The Airbus A380 took off from Blagnac International Airport in Toulouse at 09:58 am local time this morning with 474 passengers on board for the first in a series of four long flights or ?Early Long Flights?. During the flights, the passengers, comprised of Airbus employees and cabin experts, will put the cabin through its paces. The Early Long Flights are an important step towards the A380?s entry into service. Though not part of the technical certification programme, these flights allow Airbus to assess the cabin environment and systems in flight ahead of final certification ensuring that airlines will benefit from a fully mature aircraft on delivery. Four Early Long Flights will be performed from Toulouse this week lasting seven hours, ten hours, twelve hours and fifteen hours respectively, with one night flight, to cover all types of flight conditions. The shorter flights are being routed around Spain, France, the UK and Germany. Passengers on the longer flights will be flown further afield ? to Norway in the North and as far South as the Canary Islands. The A380 performing the flights is the third A380 test aircraft MSN002, which has been fitted in Hamburg, Germany, with a complete, standard cabin in a three-class configuration with a total of 474 seats. The flight will be operated as a standard airline service. Captaining the first Early Long Flight is Frank Chapman, Experimental Test Pilot, flying with Jacques Rosay, Chief Test Pilot and Jacques Drappier, Chief Instructor Pilot. Passengers include 20 to 30 cabin experts from Airbus and equipment manufacturers who will check the cabin systems functioning, including air conditioning, lighting, acoustics, in-flight entertainment (IFE), galleys, electrics, toilets and water waste systems. In total, five A380 aircraft are involved in the flight test programme, four of which are powered by Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines. To date, the test programme has accumulated almost 1900 flight hours in 600 flights. MSN001 is mainly used for loads identification and flight control development. MSN004 undergoes flying performance tests and MSN009 is used for testing the Engine Alliance GP7200 engines. Finally, the two aircraft that will complete the certification process with cabin and cabin systems testing are MSN002, which is performing the Early Long Flights programme, and MSN007, currently in Hamburg for a complete cabin installation, which will join the test programme in the lead up to certification. They are powered by Rolls Royce engines. With 159 firm orders from a total of 16 customers, the Airbus A380 is already a proven success story and set to become the flagship commercial aircraft of the 21st Century. A leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China, Japan and in the Middle East. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint company with BAE Systems.