|Airbus A380-800 |
| Artist's depiction of an Airbus A380 |
|Role ||Civil air transport |
|Crucial crew ||2 |
|First flight ||2005 (projected) |
|First commercial flight ||2006 (projected) |
|Manufacturer ||Airbus |
|Length ||73 m ||239 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 ||1,208 kN ||271,560 lbf || |
|Cruising speed ||0.85 M (approx 902 km/h) ||approx 561 mph |
|Maximum speed ||0.89 M (approx 945 km/h) ||approx 587 mph |
|Operating range ||15,100 km ||9,383 miles |
|Service ceiling ||13,100 m ||43,000 ft |
|Rate of climb ||m/min ||ft/min |
The Airbus A380 manufactured by Airbus S.A.S. is a double-decker, four engined airliner capable of flying 800 passengers in a high density format or 555 passengers in a typical three-class configuration. The aircraft is scheduled to commence flight tests in March 2005 with deliveries to start in 2006.
The 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 A380 was unveiled in a lavish ceremony in Toulouse, France, on January 18, 2005. Its Manufacturer's serial number (MSN) was 001 with the registration F-WWOW.
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 conguration, or up to 800 passengers in a single economy configuration, for 8,000 nautical miles (14,800 km), and the A380-800F dedicated freighter, to carry 150 tons for 5,600 miles (10,400 km).
Airbus operates 16 manufacturing sites across Europe, most of which produce parts for the new A380 airliner.
In a first step, the front and rear sections of the fuselage are loaded on an Airbus ro-ro ship,Ville de Bordeaux, in Hamburg, northern Germany, whence they are shipped to the United Kingdom. There the huge wings, which are manufactured at Filton in Bristol and Broughton in north Wales, are transported by barge to Mostyn docks, where the ship adds them to its cargo. In Saint-Nazaire, western France, the ship trades the fuselage sections from Hamburg for larger, assembled sections, some of which include the nose. The ship unloads in Bordeaux. Afterwards, the ship picks up the belly and tail sections in Cadiz, southern Spain, and delivers them to Bordeaux.
From there, the A380 parts are transported by barge to Langon, and by road to Toulouse, where the A380s are assembled before being flown to Hamburg to be furnished and painted.
Airbus continues 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.
Power is provided by a choice of Rolls-Royce Trent 900 and Engine Alliance GP7200 turbofan engines. The Rolls-Royce Trent, the launch engine and winner of initial competitions, had an early strong position however the Engine Alliance GP7200 recovered sales with each engine taking approximately half the market share at this time.
In the years prior to the decision to begin the project, both Airbus and Boeing had spent a great deal of effort on cornering 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 civil air transport industry, Airbus and Boeing were very conscious that the decision to build a 600 seat airliner could not be taken lightly. Airbus & Boeing had worked together on intial designs for a 600+ seater aircraft, but this co-operation did not last long. 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 did not. To do nothing would be to cede market leadership to the competition.
The initial advantage was with Boeing, the incumbent. 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, had reached the limit for any further increase in length of the model.
The A3XX was re_branded as the A380 in 2001, with the announcement of Singapore Airlines as the launch customer. The number '8' has significance in Asia, for sounding similiar to the word for 'luck' (see also the Boeing 787). Final assembly began in 2004, with first aircraft (MSN001) being 'revealed' to the world in January 2005. The aircraft has cost in excess of $10 billion to develop.
The first completed A380 at the "A380 Reveal" event in Toulouse
The first completed A380 at the "A380 Reveal" event in Toulouse
Mock_up of the A380 flight deck.
After years of design studies and airline surveys, Airbus finally made the decision to go ahead with the € 8.8 billion A380 project in 1999 , the final budget settling at about € 12 billion. The design strategy was carefully crafted and by being very large the A380 achieves much better seat-distance costs than any other aircraft. The 747 achieved this in 1969 by being a wide body jet as opposed to the A380's double-decker configuration with early concept 747 double-decker designs rejected for many reasons.
The A380 features an all-new wing design after it was found the A340 wing was too small to be efficient at the sort of gross weights required for a 600 seat aircraft and rather than settle for a 600 tonne wing design instead aimed the wing design at 750 tonnes. This sacrificed some fuel efficiency but the sheer size of the design coupled with the incremental advances in technology over the years allows Airbus to claim 15 percent better economics than a 747 or an A340. The rationale for this design is that Airbus will be able to produce 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.
While the A380 was being sold to the airlines, Boeing shopped the concept of the 747X, which was to be a version of the 747 with the "hump" at the front of the aircraft extended further back for more passenger room but failed to garner enough interest from the airlines. Boeing subsequently announced a plan to replace the 757 and the 767 with the 787 Dreamliner leaving their intentions in the market for over 400 seats unknown. Based on their work with existing clients on the 747 Advanced there is some speculation that Boeing will eventually announce their plans for the next generation 747.
Despite the cyclical downturn that first gripped the airline industry in 2001, the A380 has been ordered by fourteen 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 154, including 17 freighter versions. Break-even is estimated to be around 250 to 300 units. Airbus CEO Noel Forgeard has said that the company expects to sell 750 of the aircraft. Many market analysts claim that even these expectations are too high and that a number around 600 is more realistic.
On-board amenities and size
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 and has announced plans to include casinos on their A380 models.) 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 percent capacity increase over the 747-400 in standard three-class configuration, while the aircraft has almost 50 percent more actual space in the cabin which should at least translate into a more spacious economy class.
It should also be noted that the A380's double decker configuration has mandated that airports reconfigure their gates for efficient loading and unloading from the A380 and bi-level gates are expected.
Both public and industrial opinion of the aircraft is mixed. Whilst amazing all with it's sheer size, the worry amongst the public is that the increase in the number of passengers will just lead to overcrowding of facilities and delays. However, the A380 is not such a step increase in size as was the 747, and although the people may not desire to travel with 500+ other people in a single aircraft, this could be heavily outweighed by much-reduced prices made possible by bulk-carrying.
Additionally, much talk has been made of the potential to cram close to 900 people into the A380; however, it is also possible to configure a 747 in a 600+ seat layout, yet no carrier has chosen to do so.
No official list price has been announced, but it is estimated at around $230 million. Carriers often receive large discounts however for volume purchases.
Airbus A380 (mock_up picture) in Emirates
A look at the 15 A380 customers who have ordered 154 aircraft, as of January 28, 2005.
Airbus has yet to announce when deliveries will take place, but says Singapore Airlines will receive the first A380 during the first half of 2006 with Emirates and Qantas taking delivery before 2008. The first commercial flights using the new plane by Singapore Airlines will take place between London and Sydney via Singapore from mid-2006. Subsequent routes by Singapore Airlines may include the Singapore - San Francisco route via Hong Kong, as well as direct flights to Paris and Frankfurt. Qantas Airways has also announced, that the plane will be first used on its Los Angeles to Sydney route.
In July 2004, as the first A380 prototypes began to emerge from the Toulouse assembly plant, Etihad Airways ordered four Airbus A380 for delivery in 2007.
Airbus says it eventually should be able to produce and deliver four planes a month.  (http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/050118/france_airbus_a380_customers_1.html)
- Photo Gallery of the A380 adventure (http://www.futura-sciences.com/communiquer/g/showgallery.php/cat/547)
- RTÉ News report on the A380 reveal (http://www.rte.ie/news/2005/0118/9news/9news9.smil) (REAL video)
- Airbus A380 Specifications (http://www.airbus.com/product/a380_specifications.asp)
- Aircraft-Info.net - Airbus A380 (http://www.aircraft-info.net/aircraft/jet_aircraft/airbus/A380/)
- Airbus and WTO (http://www.buffalo.edu/reporter/vol35/vol35n40/articles/Boeing.html)
- Airbus A-380 Gallery (http://www.megawallpapers.org/gallery/210/Airbus_A-380)
- A380 Pictures on Airliners.net (http://www.airliners.net/search/photo.search?aircraftsearch=Airbus%20A380-841&distinct_entry=true)
- Airbus A380 Photos (http://www.geocities.com/qubestrader/AirbusA380.html)