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Airbus to land new plane at LAX, JFK

March 01, 2007|Jennifer Oldham | Times Staff Writer

Officials announced that airplane maker Airbus has changed its mind and will bring the first U.S. test flight of the world's largest plane to Los Angeles and New York on the same day this month.

In a carefully negotiated deal, the company agreed to land the double-deck behemoth at Los Angeles International Airport around 9 a.m. March 19 -- at about the same time another aircraft will touch down at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

"Being part of the A380's inaugural visit to the U.S. is a clear indication that Los Angeles is a leading international gateway and that our airport is a world-class facility," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement Tuesday night. "The A380 is at the leading edge of the future of aviation, and Los Angeles is proud to be part of this historic moment."

The about-face came after the city's airport agency and Qantas Airways sent strongly worded letters to Airbus executives in Toulouse, France, demanding that they reconsider a recent decision to take the first U.S. test flight of the Airbus A380 to New York and then on to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Los Angeles airport officials said Airbus had promised them it would bring the 555-seat plane here first if they spent $9 million last summer on a parking spot for the aircraft at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The agency plans to spend about $121 million readying LAX to handle the plane, which has a wingspan stretching nearly the length of a football field and is as high as an eight-story building.

"Clearly, progressive international gateways like Los Angeles see the tremendous value of having A380 service, and they want to demonstrate to the airlines that they will be prepared to welcome A380 flights when the airlines place this aircraft into service," Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus North America, said in a statement.

Qantas Airways, which hopes to make the first commercial A380 flight into LAX next year, will have a crew aboard the March 19 flight.

L.A. officials have less than three weeks to plan an event to welcome the aircraft, which they think will draw more than 100,000 spectators.

LAX is expected to have more operations involving the A380 than any other U.S. airport.

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