Airbus SAS, the world’s largest plane maker, tomorrow will unveil its A380, the world’s largest passenger plane. Cool photos.

The A380 will surpass Boeing Co.’s 35-year-old 747 as the world’s largest passenger plane and is meant to help the Toulouse, France-based plane maker maintain its lead in sales and deliveries over Boeing, said Airbus Chief Executive Noel Forgeard on Jan. 12. Boeing has no plan for a competing aircraft.

Airbus last month forecast that it will win as many as 700 contracts for the A380 in the next 20 years, out of a total market for 1,250 planes seating at least 400 passengers and 398 freighter versions. The planemaker expects the A380 will break even with 250 orders. Boeing’s industrywide estimate for larger airliners, by contrast, is only one-third of Airbus’s.

“This is a plane for big airports, flying to other big airports,” said Joseph Campbell, an analyst at Lehman Brothers in New York who has “overweight/positive” ratings on European Aeronautic, Defense & Space Co., Airbus’s parent, and Chicago- based Boeing. “Maybe there’s not room for two planes, but now, there’s only one.”

The double-decker A380 has a wingspan of 80 meters (262 feet), almost the length of an American football field. It’s 73 meters long and weighs as much as 569 tons (1.2 million pounds) when fully loaded for takeoff. It will have a range of 8,000 nautical miles (14,820 kilometers) compared with 7,600 nautical miles for the Boeing 747-400. The first plane is supposed to enter service in June 2006 with Singapore Airlines Ltd.

The A380’s freighter version, which will begin flying commercially in 2008, will have three decks and be able to carry as much as 152 tons of cargo as far as 5,600 nautical miles.

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