After a high profile visit to Minneapolis and Los Angeles, the A380 left the United States to fly to Australia with Qantas' veteran pilot Murray Crocket in the cockpit. Crockett, the first Qantas pilot qualified on the A380, enjoyed flying the aircraft and found the long leg less tiring than he expected, a characteristic he attributed to the remarkable quietness of the A380.
"You experience less fatigue because of the quietness of the airplane and this is very important," he said. "After nearly 15 hours of flight, you want the pilot to be as fresh as possible."
Now in Sydney, where it landed on 1 December, the A380 is being used by Qantas for a week of maturity and operability trials that give Qantas personnel real hands-on experience before the delivery of the airline's first A380, which is planned for August next year.
Trials cover the entire operation of the aircraft, use of various ground support vehicles, compatibility checks, security, gates, airbridges, cargo loading and unloading. Several turn-around tests will take place with and without passengers. All exercises are being conducted by Qantas personnel with Airbus specialists acting only as advisors.
Speaking to Qantas personnel, Mario Heinen, the Airbus Executive Vice President - A380 programme, expressed his wish to see the A380 become "a strong and emotional ambassador and to make Qantas even more successful."
With 20 A380s on firm order by Qantas, the airline - which celebrates the 60th anniversary of its kangaroo route this year - is the second largest A380 customer. Qantas is planning to put the first A380 in service on its key Sydney-Los Angeles route, thus becoming the first airline to fly the A380 into the U.S.
The A380 test aircraft will leave Sydney at the end of this week to return to its Toulouse base via Latin America, paying its first visit to Argentina and Brazil.