Emirates' A380 "takes flight" at London's Heathrow Airport
As Emirates prepares for the introduction of A380 service in August, its 21st century Airbus flagship already has a high-profile presence at London's Heathrow - the world's busiest international airport.
A one-third scale A380 model in Emirates' livery has been installed on the airport's primary roundabout, putting it in view of the 25 million people who will pass it on their way in and out of Heathrow every year - making it one of the world's most valuable advertising properties.
With a length of 24 metres and a wingspan of 26 metres, the A380 replica is believed to be one of the world's largest scale aircraft models ever built. It is made of glass-reinforced plastic over a steel frame, and is more than double the size of the Concorde aircraft model that previously occupied the site.
The scale A380's 23 July unveiling was the culmination of more than a year's work for Emirates, Airbus and U.S. model-making company Penwal, who all collaborated to design and build the 45-tonne replica to a high degree of accuracy.
Its journey began from the Penwall production site in California to the state's Ontario Airport, where it was airlifted to Heathrow aboard a large Antonov An-124 freighter. A special mechanical ramp was used to unload the A380 model as it was too heavy for the Antonov's winch crane to handle.
A team then worked around the clock for two weeks to assemble the model, which arrived as 10 component parts - fuselage pieces, engines, tail fin and wings, and had to be set in 600 tonnes of concrete on the roundabout.
During a visit to check on construction, Emirates Airline President Tim Clark said that the A380 would be an important symbol for passengers. "While we don't plan to carry any passengers on this A380, we expect the model to become strongly associated with Heathrow and a striking icon for many millions of air travellers," he said. "Emirates is now, in every sense, a model airline."