A jumbo welcome for A380

GLASGOW rolled out the red carpet to welcome the world's biggest passenger jet when it touched down in Scotland for the first time.

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The flight was a birthday present from the Middle East airline Emirates to toast a 10-year-old link between the airport and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

And they did it in style. Airline chiefs, who took delivery of their newest £248 million A380 just 14 days ago, spruced it up by painting the distinctive Commonwealth Games logo "G" on the fuselage above "Glasgow 2014" and the message "Official Partner."

They also hand picked cabin crew who had been born and bred in towns near Glasgow. Iain Weir, the pilot who was chosen to fly the double decker plane from 3600 miles from Dubai into Glasgow, is a Clydebank boy.

The plane is so big it was first spotted still miles away from the airport as it began its descent. More than six thousand spectators gathered around the airport's perimeter fence to watch in awe as flight EK027 parted black rain clouds on its final approach to the airport after flying over Iain's home town.

The plane flew majestically over the airfield before looping back in to land. The manoeuvre meant the historic touch down took place seven minutes beyond the scheduled landing of 12.35pm. But, as airport workers and plane spotters gawped in wonder, no one seemed to care.

Minutes after climbing out of the cockpit the proud pilot explained away the brief delay by admitting: "It was just a minor technical issue we had to investigate." He gave no further details.

But the dad-of-two, who lives in Dubai with his family, was fully aware of the significance of the flight.

He said: "It was amazing. I am really privileged to have been chosen to fly the first A380 to Glasgow."

He was the co-pilot on the first Emirates flight out of Glasgow but said modestly: "I was not expecting to be chosen. There are other Scots chaps who could have been picked."

And Iain made no secret of his wish to fly more of the double decker "Super Jumbos" between Glasgow and the UAE.

He added: "I would love it to become a regular route."

He found it "very exciting" to fly over Clydebank, where he was born and raised before landing his first job with the now defunct West of Scotland Flying Club, which was based at Glasgow Airport.

Iain brought with him 476 passengers to Scotland, including almost 60 Emirates officials and VIP guests. The flight took more than seven hours.

After touching down, Iain left the airport to spend the night with family and friends before flying back out to Dubai today as a VIP -very important passenger.

The plane, with shower spas and a passenger lounge with its own bar, is able to seat 517 travellers. There were just a handful of empty seats when the jet disappeared in cloud above Scotland as it headed home. Take off was scheduled for 3.35pm but was delayed for almost half an hour as a result of media interviews over running.

Airport boss Amanda McMillan used just one word to sum up the day - fabulous.

She added: "I feel emotionally high. It has been one of my proudest days."

But Emirates' executive Hubert Frach brought flight fans down to earth when he cautioned: "We have no immediate plans to change the current service."

However, he offered a glimmer of hope that Glasgow could join a number of English airports and become an A380 hub. "Never say never," said Mr Frach.

gordon.thomson@ eveningtimes.co.uk


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