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Birth of a Behemoth, the Airbus A380

The Boeing 747 was the pinnacle of success in aviation. The jumbo jet became the symbol for aviation and opened up the world to global travelers. Boeing was reaping the rewards and reveling in the success that was the 747. Airbus wasn’t resting on its laurels, however, and had set its sights on the popular jet.

In 1988, Airbus lead engineer Jean Roeder and a team of engineers began to develop an ultra-high-capacity airliner (UHCA) to compete with, and even surpass, the Boeing 747, which had no serious competition in the jumbo jet market at the time.

The Airbus team revealed plans at the 1990 Farnborough Air Show to create an aircraft with a 15 percent lower operating cost than the comparable Boeing 747-400. Such was the genesis of the Airbus A380. In 2005, the Airbus A380 made its debut and entered commercial service in 2007 as the largest airliner in aviation history.

All was going well at Airbus. Little did Airbus executives know, however, that in the coming years the company would face a major restructuring, resulting from mergers and acquisitions within the European Union (EU) consortium.

Following the consolidation of many European defense and aerospace companies in 1999 and 2000, Airbus was reborn as a joint-stock company in 2001.  European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS formed of Aérospatiale-Matra, DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, and CASA) and BAE Systems both held stock in Airbus, in the amount of 80 percent and 20 percent, respectively. In late 2006, BAE systems sold its 20 percent share to EADS for $4.17 billion, transforming Airbus into a fully owned subsidiary of EADS.

Fast-forward a decade and Airbus makes a huge splash at the 2011 Paris Air Show with the Airbus A320Neo. Airbus won orders for 1029 of these aircraft within the A320Neo’s six-month launch window, achieving a civil aviation industry record!

Airbus employs approximately 52,000 people globally. Much of its operations are concentrated among 16 facilities in four European Union countries: France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Germany.

This geek applauds the innovation set forth by Airbus as they continue to flourish in the commercial airline business.

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