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Goodbye, A380: Final Component Convoy Bound for Toulouse

Pieces of the final Airbus A380 have reached France, and are bound for a production line to finish the final superjumbo jet. With changes in airline philosophy and aircraft production changes, the A380 project will come to an early end in 2021.

Bearing the message “Goodbye Saint-Nazaire,” the final structural components of Airbus’ last A380 superjumbo aircraft has departed for Toulouse, where it will be constructed and delivered to its final customers. Reuters reports the last convoy departed on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

The End of the Superjumbo Era

When Airbus first rolled out the 555-seat A380, the carrier predicted they would sell at least 1,200 airframes throughout the life of the program. Major international carriers, including All Nippon Airways (ANA), Emirates and Singapore Airlines were all quick to add orders to the books, creating luxurious first class and business class experiences on the double-deck aircraft.

But the aircraft was always viewed to serve a niche marketplace, and never caught on with the major American carriers. With an estimated price tag around $445 million, it was a calculated risk for international airlines.

As both Airbus and Boeing developed lighter aircraft made of composite material and powered by two engines instead of four, airlines moved towards the A350 XWB and 787 Dreamliner. By early 2019, numerous order cancellations forced Airbus to make the decision to end the A380 program by 2021.

At its height, the A380 contained components built in France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. The final convoy includes the forward and center fuselage, which both come from a factory in Saint-Nazaire, France.

Future Uncertain for Airbus Facility in Northern France

Across all facilities, Airbus employed up to 3,500 people for A380 construction. Now, the village where the leading parts of the giant aircraft were built say they are concerned for what the final convoy means for the region.

“It has made the region live, together with all the villages round here and the people who built it. It’s magnificent,” local Christiane Inard told Reuters. “It hurts my stomach seeing something stop just like that; it’s difficult for employment, for the young people.”

Despite the end of the iconic aircraft, those who worked on the program say the 14-year experiment helped build Airbus into a European economic superpower. Because it sourced items from four then-members of the European Union, the manufacturer was able to grow quickly and expand operations.

Upon completion, the final A380s will be delivered to Emirates and ANA. As of Dec. 31, 2019, ANA has one outstanding order for the behemoth, while Emirates is waiting on eight to join their fleet.

EpsilonZer0 June 25, 2020

What a waste. I never understood the need for the 380. Oh well

caljn June 19, 2020

I don't believe the aircraft was around long enough to earn "iconic" status.

DELee June 19, 2020

Hmmm..."With an estimated price tag around $432.6 billion..." Price seems a bit steep. Typo perhaps? David

mastertrust June 18, 2020

estimated price tag around $432.6 billion? I think that is $432 Million each.

glob99 June 18, 2020

$432.6 billion for an aircraft is quite expensive. :)