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Airbus A380 not coming to Hartsfield-Jackson

By Justin Boron

Airbus may have created the world's largest commercial jet. But it won't be coming to Atlanta any time in the near future.

Ben DeCosta, the aviation general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said the airport isn't approved to land the A380 and didn't think the market would support the double-decker jet, capable of carrying as many as 555 passengers.

The airport also would require a major overhaul to accommodate the $280 million jet, he said.

"It would cost millions," DeCosta said.

The airport, already entrenched in a $6 billion expansion, would require even more federal money to bring the plane to Atlanta, said Felicia Browder, the assistant manager for public relations at the airport.

DeCosta said, at the very least, the taxiways would need to be widened.

Then, he said, there is the problem of loading the passengers in the airport's narrow concourse.

"You've got to load 500 people, and you can't do it through one door," DeCosta said.

Boarding for passengers would likely require redesigning the gates, he said.

Implementing the plane on a widescale level would require close cooperation from all of the airlines and other airports in the region, Browder said.

Given the state of the airline industry, she said she doubted airlines could commit to such a costly endeavor.

The Orlando International Airport is approved to land the plane, but also will require about $20 million in taxiway widenings.

Like airport officials, Boeing - Airbus' competitor - also has said many of the world's airports would not be retrofitted to accommodate the plane.

With very few airports prepared, Browder said there would be little use for the plane that could land at only a few places in the country.

But Airbus expects the first commercial flight to be sometime in March 2006, when Singapore Airlines will depart London for

Singapore.

It also claims 50 planes are ready.

Airport officials admit they see the possible benefits of the new plane, which some in the airline industry say would stem from its fuel efficiencies for passengers and cargo.

But for the Atlanta airport, the practicality doesn't outweigh the cost.

"It's just not the time or the place," Browder said. "That's just the mind of the (airport's) leadership right now."

Browder also said she didn't expect Hartsfield-Jackson as an international airport to suffer as a result of not landing the A380.

"We definitely consider ourselves an industry leader," she said. "We just have to be practical."