The world's biggest civil airplane, the Airbus A380 has landed at Shannon as part of a series of touch and go tests being undertaken before it goes into commercial operation at the end of this year.

The A380 carries 555 passengers and can fly at 850km/h at altitudes of 43,000ft.

It is one of the biggest aircraft ever built and has been doing a series of test flights since early September to various destinations around the world, culminating in a 15-hour flight on 8 September last.

The plane was built to cater for the demand for more air passenger travel. Airbus has orders for 159 of the large aircraft from 16 customers worldwide.

Heathrow Airport is likely to be the first European airport destination for the A380 when it begins commercial life later this year.

The airport has had to construct a completely new three-storey pier just to be able to accommodate the aircraft's massive size.

It will conduct a number of touch and go landings only at Shannon before returning to the Airbus base in Toulouse in southern France.

Its sheer size prevents it parking at the terminal building.

Shannon is used by airlines all over the world as a training airport.