The world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, will land for the first time in India on Sunday, 5 May, 2007.
When the plane, which is 007 in terms of its manufacturer serial number, does land at the international airport here, two of its four engines will stick out on to the grass around the runway for about 3km.
And airport officials are taking no chances. They have made sure the grass is mowed to avoid the possibility of any debris getting sucked in.
“The airport infrastructure in the country has not seen any significant investment since 1996...they will only be ready in a few years (for the A380),” notes Kapil Kaul, an analyst at the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.
The size of the aircraft, which can carry as many as 800 passengers, means airports have to figure out ways to accommodate the plane. About 51 airports, including four in India, are being upgraded at an estimated cost of $8 billion (Rs32,800 crore) to be able to handle the aircraft in accordance with guidelines laid down by the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization.
Mammoth problem: At present, only the airports in Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi are capable of landing the A380, which can carry as many as 800 passengers
For instance, the runway has to be 60 paved metres with 7.5m grass shoulder on each side. The existing runway at the international airport here is about 45 paved metres with a 15m grass shoulder on each side.
Currently, only three airports in the country—in Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi—are capable of landing the A380, while new airports that are being built in Bangalore and Hyderabad are making sure they can accommodate the aircraft.
“This is just a test flight. We are not looking at commercial flights back-to-back,” said a Delhi airport spokesperson. “That is not possible as of now,” he added.
In India, Kingfisher Airlines is currently the sole buyer of the plane, with delivery of the first aircraft expected in 2011. Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore Airlines, which will take the first aircraft delivery in October, may start using it for commercial flights to airports such as London’s Heathrow. The A380 has about 156 orders from airlines around the world.
Two of the world’s busiest airports, New York’s JFK and the Los Angeles airport, are together spending $300 million to prepare for the A380.