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In rural France about an hour outside the southwestern city of Toulouse is a large parking lot set between fields. Here is where a truck convoy carrying six pieces of a giant A380 airliner rest during the day as they drive from a port near Bordeaux to Airbus' Toulouse factory for final assembly.

To avoid fouling daytime traffic, the trucks hauling the wings, tailplane and three fuselage sections travel over the course of two nights on the 150-mile journey. And because the parts are so enormous (the tailplane is 45 feet high when resting on a trailer), the convoy must avoid overpasses and stick to country roads instead.

The twice-monthly convoys are a bizarre and strangely wonderful sight that the public is free to witness. But if you can't make it to France, keep clicking to ride along for a night with the Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit (in English, "oversize convoy route").

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The parking area, which Airbus specially built for the convoys, is surrounded by tall fences and guarded during the day. When we arrived at 10 p.m., the convoy was just coming to life as drivers warmed up their trucks and the support crews began to assemble. We were free to walk around and gawk, which we did.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Separate trucks haul the 150-foot long wings, which are tipped on their sides. From this angle, it was hard to imagine them lifting an aircraft and hundreds of people into the air.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Each wing is covered in what looked like a sort of shrink wrap. Brilliantly white under the tall lights surrounding the lot, I imagine that it would be great fun to remove.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Instead of being shipped in two sections, the tailplane (or the horizontal stabilizer) arrives in Toulouse in one piece, ready to be attached to the fuselage. Made mostly of composite material, it's a pale yellow color.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The largely aluminum fuselage sections are pea-soup green. The nose was wrapped to protect the cockpit windows and radome on the aircraft's nose. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The middle fuselage section is the longest at 76.1 feet. The fuselage section are assembled in Germany and elsewhere in France, the wings in the United Kingdom, and the tailplane in Spain.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The rear fuselage section narrows to a point at its end. When it arrives in Toulouse, it will be joined to the other sections to form the A380's 238-foot fuselage.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The passenger windows and doors are already cut into each section. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Parked next to each other, the trucks carrying the wings make for a curious sight.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As the convoy gets ready to depart on its journey, escort vans and motorcycles assemble in a formation surrounding the trucks.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Each truck carries the very appropriate warning sign "Convoi Exceptionelle."

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As the convoy begins to move, we jump into a van and race ahead through the town of Ordan-Larroque to a crossroads in the middle of nowhere. Just before the convoy arrives, motorcycle riders race in to pause traffic. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The wings were the first to rumble by. The convoy travels between 6.2 and 15.5 miles per hour.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As we watched, the trucks turned the corner and disappeared behind a hill. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Next came the tailplane. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The fuselage sections are arranged in the convoy from front to back. It's almost as if the aircraft was flying along the ground. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Just think that in a few week's time, passengers will be sitting inside this section, watching movies and eating a meal as they fly through the air. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

After the rear fuselage section passed by, the darkness returned and we got back into the van to drive ahead of the convoy again. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Next we parked at the entrance to the village of Gimont. A giant A380 wing is about the last thing you'd expect to see passing over this old stone bridge. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As before, the tailplane followed.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

And the fuselage sections bring up the rear.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It takes about 15 minutes for the trucks to pass by. The convoy can be up to a mile-and-a-quarter long.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The trucks slowed as they entered Gimont's cener. After midnight by this time, only two locals came out to watch. When the convoys first started in 2003, though, they were spectator events. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Trees along the convoy route are kept trimmed and some road signs are temporarily removed.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The convoy barely fits down Gimont's main street. In the morning, it will reach Toulouse and assembly of this A380 can begin. About eight months after that, it will begin carrying passengers. 

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET
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