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'Superjumbo' A380 marks five years in the sky

updated 6:22 AM EST, Mon December 3, 2012
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A380 in numbers
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Airbus A380 has just celebrated its fifth anniversary as a commercial aircraft
  • It's 15 meters wider than a Boeing 747 "Jumbo Jet"
  • There are now 89 A380s in service around the world, operated by nine airlines

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(CNN) -- It was conceived in secret in the 1980s but it's difficult to miss the Airbus A380 these days.

The giant aircraft is a true leviathan of the sky and has just marked its fifth year of commercial service.

In October 2007 Singapore Airlines became the first airline to fly the A380, the world's longest commercial airliner at the time. That title is now claimed by the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, but the A380 is still wider and carries more passengers.

Read more: Boeing 747-8 vs. Airbus A380

Inside the Airbus A380 assembly line

Since first taking to the skies to great fanfare, 89 A380s have come into service around the world, with Thai Airways recently becoming the ninth airline to operate the "Superjumbo."

In total, 257 orders for new A380s are booked in, with Airbus aiming to ramp up production to as many as three aircraft per month in the coming years.

'Superjumbo' breaks the mold

Cultivating this demand is essential if the plane is to be profitable. The A380 initially arrived three years overdue and billions of dollars over budget. Other setbacks during its first five years of service -- including cracks in the wing components discovered in January this year -- have also slowed production as checks and repairs were made on the worldwide fleet.

'Biggest Beast' good for bottom line

See also: What will Airbus A380 fault mean for airlines?

Despite these challenges, Airbus says it expects to break even on the A380 by 2015. Key to this expansion is securing large orders in emerging markets such as Brazil, China and Mexico, the company says.

Stiff challenges will undoubtedly come from Boeing's 747-8i, but with a few years' head start, Airbus hopes the A380 will see off the competition.

Check out the gallery at the top of the page to see more of the Airbus A380's impressive stats.

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