A380 plans run aground

Airbus’s plans for transporting the wings for the A380 from its factory in Wales to Toulouse by sea have run into problems over environmental concerns.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  March 17, 2004

Airbus has entered emergency talks with UK officials after the plane-maker’s plans to dredge the River Dee in Wales were vetoed by the government’s Environmental Agency (EA). The drgeding is necessary in order for Airbus to ship the huge wings of its A380 superjumbos from its factory in Broughton north Wales to its main facility in Toulouse. The wings for the A380 superjumbos, 45 of which have been ordered by Emirates, measure a massive 80 metres long. Nine pairs of wings are due to be moved from Broughton to France this year, with the first pair scheduled to leave in the middle of next month. Production is eventually set to be ramped up to 50 pairs a year. Airbus is planning to carry the wings from the factory to the Dee on a 96-wheeled 80 ft long lorry and then transport them to the port of Mostyn on special barges, where they will be loaded onto the ferry that will carry them to Bordeaux from where they will be transported to Toulouse. Key to this logistics plan is dredging up to 400,000 metres of the Dee in order to make it deep enough to carry the barge, but the EA has objected to this plan because of the threat to the estuary’s wildlife. EA officials told The Guardian that the agency, the Welsh Assembly and the UK Department of Transport had all rejected the dredging plans, partly because of the problems of disposing of the surplus material. The EA has now asked the port to come up with alternative plans, such as only allowing Airbus to ship the wings on the high tides so as to limit the amount of dredging needed. Airbus, however, is confident that the problem will be overcome, largely because of its huge investment in Britain, and especially North Wales. The plane-maker employs 12,100 staff in the UK and has invested EUR 750 million (US$920 million) in the country over the past couple of years. "We have an aggressive schedule of wing delivery," says Iain Gray, Airbus’s UK managing director.

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