Double-Decker Airplane Takes Flight

After six years of development and two years of delays, debate and red tape, The Airbus A380 Superjumbo (A modern-day Spruce Goose) is ready to fly commercial.

Yesterday's meeting of the European Aviation Safety Agency and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that this 555-seat double-decker behemoth of an airplane will be cleared for takeoff in 2007.

Manufactured in France, the Airbus Superjumbo met with a number of delays including wiring installation problems, and alleged insider trading. Now with months of flight tests behind it, the plane is impressing aviation experts around the world with its maximum speed of Mach 0.89, and ability to fly non-stop for 8,000 nautical miles.

The aircraft is equipped with four 70,000lb thrust engines, and to date, 149 airbuses have already been sold. As the first aircraft with double-decker double-aisle formatting, the A380 has double-aisle cabins on both the upper and lower decks, with 49% more floor space. The upper deck will provide 96 business and 103 economy class seats, along with two lounges. The main deck will accommodate 22 first class seats and 334 economy class seats, with two lounges and bar-like areas.

The Airbus cost $16 billion to develop, and aimed to rival Boeing's 747 jumbo jet as the largest most efficient aircraft available. However, Boeing is now focusing its energies on mid-sized jets, such as the 787 Dreamliner, leaving the Airbus to rule the skies for the forseeable future.

The Airbus will begin servicing Asia with Singapore Airlines next October. What's your take on the giant plane? Will you feel safer flying in 2007 if you're on the biggest plane in the world? Will the Airbus become a common means of future travel, or is it too decadent and impractical to stand the test of time?

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