Wings of desire

They have 32,000 major parts, 750,000 rivets, 23 miles of wiring and, when assembled, a pair will have a span wider than a football pitch. But if the wings of the Airbus A380, the biggest passenger plane ever built, are unprecedented in scale, it is the journey they take from north Wales to the company’s HQ in southern France that is truly astonishing. Aida Edemariam follows one wing on its epic voyage, and traces an extraordinary tale of engineering.”

From The Guardian:

A380_2When the A380 finally goes into service at the end of this year, it will carry about 550 people, making it the largest passenger aircraft ever to take to the skies. It is not the largest aircraft ever built (the Russian Antonov, a freighter, holds that honour), but at up to 35% greater capacity, it can claim to represent as titanic a revolution in commercial flying as Boeing’s jumbo – the 747-400 – was 36 years ago. Partly because of the unique challenges of its size (73m in length, the equivalent of seven London Routemasters queued nose to tail, and with a wingspan of 79.8m) and partly because of demands from airlines that planes should be quieter, less polluting and above all cheaper to fly per passenger, it has not been enough simply to tinker with designs for previous aircraft. Airbus went back to the drawing board and designed the A380 from scratch, which means it is also as major a technological achievement as Concorde. Being manufactured at 16 different European sites, however, using the skills of 1,500 suppliers in 30 countries, this singular aeroplane demands a level of international cooperation that the Concorde project did not even hint at.

More here.