Last A380 convoy leaves French village marking end of an aviation era

Last A380 convoy leaves French village marking end of an aviation era

LEVIGNAC (FRANCE) – With Europe’s Airbus preparing to build the last A380 superjumbo, the final convoy of outsize parts for the world’s largest airliner made its way towards an assembly plant in southwest France late on Wednesday, cheered by residents and production workers.

Trucks laden with three fuselage sections made its way through the rural village of Levignac on its journey to Toulouse, where the final superjumbo will be assembled before the model ends production in 2021, 14 years after entering service.

Airbus announced the early halt of production last year after it faced weak sales of the four-engine behemoth, which is outsmarted by smaller jets like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.

“It has made the region live, together with all the villages around here and the people who built it. It’s magnificent,” said Christiane Inard, who has watched all the 300 convoys creep past her living room since the first in 2004.

Airbus still has record orders for smaller jets, but the A380 is ending production as Europe’s aerospace capital faces more job pressures due to the coronavirus crisis.

“It hurts my stomach seeing something stop just like that; it’s difficult for employment, for the young people,” Inard said.

One truck was emblazoned with “Goodbye Saint-Nazaire,” the name of the French plant where some sections are pre-assembled.

“It was hard,” said Peggy Jounier, 41, who placed the red nose on the last front section in Saint-Nazaire.

Airbus had bet billions on its vision of 555-seater jets. And without the A380, executives argued, Airbus would not have been able to knit a consortium of France, Germany, Britain and Spain into one European entity.

A380 industrial problems forced Airbus to learn tough lessons, which helped the company built the A350 broadly on time, with few hitches.

“This is an aircraft that brought all four European partners together and was an accelerator of Airbus,” said programmes head Philippe Mhun. “We are all convinced that Airbus would not be what it is today without the A380.”

(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field

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