TEST FLIGHT: Airbus will return to ensure the airport can handle the super-jumbo jet.
By Art Marroquin
The Airbus A380 is scheduled to make a second test landing at Los Angeles International Airport next month to make sure the facility is ready to handle the world's largest airliner.
No passengers will be aboard the super-jumbo jet, but the plane's double-decked cabin is expected to be equipped with seats in first, business and coach classes this time around.
A hollowed-out shell of the Airbus A380 - looking more like a cargo plane than a commercial jetliner - debuted at LAX on March 19, about 15 minutes after a fully equipped version of the plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
The A380 is scheduled to take off from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, landing at LAX's newly renovated southern airfield at 2 p.m. Nov. 28, according to sources familiar with the trip.
The next day, about 150 dignitaries, guests and journalists will board the plane for a demonstration flight over Los Angeles.
The aircraft will then depart LAX at 8 a.m. Nov. 30 for Sydney, Australia.
"I think it's great, and I look forward to seeing it again," said Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose 11th District includes LAX.
Airport officials declined to comment on the landing because final details were still being worked out.
The A380's landing at LAX will be less complicated this time around because the plane will take off and land on the south airfield, which is now capable of handling the mega-jetliner, thanks to a $330 million renovation project.
Entire sections of LAX had to be shut down in March, when the A380 landed on one of the northern runways and maneuvered its way to the south airfield.
The plane is returning to LAX as a joint venture with Australian airline Qantas, which will be the first to offer A380 service out of LAX beginning in October 2008.
"Qantas has always been at the forefront of aviation innovation and we are pleased to be able to continue that tradition by being the first airline to operate the A380 from Los Angeles International on our flights to Australia later next year," said Wally Mariani, senior executive vice president of Qantas Airways' operations in the Americas and the Pacific.
The Airbus A380 boasts a wingspan that stretches nearly the length of a football field, a fuel capacity of about 82,000 gallons and the ability to hold more than 800 passengers, all while landing and taking off more quietly than smaller jetliners.
Listing price for the Airbus A380 is about $300 million.
"This multibillion-dollar investment in the A380 will allow us to offer our customers a revolutionary new approach to in-flight services and passenger comfort, so we can take customer experience to the next level," Mariani said.
To better prepare for the arrival of mega-jetliners at LAX, the Los Angeles City Council signed off on a $1.2 billion plan in August to build the Midfield Concourse adjacent to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The project calls for building up to 10 new gates large enough to handle the A380 and the Boeing 787 by 2012.
"We're getting ready for an entire fleet of the Airbus A380s to land at LAX," Rosendahl said. "We're excited about this trip, and what it's going to do for the future of the city and the airport."
The airport expedited a $9-million upgrade for the first U.S. flight, but JFK now gets that first stop.
The stark contrast between San Francisco Int'l Airport and LAX has led to speculation that San Francisco will woo A380 flights away from LAX.
LAX is expected to be the first U.S. destination of an A380 passenger flight next year.
The about-face came after the city's airport agency and Qantas Airways sent strongly worded letters to Airbus executives.