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Formally called the A3XX, the A380 is a Superjumbo Jet. The A380 would be the world's first twin deck, twin aisle airliner. Airbus is calling it "the flagship of the 21st Century."
Despite a downturn in the global aviation market since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Airbus is continuing to develop its A380 superjumbo jet. But the Airbus is being careful to finance the project through cash flow in a bid to minimize borrowing.
Before Sept. 11, the financing plan appeared relatively straightforward because Airbus was booked solid to deliver a growing number of planes for the next several years, and was even planning to ramp up production. Last fall, EADS and BAE shelved those expansion plans and have successively reduced their output forecasts. Instead of producing 400 planes this year and even more next year, Airbus now expects to ship around 300 jetliners this year and next. The aviation market's slide appears to have slowed in recent weeks as passengers have begun flying again, but the impact on Airbus' cash flow is already significant.
Prior to September 11, 67 firms had orders plus 46 options had been placed for the A380 from eight airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, Air France, Qantas, Federal Express, and Emirates. To date, Airbus has already secured 97 orders worldwide for the A380. Sales forecasts for 751 A380 aircraft would represent a value of $172 billion. It only needs to sell 250 jets to break even though.
The A380, whose first flight is scheduled for 2006, has many advantages:
The A380 has adopted numerous innovative materials in order to lighten the weight of the aircraft:
Listen to NPR segment on the A380
Why we need the A380
Over the next 20 years, the air transport business is going to remain one of the world's great growth industries, requiring nearly 15,400 new aircraft worth $1.3 trillion.
is predicted to double by 2020, airport congestion is worsening and
passengers are demanding higher quality travel. Fortunately, the double
deck Airbus A380 could provide all the answers. Capable of carrying
between 500 and 800 passengers, it is Europe's attempt to put the
Boeing 747 out of business.
As passenger airlines increase frequencies on existing routes and operate additional routes, the number of departures will increase more rapidly than in the past. By the year 2019 airlines will be making 90 per cent more daily departures than today.
Since the number of departures will be unable to keep pace with the growth of traffic, the airlines will have to offer more seats per departure. Currently the average is 158, seats per departure and is predicted to reach 190 by the year 2019. As a result, to provide the required increase in capacity, the number of passenger aircraft in service will increase from currently 10,350 to 19,170 by the year 2019. Growth diagram
Out of fashion
dimensions of the superjumbo, which can carry 35% more passengers than
its nearest rival Boeing's 747, seem oddly out of place in the current
climate. In the grip of an economic slowdown and the aftermath of the
September 11 attacks on the US, the airline industry is struggling to
stem over capacity on its existing airplanes.
Some are even looking to decommission aircraft, leaving them lying in the desert until
passenger numbers pick up. Decommissioned aircraft chart Stored Aircraft by Manufacturer
executive, Noel Forgeard, said the A380 "plays the role of a bridge
between the aerospace industries of Japan and Europe."
|Role||Civil air transport|
|First flight||2005 (projected)|
|First commercial flight||2006 (projected)|
|Length||73 m||293 ft 6 in|
|Wingspan||79.8 m||261 ft 10 in|
|Height||24.1 m||79 ft 1 in|
|Wing area||845 m²||9,100 ft²|
|Empty||280,000 kg||617,300 lb|
|Maximum takeoff||560,000 kg||1,235,000 lb|
|Capacity||Up to 555 (3-class)
Up to 840 (1-class)
|Freight cap.||38 LD3s or 13 pallets|
|Engines||Four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 or Engine Alliance GP7200 turbofans|
|Thrust||271,560 lbf||1,208 kN|
|Cruising speed||0.85 M (approx 561 mph)||approx 902 km/h|
|Maximum speed||0.89 M (approx 587 mph)||approx 945 km/h|
|Operating range||9,383 miles||15,100 km|
|Service ceiling||43,000 ft||13,100 m|
|Rate of climb||ft/min||m/min|
The Airbus A380, known for many years during its development phase as the Airbus A3XX, will be the largest airliner in the world by a substantial margin when it enters service. The aircraft, manufactured by Airbus Industrie, is scheduled to start flying in 2005, with deliveries to start in 2006. Launch customers include Lufthansa, Emirates Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Air France, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, and International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC). In July 2004, Etihad Airways purchased four Airbus A380 for delivery in 2007, at the same time as the first A380 prototypes began to emerge from the Toulouse assembly plant.
The new Airbus will initially be sold in two versions: the A380-800, a full double-decker configuration, with the ability to carry 555 passengers, in a three-class configuration, for 8,000 nautical miles (14,800 km), and the A380-800F dedicated freighter, to carry 150 tonnes for 5,600 miles (10,400 km).
Airbus intend to continue their well-established policy of making cockpit layout, procedures and handling characteristics as similar to other Airbus aircraft as possible: This reduces crewing and training costs and increases safety (as crew only have to learn a single set of procedures for many different types).
Power is provided by a choice of Rolls-Royce Trent 900 or Engine Alliance GP7200 turbojet engines. From an early strong position, the launch engine and winner of initial competitions, the Rolls-Royce Trent has been beaten into 2nd place by the GP7200. While the Engine Alliance and Rolls-Royce have won equal number of competitions, the GE/PW consortium has a larger market share due to the quantity of A380s ordered by their customers.
In the years prior to the decision to begin the project, both Airbus and arch-rival Boeing had spent a great deal of effort on considering the very-large-airliner market. Although both manufacturers issued varying statements from time to time, the unspoken but clear consensus was that there was probably room for one maker to be profitable in the 600 to 800 seat market segment, but not two. Both were conscious of the graphic illustration of the business risk involved in splitting a niche market provided by the simultaneous debut of the Douglas DC-10 and the Lockheed Tristar: similarly sized tri-jet widebody airliners, either one of which would have profitably filled the gap between the Douglas DC-8 and the Boeing 747 if only the other one had not taken half its market. Having seen first Lockheed and then Douglas run into financial difficulties and be forced out of the air transport industry, Airbus and Boeing were very conscious that the decision to build a 600 seat airliner could not be taken lightly. Airbus has initially approched Boeing with an offer to develop the plane together, but Boeing declined. Boeing may have feared that a larger plane may threaten Boeing 747 sales.
Neither manufacturer could afford the enormous capital cost of developing an all-new airliner, especially one of A380 size, unless there was a reasonable expectation of having exclusive access to the market segment - and yet neither could afford not to develop a 600 seater if the other didn't. To do nothing would be to cede market leadership to the competition.
The initial advantage was with Boeing. Boeing's 747, although designed in the 1960s, had been kept up-to-date and was larger than Airbus' largest jet, the A340. For many airlines, the extra size of the 747 made that type a "must buy" for their highest density routes, and the cost advantages of fleet commonality were an incentive to buy smaller Boeings as well. There was room to stretch the 747-400 and still retain reasonable seat-distance costs, while the A340, in its A340-600 version, has reached its upper limit.
After years of design studies and airline surveys, Airbus finally made the decision to go ahead with the € 8.2 billion A380 project in 1999 which finally was over budget up to about € 12 billion. The design strategy was carefully crafted. Merely by being very large, the A380 could achieve much better seat-distance costs than any other aircraft (just as the 747 had done in 1969). Because the A340 wing was too small to be efficient at the sort of gross weights required for a 600 seater, an all-new design was needed. Given that the cost of starting from scratch was necessary in any case, Airbus chose not to select a wing that would be optimally efficient at around the 600 tonne maximum gross weight of the A380, but to aim it at the 750 tonne class instead. In doing this they sacrificed some fuel efficiency (because the A380 wing is too big for it) but the sheer size of the design coupled with the incremental advances in technology over the years still allows Airbus to claim 15% better economics than a 747 or an A340. The payoff for Airbus is that it will be a relatively easy task to make still bigger versions of the A380 which will reach their optimum cost-efficiency somewhere around the 700 to 800 passenger mark - close to twice the size of a 747-400.
For Boeing, the announcement of the A380 was a major blow: already faced with heavy expenditure to replace the aging mid-sized 767 line, Boeing were then placed in the awkward position of having to replace their flagship 747 as well, or else cede market leadership to Europe. Boeing's first action was to announce the Sonic Cruiser concept - a 767-sized near-sonic aircraft that would compete on speed instead of size and economics, but a general lack of market interest has seen this project cancelled. Boeing has announced a plan to replace the 767 with the 7E7 Dreamliner but their intentions in the over 400 seat market remain unknown. It is believed, however, Boeing will eventually announce its plan on the next generation 747 as they are currently working with their customers on the 747 Advanced.
Despite the cyclical downturn that first gripped the airline industry in 2001, the A380 has been ordered by nine airlines so far. Perhaps more significantly, Airbus holds a substantial order from AIG's aircraft leasing unit, ILFC, which indicates that industry analysts expect airline demand for aircraft in this size class to be strong in the later years of the decade. Current firm A380 orders stand at 129, including 17 freighter versions. Break-even is estimated to be around 250 to 300 units. Emirates have ordered over 42 of these airframes.
Initial publicity, particularly from the airlines which have ordered it, has stressed the ability of the A380 to provide increased room and comfort, with open space areas to be used as relaxation space, bars, duty free shops, and the like. Historically, the same type of prediction has always been made when a new, larger aircraft is announced - the 747 is an obvious example - but the economics of airline operation are such that the extra space is nearly always used for additional seating. (One exception to this rule is Virgin Atlantic, which has a bar in Business Class on most of its newer airliners.) Given the history of the air transport industry to date, the key change that the A380 will bring to travellers is not extra comfort or lavish in-flight facilities, but more of the same difference that the 747 made - more seats and lower seat-distance costs. It should however be noted that, at 555 passengers, the A380 represents a 35% capacity increase over the 747-400 in standard 3 class configuration, while the aircraft has almost 50% more actual space in the cabin. This should at the very least translate into a more spacious economy class, something which will be well received by the travelling public, however aviation economics may see this be either a hypothetical or at least short lived configuration.
No official list price has been announced, but sources ("Cliff Hangar (http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/article/0,13005,901050124-1018025,00.html)." Time Europe Magazine. Accessed on Jan 16, 2005.) place list price, which is often discounted at volume orders, at €225 million.
|Malaysian Airlines||6||None||Trent 900|
|Singapore Airlines||10||None||Trent 900|
|Thai Airways International||6||None||Trent 900?|
|Virgin Atlantic||6||6||Trent 900|