On 7 May, 2004, before more than 3,000 guests, the French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin officially opened the A380 final assembly line in Toulouse. The size of the site itself was impressive enough – the main assembly hall was one of the largest buildings of its kind, measuring 490 metres by 250 metres with a height of 46 metres and, with other buildings on the site, comprised 32,000 tonnes of steel (the equivalent of four Eiffel Towers).
But the impact of the occasion was even more so. Now the pioneering spirit of Airbus which had inspired the company’s success from the very earliest days and through all its programmes and technological innovations had risen again in the A380. It was more than a new aircraft capable of carrying 525 people in two classes 8,000 nm/15,000 km - or non-stop from Europe to Asia, North America and South America.
Production of major components for the first A380s, which would be used for ground and flight tests to achieve certification, were well-advanced – the airframe to be used for structural tests was revealed in its assembly jigs at the A380 Final Assembly Line opening ceremony. Using its innovative know-how Airbus had devised a new system to transport the wings, fuselage sections and horizontal tailplane on a specially-built ferry, then by barge and road to Toulouse from its manufacturing sites in France, Germany, Spain and Britain.
As the year moved on, the first complete A380 to be assembled came off the production line and was painted in readiness for its unveiling to the world.