Airbus, Toulouse, France
Passengers flying into the small airport in Toulouse are often surprised by the large number of jet aircraft parked near the main runway. These include many Airbus A380s painted in corrosion-resistant green paint, and the peculiar A300-600ST (better known as the Beluga and one of the most voluminous aircraft in the world).
None of these aircraft are ferrying passengers from Toulouse; they are awaiting a final paint job, final tests, or delivery to an airline. Toulouse is the headquarters of Airbus, and its runway is where newly built jets take to the sky for the first time. It was from the Toulouse runway that the Concorde first flew in 1969, and the double-decker Airbus A380 had its first test flight there in 2005.
Close to Toulouse airport are the Airbus factories in which the A380s undergo final assembly along with almost every other aircraft that Airbus manufactures. (The small Airbus A318, A319, and A321 aircraft are assembled in Germany.)
One way to see these aircraft is to visit Toulouse airport and sit upstairs in the viewing area overlooking the runway. Wait long enough and you’re sure to see a newly built aircraft making a test flight, or the enormous Beluga transporter arriving with parts ...