Big bird Airbus A380 flies home

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Copy of ND BRITISH AIRWAYS4 (39737913) (39752106) INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS The awesome size of the British Airways Airbus A380. Pictures: SIYANDA MAYEZA

Durban - It is not only the biggest in the sky, but also the quietest aircraft, so the chances of one hearing the British Airways Airbus A380 are slim.

However, Durban residents and aviation enthusiasts caught a glimpse of the A380 during its pilot training and “man versus plane” event on Monday.

It is the first time an aircraft of this magnitude has been brought to King Shaka International Airport, which is one of a handful of airports that can handle the A380.

It touched down in Durban last Monday morning. It was brought in by British Airways for pilot training as well as the “man vs plane” publicity event.

The plane was expected to leave for Cape Town, where it will fly over Table Mountain, but it will not land because Cape Town International Airport cannot handle an Airbus A380.

The Airbus A380, which is just four weeks old and has not yet carried commercial passengers, still has plastic covering on the floor and smells of new furniture.

Copy of ND BRITISH AIRWAYS5 (39737919) (39752107) Senior first officer Peter Nye in the A380s lower decks business class cabin. INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

It can carry 469 passengers, 14 first class, 97 business class, 55 premium economy and 303 economy. It costs R2.7-billion.

Peter Nye, senior first officer and technical manager of the A380, said the team of pilots who fly the A380 had to have four months of intensive training.

“Once you train to fly a A380 you cannot fly another plane, because every model is unique. It is so big, but also so light that you can sometimes forget you are flying an Airbus,” he said.

“During our training here in Durban, the A380 has made 90 flights in nine days. We would usually do that in months,” he said.

For the “man versus plane” event, contestants from around the world entered online.

Heidi Hawks, 30, from the UK, is the only female contestant in the top four.

“I am not a runner, I work in security, but when I saw the advert, I entered just for fun, and never did I imagine coming to Durban for the finals,” she said.

Rudolph Raath, 23, of Cape Town, said he was lying on his couch when he saw the advert.

“I really hope I win, so far I am in the lead,” he said.

The winner gets a business class ticket on the A380.

Bryan Habana, who ran 200 metres against the A380 and won, said: “It’s one thing to race against another human and win, but to race against this giant and win is amazing.” - Daily News

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