Before production ended last year, twice a month a truly remarkable, yet largely unseen, event took place in the countryside of southwestern France. Six sections of the Airbus A380 super jumbo were driven 150 miles (240km) from Langon, south of Bordeaux, to the final assembly line in Toulouse. In the July 2017 issues of Airliner World, Martyn Cartledge joined the convoy to see how the operation ran.
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.