Hearts broke around the world on Valentine’s Day 2019, when Airbus announced that it was pulling the plug on its superjumbo A380 airplane.
However, A380 fans can now get their hands on their very own piece of the first A380 to enter scheduled service, a Singapore Airlines craft which was retired in 2017.
German company Aviationtag, which specializes in upcycling scrapped airplanes, has created a limited run of one-of-a-kind tags made from the fuselage of Airbus A380 97-SKA, which is also notable for being the first A380 to hit the scrapheap.
Each tag, which can be used a keychain or simply as a collector’s item, is made from either the hull, wings or tail unit of the double-decker behemoth – a little slice of aviation history.
They’re sized around 1.5 by 3.5 inches (35 by 88 millimeters) and retail at €27.95 ($30.19).
The historic craft, with the manufacturer serial number MSN 003, entered service with Singapore Airlines on the Singapore-Sydney route on October 25, 2007, as flight number SQ380.
The Airbus A380 was developed at a cost of $25 billion, but the MSN 003 flew just 10 years with Singapore Airlines before being retired, transferred to Tarbes in France and recycled in 2019.
It was not only the first A380 to enter scheduled service, but the first of the wide-body liners to be scrapped.
“It’s a painful decision,” Airbus CEO Tom Enders said in 2019, announcing the decision to discontinue the airplane. “We’ve invested a lot of effort, a lot of resources and a lot of sweat into this aircraft.”
With a capacity of up to 853 passengers, the A380 was the largest mass-produced civil airliner in history, but Airbus overestimated airlines’ appetite for the superjumbo.
By the time of the 2019 announcement, it had delivered just 234 of the craft – less than a quarter of the 1,200 it had predicted when the double-decker was introduced.
Airlines’ interest had shifted to lighter, more fuel-efficient craft and that gleaming bright jumbo was becoming more of a white elephant.
Aviationtag has been upcycling aviation materials since 2006, and has turned everything from commercial craft like the Boeing 747 to military planes such as the DC-3 “candy bomber” into collector’s items.
However, the company’s vice president, Tobias Richter, tells CNN Travel that working on this A380 was particularly special.
“Besides the fact that this is one of the largest and heaviest aircrafts that has ever flown, it was up in the sky for only 10 years,” he says. “For us the story behind the actual aircraft is always very important and if planes could talk, the MSN 3 would have lots to tell.”
The last set of A380 wings left the Airbus factory in Broughton, Wales, at the start of February 2020 and the final delivery of the superjumbo is scheduled for mid-2021, with Emirates being its farewell customer.
Putting together the A380 was a mammoth task, befitting the world’s largest passenger airliner, involving four million parts sourced from 30 countries.
Fuselage sections came from Hamburg, Germany, and Saint-Nazaire, France; the horizontal tailplane was manufactured in Cadiz, Spain; and the vertical tail fin was also made in Hamburg.
The Final Assembly Line (FAL) is in the Jean-Luc Lagardere plant, a purpose-built facility at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in southern France.
Tarbes-based Tarmac Aerosave is the company responsible for taking apart the MSN 003 and announced the completion of its first A380 dismantling project in November 2019.
For Aviationtag, getting its hands on this A380 was a big deal.
“Often times people think it is so easy to just go out and buy aircraft material, but it is not,” explains Richter. “Companies at aircraft boneyards and teardown facilities get hundreds of calls and mails every day from people who want to buy some material from them.
“So you need to have a good reputation in the industry and also be well connected to actually get a chance to talk to the right people.”
All the tags come with serial numbers and registration details so fans can look up the craft’s history.
Charles Riley and Howard Slutsken contributed to this report.