Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Airbus A380 completes maiden voyage

Worlds largest passenger jet makes historic Singapore to Sydney flight

ON BOARD FLIGHT SQ380 - A Singapore Airlines A380 on Thursday completed a long-delayed historic journey — the first commercial flight by the world's largest jetliner that boasts luxurious suites, double beds and the quietest interior of any plane.

With 455 passengers and a crew of about 30 including pilots, the Airbus superjumbo lifted off safely from Singapore's Changi Airport. About seven hours later, it landed in Sydney.

Before take off, passengers clapped as the plane disengaged from the dock on schedule at 8 a.m. and taxied to the runway that was widened and lengthened to accommodate

More cheers broke out 16 minutes later as the double-decker aircraft, powered by four Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines, soared into the nearly cloudless sky, tinged pink by the light of the early morning sun.

Flight attendants handed out champagne and certificates to passengers, some of whom paid tens of thousands of dollars in an online auction for the seats to be part of aviation history.

"I have never been in anything like this in the air before in my life," said Australian Tony Elwood, reclining with his wife, Julie, on the double bed in their private first class suite.

"It is going to make everything else after this simply awful," he said, sipping Dom Perignon rose after a lunch of marinated lobster and double boiled chicken soup. He paid $50,000 for the two places.

'Milestone in the timeline of aviation'
The double-decker A380 ends the nearly 37-year reign of the Boeing 747 jumbojet as the world's most spacious passenger plane. The A380 is also the most fuel efficient and quietest passenger jet ever built, from inside and outside, according to its European manufacturer, Airbus SAS.

It was delivered to Singapore Airlines on Oct. 15, nearly two years behind schedule after billions of dollars in cost overruns for Airbus. Still, the wait was worth it, says Singapore Airlines, which got the exclusivity of being the plane's sole operator for 10 months.

"This is indeed a new milestone in the timeline of aviation," said Chew Choon Seng, chief executive of Singapore Airlines, or SIA, in a speech before the departure.

The Boeing 747 jumbo jet generally carries about 400 passengers. The A380 — as tall as a seven-story building with each wing big enough to hold 70 cars — is capable of carrying 853 passengers in an all-economy class configuration.

However, Singapore Airlines, recognized as one of the best in the world, opted for 471 seats in three classes — 12 Singapore Airlines Suites, 60 business class and 399 economy class.

Each suite, enclosed by sliding doors, is fitted with a leather upholstered seat, a table, a 23-inch (58-centimeter) flat screen TV, laptop connections and a range of office software. A separate bed folds up into the wall. Two of the suites can be joined to provide double beds, one of which the Elwoods occupied.

On the upper deck, business class seats can turn into wide flat beds, while the economy class seats on both decks will enjoy more leg and knee room, the carrier says. Business class passengers also have a bar area.

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