Superjumbo's last landing at doomed airfield
IT was a moment that may well go into the history books – the last time an A380 superjumbo landed at Filton Airfield.
The huge plane, the biggest commercial aircraft in operation, was partly designed at Airbus's sprawling plant in South Gloucestershire.
And the flight marked the final chapter in what has been a long and distinguished history for the aviation industry at the airfield.
Landowner BAE Systems is closing the airfield on New Year's Day and the runway, one of the longest in the UK, is expected to disappear to make way for new housing developments.
The record-breaking A380 aircraft is the last in a long line of aircraft to have been associated with Filton – which was the birthplace of the British aviation industry.
Bosses at Airbus say it will be business as usual at the Filton factory even though in the past wings made in South Gloucestershire were transported by plane to the firm's assembly plant in the south of France.
The airfield is due to close for good on New Year's Eve but Airbus expect to stop using the runaway by the middle of December. The firm also has a charter service to ferry its staff to its various centres around Europe including Hamburg, Toulouse, Seville and Broughton in North Wales.
The company refused to confirm if the A380 was making its final flight to Bristol but there are no more visits planned between now and the end of the year.
The decision to shut the airfield came just over a year after the airfield celebrated its centenary.
Aeroplane manufacturing first started in Filton in 1910 when Sir George White, the owner of Bristol Tramways, created the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company. A small flying ground was set up opposite Fairlawn Avenue in 1911, at the top of Filton Hill, and the First World War led to rapid growth of the firm.
The company turned out thousands of Bristol Fighters and in 1915 the aircraft works expanded and the Royal Flying Corps established Filton Aerodrome.
The Bristol Aeroplane Company emerged from the airfield and the RAF had a based there. The RAF squadron was equipped with Hawker Hurricanes by 1939 and formed part of the British forces sent to France.
The airfield also played a major role in the D Day operation with many of the American casualties brought to the airfield and then treated at Frenchay Hospital.
Aircraft produced during the Second World War included the Blenheim, Beaufort, Beaufighter and Brigand. After the war the runway was extended to accommodate the Bristol Brabazon airliner.
The huge Brabazon Hangar was built in the late 1940s and at the time, the hangar doors and the railway level crossing for the aircraft were the largest in the world.
In 1948, the RAF 501 Squadron was equipped with De Havilland Vampire jets and they became a common sight in the Filton skies in the 1950s.
The British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) flew its Lockheed Constellations and Boeing Stratocruisers into Filton to be serviced in the Brabazon Hangar.
The 1960s and 1970s saw the development and production of Concorde at Filton and a further extension of the runway.
The airfield is home to one of the last Concordes but there is doubt about where it will finally be housed after a bid for lottery funding for a heritage centre failed.