BLAGNAC, France--It may not be the longest passenger plane in the world, or necessarily the most famous. But the Airbus A380 is unquestionably the biggest: a true double-decker airplane that can carry more passengers than any other commercial plane in the sky.
Built to carry 525 passengers in a standard 3-class configuration, the A380 is a behemoth of a plane that Airbus says today leads the industry in cost per seat mile. While other airliners may be seen as rivals, "you have to have [an] A380 to compete with an A380," Airbus says.
As part of CNET Road Trip 2011, reporter Daniel Terdiman visited the A380 final assembly line in this airport town just outside Toulouse, France. While the major components of the plane--the fuselage, wings, tail, tail fins, and more, are manufactured at Airbus facilities elsewhere, they are shipped to, and assembled, here.
What emerges from this factory, which Airbus says is the largest industrial building in Europe, is a massive airplane, one that has been flown--or at least ordered--by 18 different customers, including 11 of the world's top 20 largest.
This is the nose section of an A380 being built in what is known as Station 40, at the facility in Blagnac.
On the tarmacTwo A380s that have been fully assembled sit on the tarmac outside the final assembly factory in Blagnac, France. The planes have not yet had their carrier livery painted on--that will be done after they are flown to Hamburg, Germany, where the customers will pick up their new planes. The tails have been modified in this photograph so as not to reveal the planes' customers.
Nose and both wingsSeen from across the giant Airbus assembly facility near Toulouse, France, an A380 is being constructed at what is known as Station 40. The plane's major components--its fuselage, wings, tail, tail fins, and more--are joined together at one large station. It's a different system than the one used at rival Boeing, where planes move down a line to have their major components added.
Wings and cranes
In the foreground of this photograph is an A380 wing resting just above the ground. In the background, we see another wing elevated. The one on the ground is being stored here for the next A380, while the one in the background is already part of one of the giant planes that is currently being built.
Above, on the ceiling, are two large cranes that are used to hoist major plane components, like these wings, into place.