The First Airbus A-380 Arrives at KJFK!

By: Category: AirbusAirports Around the WorldAviation History

New York City’s JFK International Airport was the first place an A-380 landed in the U.S.

Airbus’s A-380 super-sized airliner was launched at the end of the year 2000. A little more than four years later, the first flight of a prototype occurred, on April 27, 2005. European and U.S. type certification was completed some twenty months after this first flight. Before scheduled airline service would begin, a series of trial flights were made to the United States. The first two of these trips would occur simultaneously on March 19, 2007. Although an A-380 had already landed in North America before this March date, it was flown to northern Canada for cold weather testing. An A-380 had yet to touch down in the U.S. before these trial flights were scheduled. 

One flight would depart using an Airbus developmental aircraft, and be operated entirely by a Lufthansa crew with Airbus, vendors and VIPs aboard. The flight would operate from Frankfurt, Germany to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The second flight would operate from Toulouse, France (an Airbus manufacturing center) to the Los Angeles International Airport, this time with only a QANTAS crew and a few airline engineers aboard. The pair were flight planned to touch down at their respective airports at the same time in America.

I was lucky enough to cover the New York City arrival that day as a media representative. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey pulled out all of the stops for media reps, as this event would usher in the next big trend in commercial air travel, the Super Jumbo jet.

For the first time since the September 11, 2000 terrorist attacks in New York City, non TSA-cleared civilians were allowed onto the JFK airport ramp – bussed to a great vantage point alongside the landing runway. Between a small group of ground escorts consisting of Port Authority media representatives and police, a much larger group of writers, photographers, and radio and television crews set up on an adjacent taxiway on that crisp March morning.

Airbus A-380 demonstrator aircraft arriving at JFK airport for the first time 

A Port Authority representative announced that the aircraft would appear to the east shortly, and all eyes strained to see the big jet through the late morning haze. After a couple of false alarms that turned out to be U.S. flag carriers, sure enough, the white and blue jet came into view. An excited Port Authority representative declared that New York’s A-380 would touch down first, as the Los Angeles aircraft was running minutes late due to headwinds on the longer flight route. New York City would be the first U.S. city to host a new A-380!

A-380 arriving in front of assembled media on March 19, 2007 at JFK airport

The first Airbus A-380 to land in the U.S. passes media personnel

The big jet floated onto the JFK runway, and turned off in time to be able to taxi past our throng of reporters, with flags flying from open cockpit windows.

Press briefing with Lufthansa flight crewmembers

After the jet disappeared behind a terminal, we re-boarded our busses and were driven to an airport briefing lounge, where Airbus, Lufthansa, and Port Authority officials spoke to the media. The Lufthansa crew lined the railings above the speakers, looking sharp after their six-plus hour flight.

Central stairway between main and upper deck on the A-380

The lounge and bar aboard the Airbus A-380 demonstrator

Later that afternoon, we were given a tour of the interior of the aircraft, which was decked out with an Airbus-designed cabin arrangement which featured all Business Class seats on the top deck, a classy stairway between both floors fore and aft, a wet bar, and both First Class and Economy class seating below.

A-380 cockpit

Closed circuit television monitor with A-380 external camera views

In the cockpit, the instruments were all powered up, including the aircraft’s remote television monitor screen that added a great amount of situational awareness for the crew.

Media briefing after the first Airbus A-380 arrival at New York’s JFK International Airport took place

It was quite a day for the JFK airport and the NY/NJ Port Authority, as well as for Airbus and Lufthansa. They welcomed a new dynamic in air travel for the first time in the U.S., and I was lucky to have been able to take part in it.

A-380 flight demonstration at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Afterthoughts… Amazingly, a little more than thirteen years later, the Airbus A-380 has fallen onto hard times. Orders for the Super Jumbo airliner didn’t materialize like Airbus thought they would. A planned freighter version of the jet was axed. The sheer size of the jet presented operational difficulties that were soon overcome, but the crush of multiple 550-passenger jets arriving at the same time put pressure on Customs operations and ground support. The economy of the heavy four-engined jet wasn’t up to that of the newest twin-engined airliners like Airbus’s A-350 and Boeing’s B-787 either.

With the worldwide slowdown of air travel due to the COVID-19 virus, almost all of the world’s fleet of A-380s, well over one hundred of them, were parked and stored in various airports… many identified to never again fly in revenue service. Like the Anglo-French Concorde, not many were built, and both types seem to have been retired due to economics. It remains to be seen how many A-380s will return to the skies after the volume of air passengers rises to previous levels.

A-380 demonstration at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Additional photos from JFK International Airport:

 

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