The launch of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan at the delivery centre for the Airbus A380 in Hamburg gives us the opportunity to visit the state-of-the-art Airbus plant, where some of the assemblies of their flagship A380 take place, and, from where customers take delivery of that technologically advanced aircraft
Travelling on the upper deck of the double-decker Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft, has always made me wonder about the making of this beautiful, spacious plane. When the announcement is made of the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan at the delivery centre for the Airbus A380 in Hamburg-Finkenwerder, the headquarters of Airbus in Germany, I am truly delighted that I can now witness it first-hand.
We are invited to take a factory tour of the Airbus assembly plant, where the A320 and the new-generation A380 are assembled. The A380 has been winning over business and leisure passengers alike ever since its introduction in 2007, providing enhanced levels of comfort and reliability. Our Emirates (Airlines), for instance, are the largest customer for the A380, with 90 aircraft on order.
We are told that the Hamburg plant employs some 15,000 people and plays a decisive role in the development and engineering of all Airbus aircraft. This plant has the Major Component Assembly Hall for the A380, handling the structural assembly and the ‘fitting with equipment’ of the forward and complete rear fuselage sections.
It is also here that final assembly takes place for four members of the A320 Family: the A318, A319, A320 and A321. Again, the A320 Family aircraft and the A380 are fitted here with their cabin interiors and painted for final delivery. Special paints, which can only be applied manually, are used on these aircraft – 670kgs of paint are required for painting each A380.
The complete A380 fuselage sections that the Hamburg plant produces are, then, shipped to France on specially-built roll-on / roll-off ferries for integration.
Hamburg also plays key roles in the very popular A330 and the new mid-sized A350 XWB programmes, for which it manufactures and equips the forward and rear fuselage sections but our plant tour does not cover these activities.
There are other locations that support Airbus in Germany like Bremen, Stade and Buxtehude and in the rest of Europe, including Toulouse in France, Seville in Spain and Broughton in UK.
Final acceptance and delivery of the A380 takes place in Hamburg for customers in Europe and the Middle East, while all others receive their aircraft from the delivery centre in Toulouse in France.
Airbus ranks among the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial jetliners and military aircraft, with a 40-plus year track record of innovation and technological firsts, beginning with the historic saga of the A300, the world’s first twin-engine wide-body passenger jet, and culminating in the recent handing over at Hamburg of the 100th A380.
This landmark delivery underscored the continued global reach of Airbus with the A380 – an aircraft that is reputed to increase capacity, enhance productivity, generate more revenue and improve profits for its operating airlines. With superior range of 15,700km, the A380 is claimed to be the ideal solution to alleviate traffic congestion at busy airports.
When Airbus proudly declares that “It takes an A380 to compete with an A380,” we have to admit that they have a strong case as it is the world’s largest commercial aircraft flying today. The twin-deck A380 can carry as many as 853 passengers in a single-class configuration that provides wider seats than its competitors or, more popularly, 525 passengers in a comfortable three-class configuration.
From experience I know that the A380 has an extremely quiet cabin that makes for stress-free flights. Now we are told that it is also the quietest long-haul aircraft, generating 50 per cent less noise on departure than the nearest competitor – as well as three to four times lower noise when landing – all this, while carrying 40 per cent more passengers.
Greener, cleaner, quieter and smarter, the A380 is setting new benchmarks for the global aviation industry with its superior efficiency, profitability and operational effectiveness.
I now understand why Daimler chose this home of the A380 to launch their new Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan – a car that will rank among the best for technology, performance, luxury and comfort – just like the Airbus A380 out-ranks its peers!