I was wondering what you guys think of the A380 - me as an airbus fan I kinda like it and would be sad if production were canceled.
1. Do you think the A380 is a generally failed aircraft? Do you think production will stop soon?
2. Do you think it is a good design and technically a really good aircraft but just too big?
3. Do you think it is a great plane at the wrong time?
4. Do you think it could be revived with new engine models and more payload options?
5. What do you think Airbus would do with all the production line hangers if they cancel the A380?
1. Assuming you mean a financial failure, yes. Development costs went way beyond Airbus' estimates and sales have been much weaker than they expected. Before the recent rate cuts, Airbus was just reaching operating break-even (i.e. each frame brought in more cash than it cost to build), which means they had merely stopped adding to their enormous up-front investment and have made very little progress at recovering it. Under any reasonable assumption about future A380 sales, the project has been a financial disaster. Time is not on its side, since the 777-9 and A350-1000 are cutting the legs out from what little market is left for Very Large Aircraft (let alone the 777-10 and A350-2000 proposals). I doubt production will continue much beyond 2020, and the 747-8 will probably meet the same fate in the same period.
2. The A380 is a reliable, comfortable, and most importantly safe plane that by all accounts has met Airbus' performance guarantees. By those criteria, it's a technical success. (Some operators are apparently having trouble filling it profitably, but that's on them and their revenue models.) However, user Matt6461 has made a compelling case
that the A380-800 was vastly over-designed in anticipation of one or even two stretches and a freighter version, none of which are likely to ever materialize. This makes the -800 relatively heavy for its payload/range capability, negating the structural advantages of a double-decker, and the wing is also aerodynamically compromised by the 80m span constraint. The forthcoming big twins should beat it in seat/mile costs with less financial risk.
3. No. Some people argue that the A380 was just ahead of its time and that Airbus should keep it on life support until the market catches up. This ignores the fact that the A380 is a rapidly aging design. In its current form, it's basically at parity with the 777-300ER and cannot compete with the new generation of composite big twins with high aspect ratio wings.
4. No. New engines would help, but the A380 has lots of other problems: the wings are too short, the empennage is too big, the landing gear is too heavy and inefficiently cuts into cargo space, it's mostly aluminum and GLARE rather than CFRP, and so on. Airbus cannot make a business case to merely re-engine it, so more expensive projects like stretching and/or re-winging it are out of the question. As for the other issues, it would be easier to start with a clean-sheet design than try to fix them on an existing platform. The airlines also don't seem particularly interested in boosting seat count by going to 3-5-3 or rearranging the cabin (EK shot down both proposals), so apparently more capacity is not the answer. Some operators say they don't want to compromise the "A380 experience" by squeezing in more seats, but most of them had no problem going to 10-abreast on the 777...
5. Hard to say. Boeing's an easier case: they must be eyeing the 747's massive footprint in Everett for the NMA. Airbus might be able to use the A380's space for their A320 successor or maybe another A350 line if demand permits.
Keynes is dead and we are living in his long run.