The fuselage sections for the final A380 have begun making their way towards Toulouse for final assembly. The convoy passed through French villages last night, to cheering crowds and even an appearance by Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury. MSN 272 will be the last A380 assembled, with production slated to end next year.
The final convoy lumbers towards Toulouse
It’s the end of an era for residents of the small French villages, who have become used to seeing crawling convoys of giant plane parts passing through their streets for the last 14 years. The final A380 sadly made its way from the factory of Saint-Nazaire to the outskirts of Toulouse, where the final assembly will take place.
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Passing through villages in Gers and Haute-Garonne on Wednesday night, the three trucks carrying the huge fuselage sections were greeted with rapturous applause by residents. The streets of the villages of Gimont and Leignac were thronged with well-wishers, who spontaneously stepped into the streets to witness the historic moment.
At some points in the journey, the streets become so narrow that the clearance either side of the eight-meter wide fuselage has only 50cm clearance. As such, walkers are required to accompany the convoy to provide guidance through the small French streets.
One of the trucks bore a sign reading ‘goodbye Saint-Nazaire,’ in tribute to the factory where it was built. Portraits of employees who worked on this very last Airbus A380 fuselage, which will be MSN 272, adorned the windows on all three sections.
It was a fitting tribute for the giant of the skies, and one which saw the CEO of Airbus turn out too. Guillaume Faury was in Levignac to greet young members of the Airbus team and to mark the passing of the biggest commercial plane ever built.
Will it ever fly?
While this final A380 is destined for Emirates, there is a chance it will never actually arrive with the carrier. The Middle-East airline sealed the fate of the giant of the skies last year, when it announced it would trim its order in favor of smaller jets.
Now, with the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic curbing future travel demand, the airline has said it may look to cancel the delivery of some of the outstanding A380s still to be delivered. Airbus has nine still to deliver, eight for Emirates and one for ANA.
As well as the ANA A380, three of the Emirates A380s are nearing completion. Emirates has said it will take these three, but would rather cancel the other five and pay a penalty instead. As such, depending on how the talks between Emirates and Airbus go, MSN 272 might never carry a single passenger.
The A380, while undoubtedly a massive engineering success, never achieved commercial success. The plane was too late for its time and found itself rendered obsolete in the wake of smaller, more efficient twin jets. The COVID crisis has seen the accelerated retirement for much of the worldwide fleet, although Emirates is confident that its huge fleet will make a comeback by 2022.
Airbus will build this last A380 by next year, after which time the production line will close.
Are you sad to see the rapidly approaching end of the A380? Ever had the pleasure to fly on it? Let us know in the comments.