Airbus just trucked its final A380 fuselage through a small French village as the world's largest airliner is killed off

Airbus A380
The final Airbus A380 convoy.
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty
  • Airbus transported its last A380 fuselage through Levignac, France, via truck convoy en route to the final assembly line in Toulouse on Wednesday.
  • The A380 product line is being shuttered as no more orders have been placed for the superjumbo jet and next-generation aircraft are taking its place.
  • Emirates will take delivery of the final Airbus A380 in mid-2021 after largely keeping the program alive with new orders in recent years. 
  • Visit Business Insider's 真人百家家乐网站homepage for more stories.

Evenings in the French village of Levignac are about to become quieter as Airbus nears the end of an era for its largest passenger jet. 

The normally quiet village in Southern France sits just outside of Toulouse, the manufacturing hub of the aerospace giant. Levignac doesn't build airplanes or contribute greatly to Airbus' supply chain but it's played an important role in the development of the Airbus A380. 

For the past 16 years, Levignac has been one of the last towns on the journey for A380 parts en route to the final assembly line where parts from across Europe are pieced together to form the finished product. 

After arriving at the French Atlantic coast, the wings and fuselage for each aircraft are transported by barge inland and then over the road on trucks from Langon to Toulouse, bypassing most villages but passing directly through Levignac. The first convoy passed through Levignac in 2004 and the practice continued for 16 years before the last convoy completed its mission on Wednesday. 

Airbus is shuttering its Airbus A380 product line following lackluster sales. Less than 300 aircraft were sold and with the arrival of next-generation aircraft, airlines are finding it more profitable to operate more flights with smaller aircraft than fewer flights with larger aircraft. 

The final convoy carried parts destined to become an Airbus A380 for Emirates, the largest operator of the world's largest passenger plane.

Take a look at how the oversized convoy navigated the quiet French village. 

The final assembly line, or FAL, is where aircraft parts are pieced together to form the finished flyable product. Each manufacturer has its own supply chain that requires a unique form of transportation to deliver parts to their FALs.

Airbus Mobile FAL
An Airbus final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama.
Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

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Airbus and Boeing both have planes dedicated to transport aircraft parts. Airbus has the Beluga,

Airbus A300-600ST Beluga
An Airbus A300-600ST Beluga.
Skycolors/Shutterstock

Read More: Airbus's massive new cargo plane that looks like a whale is now fully operational

And Boeing has the 747 Dreamlifter.

Boeing 747 Dreamlifter
A Boeing 747-400BCF Dreamlifter.
Thiago B Trevisan / Shutterstock.com

Read More: Boeing's massive oversized cargo plane just flew its first COVID-19 mission from Hong Kong to South Carolina. Take a look at the 'Dreamlifter.'

But trucks, ships, and trains are still common modes of transport for aircraft manufacturers, especially when it comes to the world's largest passenger jet.

Airbus part transport
An Airbus A300 fuselage convoy.
Airbus

Airbus A380 parts are built across Europe in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom but the aircraft is assembled in Toulouse, France.

Airbus A380
An Airbus A380.
REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Source: Airbus

Getting there requires a complex system of ships, barges, and trucks that meet in Langon, France, near the French Atlantic coast, for the final haul to the final assembly line.

Airbus part transport
A barge transporting aircraft parts.
Airbus

Source: CNN

The rest of the journey to Toulouse is performed over the road using a convoy of trucks. The first convoy departed for Toulouse in April 2004, just over a year before the A380's first flight in 2005,

Airbus A380
The final Airbus A380 convoy.
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty

The French term for the route is the "Itineraraire a Grand Gabarit" and its schedule was often published online by the French government.

Airbus A380
The final Airbus A380 convoy.
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty

Source: French Ministry of Ecology

Roads had to be modified to the cost of $205 million and most towns were bypassed, except one.

Airbus A380
The final Airbus A380 convoy.
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty

Source: CNN

The convoy would pass directly through Levignac, an hour away from Toulouse for the convoy, in the middle of the night, with the fuselage larger than some of the town's buildings.

Airbus A380
The final Airbus A380 convoy.
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty

Source: CNN

The fuselage measures around 23 feet wide and a staggering 79 feet tall, not including the height of the truck bed.

Airbus A380 convoy
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty

A crowd would typically form to see the A380 convoy, which only proceeds at night through Levignac, but the June 17 convoy was special as it was the last one ever.

Airbus A380
The final Airbus A380 convoy.
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty

Source: CNN

After 15 years and less than 300 models built, the Airbus A380 program is coming to a close.

Airbus A380
An Airbus A380.
REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Emirates will receive the final Airbus A380 in 2021, with the airline responsible for keeping the product line alive until now.

emirates a380
An Emirates A380 convoy.
Nitis Petcharat / Shutterstock

The aircraft simply has no more new customers and cannot compete with new, next-generation aircraft.

Airbus A380
An Airbus A380 at the final assembly line.
Reuters/Jean Philippe Arles

The final A380 convoy carried model 272 to Toulouse.

Airbus A380
The final Airbus A380 fuselage.
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty

Photos of workers on the final project lined the fuselage, temporarily painted in green to protect the aluminum alloy.

Airbus A380
The final Airbus A380 fuselage.
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury was on hand to say goodbye to the aircraft that began production over a decade before he ascended to the top spot.

Airbus A380
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury at the final Airbus A380 convoy through Levignac.
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty

Airbus expects the product line to be completely closed in mid-2021 as no orders are coming in to keep the product line afloat.

Airbus A380
The final Airbus A380 convoy.
REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty

While it beat Boeing's iconic 747 in terms of size, the business case for the A380 at many airlines was quickly obsolete upon arrival of next-generation aircraft.

Boeing 747
The first flight of a Boeing 747.
AP

Read More: Air France just retired its Airbus A380 superjumbo jet, a superjumbo which made its first flight just 15 years ago. Here's how it went from airline status symbol to reject in just 10 years

Airlines wanted smaller, not larger and the years following the Airbus A380's first flight saw the arrival of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner,

Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Andia/Universal Images Group/Getty

Read More: Boeing's revolutionary 787 Dreamliner has changed air travel forever. Here's how the company left competitors in the dust with a risky $8 billion bet.

And the Boeing 777X, soon to be delivered to airlines.

Boeing 777X
A Boeing 777X aircraft in Washington.
JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

Read More: The second Boeing 777X just flew for the first time – take a look at the enormous new flagship Boeing hopes will be its redemption

The coronavirus pandemic only worsened the case for the Airbus A380 as it was among the first casualties for airlines attempting to lean their fleets.

British Airways Airbus A380
Grounded British Airways Airbus A380s.
GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty

Read More: Even more iconic planes are disappearing from the sky earlier than planned as the coronavirus continues to wreak airline havoc

The demand for the superjumbo quickly evaporated, which most major airlines send their Airbus A380s to temporary storage.

Lufthansa Airbus A380
Grounded Lufthansa Airbus A380s.
David Ramos/Getty

All hope isn't lost for the A380 as it's still finding purpose in this crisis thanks to charter airline Hi Fly.

HiFly Airbus A380
A Hi Fly Airbus A380.
VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com

The Portuguese airline has been offering the four-engine jet for medical charter and the coral reef-themed A380 recently flew an around-the-world mission to bring supplies to the Dominican Republic from China.

Hi Fly Airbus A380
A Hi Fly Airbus A380.
Hi Fly

Read More: The world's largest passenger plane just completed a 4-day trip around the world trip delivering medical supplies. Take a look inside Hi Fly's Airbus A380.

But for some airlines, the pandemic is just the right excuse to get rid of the A380.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380
A grounded Singapore Airlines Airbus A380.
Steve Strike/Getty

Get the latest Boeing stock price here.

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