This month will mark the 16th anniversary of the Airbus A380’s first-ever test flight, an event that attracted immense media attention. The type went on to enter service with Singapore Airlines just over two years later, in October 2007. However, the first A380 has remained at Airbus as a testbed, rather than flying commercially. But where is it today?
The A380’s first flight attracted huge crowds. Photo: Getty Images
A grand reveal
The reveal of Airbus’s prototype A380 was a highly anticipated occasion. On January 18th, 2005, the aircraft was unveiled as the European manufacturer’s means of entering the ultra-high-capacity market. This was a sector that Boeing had dominated since 1970 with its iconic 747. As such, the entry of the A380 into this market garnered significant attention.
With this in mind, Airbus put together a rather grand unveiling ceremony at its base in Toulouse, France. The prototype that the company revealed on January 18th, 2005 bore the registration F-WWOW. The final three letters of this designation certainly reflected the general response to both the aircraft and its unveiling. The BBC reported that:
“It was reminiscent of opening ceremonies for Olympic Games, complete with dancers resembling angels, floating through blue smoke clouds.”
Airbus pulled out all the stops for its grand reveal of the A380. Photo: Getty Images
The first flight
Just over three months later, F-WWOW made its first-ever test flight. April 27th, 2005 saw the ‘superjumbo’ take to the skies above Toulouse for the first time. Its six-person crew was headed by Jacques Rosay, Airbus’s chief test pilot. According to AeroTime, Rosay and his colleagues were pleased with the aircraft’s performance. He confirmed that:
“Within the first minutes of the flight, we were impressed by the ease of handling of the aircraft.”
The aircraft departed Toulouse at 10:29 local time and was airborne for nearly four hours. During this time, F-WWOW successfully satisfied all of the test flight’s primary objectives. Three hours and 54 minutes later, it touched down in Toulouse at 14:23. Its arrival was greeted by huge crowds of journalists, avgeeks, and even the general public.
Today, F-WWOW continues to be based in Toulouse as a testbed aircraft. Photo: kitmasterbloke via Flickr
Where is it now?
But what has become of F-WWOW since its maiden voyage nearly 16 years ago? According to Planespotters.net, the aircraft, which is named after Jacques Rosay, has remained at Airbus ever since, rather than entering commercial service. During this time, it has served the European manufacturer as a testbed aircraft.
F-WWOW has also been placed into extended storage for two periods. These were between February 2017 and January 2019, and from September 2019 to November 2020. However, since leaving storage last year, it has been relatively active, making several test flights.
RadarBox.com reports that all of these have been circular trips that have both departed from and arrived back at Toulouse. Their durations have ranged from just half an hour to a far longer six-and-a-half-hour jaunt. It made its most recent journey on March 25th, departing Toulouse at 10:53 and landing four hours and 53 minutes later at 15:46. Despite never entering commercial service, it is encouraging to see that Airbus still has a use for F-WWOW.
Do you remember the maiden flight of the world’s first Airbus A380? Perhaps you were lucky enough to witness it in person? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
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