Monday, May 4, 2009

Toulouse: Saturday 2nd May 2009

It was a big driving day today down to Toulouse and back – over 600km in all. The primary aim of the day was to visit the Airbus plant. We had to organise this back in early April due to the popularity.

The tour was a briefing on the testing regime the A380 had gone through as well as some interesting footage from the 1st test flight in 2005. We then had a brief drive around the Airbus site; it covers 50 hectares of which 10 hectares is specifically for the assembly of the A380, other Airbus planes A320, A321 etc are assembled on other parts of the site

The A380 components are manufactured in 4 countries (UK makes the wings, and various parts are made in France, Germany and Spain. These are transported by air, sea and road to Toulouse, where the plane is put together and tested. It then goes to Hamburg for interiors and other finishing including painting, before being delivered to customers.

In the part of the Assembly Hall we viewed there were three planes on the go – 2 for Qantas and 1 for Emirates. The tail fin on the Qantas plane had needed to be redesigned because when stretched on the huge A380 it had looked “too fat”.

They looked big in the assembly area, particularly when you saw them compared to the engineers who were working on a Saturday. But it wasn’t till we viewed another 2 outside alongside a ‘normal’ sized A300 did their extra size become apparent. The engines were the size of the tail of the A300

From here we drove into town to meet Baptiste. We went to a duck restaurant where we had a Cassoulet – decadently rich – but great. Baptiste is just back in France after a six month work stint in the States and a month’s holiday in Bolivia and Peru. Then he was so kind to walk us around the streets of Toulouse.

Neither of us knew anything about the town before this and came away with the impression of an interesting city, with a relaxed charm about it. It is known as the pink city due to the number of buildings built with bricks. We saw a number of interesting and different churches, streets and the river.

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