The Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane to date, makes its debut at San Francisco International Airport’s International Terminal on Thursday.
Airport officials, including airport director John Martin, and San Francisco city officials are scheduled to arrive for the arrival of the jumbo jet, for which SFO’s structural accommodations — including larger gates — have already been included.
Airbus announced in August that the plane’s American tour will fly a test A380 aircraft from Bradley International Airport in Connecticut to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, then finally to SFO on Oct. 4.
The 525-plus-seat, double-decker aircraft has received much attention, not only for its size, but for what its makers are describing as fuel efficiency proportional to that of a small economy car. Part of the flight test program includes examining how well the aircraft’s Engine Alliance GP7200 engine performs in a high-capacity, long-range setting.
The national visits are part of a testing phase Airbus is conducting to determine whether the giants are compatible with facilities at major U.S. airports. Many of these airports, including SFO, which included these upgrades in its International Terminal project that was completed in 2000, have spent millions in upgrading facilities to accommodate the plane.
Airbus, manufactured by a French aviation subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., touched down in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., for earlier test runs in March. SFO officials said then that they wanted to secure a visit from the jetliner sometime this summer.
To ensure a comfortable fit for the A380, four of the 23 total gates in the International Terminal were built extra-large, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said. Larger baggage carousels and side-by-side loading bridges — to accommodate a larger flow of passenger foot traffic — were also part of the upgrades.
Airbus officials predict that by 2011, the A380 will be ready at more than 70 airports around the world.