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"Congressman sees A380 pitfalls for US airport system"
Friday, April 27, 2007
Airbus Jet Could Clog Airports
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - The largest passenger jet in the world, the Airbus A380,
could make U.S. airports more congested, the investigative arm of Congress
Toulouse, France-based Airbus, which showed off the new superjumbo jet at
U.S. airports last month, says the A380 will actually cut down on airport
overcrowding by allowing 555 passengers to travel at a time.
But the Government Accountability Office said in a report those gains could
be offset by requirements for increased distance between planes as a result
of the A380's giant size.
In addition, the GAO said, most U.S. airports are not designed to house such
a big airplane and may restrict the Airbus jet to certain runways. Other
planes may need to be stopped when an A380 is nearby because of the plane's
more than 260-foot wingspan, and airports may need to limit the use of
"Airports may not be able to handle as many landings and departures in a
given time period," the report said.
Since most airports were not built to accommodate such large planes, they
may need to expand runways or put special restrictions on operations to
maintain safety when an A380 is landing or taking off, the report found. And
due to an increased level of air turbulence created by the A380, other
planes will need to maintain a greater distance from the Airbus jet during
takeoff and landing, the report found.
Airbus, which is owned by European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., disputed
many of the report's conclusions. In a letter to GAO, the company said that
many of the airport improvements necessary to accommodate the A380 will also
be necessary for Boeing Co.'s new 747-8 jumbo planes, which will carry more
than 460 passengers.
The company also said the GAO report did not take into account how many more
passengers the A380 will be able to carry, replacing smaller jets, into its
calculations about airport crowding.
"We think that more than mitigates the concerns about congestion," Airbus
spokesman Clay McConnell said, adding that airport officials had a positive
reaction to the plane during a tour of four U.S airports last month.
Airbus has been beset by management and financial crises including a
two-year delay to the A380. The first deliveries of the A380 are scheduled
to be made in October to Singapore Airlines. The company does not yet have
customers among U.S. carriers, but Airbus said on it its Web site that as of
March 31 it had 156 orders for the new plane, which already has made tests
flights in Europe and to Asia. Each A380 costs about $319 million.
Los Angeles International, the fifth-busiest airport worldwide, is expected
to be the first U.S. destination for the A380 when it enters commercial
The Los Angeles airports agency has completed $49 million worth of work and
plans to spend another $72 million on projects to prepare Los Angeles
International and Ontario (Calif.) International Airport for the big new
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