South East Wales

A380 superjumbo leaves Cardiff Airport after test run

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Media captionFootage of the A380 landing at Cardiff Airport on Monday morning

British Airways' first A380 superjumbo has visited Cardiff allowing the airport to test its ability to handle an aircraft of that size.

It was the first time the world's largest passenger plane had landed at Cardiff and BA hopes it will prove the airport can cope in the event of a diversion.

BA has a maintenance base at Cardiff Airport, employing hundreds of workers.

The A380's wings are made at Broughton in Flintshire.

The A380 aircraft, which landed at just after 09:00 BST and left at about 14:15 BST, flew into Cardiff as part of its preparations for long-haul operations.

Pilots and cabin crew working on the British Airways Airbus A380 based in Kent have been making test flights.

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Media captionAirport chief executive John Horne says the A380's visit is a 'feather in the cap'

The carrier has spent £10bn upgrading its long-haul fleet and is the first UK airline to take delivery of the A380 superjumbo.

The company has ordered 12.

Cardiff Airport was sold to the Welsh government for £52m in the spring.

First Minister Carwyn Jones had been critical of the airport after a slump in passenger numbers from a peak of two million in 2007 to just over one million in 2012.

Cardiff Airport chief executive Jon Horne said there could be a potential for long haul flights from the city's airport.

"I think what British Airways are looking at is very much using Cardiff as a potential diversion," Mr Horne told BBC Radio Wales.

"They use us at the moment with their existing aircraft fleet.

"With the A380, it's not every airport in the UK that can take that aircraft so we're in a very good position and I would expect to see it from time to time operating into Cardiff."

'Enhances our chances'

Asked about the potential for long haul flights from the airport, Mr Horne said those opportunities were driven by markets and there are many other aircraft types which could fulfil them.

"But clearly some of those carriers that we're thinking about also operate the A380, so having the airport capable of taking that aircraft as well clearly enhances our chances going forward."

Staff at British Airways Maintenance Cardiff (BAMC) - which employs more than 800 people - were able to view the fleet's latest arrival.

The base uses the airport's runway.

Speaking before the aircraft landed, BAMC general manager Bill Kelly said: "This will be the first time that we've had an aircraft (A380) in the British Airways livery landing here at Cardiff Airport. This is a really exciting time for us, for British Airways and for the airport.

"Today's very much about testing the aircraft, testing the airport's procedures should we need to use this airfield in a diversion, and celebrating its introduction into service."

Each A380 will carry 469 passengers and the first commercial flights are due to begin in autumn 2013.

The 72m (236ft) long aircraft stands at 24m (78ft), and has a range of 9,500 miles (15,000km).

Singapore Airlines was the first carrier to operate an A380, with its first flight taking place in October 2007.

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