Emirates Airline unveiled a giant model of an Airbus A380 at the gateway to Heathrow Airport.

The 45-tonne world record contender was unveiled this morning at the Emirates Roundabout by the airline's President Tim Clark.

The completion of the giant A380 replica is the culmination of an ambitious 18-month project to place the Dubai-based carrier at the gateway to the world's busiest international airport, and at one of the most prestigious advertising sites in the UK.

Tim Clark said: “The gateway to the world's busiest international airport is a fitting home for Emirates. We expect this landmark site to become an icon for both Heathrow and Emirates. While the previous Concorde model represented the past, our A380 represents the future – and it is a future of cleaner, quieter aircraft."

Mr Clark added, “You will be seeing the Emirates A380 at Heathrow for real from December 1st, and in the near future, Emirates will be the largest operator of A380s at this airport. In the meantime, our model is a taste of things to come – eye-catching, stylish and innovative.''

Duncan Garrood, Commercial Director of BAA, which owns the site, said: “The Emirates Roundabout at Heathrow is one of the most high-profile advertising sites in the UK. Over 55,000 vehicles a day and approximately 25 million passengers a year, pass this site. BAA are absolutely delighted to be working with one of our key business partners, Emirates, to produce a model of what we believe, is one of the most iconic images of 21st century air travel, the A380.''

Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Customers, John Leahy, was on hand to see the model unveiled. He said: “It is fitting that the world's largest commercial aircraft is replicated by what we believe is the world's biggest aircraft model at the world's busiest international airport. The A380 cements Airbus' reputation for innovation and cutting edge technology, allowing the world's premier airlines like Emirates to do more with less: more passengers with less fuel, more comfort with less noise, and more travel with less environmental impact.''

The one third-scale model was flown in ten component parts to Heathrow on July 5. Since then, specialist teams have been working around the clock to launch Emirates' "first" A380.

The replica was built by US-based Penwal at its manufacturing base in California over a six month period, using plans provided by the A380's manufacturer, Airbus in Toulouse. It was then transported by giant truck to Ontario Airport in Los Angeles where it was flown to Heathrow aboard a massive Antonov cargo plane, organised by the Emirates SkyCargo team.

A special mechanical ramp was flown into London from Germany to offload the plane as it was too heavy for the Antonov's winch crane. The wing section of the plane required a police escort as it was driven from Heathrow to the roundabout site.

The world's leading aviation museum, The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, has stated it is the largest known aircraft model in existence. A world record submission is currently with Guinness World Records.

Model quick facts include:
Weighs more than 45 tonnes
Wingspan of 26 metres and a length of 24 metres
Same size as a real Boeing 737
Exact 1:3 scale of the real A380, the world's largest airliner
More than twice the size of the roundabout's previous Concorde model
Made of glass-reinforced plastic over a steel frame
Foundations required 600 tonnes of concrete
Emirates currently flies to 101 cities in 61 countries across six continents. The Emirates' network is continuing to expand and in addition to services to Cape Town, Guangzhou, and Calicut which launched earlier this year, Los Angeles and San Francisco will start later in 2008.