The Airbus A380 superjumbo has a special place in the hearts of many aviation enthusiasts, and when the last of its kind took its final test flight, it returned that affection with a message in the sky.
On December 13, the world’s largest passenger aircraft took off from Airbus’ facility at Hamburg-Finkenwerder Airport for a trip over northeast Germany. The pilots flew an unusual path, tracing the outline of a heart, which was detected by flight-tracking service FlightRadar24.
The craft, registered as MSN 272, has been in Hamburg since March, where it has been undergoing final tests and cabin fit-out and logo painting. It is set to be delivered this month to Emirates.
The A380 is popular with passengers, but airlines have abandoned it. Since so many are in storage, your opportunity to fly in one is limited. The Airbus A380 was developed at the cost of $25 billion and is the largest mass-produced civil airliner in history, with a capacity of up to 853 people.
The first A380 was delivered to Singapore Airlines in 2007, and since then, about 250 A380s have gone off the assembly line in Toulouse. It’s been over three years since Airbus announced that the plane would be discontinued.
“It’s a painful decision,” Airbus CEO Tom Enders said in February 2019. “We’ve invested a lot of effort, a lot of resources, and a lot of sweat into this aircraft.”
Airbus misjudged the demand of airlines for the superjumbo. It had delivered only 234 craft by the time the 2019 announcement was made, less than half of the 600 it had expected when the double-decker was announced.
Airlines’ focus had switched to lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft, and the pandemic delayed their demise even further. As a result, airlines such as Lufthansa, Qantas, and Air France grounded their superjumbos last year at times when demand for air travel was so low that many planes were flying near empty.
However, as aviation has begun its sluggish recovery, airlines such as Singapore Airlines and British Airways have returned their superjumbos to service, implying that A380s will continue to fly in our skies for a while.