Thousands of suppliers in 30 countries have been involved in the construction of the A380 at
some point, from the very large to the very small. The aluminium skins for the wings, for example, are made at the world's
largest aluminium mill in Iowa, USA - the only plant in the world big enough to make pieces big enough for the A380. The finished
sheets are so big that Airbus had to design a special truck trailer to transport them to the coast for shipping.
At every stage of its design, the sheer scale of the project has thrown up new problems that
have required completely new approaches. Even the plumbing and in-flight entertainment systems have necessitated the creation
of record-breaking design and testing facilities.
A convoy transporting parts for the A380
Parts for the A380 are shipped to sub-assembly plants all over the European mainland where the
individual components of the aircraft are put together. The wings are assembled in Wales at a plant the size of 12 football
pitches, for example, and are built from 32,000 individual parts connected by 23 miles of wiring. Other parts of the aircraft
undergo similar assembly processes elsewhere - the fuselage in Germany, the rudder and tailplane in Spain, the cockpit in
Once assembled, nearly all of the major components are so large and heavy that they can only
be transported to the final assembly plant in France by river and sea, often on specially built ships that can only navigate
the Garonne river for a few hours at the lowest part of the tide. And that's not the end of the problems - Airbus had to expand
or strengthen many of the roads from the river to the final assembly location to cope with the vast size and weight of the
convoys delivering the components.
An almost-completed Airbus A380
All of the parts are then put together at Airbus' main assembly plant in Toulouse,
France, to make up one A380. Airbus will need to find faster ways to construct the A380 if they are to keep up with
their orders. Construction of the next A380 for Singapore Airlines will be completed in about six months. Airbus claims that
soon they will be building at least four planes a month.