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A380 Combi - Is It Feasable?  
User currently offlineMestrugo From Chile, joined Apr 2007, 237 posts, RR: 0
Posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 7412 times:

The 747 Combi variants, with their large side doors on the fuselage, have always been present on Boeing's catalog, starting with the -200 and continuing until the 400. (I'm not sure if the -8 will offer a similar product, but Boeing will surely develop it if airlines show enough interest).

I've been thinking lately... will Airbus offer an A380 with a similar concept? I've been thinking that, should the A380s' lower deck be fitted for cargo only and the upper deck have a passengers only configuration, the plane could transport a lot of cargo and a decent number of passengers over pretty long distances.

I think it would be feasable, and it would help A380 sales, offering a product for routes needing lots of cargo but not demanding so many passenger seats, if such demand exists.

There are drawbacks, too; for instance, if all the passengers are going to fly only on the upper deck, either they're going to embark thru special air bridges or else they'll get in the lower lever and then go upstairs inside the plane to their deck. The cargo deck would also need some modifications, and extra doors to load and unload easily from them. Then again, the floor would be approximately at the same level where the 747M rests, so they could use the same infrastructure.

To optimize gate time, the cargo could be placed inside the plane in the cargo apron, cheaper and easier to handle, and then the plane could me towed to a gate to embark its passengers.

What's your opinion about an A380 Combi configured this way? Do you think such a project is feasable?

18 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineZRH From Switzerland, joined Nov 1999, 5569 posts, RR: 36
Reply 1, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 7383 times:

The idea sounds good but I am not sure if it will be possible. I read somewhere (probably in an older thread here) that FAA and CAA won't accept combis anymore because of some safety reason. I am not sure if this is true. Anyone knows more? I actually don't see the safety argument when the cargo is on an other deck than the passengers (not like in the 744 and MD 11 combis). In any passenger aircraft you have cargo at the lower deck and the passengers on the main deck. Why not to have two cargo decks and one for passengers?

User currently offlineJoKeR From Serbia, joined Nov 2004, 2241 posts, RR: 9
Reply 2, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 7383 times:



Quoting Mestrugo (Thread starter):
I've been thinking lately... will Airbus offer an A380 with a similar concept? I've been thinking that, should the A380s' lower deck be fitted for cargo only and the upper deck have a passengers only configuration, the plane could transport a lot of cargo and a decent number of passengers over pretty long distances.

You know, I asked myself the very same thing many times before, as I also think that it may be a "profitable" idea, that could attract new orders.

I'm sure the folks at Airbus have analyzed this option in the past, but no airline ever mentioned an interest for such a concept.



Kafa, čaj, šraf?
User currently offlineQatarA340 From Qatar, joined May 2006, 1873 posts, RR: 10
Reply 3, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 7302 times:



Quoting Mestrugo (Thread starter):
What's your opinion about an A380 Combi configured this way? Do you think such a project is feasable?

I actually wrote a thread about his a long time ago, maybe more than a year ago, and people have disaagreed saying that structurally, it would not be the best idea. I will search the post and provide you the link.



لا اله الا الله محمد رسول الله
User currently offlineIkramerica From United States of America, joined May 2005, 21544 posts, RR: 59
Reply 4, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 7295 times:

Not only has Airbus analyzed it, so has a.net. Do a search, threads pop up at least twice a year on this.

The idea makes little sense because the result would be a freighter about the size of a the 777F with a passenger plane about the size of the A332 stuck on top. Why not just fly separate planes at that point. It would allow for more versatility.

One reason for a combi 747 was that it was neither a full sized pax plane nor a large cargo plane, but it had the range of both, range that was missing on 250 seat aircraft of the time. It also allowed airlines with very limited bi-laterals to fly one frequency and accomplish two things. These days, with long range mid-sized aircraft, more liberal skies and the explosion of air freight as a standalone product, the need for large combis has diminished.



Of all the things to worry about... the Wookie has no pants.
User currently offlineQatarA340 From Qatar, joined May 2006, 1873 posts, RR: 10
Reply 5, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 7295 times:

Here is my thread: Why Not A380 Combi? (by QatarA340 Sep 5 2006 in Civil Aviation)?threadid=2973710&searchid=2973710&s=A380+Combi#ID2973710

There is some useful information.



لا اله الا الله محمد رسول الله
User currently offlineEHHO From Bulgaria, joined Dec 2005, 815 posts, RR: 7
Reply 6, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 7248 times:



Quoting Ikramerica (Reply 4):
The idea makes little sense because the result would be a freighter about the size of a the 777F with a passenger plane about the size of the A332 stuck on top. Why not just fly separate planes at that point. It would allow for more versatility.

But that's exactly it. The operating costs of a combi A388 would be less that those of a 77F and pax A332 put together. So if there is demand on that scale and proportion on a certain route, such a configuration would make overwhelming sense. Agree, such routes are not many, but I can imagine e.g. Europe-China or Europe-Dubai market being good for such ops.



"Get your facts first. Then you may distort them as much as you please" -- Mark Twain
User currently offlineRJ111 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 7210 times:

Ideally you'd want the upper deck to be for cargo and the lower deck to be for passengers to give a good ratio, but i doubt that's feasible.

User currently offlineOB1504 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 3402 posts, RR: 6
Reply 8, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 7145 times:



Quoting ZRH (Reply 1):
I read somewhere (probably in an older thread here) that FAA and CAA won't accept combis anymore because of some safety reason.

IIRC, they won't allow cargo to be carried on the same deck as passengers. Since the proposed A380 combi would have separate decks for cargo and passengers, it would get around this.


User currently offlineEHHO From Bulgaria, joined Dec 2005, 815 posts, RR: 7
Reply 9, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 7142 times:

To create clarity on the FAA combi policy, here are some extracts (in italics) from Advisory Circular AC 25-22 on certification of transport airplane mechanical systems, of March 14 2000. My comments are in bold

The FAA does not prohibit existing main-deck combi's, it just subjects them to pretty severe certification specifications, which are provided below. Since there are no US operators that have main deck combi aircraft in their fleet that I know of, these rules are probably not used by anyone. I assume that because of these rules, the threshold for US operators to acquire a main deck combi aircraft is higher. Note, this is only for existing designs! Here is the explanation of the FAA combi policy: (as far as I know, EASA does not have these or similar rules)

(1) Main Deck Cargo Compartment Fire Protection Certification Procedures. The
following policy is extracted from an FAA letter dated June 6, 1997, and addresses requirements
for “combi” airplanes. The letter is in response to a request from an applicant for information
regarding certification of “combi” airplanes. The FAA refers to airplanes that can carry both
passengers and cargo on the main deck as "combi's." The guidance is based on proposed
rulemaking and advisory material being developed through the ARAC process.
(a) Information was requested concerning Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
requirements for certification of “combi” airplanes. The minimum design requirements for
issuance of a Type Certificate for large transport airplanes are identified in 14 CFR part 25. The
FAA was specifically asked to identify the criteria against which the FAA would evaluate the
main deck fire protection features for FAA certification.
(b) The passenger and cargo compartments are separated by a partition that is
either fixed or movable to accommodate various passenger/cargo combinations. Some
“combi’s” can also accommodate all passenger or all cargo configurations. In most cases, the
main deck cargo compartments on these airplanes are identified as Class B cargo compartments,
which meet the fire protection requirements specified in § 25.857(b). Class B cargo
compartments rely on manual firefighting as the primary method of controlling fires.
(c) In 1987, a South African Airways 747-200 “combi” crashed in the Indian
Ocean following a fire in it’s main deck Class B cargo compartment. Following the
investigation, the FAA concluded that manual firefighting in large Class B cargo compartments
was not effective, and that the certification requirements identified in § 25.857(b) were
inadequate. As a result, the FAA issued Airworthiness Directive (AD) 93-07-15, which required
operators of existing large “combi” airplanes manufactured by Boeing or McDonnell Douglas to
make significant modifications to their airplanes and operations. Operators were offered four
options: (1) convert the Class B cargo compartment to Class C, (2) carry all cargo in the Class B
cargo compartment in containers that meet the requirements for Class C cargo compartments,
(3) use fire containment covers or containers for all main deck cargo, along with other airplane
and operational changes, or (4) incorporate a 90 minute duration fire suppression system, along
with other airplane and operational changes.

Now for as far as new designs are concerned, these are the rules, I believe they are pretty stringent:

[i](d) To address new “combi” designs, the FAA, through the Aviation Rulemaking
Advisory Committee (ARAC) process, is proposing a revision to §§ 25.855 and 25.857 which
would require Class B cargo compartments to be small enough that a crewmember with a hand
held fire extinguisher can extinguish a fire anywhere within the compartment without entering it.
The FAA is also proposing a new cargo compartment classification, Class F. The proposed
3/14/2000 AC 25-22
104
Class F compartment would not be size-limited, and would require incorporation of a means to
extinguish or control the fire without the need for a crewmember to enter the compartment. This
includes not reaching in to move something in order to have full access to the fire extinguisher.
(e) The FAA has identified the criteria against which the FAA would evaluate
main deck fire protection features on new “combi’s.” Although AD 93-07-15 provides an
adequate level of safety for existing airplanes, the FAA recommends that all new “combi’s” meet
the intent of the proposed changes to §§ 25.855 and 25.857. In addition, the effectiveness of the
third and fourth options of AD 93-07-15 depends heavily on the FAA-monitored procedures,
maintenance, and training at individual airlines, whereas the proposed part 25 changes rely on
the airplane design, rather than airline operations. The FAA recognizes that the limited size of
the proposed Class B cargo compartment would not meet operational needs. The FAA
recommends that the main deck cargo compartment on the “combi” meet either the requirements
for Class C cargo compartments identified in §§ 25.855 and 25.857, or the proposed
requirements for Class F cargo compartments. The FAA and the ARAC are proposing that Class
F cargo compartments meet the general cargo compartment requirements of § 25.855, and the
following:
1 A Class F cargo compartment must have a liner that is separate from, but
may be attached to, the airplane structure, unless it can be shown that other means for containing
the fire and protecting critical systems and structure are provided.
2 The ceiling and sidewall panels of the liner in the Class F cargo
compartment, if required, must meet the test requirements of part 25, Appendix F, part III, or
other FAA-approved equivalent methods. This includes windows and window shades/covers in
combi airplanes.
3 A means to extinguish or control the fire in the Class F cargo
compartment, without requiring a crewmember to enter the compartment, must be provided.
4 A means to prevent hazardous amounts of smoke, flames, or suppression
agent in the Class F cargo compartment from entering any occupied compartment must be
provided.
5 A separate, FAA-approved smoke or fire detector system to alert the pilot
or flight engineer station in the event of a fire must be provided.



"Get your facts first. Then you may distort them as much as you please" -- Mark Twain
User currently offlineSupraZachAir From Northern Mariana Islands, joined Feb 2004, 634 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 7087 times:



Quoting EHHO (Reply 9):
The FAA does not prohibit existing main-deck combi's, it just subjects them to pretty severe certification specifications, which are provided below. Since there are no US operators that have main deck combi aircraft in their fleet that I know of, these rules are probably not used by anyone. I assume that because of these rules, the threshold for US operators to acquire a main deck combi aircraft is higher. Note, this is only for existing designs! Here is the explanation of the FAA combi policy: (as far as I know, EASA does not have these or similar rules)

AS flies 734 Combi's and used to fly 732QC's.

I'll admit I didn't read through the posted AC, but I think the FAA is less concerned about combi's as they are with "quick-change" (i.e. moveable bulkhead) aircraft.


User currently offlineMestrugo From Chile, joined Apr 2007, 237 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 6920 times:

Sorry if I missed the earlier threads about a possible A380 Combi.

It goes to show, though, that the idea is pretty obvious, and that Airbus surely has already thought about this. There must be a reason as of why they haven't presented it yet. Porbably, it's still too soon on the A380's life to offer such an aircraft, or maybe they have already considered it but discarded it for whatever the reason.

Obviously, the FAA Combi policy presented by EHHO up there wouldn't apply for a plane where passengers and cargo are being transported in different levels... So then, this design would rather be a fixed design rather than a 'convertible' one, since adapting the lower deck for dual use would be too expensive and time-consuming.

Then again... it may be a silly idea, but how about an intercontinental ferry? The lower deck could be adapted to transport cars and light trucks, and the upper deck for regular passengers. That way, you could easily whisk your own car from here to there easily, much like those old Carvairs used to do on a much smaller scale in the 60s.

I know it would make much more sense just to rent a car on your destination rather than having to transporting a ton and a half of steel, glass and plastic (with the price that implies), but, honestly, car plates from other continents are more attention-gathering. So it would be useless, but kinda cool.


User currently offlinePADSpot From Germany, joined Jan 2005, 1676 posts, RR: 4
Reply 12, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days ago) and read 6754 times:



Quoting EHHO (Reply 6):
The operating costs of a combi A388 would be less that those of a 77F and pax A332 put together.

I would not bet my grandma on that. And if costs were lower the difference might be insignificant, leaving the versatility advantage of the two-plane solution.

Quoting OB1504 (Reply 8):

IIRC, they won't allow cargo to be carried on the same deck as passengers.

AFAIK it all comes to the separation wall having to withstand a certain pressure in terms of unfastened cargo items that could move in the direction of the passenger cabin, when braking or suffering from turbulences.


User currently offlineBOSSAN From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 255 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 6611 times:



Quoting Mestrugo (Reply 11):
Then again... it may be a silly idea, but how about an intercontinental ferry? The lower deck could be adapted to transport cars and light trucks, and the upper deck for regular passengers. That way, you could easily whisk your own car from here to there easily, much like those old Carvairs used to do on a much smaller scale in the 60s.

It would be awfully expensive to do so. Just flying the car will be expensive. For instance, Atlas Air made 37.6 cents per ton-mile on air freight in 2007Q1, flying older aircraft on its own schedule of less than once per day per route. I believe Formula 1 teams use chartered air freight to take their racecars to races outside Europe. http://www.formula1.com/news/interviews/2007/6/6263.html Given Formula 1 budgets, it's reasonable.

FedEx charges upwards of $1/ton-mile for more rapid service, which would be comparable to passenger service scheduling. For a top-of-the-line car (say, a Mercedes S-class, 2 tonnes), the higher rate would come to over $8000 one-way for LHR-JFK! At that price, you can pay for a car service at your destination to drive you around for several days straight. In fact, at that point you might be flying charter or private jet instead.

Buying a brand new aircraft for air freight is a large capital cost. The Carvairs were flying short hops with converted pre-war airframes, while new A380s could have their lower decks used for pricey first class suites, hundreds of coach passengers, or package freight. An airline would need to be convinced that there was a market for shipping a consistent volume of cars at outrageous shipping rates before ordering an A380 as a dedicated car/passenger ferry.

Furthermore, getting cars on and off of a plane will take much more time than just disembarking and loading passengers, especially if the passengers are driving their own cars. The Carvairs held 5 cars, while an A380 lower deck might hold 30, depending on the cars and the parking job. That extra time is time that the aircraft can't spend in the air making money, and that puts the aircraft operator at a cost disadvantage compared with all-passenger or all-cargo operators. All the passengers using the service need to be O&D as well, unless you can unload their cars, sort them and put them onto the right planes at the other end! All of this adds to the airline's costs and decreases their flexibility.

Finally, I think air carriers would be very nervous about storing gasoline-powered equipment in the cargo hold of a passenger aircraft. They would need to inspect the cars and drain their fuel tanks, adding to the time and effort of loading. All this would add up to requiring the passenger and car to arrive at the airport hours before the flight. I don't think that the people who had the money to pay for the service would want to devote the time to waiting for their car at both ends.

So, probably not. Fun idea, though.


User currently offlineEHHO From Bulgaria, joined Dec 2005, 815 posts, RR: 7
Reply 14, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 6338 times:



Quoting SupraZachAir (Reply 10):
I think the FAA is less concerned about combi's as they are with "quick-change" (i.e. moveable bulkhead) aircraft.



Quoting Mestrugo (Reply 11):
the FAA Combi policy presented by EHHO up there wouldn't apply for a plane where passengers and cargo are being transported in different levels.

Actually, I think the FAA doesn't care that much about where exactly the cargo compartments are located in the aircraft, it simply has strict rules for combining cargo and passenger compartments on one aircraft. The rule is: if there is a pax compartment, the cargo compartments in the aircraft have to be at least class C compartments, and preferably class F (for new designs). This means that there have to be more sophisticated firefighting systems installed, like automatic fire extinguishing systems and protective material. All the hold compartments of modern aircraft are already class F, so they are not an issue.

The issue comes up with combi's, where, in the old days at least, the cargo compartment wasn't any different than the pax compartment, just separated by a wall. This involved lower installation costs and versatility in changing configurations. But after some accidents, it was decided that the non-hold cargo compartment has to be just as well-equipped as the hold one, which is more costly, and importantly, more permanent and does not allow for (quick and cheap) reconfiguration.

Considering this all, if the A388 or any other pax plane has a cargo compartment somewhere onboard, be it the whole main deck, or part of it, or the upper deck, or part of it, it will have to be a class F compartment, just like the hold, with sophisticated safety systems. I'm sure that having such a compartment is not a problem from a regulatory point of view, just from an operations one, as is already specified by many colleagues above.



"Get your facts first. Then you may distort them as much as you please" -- Mark Twain
User currently offlineRJ111 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 6315 times:



Quoting BOSSAN (Reply 13):
Buying a brand new aircraft for air freight is a large capital cost. The Carvairs were flying short hops with converted pre-war airframes, while new A380s could have their lower decks used for pricey first class suites, hundreds of coach passengers, or package freight. An airline would need to be convinced that there was a market for shipping a consistent volume of cars at outrageous shipping rates before ordering an A380 as a dedicated car/passenger ferry.

It's a nice idea, reminds me of the film Goldenfinger. But in reality it would be much cheaper to simply rent a car at your destination. And there would be a lot of complications associated with bringing cars onboard. Security being a huge one, as well as aircraft balance issues.


User currently offlineZeke From Hong Kong, joined Dec 2006, 9176 posts, RR: 76
Reply 16, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 6266 times:

It is feasible, and Airbus has talked to customers about it.

They have looked at two models, one with the passenger capacity of a 744 with the additional 11 cargo pallets on the main deck, or the other with passenger capacity of a 748i with 7 cargo pallets on the main deck.

The layouts of the combi models looked at are below.




We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking – Santosh Kalwar
User currently offlineKC135TopBoom From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 12160 posts, RR: 51
Reply 17, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 6215 times:

There really isn't much of a market for combi jets, except for something like the USN C-40A (B-737-700C). Neither Boeing or Airbus currently offer a combi anything, except for the already mentioned B-737-700C. Boeing has no cilivan sales for this type airplane.

Quoting EHHO (Reply 6):
The operating costs of a combi A388 would be less that those of a 77F and pax A332 put together.

I don't see how that is possible, esspeically when you look at the fact there are lots of airplane combinations you could use with the B-777 and A-330.

B-777-200LRF & A-330-200
B-777-200LRF & A-330-300
A-330-200F and any of 5 different B-777 models (I know there are 6 models, but I already used the B-777F)


User currently offlineRJ111 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 18, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 6186 times:



Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 17):
Quoting EHHO (Reply 6):
The operating costs of a combi A388 would be less that those of a 77F and pax A332 put together.

I don't see how that is possible, esspeically when you look at the fact there are lots of airplane combinations you could use with the B-777 and A-330.

B-777-200LRF & A-330-200
B-777-200LRF & A-330-300
A-330-200F and any of 5 different B-777 models (I know there are 6 models, but I already used the B-777F)

He clearly stated A332 and 772LR (A330-200 and 777-200LRF).

It's very possible.


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