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A380 heads for US of A

Superjumbos touch down today at JFK and LAX

Airbus A380s will later today touch down at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), marking the maiden transatlantic flights for the troubled superjumbo.

The JFK-bound aircraft was due to depart at 0830 GMT this morning from Frankfurt as "part of the Commercial Route Proving jointly performed with Deutsche Lufthansa over a 12 day period", as the Airbus press release explains. It carries around 500 passengers, albeit it mostly made up of Airbus and Lufthansa staff. After touching down in the Big Apple at around 1630 GMT, the aircraft is slated to make a return trip to Chicago O'Hare on 20 March, flying back to Frankfurt on 21 March.

The second A380 is making its way, in Qantas livery but without passengers, to LAX for "airport compatibility tests". It's also scheduled to land at 1630 GMT. The superjumbo has now visited over 40 airports worldwide, Airbus notes, and by 2011, "more than 70 airports around the world will be ready for A380 operations".

Executive Vice President and Head of the A380 Programme, Mario Heinen, trumpeted: "After having brought the A380 to many airports in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and also Africa, we are proud that, on the occasion of the Commercial Route Proving, we are now able to present the A380 to the American people

"Both JFK and LAX, as well as Chicago O'Hare International and Washington Dulles International Airport are key future destinations for the A380. Following this, they can confirm their readiness to receive the aircraft when customers will begin flying it there very soon."

Heinen also expressed hope that the A380 would wow the folks across the pond, adding: "Also, the quietness and limited environmental impact of the aircraft will surely positively surprise the local communities as it did elsewhere, while its economic benefits, including the reduced fuel burn of less than three litres per passenger per 100 kilometres, have already convinced our customers."

Said customers may be convinced by the A380's credentials, but have yet to get their hands on the controls. The programme is now two years behind schedule, and Airbus recently announced a major resturcturing programme resulting in the loss of 10,000 jobs across its European operations.

To underline just how frustrated some expectant operators are, UPS in February threatened to cancel its order for 10 freight versions of the A380 if there was any further delay in a revised delivery schedule. It then walked it like it talked it, and on 5 March pulled the plug on the deal "after it learned Airbus was diverting employees from the freighter program to work on its passenger plane program", as the company explained in a statement. ®

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