AFP - Saturday, November 21
NEW YORK (AFP) - – The world's largest airliner, an Air France A380, touched down in New York on Friday after completing the superjumbo jet's first Atlantic crossing from Europe to the United States.
The Airbus plane, carrying 538 passengers, left Paris earlier in the day and landed at 1:07 pm (1807 GMT) at J.F. Kennedy Airport, several minutes ahead of schedule, under crisp blue skies.
Two fire engines met the plane with a watery salute from their hosepipes as it taxied to its gate.
Air France is the first European airline to put the giant aircraft into service, but the fourth worldwide after Singapore Airlines, Gulf-based Emirates and Qantas of Australia.
Passengers included 380 people who bought their tickets in an Air France auction to benefit disadvantaged children.
Air France will launch regular A380 flights across the Atlantic on November 23. The fleet of 12 huge planes will also serve Johannesburg, starting in February, and then Tokyo.
But major production and delivery delays mean the commercial success of the A380, the pride of Airbus and parent company EADS, has yet to be secured.
On board, passengers were treated to free champagne and, for the inaugural flight, a three-member jazz band.
"A fantastic flight," said one passenger, Bernard Boluvi, 39. "It's a very quiet and stable plane. You hardly feel the takeoff and landing."
Michel Schmitt, 45, also praised the lack of noise aboard and said the double-decker felt more roomy than other jumbos. "It doesn't feel like one big cinema, because the plane is well divided into different sectors," he said.
But Gerard Jouany, 64, a journalist specializing in aviation, said he found the plane rather cramped and emphasizing the bus aspect of Airbus. "Air France chose the most dense configuration," he said.