The Grande Tour de France

Twice a month a truly remarkable, yet largely unseen, event takes place in the countryside of southwestern France. Six sections of the Airbus A380 super jumbo are driven 150 miles (240km) from Langon, south of Bordeaux, to the final assembly line in Toulouse. Martyn Cartledge joined the convoy to see how the operation runs.

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The ghost-like forwardfuselage comes out of the night during the convoy’s second stage of its road journey to Toulouse.

When it came to the design of the A380, Airbus had to think very differently about how it would get major components from its manufacturing centres across Europe to the final assembly line in Toulouse. Although certain sections of the forward fuselage and vertical tailplane could be transported by the manufacturer’s A300-600 Super Transporters (the five-strong fleet of Belugas), the huge dimensions of other components meant they simply could not fit in the aircraft’s bulbous fuselage. So, it developed a multimodal transport solution involving ships, barges and large trucks.

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