First passenger flight for A380

The successful flight of 555-seater plane is marred by sacking of Airbus boss.

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By  Ben Flanagan Published  September 5, 2006

THE WORLD’S largest commercial aircraft, the Airbus A380, successfully completed its first passenger flight yesterday - spelling good news for Dubai-based Emirates airlines, which has 45 of the aircraft on order and claims that it will be ‘by far the biggest A380 operator’. With 474 passengers on board – just 81 short of full capacity – the aircraft took off from Blagnac International Airport in Toulouse in an exercise designed to put the cabin service, rather than the flying abilities of new plane, through its paces. The passengers were made up of Airbus employees and cabin experts. But the completion of the flight was marred by the announcement that the embattled European aircraft manufacturer had sacked the head of its $12 billion A380 programme. Charles Champion, the executive responsible for the super-jumbo, will hand over responsibility for the project to colleague Mario Heinen. However, the ‘highly regarded’ Champion will remain at Airbus as special adviser to new chief executive Christian Streiff. The production of the super-jumbo, which is due to enter service next spring with Singapore Airlines, has been beset with problems. The share price of Airbus parent company EADS plunged earlier this year after the company warned that delays in producing the jet could cost €2bn ($2.6bn) in lost profits. This led to the ousting of EADS joint chief executive Noel Forgeard and the chief executive of Airbus, Gustav Humbert.

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