One of the biggest and one of the smallest commercial airplanes took to the skies during the past year. In April, the world's largest passenger airliner, the Airbus A380 Navigator, made its maiden flight over the company's Toulouse, France, assembly plant. Soon thereafter the first alcohol-powered aircraft, the EMB 202 Ipanema crop duster, was introduced by Brazil's Indústria Aeronáutica Neiva, a subsidiary of Embraer SA.
A few months later at the Paris Air Show, the massive A380 superjumbo jet wowed the crowds of onlookers, who were amazed to hear how quiet it was. Designed to carry 555 to 800 passengers, which is at least a third more than the current airline heavyweight, the Boeing 747, the twin-aisle double-decker from Airbus will weigh 570,000 kilograms when fully loaded. The plane's wings span 80 meters, 15 meters more than a 747's, and the jet provides 50 percent more floor space. Yet on a per-seat basis, the A380's four turbofans burn 12 percent less fuel than a 747's engines do.