Durban - Big mama, super jumbo, fat lady or whale jet – whatever you call it, the biggest passenger plane in the world landed at King Shaka International Airport for the first time on Monday morning.
The Airbus A380 double-decker, brought to Durban by British Airways for pilot training and its “man versus plane” publicity event to take place later this week, arrived at 8.40am.
There was little fanfare, barring the aircraft being sprayed with a ceremonial “water curtain”. However, its presence in Durban’s airspace for the next week is likely to capture the interest of local aviation enthusiasts.
The Mercury spotted blogger and aviation fan Mark Whitlock on a hill near the airport on Monday, ready to capture the first landing of an A380 in Durban.
King Shaka is one of only a handful of airports in Africa to have handled the aircraft, but is unlikely to see a commercial A380 using its main runway for many years yet.
The training stint comes before the scheduled start of BA’s A380 operations on the busy Joburg-London route from February 12.
Whitlock said it was incredible seeing the “fat lady” land in Durban. He came fully prepared with video camera and tripod and his iPad open with the Flightradar24 live flight tracking app in operation.
“I’m fascinated by planes and the aviation industry. I have been following developments at King Shaka since construction began.
“When it opened in 2010, I joined other enthusiasts taking videos and pictures of the first landings. We even had a braai on a field nearby marking the occasion,” he said.
Fellow blogger Amith Gosai said: “I saw it land. It’s huge. She is a beaut.”
Airport spokesman Colin Naidoo said the landing proved the capacity of the King Shaka airport to handle the world’s biggest aircraft.
He said BA’s A380 training at the airport would involve about 10 take-offs and landings a day until February 4.
l To watch Whitlock’s YouTube video on the landing go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ump86CdIs0o
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