Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer, has started a program for developing the largest aircraft ever built, the Airbus A380, which will beable to carry between550 and 800 passengers on twodecks. The six components of the airplane (two wings, the rear, central, and front fuselages, and the horizontal tail plane) are to be produced in different European cities. They need to be transported from these cities to Toulouse, France, for assembly,and several means of transportation have been investigated.
The solution chosen by Airbus in coordination with the French government is to carry the components by boat from each production site toLangon, a harbour near Bordeaux. From there, the parts will be tansported to Toulouse by road using truck convoys.The very first convoy was carried out in spring 2004. Driving the six A380 components on trucks between two cities 200 km apart is a real challenge. Indeed, the sizes of the trucks together with their freights can reach 12.5 m in height, 8m in width, and 50 m in length. Each A380 component is carried by a trailer truck, giving rise to a convoy of six huge vehicles. Two types of trailer trucks have been devised. Due to the size of the freights, the convoys are unable to usethe highway, which passes under more than 100 bridges.Instead, Airbus and the French government came to an agreement by which the government would establish an itinerary dedicated to oversized convoys across the countryside. The itinerary includes minor roads crossing small villages. The transport will be carried out by night while the traffic is cutoff along segments of the itinerary. Two critical narrow passages have been identified in Lévignac and Gimont.The sizes of the freights, the lengthof the itinerary, and the narrowness of the critical passages constitute a challenge that classical transportation techniques in the domain of oversized convoys cannot easily overcome.