My first thought of going to Toulouse to see the A380 takeoff came rather late.  I was rather uninspired and had not planned to attend this historic event at first. The decision was not made until a week before her first voyage, after I saw the debate surrounding the A380 and the images and appeal of the A380 heating up. I knew that I had 4 days off at work after the long ANZAC day weekend. I quickly made a few enquiries about the A380 and received some great help from the Airbus PR, along with employees and spotters, estimating the date of the first flight.  I was informed that the weather needed to be good and that the 380 would need to take off on Runway 32L in Toulouse to avoid flying over the city after departure. Looking at the forecast for the week of 18-23 April, the weather was rather poor. The locals were guessing at first that the takeoff would be on the 20th or 22nd of April, but it didn't eventuate because of the weather and preparations. With the help of a friend's travel agent (Amity Traveland Perth), I made a booking of flights to Toulouse from Sydney, Australia, on Friday, 22nd April, after learning the A380 wouldn’t fly on the 20th or 22nd. I booked a joint ticket on United/Lufthansa via Los Angeles and Munich to Toulouse, arriving the next day (a journey of more than 33 hours, including transit times)!

When I woke up the next day (23 April), I received a notice from Airbus via an important email citing the strong possibility of an A380 takeoff during the week starting 25 April. I knew I was in the money and I was now all ready to go!

I flew a United B747-400 (N127UA), 13hrs-20min across the Pacific, and arrived into LAX with a few hours on the ground and some photography at the airfield.  I then boarded a very full Lufthansa A340-300 flight (D-AIMF) on my way to
Munich. We were very heavy and slow on takeoff with a full load. Looking out the window just a few hundred feet above the ocean after climbing out of LAX was an impressive yet scary sight!

The Lufthansa flight took almost 12 hours to get to
Munich, arriving about 45 minutes behind schedule. A friend of mine was able to meet me and guide me around MUC after landing, a nice change after more than 27 hours in the air.  A short but great tour around the airfield got me back to the terminal H gates to board the flight to Toulouse, a CRJ-100 operated by LH Cityline (D-ACLU).

About 1740 on 24 April, I set foot on the ground in
Toulouse after 33 hours inflight and transit! I was greeted by light rain on arrival as I stepped down the aircraft stairs into the bus! After picking up a nice Lansia Musa 1.3L Automatic rental car from Europcar, I was on my way out of the airport. I found my hotel (Ibis Blagnac) in few minutes, even without looking at maps/directions.


25 April Monday

I had a great sleep overnight and felt rather good in the morning. About 9:30am I was at one of the vantage points near the end of runway 14L in Toulouse and saw an An124 on arrival! I met Alex and Jean-Jacque from Lyon, who had also come to see the A380 fly. I was able to give them a ride around the airport with my rental car. At this point there were people already set up and living in their campervans around the airport, also waiting for the first flight. It provided a very real sense of the approaching event!

In the afternoon I was able to meet up with more local spotters and enthusiasts. I picked up Denis and his collague from a Lufthansa flight and met Yannick, Stepane and Jerome, members of French Frogs Airslides. A photographer from the local newspaper
La Dépêche du Midi offered us chance to appear in the newspaper as plane spotters. We posed for the paper, pretending to be taking pictures. I was also informed that the first flight of the A380 would take place on Wednesday, 27 April. It was now confirmed!

There were quite a lot of test flights being conducted that afternoon. I was able to capture a few new Airbuses, including a Kingfisher A320, an SAA A340-600, a NWA A330-300, in addition to the daily Belugas, 4 on approaches that afternoon, plus an unusual A340 mounted with one A380 engine on a test flight! Weather was much better in the afternoon and the sky remained
clear all evening.




Beluga return to base.
Test Flight of the day.
Test Flight of the day.




Something very funny about this A340,
1. The Oversized engine
2. No middle landing gear.
White Belgua 5 on taxi.

26 April Tuesday

Greeted by a warm sunny day, I went to the end of runway 14L in the morning, I could already feel the crowd and all the attention on
Toulouse. The French Authority built 2 large car parks to cater the crowd, expecting at least 40,000 people to come to Toulouse to see the A380 takeoff. It was a really nice day of spotting, I was very glad to capture 2 brand new Cebu Pacific A320s, a few Belugas on takeoffs, a DragonAir A320, a SATA A320, an EVA A330 and my favourite of the day, a Thai A340-500. The shiny purple metallic of Thai's new livery makes the plane look warm, inviting and very classy! (seeing is believing!). It did 2 go-arounds, 1 touch 'n go and 1 final landing as part of the acceptance flight procedures. Of course I didn't waste any chances with all the images loaded in my memory cards and films!! Despite the nice flight displays and actions, all eyes continued to focus on the A380. Later in the evening, Yannick informed me I was on French TV 2 for a brief interview about why I came to France all the way from Australia. I missed seeing myself on TV but Yannick assured me I was beautiful on TV.....arghhh ;-)




The "one" large engine A340!
Arriving, this side looks normal!
Saw 2 Cebu Pacific A320 takeoff that morning!



Argh, she really took everyone's breath away!
Performing a Go Around!
All I can say is, nice, very nice! I am well known
to have affections on Thai.



Belgua 2 returned to Toulouse.
Another nice surprise, Eva Air, will become
B-16309
Beluga 1 on climb out of Rwy 14R.
 

27 April Wednesday

From the moment I woke up, I knew the day would be one for the history books! It was so exciting to wonder: will the A380 really fly? Can she make it? I knew those questions would be answered that day! I got to the airport terminal and was on a media bus at 7:45 am, ready to head into the Airbus factory on the other side of the airfield. We arrived on site about 8:45 am after a major traffic jam around the highways to the airport. I was given a media pass and shown the media centre and all the available facilities for internet access, email, photocopy and most importantly, bathrooms! I found myself settled on the media grand stand about 9am.




At the Media Centre
Media Grand Stand in the morning
CNN presenter in action.




Crowd on the hill outside of Toulouse Airport!
Crowd on the hill outside of Toulouse Airport!




Airbus employee on the tarmac awaiting!
Media at mid-field awaiting!


Airbus was kind enough to take the photographers out by bus onto the mid-field area to get a better view of the A380 takeoff. I was thrilled!

We waited there for 20 minutes, until
10:22am, when the A380 appeared on the runway. The excitement, anticipation and tension all started to build. My hands and legs were also starting to shake!

Finally, at about
10:29 am, the first flight took place!





At about 1020am, the A380 appears to the crowd!
At 10:29am, she starting to speed down on the runway
At the point of lift off! What an impressive sight!



Continue strongl climb out of Toulouse
The crowd already went mad, cheering to the A380
airborne successfully!
What a feeling! Seeing the A380 fly in reality!



What a performance, and in its own class!
Airbus CEO Noel Foregeard speech after A380
successful first takeoff at the press conference.


I was speechless after seeing the A380 rotate in front of me and take off. It was all very quiet and efficient. The engines seemed very powerful. It was now time to head back to the media centre to pass on the images to the world while awaiting more briefing on the A380 and her estimated time of return. We were informed of a possible fly-pass of the A380 at 1000 feet before she landed!

At
14:00 I was back on the airfield to see the A380 returning.

At
14:15 she emerged from the sky again! Welcome back!





Several Helicopters around the field broadcasting
live of the event!
At 14:15, after 3hrs 45 mins test flight, she
returned! And the crowd went mad!!!!!
A Go Around/Fly pass at 1000 feet!



Spectacular fly pass!
A view that can see all the main gears on the
A380!
An nice and unusual angle!



An nice and unusual angle! Banking away from the airport for final arrival!
The chase plane with the A380 together!



The chase plane with the A380 together! Final landing at 14:25!
Just arrived with the small chase plane on top,
compare the sizes!



Rolling on the runway to slow down!
Impressive, from any angles!
The construction workers also stopped working to
see her taxi pass!



A clean side view of the A380 F-WWOW
A380 and the Toulouse control tower!
After landing she taxied arond the whole airport to
salute to the crowd!



A nose front on shot.
Massive body and landing gears!
Front on look, note the very wide wingspan!



Humongous giant!
3/4 look!
Launch carriers of A380 prioudly displayed!

After a spectacular fly-pass at 1000 feet and returning for landing, she taxied around the whole field to acknowledge the crowd. Her crew brought her slowly to a stop in front of the media grand stand and the stage for a celebration.





A380 to the stand, brief with the media and guest!
Test pilot Claude Lelaie recording the
moment!
Picture says it all!




Here come the crew!
all 6 crew! 3 pilots and 3 enginners!



Airbus CEO came up to congratulate the pilots!
More joyful hugs!
Wave to the crowd! Flawless first flight!



Now on the stage!
Senior Airbus test pilot Claude Lelaie




Compare the stage, the people to the Megajumbo!
Describing the flight and process to the media!
Happy posting!



Crew and their family posting in front!
Claude's family in front of the A380 he piloted.




.

Now the A380 left alone on display in front!

The test pilot gave the guests and media a good briefing: The flight took off with about 420 tons, which already exceeded the MTOW that a B747 can handle. The 2nd test flight will go up to 560 tons in weight! They believe this plane has huge potential, and is also extremely comfortable and easy to handle, "like a bicycle". The first flight met all their targets and was said to be flawless! After 10+ years of a dream from a bare artist's conception to building it to today's first flight, it is truly remarkable!

I was very fortunate that BBC Radio contacted me via email and did a live interview with me on their
6pm program Europe Today. They asked me how I felt about seeing the A380 take off and if it was worth coming all the way to Toulouse to see it. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate that radio clip, nor did I hear anything back from BBC Radio.

I
was totally overwhelmed, even after the ceremony, dazzled by the sheer size of the A380 and feeling her great potential. It’s clear that a new era of commercial aviation travel has begun with the A380’s first flight! I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend the first flight ceremony in brilliant weather. I couldn't have asked for better, and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It was my best career project to date. To sum up the event, as the CEO of Airbus said, "Today is Europe at its best!" What a wonderful event. I am sure the sweet memory of it will last forever. Seeing is Believing!

I went to celebrate with friends that night with some gourmet French food and they showed me the city of
Toulouse at midnight! A wonderful city and beautiful people! I left Toulouse early the next morning on Lufthansa via Frankfurt to LA, and later arrived home on May 2nd. It was an incredible experience. Again, one could not have asked for any better! I hope you liked my simple picture trip report.



Sincere thanks to the following organizations/people, your help is deeply appreciated.

Airbus Industries
Amity Traveland Perth
Asian Aviation, Ventura Media
United Airlines/Lufthansa
Hotel Ibis Toulouse
French Frog Airslides-Yannick, Stephane B, Stephane R
Yoshitomo Aoki and Ito Hisami

More photo can be seen at

http://www.airliners.net/search/photo.search?photographersearch=Sam%20Chui&distinct_entry=true

Your comment is welcomed and appreciated

Please email me

For more A380, please click here


A painting of the A380 is available now! (based on my photo) by artist Steve Leadenham. Please be sure to visit Steve's website



For more A380 detailed exclusive photo and coverage, please read Flight International Magazine May3-May 9. Flug Revue Magazine Germany May, Airliner World Magazine June05 issue and Aero International Magazine.