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May Day marchers, 'together with the force of numbers.'

Another Phoney War

Paris:– Monday, 2. May 2005:– Last Wednesday spring put on a beautiful day in southern France and 40,000 flight fans gathered early in the morning near Toulouse's Blagnac airport with binoculars and cameras to see the maiden flight of the new Airbus A380 super–jumbo passenger jet.

Despite the crowd's certain nervousness – it's a very big aircraft – the huge plane went from zero to 290 kph in 1800 metres before lifting effortlessly off the airport's strip 32, somewhat like a released balloon, with the sounds of its four engines being overwhelmed by the motors of the accompanying spotter aircraft.

Like an overweight ballerina the jet floated up to 3000 metres and pulled up its landing gear beforephoto, airbus, le parisien, thurs 28 april making a circuit of several hours over southern France just above the Pyrenees. After slightly less than four hours of flight the big white jet cruised over the landing strip 100 metres above the earth so the crowd could have a good look and then it returned for a perfect landing.

Wednesday, 28. April, edition of Le Parisien.

All the same many watching the scene couldn't help remembering the Concorde. Some thought the enthusiasm for the A380 was misplaced, as if it were a normal three–decker train instead of a TGV. But others, who said they flew in the Concorde 'just for the ride,' were eager to give the new Airbus a trial.

For the man who co–ordinated the A380 project, Charles Champion, the takeoff was 'extraordinary.' The new plane lifted off exactly where it was calculated it would become airborne. He was also surprised at the crowd of professionals and the public who had come to see it fly. Many of the Airbus employees who worked on the first A380 witnessed the initial flight.

Chief test pilot Jacques Rosay, after the premier flight, said that flying the plane was 'as easy as riding a bicycle.' Everything went according to plan, 'without being perfect' he said. Between now and when the new Airbus goes into service in 2006, the plane will be put through 2500 hours of testing.

On hand for the event, a retired plumber from Paris thought the new plane looked a bit lumpish, its fuselage lacking 'finesse.' It will probably seem like this to everybody the first 500 times one sees it.

Another Phoney War

British newspapers often treat the French with affection. Home–grown eccentrics have to be handledphoto, may day parade, flags, thibault with care so it is handy to have another whole nation of them offshore, but not all that far away. American newspapers, across an ocean, regardless of their newspeople eyeballing the spot, sincerely distrust the French.

CGT chiefs in May Day parade.

Almost all other countries have gotten over the horror and shock engendered by the French revolution that tossed out – sometimes the very heads – of royalty and proclaimed itself a republic. Anglo–Saxon immigrants in America, borrowing from the French, tossed out the crown even before the French did and founded a republic too, and have never forgiven the French for it.

So it is not surprising that US newspapers have had relatively little to say about Google's plan to scan millions of works in several important libraries, with a view to putting the contents online, available to all. More comment has been generated by reports that France's president Jacques Chirac flipped out at this Anglo–Saxon cheek and ordered a crash–scan at the Bibliothèque Nationale.

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