It is the largest passenger aircraft ever built. With a capacity to hold up to 550 passengers, and with better fuel efficiency than other airliners, the Airbus A380 made a historic first stop in New York on Monday. It is the first of several visits planned throughout the United States this week. VOA's Kane Farabaugh was on the runway as the aircraft touched down at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport on Long Island and files this report.
In a weather condition airline pilots call "severe clear," you could see it coming almost ten miles away.
Under heavy security and before hundreds of cameras, the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger aircraft, made a relatively quiet landing on the runway at JFK International Airport in New York.
The man behind the controls of Lufthansa Flight 8940, Chief Pilot Juergen Raps, compares piloting the aircraft to driving an Italian sports car.
"If you imagine a plane of this size and this weight, you imagine it would move like a bus or like a truck,” Raps says. “But as I said, if you compare it, it would handle like a Ferrari – it's very responsive at the controls, and it reacts very fast. So you can fly very precisely and at the same time it's very stable. Very nice to fly."
The Airbus's arrival at JFK, complete with passengers and a full crew, marks the first visit by the new so-called megaliner to U.S. soil.
Port Authority Executive Director Anthony Shorris says the historic occasion also marks a new beginning in air travel to and from New York. The city hopes to reap an economic benefit after investing tens of millions of dollars in upgrading the airport to accommodate the new aircraft.
"In the first full year of operations for the A380 we hope it will generate as much as $80 million in economic activity, $30 million or more in payroll and perhaps 1,000 jobs," Shorris says.
Airbus is also hoping to reap an economic benefit from a project already plagued with difficulties. Two years behind schedule, Airbus has lost more than an estimated $6 billion in forecasted profits that the A380 was supposed to generate.
The company is hoping today's successful landing in New York and the subsequent arrival of another A380 at Los Angeles International Airport will help reverse some of the negative publicity generated by the production delays.
Not only is the A380 one of the quieter long-haul planes in the skies, it is also one of the most fuel efficient, consuming about 80 miles [130 kilometers] per gallon per passenger seat.
Singapore Airlines takes delivery of the first A380 in October. Lufthansa will begin regular service with the A380 from Frankfurt to JFK in the summer of 2009.