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Today I noticed a Lufthansa A380 taking off from Prague and … flying to Vienna. And the FlightRadar track looks like it didn't even stop here. It starts with the plane turning off the runway at the end, shows it taking half an hour to taxi back to the beginning and taking off again. And yes, the track immediately follows the one for the flight from Leipzig, which in turn suggests it didn't stop in Leipzig either.

Looking up the flights LH9860, LH9861, LH9862 and LH9863 shows that they've been flying that short loop regularly for at least a couple of days with two different aircraft.

Does anybody have an idea why they are doing these flights?

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    $\begingroup$ It must be crew training as part of bringing the A380s back into service? $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ The vast majority of training needs for any aircraft type is for takeoff and landing - how to configure for takeoff, when to reject a takeoff, when to go around when attempting to land, etc. It would be a waste of time (and fuel and labor costs) to use 4 hour flights for refresher training. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ My guess is they're trying to retain their landing slot rights. If they don't use their slots in a certain timeframe, they can be forfeited. This may be combined with A380 training and test flight requirements at the same time. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 2:52
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    $\begingroup$ @user71659, no, it's not about landing slots, because they never operated an A380 to Prague and I don't think they want to; it's not an important hub. The only airline that operated an A380 here was Emirates (to Dubai) and they've switched to a 777 some time ago. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Aug 7, 2023 at 5:16
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec No, the size of the airplane generally doesn't matter when it comes to landing slots. That's the whole point of the A380, it consumes 1 slot, the same as the 777, while carrying ~35% more passengers. That's exactly why I said it's merged with training. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Commented Aug 7, 2023 at 18:14

2 Answers 2

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Lufthansa is currently in the process of re-activating four of its Airbus A380s, which were placed in storage during the pandemic. Part of this process is re-training the pilots, partially in the simulator, but also with training flights in the real aircraft:

But before the four reactivated Lufthansa Airbus A380s can take off from Munich again, the crews have to be retrained. This also happens in the simulator. Flight training will also follow in May [...]

(aerotelegraph.com, in German, translated by Google)

The first training in May included touch-and-gos at Leipzig/Halle as well as several short flights:

The cockpit crew of Lufthansa's first reactivated Airbus A380 practiced a total of ten touch-and-go maneuvers in Leipzig/Halle. [...]

There are said to be plans for a route that also includes two landings abroad. Accordingly, it is planned that Lufthansa's A380 will fly the following route: Munich - Leipzig/Halle - Berlin - Dresden - Prague - Vienna - Munich. [...]

According to the information, this route will be flown eight times in May, presumably also with D-AIMK.

(aerotelegraph.com, in German, translated by Google)

These training flights in May have also been announced by Lufthansa News on Twitter:

Next on the #A380 D-AIMK Training-Flightschedule: 03.05.2023 FRA-LEJ (LH9860): 10:00 LT, LEIJ-PRG (LH9861): 11:10 LT, PRG-VIE (LH9862): 12:00 LT, VIE-MUC (LH9863) 12:45 LT.

(twitter.com)

I'm not sure if they also announced the training flights in August, but two more A380s will be re-activated in October, so it makes sense to start the training now:

In addition, a daily connection from Munich to Los Angeles will be available from October 5th - and from October 28th we will offer you daily flights to the vibrant Thai metropolis of Bangkok.

(lufthansa.com, in German, translated by Google)

Another two A380s will follow in 2024 (aerotelegraph.com), so we can expect to see some more of these training flights over the coming months.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's still the same flight numbers, just the time has shifted to the evening. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Aug 7, 2023 at 5:20
  • $\begingroup$ Would there be any passengers aboard during these short hops? $\endgroup$
    – Landak
    Commented Aug 7, 2023 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Landak No, they didn't even go to a gate after landing at their intermediate stops. They just taxied back to runway to takeoff again. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Commented Aug 7, 2023 at 8:40
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These flights are for revalidation of crew licenses. Lufthansa is resuming A380 operations, after a 3-year long break. Since their pilots didn't get to fly, their licenses lapsed.

Most of the renewal training can be done in the simulator, but a few take-offs and landings have to performed on the real aircraft. To do this, Lufthansa makes tours of short flights around their A380 base to efficiently get their pilots final part of the re-training done. I assume they switch partial crew in-flight and/or during taxiing.

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