in front of four European heads of state and 5000 invited guests with a sound and light show worthy of the world's newest and largest passenger jetliner or the Eurovision Song Contest. The ceremony took place in one of the assembly halls built especially to accommodate the near 90–metre wingspan and seven–story high tail.

Google News in French referenced 320 articles treating the subject which was absent from the online edition of the New York Times on Wednesday. Instead the NYT had a story about new grille styles on cars – larger, so you'll think they are more powerful.

Tony Blair, British Prime Minister, correctly noted that European expertise had never before marketed such a high level of technical innovation. The other leaders, who included the French, German and Spanish heads of state, evoked a possible expansion of Airbus partners, with Russia as a likely candidate. Another chance not missed to poke a stick in somebody's spokes.

Apropos Russia, or rather the Ukraine, it is the source of the world's largest aircraft, the 6–engined Antonov AN–225 Mriya, known to its fans as 'Cossack.' This monster which first flew in 1988, only exists as a single plane. For loads too big to fit inside, it carries them on its roof.

Representatives of the 13 airlines who have ordered 139 examples of the A380 were also on hand with their fat chequebooks. Air France configurations will have 538 seats and Singapore Airlines has opted for comfort, specifying a layout with 480 seats. Virgin Atlantic is reported to have ordered their A380s with a beauty salon and a casino, in addition to all the showers, gyms, playpens, bars and lounges, with lit smoking lights.

The present version can accept up to 656 seats and has a maximum range of 14,000 kilometres. The Airbus marketing and engineering departments foresee eventual shortened and stretched versions as well as freighters. The development price has been 10.7 billion euros, the same as for the Eurotunnel. The unit price is somewhere in the 220–240 million euro range.

While Airbus seems to be in the lead with new ultra–large aircraft, Boeing is apparently focusing on smaller long–distance aircraft with a capacity of 200–300 seats – the 7E7 Dreamliner – a sector of the market where Airbus will also be present with its coming A350.

In addition, about half of the new Airbuses have been ordered with engines from General Electric/Pratt & Whitney. Other vital parts adding up to about 40 percent of the value of an aircraft are made in America, and worth a lot of jobs there.

As the politicians noted in last week's ceremony, Airbus is a major symbol of cooperation within the European Community. The Airbus A380 has had 6500 engineers working on it for five years. A disco–Joe from Madrid did the number one's interior. Each partner builds a major sub–section, with the whole being assembled in Toulouse.

Given the size of the A380, the transport of parts has been a major challenge, with ultra–wide and ultra–long convoys plugging the roads between the seaport at Bordeaux and the assembly location at Toulouse. Luckily the finished jets don't have to be trucked out.

The first example of the A380 will have its flight tests in March, and is expected to be on public view at the Salon du Bourget just north of Paris in June. More flight tests will precede introduction of commercial service, expected in 2006.

Airshow at Bourget – for airfans, even if you can't afford to buy your own jet fighter or an Airbus A380. This year from Monday, 13. June until Sunday, 19. June. The Web site is for more info, plus the InfoTel: 01 53 23 33 33.

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