Largest Passenger Aircraft Launched

Firing the latest shot in the battle for civilian air dominance, the European company Airbus launched the world's largest passenger aircraft today. The A-380 had a successful maiden flight in the skies over France.

The plane represents a direct challenge to the Boeing corporation for leadership in passenger airline sales. It has a wingspan almost the length of a football field and is the height of an eight-story building. But the largest airliner every built took to the sky effortlessly to applause and cheers from the crowd gathered at an airfield in southern France to watch aviation history being made.

Allan McArtor, Chairman of Airbus North America said, "Anytime you put a million pounds of airplane in the air for the first time, it is a technological jump and we in the business get really excited when these things happen."

The makers say the Airbus A380 can comfortably accommodate passengers as well as casinos, bars, and even gymnasiums. Airlines purchasing the plane could seat as many as 800 passengers on the giant aircraft's two floors. On its maiden voyage, there were just six men on board, two pilots and four engineers all wearing parachutes just in case something went wrong. During the four-hour flight, they tested handling, pressurization, and the hydraulics on all 22 wheels.

154 of the aircraft have been ordered, mainly by airlines in the Middle East and Asia. There are no orders from U.S. carriers. The first commercial flight of this super jumbo is expected sometime late next year.