The A380 freighter became a reality when the first ‘metal cut’ of the aircraft’s centre wing box took place today at Airbus’ site in Nantes, France. This marks the start of manufacturing of the largest commercial freighter ever and is confirmation that the A380F programme is on track.

The centre wing box is an important element of the A380F’s central fuselage to which the wings are attached; it is principally constructed from carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), a material that is both light and able to withstand high levels of stress. The CFRP centre wing box is one of a range of high-technology features that Airbus has incorporated into A380 Family aircraft giving them unique performance and economic advantages over older-generation large aircraft.

With an unmatched capacity of 150 tonnes/330,000 lbs of cargo, a unique nonstop range capability of 10,400 km/5,600 nm and the lowest unit cost of any freighter ever, the A380F will be the new benchmark in the large freighter market.

It has been designed in close collaboration with major airlines and so will be the perfect tool to respond to the developments in the air freight sector. This market is predicted to see significant annual growth over the next 20 years, but with pressure on yields and cargo densities declining, the cargo industry will be demanding lower unit costs and higher volumes, particularly on long haul routes to and from Asia. No other large freighter, existing or proposed, can match these demands better than the A380F.

With 27 firm orders and commitments from four customers more than three years before its entry into service in mid-2008, the A380F has made a remarkable entrance in the long-haul, high-capacity cargo market.

A leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE Systems.