British Airways’ Airbus A380 Visits Shannon For Pilot Training

With just five days to go until British Airways resumes Airbus A380 flights, the airline is putting the final touches on preparations for its return to service. As part of this, one of the airline’s aircraft was in Shannon yesterday, undergoing training flights with particular attention to takeoffs and landings.

British Airways, Airbus A380, Shannon
The British Airways Airbus A380 has returned to Shannon for pilot training (pictured at Shannon here in 2015). Photo: Brian Arthur via British Airways

The British Airways Airbus A380 has been largely absent from the skies for over a year and a half. This is all set to change on Monday, though, as the airline brings back the aircraft, initially on short-haul flights. From early December, the aircraft will return to a handful of long-haul routes.

A day trip to Shannon

According to data from, British Airways yesterday enlisted the help of G-XLEF to complete some pilot training on the Airbus A380. The aircraft was removed from storage in Madrid on September 28th and had completed a short test flight on October 26th.

Yesterday, the giant jet took off from London Heathrow Airport at 09:42. However, it didn’t head to a usual destination or even one of the airline’s A380 storage locations without passengers onboard. Instead, the jet flew to Shannon in Ireland, where it arrived 55 minutes later at 10:38.

British Airways, Airbus A380, Shannon
The aircraft landed at Shannon six times on Tuesday. Photo:

After around 40 minutes on the ground, the plane took to the skies again at around 11:16, accomplishing two landings, taking off in the opposite direction, then a touch and go. Then another landing with a takeoff in the opposite direction, before a final landing at 13:15, two hours after training began.

Get your boarding pass to the flight of the year. The Future Flying Forum is taking off soon!

Once the training had been completed, it was time to fly back to London Heathrow. The jet departed Shannon once more at 14:15, arriving back in London an hour later at 15:15.

Why Shannon?

You may be wondering why British Airways would use Shannon for pilot training? The airport is one of a handful that British Airways has used over the years when training pilots, including Chateauroux in France and the now-closed Manston Airport in Kent.

British Airways, Airbus A380, Shannon
The giant A380 met its now-scrapped little sister, the Airbus A318, at Shannon six years ago. Photo: Brian Arthur via British Airways

As you can see from the training flights, the jet landed at the airport six times, including the touch and go. This is simply not practical at Europe’s busiest airports, including London Heathrow, especially during normal operations when slots are worth their weight in gold. This isn’t such a concern at quieter airports.

The is also the issue of cost. Most aircraft are charged per landing, and this can quickly add up at Europe’s busiest airports. For example, in 2015, Frankfurt Airport was charging A380s €1,298 ($1,503) per landing. Ignoring slot constraints and inflation, this would equal €7,788 ($9,019) for six landings.  However, the A380 does have the problem of its size, meaning that many smaller airports simply wouldn’t be able to accept the giant for training.

What do you think of British Airways’ Airbus A380 plans? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!