Airbus HQ is located in Toulouse where you can watch the world’s largest passenger plane being built inside Europe’s largest industrial building. These things are enormous. Four $350 million double-decker Airbus A380s fit in the hangar, surrounded by myriad mobile cranes, scaffolding, folding jigs and working platforms that move around on tracks hanging from the ceiling.
One of the planes we saw under construction was a special delivery for a Middle Eastern head of state. I asked who. They wouldn’t say.
Building an Airbus A380 begins with the manufacturing of individual components in the four countries footing the bill for this winged behemoth: France, Spain, Germany and Britain. The wings for example are built in Bristol; the tail comes from Cadiz.
Once complete, the parts are shipped to Toulouse via freighters, barges, lorries and the goofy looking A300 Beluga cargo plane.
First to arrive, the fuselage, wings, cockpit and tail are delivered into the first bay. It takes about a week to bolt everything together. Then the assembled aircraft is rolled into one of the three other bays to complete the interior, wiring and hydraulics. That takes about three weeks.
During my tour, dozens of men uncrated four new generation Rolls-Royce Trent 900 turbofan engines, each about the size of a condo. How this thing gets airborne is beyond me.
From there, the plane goes through a series of test flights over Toulouse, before it’s flown to Hamburg for painting and delivery.