Nothing lets an aviation fanatic’s heart beat faster, then the sight of a new aircraft, a new airport or the visit to an aircraft manufacturer.
So, today I took the opportunity, being in Europe to visit Airbus in Toulouse, the birthplace of the legendary A380, which sadly will not being build after 2021.
A visit starts at the Airbus Aviation museum, Aeroscopia, where the visitors are being received. There are several tours in different languages and for different tours. Being mid winter it was not so busy and the tour was conducted at a leisurely pace.
Understandably, but unfortunately, photography was not allowed at the Airbus site.
The A380 tour starts with an audio-visual briefing, showing the first flight of the aircraft and a recording of instruments and telemetry data.
Of course this is a bit of a letdown for an real fanatic, since most of the footage has already been shown on TV and YouTube.
Though some additional background information was still provided, but maybe this part of the tour could be made more exiting by giving information, which are not so common knowledge.
Following the briefing, we boarded a bus and entered the actual factory area. Since Airbus manufactures all over Europe, not much assembly work could be seen. A variety of semi-finished aircraft were on the ground from A330neo to A350 and A380.
It is a pity that it was not possible to get on board of any of the aircraft, even the first A380 which was used for testing.
As a further part of the tour we went to an hangar which housed three A380, which consisted of the second build A380 which was being prepared for the museum and two more aircraft for Emirates. But again, almost no activity was visible.
While we had a look down to the aircraft, additional footage was shown on three LCD monitors.
What would have been real interesting is the screening of issues which appeared during testing and how Airbus dealt with it.
In the end we were carted back to the Museum, which requires an extra entry fee if you want to visit. I believe that the museum should be included in the tour price.
Summary, yes, it was interesting to see Airbus, but to a point it was a bit of a let down. In all fairness, it may be difficult to show people around on the factory floor for security reasons or the fact that part of the assembly takes place in other locations.
But to make this visit more interesting, maybe Airbus could consider setting up some multi-media or multi-screen show, which immerses the visitor and gives a stronger insight into Airbus, its philosophies and the way how the aircraft are being designed, assembled and tested. Resulting in not only a great Wow effect, but also instil, in particular in the European visitors, a level of pride, having such manufacturer on our continent.
Even for an expat, a German now residing in Australia, Airbus is one of the great achievements of Europe, having combined the forces and skills of different countries to build a company which could not only compete against the almighty US corporations, but set new trends and directions.
Last, but not least, it would cost the company only cents to provide each tour participant with a small momentum, maybe made from recycled aircraft skin, etc.. But it would provide lasting impressions.