Qantas made history this week with its inauguration of A380 scheduled service, marking the 21st century flagship aircraft's first commercial round-trip flight between Australia and the U.S. West Coast, and saving thousands of kilograms of carbon emissions under a multinational environmental initiative.
The milestone flight departed Melbourne at 11h15 on 20 October for its Pacific crossing to Los Angeles International Airport, where the aircraft was greeted by public officials and celebrities - including Australian singer Olivia Newton-John and actor John Travolta.
Passengers praised the A380's comfort and its smoothness, while spectators and news reporters gave the aircraft high marks for its quiet operation during the Los Angeles arrival and on two subsequent takeoffs - one for a local demonstration tour, and the other for its flight home to Australia.
The return trip from Los Angeles to Melbourne is estimated to have saved thousands of kilograms of carbon emissions as part of an initiative to highlight the potential for environmentally-friendly operations on trans-Pacific flights. This effort is organized by the Asia and South Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE) - which involves Airservices Australia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Airways New Zealand.
Under the ASPIRE programme, the Qantas A380 used electrical power on the ground in Los Angeles rather than running its auxiliary power unit, and it was given priority clearance from air traffic control for taxi and departure. After takeoff, the flight was issued a priority departure route and unimpeded climb through to cruise altitude, allowing it to reach the optimum cruise altitude as quickly and efficiently as possible. In addition, the A380 flew a user-preferred route for the most efficient path (taking into account winds and aircraft weight), and was provided two real time updates of current weather and wind conditions that allowed the flight crew to modify their flight path.
Qantas will increase its A380 international service as the airline builds up its 20-aircraft fleet. The carrier plans to start Sydney-Los Angeles flights later this month, followed in January 2009 by Australia-London service, operated via Singapore.
Los Angeles International Airport will be a major operating point for A380s as Airbus customers utilise this U.S. West Coast hub facility for their service to numerous international destinations.
During the A380's layover in Los Angeles on 20 October, Qantas organised a two-hour special flight for approximately 200 travel agents, journalists and public officials, which included a flyover of the Golden Gate bridge near San Francisco.