By Laurence Frost, AP Business Writer
BLAGNAC, France - Cheered by tens of thousands of onlookers, the world's largest jetliner touched down Wednesday with puffs of smoke from its 22 outsize wheels, ending the historic maiden flight for a plane that Airbus hopes will carry it to market dominance.
The A380's four-hour sortie past the snowcapped Pyrenees removed any doubt that the behemoth capable of carrying as many as 840 passengers is airworthy. But it did little to convince skeptics, led by U.S. rival Boeing Co., that the plane will prove profitable.
About 30,000 people watched the takeoff and landing, police said, many from just outside the airport perimeter, where whole families spent the night awaiting European aviation's biggest spectacle since the supersonic Concorde's first flight in 1969.
Applause reverberated across the airfield and adjacent Airbus headquarters in this town outside the southwestern city of Toulouse as test pilots Claude Lelaie and Jacques Rosay emerged from the big white plane with a blue tail, waving happily, with their four fellow crew members
Flying the plane was as easy as “riding a bicycle,” Rosay said. Engineer Fernando Alonso said the crew enjoyed an “extremely comfortable” flight.
“Now shareholders can sleep better at night,” chief flight engineer Gerard Desbois added.