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UK debut for Airbus beast

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The Airbus A380Airbus's A380 will make its first appearance in UK skies this lunchtime en route from Berlin to Heathrow, where airport officials "will test whether the plane does indeed fit the airport", as the BBC puts it.

It's due to touch down at around 13.20 BST at the airport's new pier six at Terminal 3 - part of a £450m investment by BAA to ensure Heathrow is ready to accept the beast when it begins commercial flights later this year.

Planespotters in North Wales and outside Bristol will also be able catch an eyeful of this latest addition to the Airbus fleet as it passes over the consortium's UK Airbus manufacturing facilities in Broughton and Filton before heading for the Smoke.

Airbus has now attracted 159 orders for the 555-seat A380. Singapore Airlines will be the first carrier to operate the aircraft commercially when it launches a Sydney-Singapore-London service later this year.

This inaugural commercial flight comes six months later than originally planned, following Airbus's decision last year to postpone delivery for unspecified reasons.

The monster's sheer size has also hit the programme. Back in 2004, Virgin Airlines said it would not take the controls of its new toy until 2007, a year later than scheduled, citing "delays in airports - particularly that of Los Angeles (LAX) - preparing to receive the enormous aircraft". ®

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