November 16, 2006 08:47
Incheon International Airport at 1:50 p.m. on Wednesday, and a massive white airplane more reminiscent of an ocean liner, its tail decorated in blue, softly touches down on the runway. It is the Airbus A380, which is touted as an airborne five-star hotel, here as part of its trial tour around the world before it goes into official service.
◆ The world’s largest passenger plane
The A380 is bigger than any other plane, superseding the former world champion Boeing 747, which is 70.6 m long, 64.4 m wide and 19.4 m tall. The new Airbus is 73 m long, 79.8 m wide and 24.1 m tall. If the Boeing 747 is a jumbo, the A380 is a super jumbo. It costs a cool W260 billion-W300 billion (US$1=W942) a unit. Airbus has invested W12 trillion on developing it over 10 years. Its smoothly curved wings have upturned wing tips to protect the super- size plane body from air-resistance damage on flight. The wings can stand the weight of 70 passenger cars. It has a maximum range of 14,816 km, enough to make the round-trip from Incheon to London’s Heathrow Airport nonstop. The double-decker will have a snack bar, a lounge, a gym, shops, conference rooms and a shower room at the carriers’ specifications besides providing seating for 550 passengers. If all conveniences are taken out, it can accommodate up to 840 people.
Airbus has improved comfort, with seats 1 inch wider than those of other jumbo models. First-class cabin passengers are guaranteed a personal space thanks to partitions, and first and business-class cabins are equipped with bed chairs that unfold horizontally up to 180 degrees. Airbus used advanced technology to reduce the weight of the gigantic plane as much as possible to keep it afloat. Cutting-edge carbon-fiber reinforced plastic makes up 25 percent of the plane’s airframe.
Airbus said the A380 will get the green light for commercial flights from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administrator and the European Aviation Safety Agency after completing the trial tour next month. Korean passengers will be able to use the A380 starting in 2010, two years behind schedule. Airbus was supposed to deliver eight A380s to Korean Air from 2008, but the delivery has been postponed due to production line problems.
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