The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A parking-lot superbully
- Don’t try to elbow out this flying double-decker in Delhi

New Delhi, April 26: The double-decker superjumbo, taller than an eight-storey building, is ready to land and India has a parking headache.

The Airbus A380, the 555-seater that is billed as the world’s largest aircraft, will fly into the country early next month to test the Delhi and Mumbai airports.

“We have worked on the runway and the grassy shoulders on both sides to meet Airbus requirements for the superjumbo.... their teams have already inspected us and now the plane will fly in on May 7 for two test flights,” said Arun Arora, vice-president, Delhi International Airport Ltd.

At nearly 73 metres, the A380 is more than two metres longer than the Boeing 747-400, the jumbo that has so far held the title of the world’s largest passenger plane. But the big difference is in the wingspan: 15 metres.

The A380, at just under 80 metres wide, requires a wider runway and the parking space of two-and-a-half medium-sized aircraft like the Boeing 737 or A320.

“This creates a problem of sorts for airports which would receive it... but with many airlines ordering these aircraft, we have asked airports to rationalise and prepare bays suitable for them,” civil aviation authorities said.

Kingfisher will be buying five of the planes. An alternative version with only economy-class seats can seat up to 850 people, but the airline has opted for the 555-seater with different classes.

Trial flights will be held at Delhi and Mumbai with select passengers on board.

The airports have brought in a custom-built towbar to push the plane back onto the runway from its park position.

The 45-metre-wide runway in Delhi with 7-metre grassy shoulders — the area on either side of the runway where the grass is flattened out — has been worked on to accommodate the A380. The grassy shoulders are now 15 metres wide.

Delhi airport is also readying a new 80-metre-wide runway, described in aviation circles as Code F runway, to handle the A380 and other large planes now being worked on by aircraft makers.

The Centre had last year chalked out plans to make changes in five airports to accommodate the four-engine superjumbo. “Besides Delhi and Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai and Bangalore will be made suitable for the A380,” a top civil aviation ministry official said.

Until March 2007, nine A380s had flown and the five superjumbos in the test programme had logged over 2,900 hours during 1,995 test flights. During testing, the plane visited 20 countries, including Australia, China, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Korea, UAE, UK and the US.

The test flight is also a sales pitch — Airbus has long been hardselling this model to Air-India and Indian Airlines for high-density routes, such as to the Gulf and Singapore.

Airports will need to install special multi-aerobridges for the A380 instead of the current practice of having just one aerobridge for one plane.

“By the time the aircraft are delivered and begin flying to India, we will have a new terminal with special facilities for parking and handling the large number of passengers,” Arora said.

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