TEN years ago, when an Airbus A380 superjumbo flew into Sydney (at the end of the world’s first-ever commercial flight by it’s biggest-ever aircraft), it was almost carnival atmosphere at the city’s Kingsford Smith Airport.
A band belted out welcoming numbers, media crews grabbed any passengers happy to talk about their experiences on the historic flight of this newest giant of the skies, and those 471 passengers in turn readily showed off framed Certificates of Flight to prove they’d done it... having bid online for a seat, with proceeds going to charity.
The A380, operated by Singapore Airlines, had flown seven and a half hours from the Lion City, and was hailed on arrival in Sydney as “the largest, quietest, greenest, most fuel-efficient per passenger” aircraft that had ever flown – and capable of carrying more passengers on its two full-length decks than any other commercial aircraft before it.
The date was October 25, 2007, and now that historic aircraft has made something of history again – as the first superjumbo to be taken out of service and shunted off for a hopeful sale second-hand, or a worse-case scenario of being stripped down for spare parts and scrap.
And this is after just 10 years of flying, compared with 15-25 years for most passenger aircraft, because Singapore Airlines had the plane on a ten-year lease that’s now expired, and which it did not renew because it wants to lease newer, latest-model A380s.
With the cleverly-orchestrated tail registration number F-WWOW, that first plane in 2007 was just the third A380 to be built and the first to carry passengers, numbers 1 and 2 being test aircraft that never saw commercial service.
And since that first one, maker Airbus Industrie has received more than 300 orders and delivered 217 of the A380s, with Middle Eastern airline Emirates the biggest customer with some 100 already in the air, another 46 on order and indicating that it could be interested in a further 20-odd on top of that – with the lot worth a cool AU$9.5-billion.
Emirates carry on average 489 passengers on ultra-long-range flights, and 517 on its A380’s long-range flights.