by: Andy Brazier [ ]
Originally published on:
HistoryThe A380 began in the early 1990's when the managers of the Airbus consortium looked into the feasibility of building a large passenger airliner capable of carrying over 500 passengers and competing with and surpassing the Boeing 747. In 1994 the project received the designation of A-3XX.
The first components were started in 2002, with over 6000 people working for several different companies in partnership with each other. The first sub units were assembled in 2003 when the plane was finally given the designation A-380. The break from the Airbus registration system is of particular significance since the "8" is intended to evoke the two lobed shape of the aircraft.
Major structural sections of the A380 are built in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Due to their size, they are brought to the assembly hall in Toulouse in France by surface transportation, rather than by the A300-600ST Beluga aircraft used for other Airbus models. Components of the A380 are provided by suppliers from around the world; the five largest contributors, by value, are Rolls-Royce, SAFRAN, United Technologies, General Electric, and Goodrich.
The front and rear sections of the fuselage are loaded on an Airbus Roll-on/roll-off (RORO) ship, Ville de Bordeaux, in Hamburg in northern Germany, whence they are shipped to the United Kingdom. The wings, which are manufactured at Filton in Bristol and Broughton in north Wales, are transported by barge to Mostyn docks, where the ship adds them to its cargo. In Saint-Nazaire in western France, the ship trades the fuselage sections from Hamburg for larger, assembled sections, some of which include the nose. The ship unloads in Bordeaux. Afterwards, the ship picks up the belly and tail sections by Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA in Cadiz in southern Spain, and delivers them to Bordeaux. From there, the A380 parts are transported by barge to Langon, and by oversize road convoys to the assembly hall in Toulouse. New wider roads, canal systems and barges were developed to deliver the A380 parts. After assembly, the aircraft are flown to Hamburg to be furnished and painted. Airbus sized the production facilities and supply chain for a production rate of four A380s per month.
The A380 is powered by either 4 Rolls-Royce Trent 900 or 4 Engine Alliance GP7200 turbofans. Both are derived from the predecessors Trent 800, GE90 and PW4000. Noise reduction was a driving requirement for the A380, and particularly affects engine design. Both engine types are expected to allow the aircraft to meet the stringent QC/2 departure noise limits set by London Heathrow Airport, which is expected to become a key destination for the A380.
The first A380 prototype, serial number 001 and registration F-WWOW, was unveiled at a ceremony in Toulouse on 18 January 2005. Its maiden flight took place on the 27th of April 2005. The prototype, equipped with Trent 900 engines, departed runway 32L of Toulouse Blagnac International Airport with a flight crew of six headed by test pilot Jacques Rosay, carrying 22 short tons (20 metric tons) of flight test instrumentation and water ballasts. The take-off weight of the aircraft was 421 tonnes (464 short tons); although this was only 75% of its maximum take-off weight, it was the heaviest take-off weight of any passenger airliner ever flown.
About fifteen companies currently stand to acquire the A-380 with the first delivery to Singapore Airlines, planned for service in October 2007. The airline plans to use its first aircraft, in a 485-seat configuration, on its London–Singapore–Sydney (the kangaroo route) service.
The KitThe first thought when seeing the box is "B$!!*& hell, where will I put that". This plane builds up to a massive 2ft long with a 1.5ft wing span. Its a big plane so the box is on the large side. The kit comes in a flip top lidded box that is about 2ft by 1ft big. Upon opening the box you will be faced with sprue trees the size of the box, and lots of them. There are 12 injected plastic, 1 vinyl and 1 clear injected plastic sprues. The 12 sprues are broken down into 5 white coloured, 4 black, 2 grey and 1 silver moulded colour. The white sprues hold the fuselage sections, engine cowlings, interior bulkheads, interior flooring and parts of the undercarriage. The black sprues are for the engine fans, exhausts and a stand. Grey sprues are mainly for the wings and tail planes. Silver moulded parts deal with the undercarriage legs, engine cowling trims and wing slats.
The whole kit is free from flash and pin marks being are in places that won't be seen.
Starting with the interior detail of the fuselage, its a bit hit and miss here. The cockpit is pretty well detailed with seats, instrument panels, center console, ceiling and a rear bulkhead. The instrument panel, overhead, side and center consoles have decals for the numerous dials and buttons and should look pretty good when done. How much of this you will see when the model is complete is debatable as the view through the front windscreen is pretty small. The main cabin areas have several bulkheads, one of which doubles as the wing supports. Small pieces of flooring fit just inside the door openings. The kit doesn't come with anything else to go in the cabin areas, which I feel lets in down a bit. Even the inclusion of a few seats to go in front of the opening doors would improve looks. As this aircraft can be modelled with the doors open, you will be able to see the bottom of the plane. Scratch building an entire floor would solve this problem and if you felt really mad you could scratch build 400 odd seats to go in there lol. At no point during assembly are you prompted to put any weight in the nose. One way of finding out if any is needed is by leaving the nose section off until final assembly and then adding weight if necessary.
Exterior-wise the fuselage has some nice fine crisp recessed panel lines on it. There are also, what I think are, sensors on the nose which look fairly thick and would probably be better replaced with some thin wire. The cabin windows don't come with any clear parts but have decals for the glass instead. How this will look, I won't know until I try it, but to be on the safe side is probably for the best not to use any Micro Sol / Set.
The fuselage builds up from 6 subsections, from the front, nose, cockpit area, 3 main cabin areas and then the tail. The tail is moulded onto the rear fuselage section. So the total pieces for the main fuselage (not including internal details) is a staggering 11 pieces.
The main wings and tail planes also have some nice recessed panel lines and are split into the upper and lower sections. The forward slats for the main wings are separate pieces but unfortunately aren't positionable.
The engines are pretty basic with 1 piece moulded fans fitting into the engine housing with the jet exhaust.
There are 5 sets of undercarriage on this plane, 1 nose wheel, 2 fuselage and 2 wing sets. The grand total of wheels is 22. The tyres are moulded in vinyl with a ridged tread pattern. I think these will look pretty good once they are scuffed up a bit to take the shine of them. Each of the 4 main landing gear legs are moulded in one piece, with various parts to be glued on around them, so they should take the weight of the kit. The nose gear is built up from 3 parts and looks quite fragile considering how much weight this will hold. All the landing gear is about average detail wise. You have the option of having the landing gear in the up or down position.
InstructionsNow I know why the box is so big, there is a book in here, oh no silly me its the instruction manual. This is the thickest set of instructions I have ever seen. 43 pages with 41 steps printed with line drawings in the usual exploded fashion. The build sequence is fairly straight forward and easy to navigate. Most of the sequence is building sub assemblies, the fuselage and wings goes together completely half way through, with undercarriage, cabin doors and the tail planes going on last.
Paint colours are given along the way for the interior, various sub assemblies and the main areas. A few decals need to be added to parts as you go along so care is needed not to overlook them as the decal symbol looks similar to some of the paint symbols.
4 pages give you the decal guide for the aircraft. Port, starboard, plan and underside each having a separate page.
DecalsWell the rest of the kit is big so it won't surprise you the decals keep to the same standard. The decals are printed on 2 sheets of paper, 1 is A4 size the other is as big as the box. Unfortunately the protective cover on the big sheet of mine doesn't quite cover all of it, so there is a distinct mark where the cover failed to cover it. There also is a small mark on one where the decal looks to have been scratched off.
The decals look to be nicely printed with very little carrier film around the main decals. Some of the decals are big, the tail section is made up of 7 decals, 1 for each side of the tail, 2 for the base of the tail planes, 2 around the rear fuselage and 1 for the underneath. The NMF for the center of the main wings are also decals and are about 1ft in length each.
AccessoriesA small bag of accessories which contain 13 small plastic pots of acrylic paint, the white paint is double the size of the rest, 2 different size brushes and a tube of polystyrene cement. Now someone at Heller must have put the paintbrushes in for a joke, as even using the bigger brush it would take you a week to paint this aircraft, that's if you didn't run out of paint first. The smaller parts can be painted by brush but for the main airframe an airbrush or spray can of paint is really recommended.
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