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cpd
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Thu Sep 24, 2020 8:42 pm

ltbewr wrote:
It is sad about the final frame assembly of the A380, but harsh reality has to be faced sometime and an end reached.
I wonder how EK will be able to really use all their A380 much in the future. Unless it prices seats so cheap vs. other airlines, how many will want to continue to go through a hub at Dubai vs a non-stop for many destinations.


Many flights make sense going through a hub. A lot of them from some cities just won’t have enough demand to go non-stop. Or the non stop flight would be too long.

I would love non-stop Sydney-Geneva but it’s doubtful it would be successful, I guess not enough people want to travel that way.

It would also be near 20 hours, too long on a plane. Stopping in Dubai overnight and sleeping in a comfortable hotel makes this a lot easier and you feel less exhausted at the end.

As for Dubai. Emirates does everything for me there so it’s easy. A car takes me to the hotel, then takes me back to the airport next day. I don’t even lift up my own backpack! If your flights are shorter then non stop would be okay.

But then my local airline has parked its 787-9s and abandoned the special long range versions of the A350-1000 it had planned to order. Flying overseas is impossible. Even the 787 is equally affected. I see hardly any planes flying over my house now, that’s how bad things are with this pandemic. :(
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Thu Sep 24, 2020 9:50 pm

cpd wrote:
But then my local airline has parked its 787-9s and abandoned the special long range versions of the A350-1000 it had planned to order. Flying overseas is impossible. Even the 787 is equally affected. I see hardly any planes flying over my house now, that’s how bad things are with this pandemic. :(

Think of how lucky you are, EK has ordered 30x 787-9 so by the time flying makes sense again you may have the ability to do one or more of your SYD-DXB-GVA legs on a 789!
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Fri Sep 25, 2020 6:40 am

The era of such giants is leaving, the distance is of course, but what can you do ...
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Fri Sep 25, 2020 2:03 pm

Looks like 747-400 very well might outlive both A380 and A346 at Lufthansa:

@lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr clarifies now: "We will phase out our 14 #Boeing747-400 as planned only by the middle of the decade." 747-8 will stay in the fleet #avgeek

Ref: https://twitter.com/SpaethFlies/status/ ... 7599156224
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Fri Sep 25, 2020 2:14 pm

Revelation wrote:
Looks like 747-400 very well might outlive both A380 and A346 at Lufthansa:

@lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr clarifies now: "We will phase out our 14 #Boeing747-400 as planned only by the middle of the decade." 747-8 will stay in the fleet #avgeek

Ref: https://twitter.com/SpaethFlies/status/ ... 7599156224


What would be the advantage in retaining elderly 744 fleet versus retaining more modern A380 fleet like BA have (or we presume will do)? And indeed what was the thinking behind certain airlines operating both 747 and A380 simultaneously ? How does one type complement the other within a single fleet ?
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Fri Sep 25, 2020 2:32 pm

JannEejit wrote:
What would be the advantage in retaining elderly 744 fleet versus retaining more modern A380 fleet like BA have (or we presume will do)? And indeed what was the thinking behind certain airlines operating both 747 and A380 simultaneously ? How does one type complement the other within a single fleet ?

A380 has 140 or so more seats to fill that serve to only increase trip cost and lower yield in the current climate. It's a much bigger aircraft. It's also not as good with freight.

To me the bigger surprise was that they prefer to keep 744 over A346 which is smaller still and has relatively modern engines. I guess the fleet commonality with 748 helps the 744.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Fri Sep 25, 2020 2:40 pm

Revelation wrote:
JannEejit wrote:

To me the bigger surprise was that they prefer to keep 744 over A346 which is smaller still and has relatively modern engines. I guess the fleet commonality with 748 helps the 744.


Yeah, I was wondering if 747-8 commonality would sway the decision that way ? Perhaps in a way losing the A380 wipes out the cockpit commonality with the A346 (or vice versa). One type takes out the other or saves it in the case of the 747. Anyhow, it looks like I might be able to take that first 747 trip one of these days soon after all ?
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Fri Sep 25, 2020 5:10 pm

JannEejit wrote:
Perhaps in a way losing the A380 wipes out the cockpit commonality with the A346 (or vice versa).


Don't they still have A330s? If cockpit commonality was a factor, I would think having A330s would be more of an influence on commonality than A380s.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Fri Sep 25, 2020 5:20 pm

Revelation wrote:
JannEejit wrote:
What would be the advantage in retaining elderly 744 fleet versus retaining more modern A380 fleet like BA have (or we presume will do)? And indeed what was the thinking behind certain airlines operating both 747 and A380 simultaneously ? How does one type complement the other within a single fleet ?

A380 has 140 or so more seats to fill that serve to only increase trip cost and lower yield in the current climate. It's a much bigger aircraft. It's also not as good with freight.

To me the bigger surprise was that they prefer to keep 744 over A346 which is smaller still and has relatively modern engines. I guess the fleet commonality with 748 helps the 744.

There is an economy of scale in maintenance. Due to the large freight fleet (744F+747SF+748F) and for engines, the 787 fleet or 767 fleet, parts are readily available for a 747. RR brought down maintenance costs on the T500 but there just isn't as much commonality as RR advertised. This means an A346 opperator must stockpile more parts, which is an expense.

Serious question, does the A346 have unique tires and brakes? If so, that becomes a challenge.

Aviation is becoming more and more about economics of scale.

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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Fri Sep 25, 2020 5:28 pm

Meanwhile we have the last international QF A380 flight we expect to see till mid 2023:

The final international Qantas A380 flight until at least 2023. All Qantas A380s will soon be in California for storage. Qantas has said mid-2023 is the earliest any of the 12 could fly again.

Ref: https://twitter.com/flightradar24/statu ... 6284422148
Ref: https://www.flightradar24.com/QFA6006/2599ee6e
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Fri Sep 25, 2020 5:57 pm

Here's the scorecard for active A380's. There are currently 19 in service with 4 airlines. The breakdown is:

Emirates - 12
China Sou. - 5
Singapore - 1
HiFly Malta - 1

https://www.planespotters.net/productio ... ort=status
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Sat Sep 26, 2020 12:17 am

JannEejit wrote:
And indeed what was the thinking behind certain airlines operating both 747 and A380 simultaneously ? How does one type complement the other within a single fleet ?


There's about as much size difference between A380 and 744 as between 744 and A332/B788. The need for size differentiation (maximizing profit by finding the approximate intersect of yield and marginal cost curves) doesn't magically end at the border of "VLA."

Revelation wrote:
To me the bigger surprise was that they prefer to keep 744 over A346 which is smaller still and has relatively modern engines. I guess the fleet commonality with 748 helps the 744.


Surprising indeed. Especially considering the current cargo market and A346's belly space (although LH's underfloor lavs cut into it).

There's also gotta be a huge store of spares and there's plenty of worldwide expertise on servicing the 744 and its engines. A346 is a relative orphan - a rare frame with rare engines. If it needs attention away from FRA/MUC, it's probably more expensive and time-consuming than for 744.

...which makes it even more shocking that A346 is preferred to A380.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Sat Sep 26, 2020 12:41 pm

Matt6461 wrote:
Surprising indeed. Especially considering the current cargo market and A346's belly space (although LH's underfloor lavs cut into it).

There's also gotta be a huge store of spares and there's plenty of worldwide expertise on servicing the 744 and its engines. A346 is a relative orphan - a rare frame with rare engines. If it needs attention away from FRA/MUC, it's probably more expensive and time-consuming than for 744.

...which makes it even more shocking that A346 is preferred to A380.

I agree on A346's issues.

LH fleet thread ( viewtopic.php?p=22436957#p22436139 ) suggests this statement is just posturing for union negotiations and 744, A346 and A380 are all going to stay parked unless the recovery happens a lot faster than planned. I guess time will tell...

It also has statements saying 748 is highly efficient and will remain.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:55 pm

Revelation wrote:
It also has statements saying 748 is highly efficient and will remain.


Interesting. LH configured its 748's with 2 more F/J seats than A380 and a lot fewer Y/PY. Germany's international economic footprint is higher in engineering-related industries where hands-on management/inspection/training are less amenable to Zoom-call substitution. I wonder if LH is doing relatively better with its front cabins than most... That might explain the 748's efficiency for LH as currently configured. Otherwise it's a pretty bad plane.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:30 am

Revelation wrote:
Antarius wrote:
Revelation wrote:
An early sign Airbus was on the right path was when NW bought A330s to fly TATL routes rather than buying cheap used DC10s like they had been doing and everyone expected them to keep doing. It was such a surprising decision that their chief pilot had to write a paper explaining the decision in detail. It made for fascinating reading at the time.

Any chance you have a link handy?

Sorry, no. I'm pretty sure it's out there somewhere, but I can't find the right keywords to make Google produce a copy of it.

I'll keep searching.

Till then, a glimpse of how salty some people were on a.net 17 years ago; viewtopic.php?t=182789

Arguing over the name of a color: some things never change...


Was it this?
"The A330 will allow us to both grow our revenues and lower our costs. The A330 will equip Northwest with the customer comforts and amenities necessary to compete for today's sophisticated international traveler, and simultaneously enable Northwest to take another important step to contain our costs through reduced operating expenses and expanded fleet commonality." Richard Anderson, Northwest Airlines CEO in 2001


https://www.deltamuseum.org/exhibits/de ... irbus-a330
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:22 pm

lightsaber wrote:
Revelation wrote:
JannEejit wrote:
What would be the advantage in retaining elderly 744 fleet versus retaining more modern A380 fleet like BA have (or we presume will do)? And indeed what was the thinking behind certain airlines operating both 747 and A380 simultaneously ? How does one type complement the other within a single fleet ?

A380 has 140 or so more seats to fill that serve to only increase trip cost and lower yield in the current climate. It's a much bigger aircraft. It's also not as good with freight.

To me the bigger surprise was that they prefer to keep 744 over A346 which is smaller still and has relatively modern engines. I guess the fleet commonality with 748 helps the 744.

There is an economy of scale in maintenance. Due to the large freight fleet (744F+747SF+748F) and for engines, the 787 fleet or 767 fleet, parts are readily available for a 747. RR brought down maintenance costs on the T500 but there just isn't as much commonality as RR advertised. This means an A346 opperator must stockpile more parts, which is an expense.

Serious question, does the A346 have unique tires and brakes? If so, that becomes a challenge.

Aviation is becoming more and more about economics of scale.

Lightsaber

I don't think the tires and brakes are unique, they're shared with the shorter 340 and 330 variants. The center gear strut and bogie is unique, and the wheels on it have brakes (the 342/343 don't, which is why they don't get dusty as fast), but I'm pretty sure they're all the same.

The T500 must be really bad on maintenance if they're yanking the 346 over the 744, the 346 has ~10% better fuel burn, and is slightly smaller, which would be a good thing in the reduced-pax environment.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Sep 28, 2020 12:02 am

Matt6461 wrote:
Revelation wrote:
It also has statements saying 748 is highly efficient and will remain.


Interesting. LH configured its 748's with 2 more F/J seats than A380 and a lot fewer Y/PY. Germany's international economic footprint is higher in engineering-related industries where hands-on management/inspection/training are less amenable to Zoom-call substitution. I wonder if LH is doing relatively better with its front cabins than most... That might explain the 748's efficiency for LH as currently configured. Otherwise it's a pretty bad plane.

Why is it a 'bad plane'?

Boeing says the new 747-8 Intercontinental will consume 11 percent less fuel per passenger on a flight. The company says this fuel savings translates into a 6 percent drop in the all important cost per seat mile.

Airbus disputes Boeing's claims. The European plane maker says the A380 burns 2 percent less fuel per seat than the 747-8.

With the A380 still receiving big subsidies from the European nations involved in building the airplane, Aboulafia says Boeing will have a hard time competing for the passenger market.

"The passenger version of the 747-8 would be great if it weren't for the heavily discounted A380" he says. "As long as the A380 is offering the lowest dollar per seat ever, the -8 is a hard sale."

https://www.wired.com/2010/01/boeing-74 ... enge-a380/


Only a 2 percent difference in fuel burn per seat?
It sounds like a pretty good plane.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Sep 28, 2020 12:14 am

I still find it hard to believe that the very same plane in this picture:
Image

And the plane in this picture
Image

Are the exact same frame. I know I've probably said this like a million times by now, but 9V-SKA deserved a better fate than this. I wonder how many people on that very first commercial flight would believe it if someone came from the future came and told them the plane they're flying on would be retired in less than 10 years and be turned into luggage tags, or that the certificates that the passengers received would outlast the actual plane (assuming the passengers kept them of course).
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Sep 28, 2020 10:53 am

LH707330 wrote:
The T500 must be really bad on maintenance if they're yanking the 346 over the 744, the 346 has ~10% better fuel burn, and is slightly smaller, which would be a good thing in the reduced-pax environment.

There are < 20 A340-600 remaining in operation, even including LH's stored fleet. Meanwhile, there are approx. 200 747-400F flying all over the world. Additionally, fuel is cheap in times of crisis.

I think Airbus dropped the ball by letting engine developers make highly customized engines for the A346 and A380. The GE90-115 was a first glimpse that future engines could and would go beyond conservative estimates. The Trent 1000 and GEnx were, at least internally, already in development at RR and GE by the time the A380 was launched. GE - perhaps knowing about the GEnx performance - opted to cooperate with PW on the "old tech" GP7000 since they didn't expect many sales.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Sep 28, 2020 2:37 pm

JayinKitsap wrote:
Was it this?

"The A330 will allow us to both grow our revenues and lower our costs. The A330 will equip Northwest with the customer comforts and amenities necessary to compete for today's sophisticated international traveler, and simultaneously enable Northwest to take another important step to contain our costs through reduced operating expenses and expanded fleet commonality." Richard Anderson, Northwest Airlines CEO in 2001


https://www.deltamuseum.org/exhibits/de ... irbus-a330

Sorry, no it was not. The document I was thinking of was a stand alone document written by NW's chief pilot. It was one of the first docs I read where a lot of the things that made a modern twin like A330 better than a DC-10. At the time A330 was thought by some to be not much more than an A300 replacement. Events have shown them wrong.

9Patch wrote:
Why is it a 'bad plane'?

It never was a 'bad plane'. It had its own little place on the payload/range/efficiency graphs. Turns out a lot of airlines thought they'd need to carry a lot more pax so they ended up buying A380s but it seems few could operate them profitably. Most who were looking in the 748's size class went for 77W instead, which was ~40 or so fewer seats but more efficiency. Turns out you often make more money with the smaller plane since you don't have to cut fares as much to fill it up.

mxaxai wrote:
There are < 20 A340-600 remaining in operation, even including LH's stored fleet. Meanwhile, there are approx. 200 747-400F flying all over the world. Additionally, fuel is cheap in times of crisis.

I read in one of our threads that 744BCFs that haven't flown in many years are being pulled out of the desert to meet current freight demands.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Thu Oct 01, 2020 1:54 pm

http://aerotime.aero/pijus/26034-tony-d ... -a380-fate
Interesting interview from Etihad's CEO, saying that the A380's future with the airline is still unsure and that it's relatively inefficient with two extra engines compared to alternatives. Pretty surprising to hear those words from Etihad given that I swear they just recently said that their A380s weren't going anywhere and how the Etihad Residences exist. I guess Emirates (or perhaps Tim Clark specifically) is really the only one who still loves the airplane and will defend it to the end.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Thu Oct 01, 2020 1:59 pm

filipinoavgeek wrote:
http://aerotime.aero/pijus/26034-tony-douglas-the-jury-s-out-on-etihad-airways-airbus-a380-fate
Interesting interview from Etihad's CEO, saying that the A380's future with the airline is still unsure and that it's relatively inefficient with two extra engines compared to alternatives. Pretty surprising to hear those words from Etihad given that I swear they just recently said that their A380s weren't going anywhere and how the Etihad Residences exist. I guess Emirates (or perhaps Tim Clark specifically) is really the only one who still loves the airplane and will defend it to the end.

Is Sir Tim still employed at Emirates, its easy to continue to defend a product when you no longer have any skin in the game.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Fri Oct 02, 2020 3:41 am

Is 8 abreast simply inefficient at the capacity or has it really more to do with engines?
I believe that 5 abreast is inefficient for A320 capacity. Accordingly I wonder the same for A 340-600.
Was there an overstretched plane that sold well?

For a 10 hour flight, how much more expensive is an A380 to operate compared to B747-400?
I speak per plane, not per seat.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Oct 19, 2020 5:29 pm

Some interesting stuff on A380 today.

First, a hot take from AAB:

"Anyone who wants to fly the #A380 before 2019-pax levels are back would be foolish. We will not fly it for a couple of years" says @qatarairways CEO Akbar al Baker now on @FlightGlobal webinar #avgeek

Ref: https://twitter.com/SpaethFlies/status/ ... 1467606016

Shots fired at his neighbor with the huge A380 fleet?

And an interview in German with the 'father of the A380', Jurgen Thomas at https://www.aero.de/news-37298/Airbus-K ... spaet.html which Google Translate did a good job on.

I guess this father has a hard time finding faults with his kid, all the standard excuses are used (with my comments in parenthesis):
  • We missed the market window (was there ever a big enough one to begin with?).
  • We built it heavy so we could do an A380-900 more easily (but that assumes the market wanted an A380-900 and that it was OK to burden A380-800 with extra weight for it was the right call).
  • Passengers love it (but the airlines don't).
  • A380's production run is impressive when you compare it with Concorde (that is laugh-out-loud material).
  • Rolls-Royce should have put new engines on it (but TXWB was only good for 6-7%, STC was looking for 10+%, it would have been a big money loser for RR and it turns out for EK too).

I was hoping for something more insightful on how they got the market positioning for the aircraft so wrong, but nope, same old same old.

I think the interviews with John Leahy (remember him?) at least gave us a bit of insight to the internal thoughts at the time rather than just reciting the party line like Thomas seems to be doing. I'm still hoping Leahy puts out a book, which he hinted at doing during his last set of interviews.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Oct 19, 2020 7:30 pm

Revelation wrote:
And an interview in German with the 'father of the A380', Jurgen Thomas at https://www.aero.de/news-37298/Airbus-K ... spaet.html which Google Translate did a good job on.

I guess this father has a hard time finding faults with his kid, all the standard excuses are used (with my comments in parenthesis):
  • We missed the market window (was there ever a big enough one to begin with?).
  • We built it heavy so we could do an A380-900 more easily (but that assumes the market wanted an A380-900 and that it was OK to burden A380-800 with extra weight for it was the right call).
  • Passengers love it (but the airlines don't).
  • A380's production run is impressive when you compare it with Concorde (that is laugh-out-loud material).


Some additions from the podcast:
  • Thomas admires Joe Sutter for his achievements with Boeing's Everett plant and the 747.
  • The 747 was a much higher risk venture, coming from the 707; Airbus was confident that there was significant market for the A380.
  • Airbus was heavily influenced by the fact that almost all prior models had been built with tight performance margins, leaving very little room for improvement. Especially the A300/310 and the A342/3 had a too small wing, too weak engines. Didn't want to make that mistake again.
  • Thomas: "The leadership when the A380 was in service had not been involved in the intial A380 design [10-15 years earlier]. They may have been unaware of the margins that were built into the design and forgot to pick several low-hanging fruit."
  • A380F and A380P2F were part of the original plan and influenced the fuselage shape (wider than necessary for 10-abreast), leading to a slight efficiency loss for the pure pax model. This also influenced aftermarket value predictions.
  • There was interest from (at least) LH and AF for the -900.
  • The -900 could've been launched immediately after the -800 was certified, EIS 3-4 years later. FedEx pressured Airbus to prioritize the F model, though, which wasted a lot of engineering resources.
  • Development post-EIS was stalled by management with the argument "we need to sell enough to earn our 15 billion € development cost before investing any more".
  • F model loading & unloading was developed in close cooperation with FedEx at their MEM hub, with a large dedicated team provided by Airbus. Double-deck loading would have worked.
  • Interviewer: "At what point was the A380 doomed? JL told me that the engine OEMs tricked Airbus and doomed the A380."
    Thomas: "The engines were the best of their time. Both RR and GP did a good job. Splitting the market between 2 engine OEMs was perhaps a mistake. However, we had been forced to accept single-supplier agreements on the A342/3 and A345/6 and didn't want to put ourselves in that spot again. Also the engine thrust class did not overlap with smaller twins of the time which hampered later improvement. But we should not have waited for the 787 engines."
  • SQ required a late engine improvement to meet LHR noise regulations at full thrust, including a larger fan, that hurt fuel efficiency.
  • BA, SQ wanted the A380 many years earlier than Airbus could deliver, even prior to program launch. Up to 22 airlines were in discussions with Airbus during development, though "not all were enthusiastic". SQ was always the primary customer that drove requirements, and later QF and EK too.
  • Complex cabin was demanded by the "luxury" launch customers SQ and QF, wanted to install suites, amenities etc. But was perhaps too complex, too expensive for second-rate airlines.
  • Airbus underestimated the complexity of all the new electronic functions that airlines expected and the difficulty of integrating all European teams. There was no digital mockup and a serious lack of communication between Hamburg and Toulouse.
  • Thomas would have preferred a +50 seat stretch -900, rather than the original +100 seats. Several percent efficiency could have been gained from wing improvements. But after the 787 (and A350) EIS with new engines (10-12% better), any major development would have required new engines to be competitive.
  • Marketing missed several opportunities to highlight some capabilities beyond the sheer size, didn't stay in touch with existing and potential customers. Several smaller airlines showed interest but were worried about economy of scale, waited for large orders from other airlines that never came.
  • Airbus overestimated scaling effects. Upscaling "old" technologies to A380 size gave only 7% in efficiency compared to smaller models, the remainder to meet the 15% target had to come from (very expensive) titanium and composite parts.
  • Thomas: "The current market is dominated by the large twins" Didn't expect a 400-seat twin engine aircraft back in 2000; doesn't expect another aircraft in this size class (400+) in the near- to-medium-term.

That's a long post but a fairly short summary of an almost 45 minute podcast :checkeredflag:

The podcast does not mention the Concorde but in the article his quote reads more as
"Concorde was a major technological leap despite only selling 15 aircraft. Similarly, the A380 was not a 'failure'. 240 aircraft are a respectable result in any case."

As an engineer, he clearly focuses on the engineering aspects. And from that perspective, the A380 was definitely a fascinating project. It incorporated several lessons Airbus had learnt from previous programs, and eventually contributed many new lessons that furthered the integration of the company and set the foundation for the A350. It also becomes clear that not everything that's doable from an engineering perspective makes sense financially.

I think what killed the A380 eventually was primarily the high production cost. The design and supply chain were set up for high cost, high rate production which couldn't be matched to the smaller-than-hoped-for market. The profit margin per aircraft was too small to give airlines discounts and repay the development cost.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Oct 19, 2020 7:40 pm

Revelation wrote:
I guess this father has a hard time finding faults with his kid, all the standard excuses are used (with my comments in parenthesis):
  • We missed the market window (was there ever a big enough one to begin with?).
  • We built it heavy so we could do an A380-900 more easily (but that assumes the market wanted an A380-900 and that it was OK to burden A380-800 with extra weight for it was the right call).
  • Passengers love it (but the airlines don't).
  • A380's production run is impressive when you compare it with Concorde (that is laugh-out-loud material).
  • Rolls-Royce should have put new engines on it (but TXWB was only good for 6-7%, STC was looking for 10+%, it would have been a big money loser for RR and it turns out for EK too).

I was hoping for something more insightful on how they got the market positioning for the aircraft so wrong, but nope, same old same old.


Yeah, that's a pretty disappointing list of excuses for someone who really ought to be in a position to know better. We keep hearing the tired old saw that it was RR's fault for not committing to a re-engine -- but in the end it's Airbus's responsibility to make the business case for the engine maker to spend hundreds of millions or billions of dollars/pounds/euro on a new project. Can anyone blame RR for their hesitation? Airbus had planned for sales of about 1,000 A380s over 20 years -- the planned production rate was four per month. They are limping to finish a production run of just over a quarter of that, and we'll see if the customers take the last nine. As I have argued in other places, Airbus could have probably gotten RR to participate if they had chosen to limit RR's financial risk on the project (this assumes RR had the development resources to commit to the project).

The "market window" might have been a few years earlier when the 747-400 was still selling reasonably well (~50 orders per year on average between 1995 and 1997, with 1996 showing a peak of 75) but sales were already slowing in 1997 and nearly half the orders that year were for freighters or combis. I don't think the global market was at the time or has been ever large enough for both the A380 and 744.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Oct 19, 2020 8:34 pm

Thank you for translating and transcribing the full interview.

mxaxai wrote:
  • Airbus was heavily influenced by the fact that almost all prior models had been built with tight performance margins, leaving very little room for improvement. Especially the A300/310 and the A342/3 had a too small wing, too weak engines. Didn't want to make that mistake again.

This seems to be an odd statement, given how A330 now has 251t MTOW and a NEO and the A321LR has >4000nm range and >200 pax. Yes, they both would benefit from a larger wing, but they both benefit from an optimized core and the usual engine efficiency improvement curve of ~1.5% per year to deliver meaningful performance gains over time.

I've pointed at the Champion slides a lot. Seems they were infatuated with getting a plane for 550-650 pax as the core market, and made a lot of sacrifices to leave room for the 650 seat product. This interview didn't really press the 'father' on why that point was chosen, IMO.

Also making sacrifices for a better freighter seems odd. Sure, 747 made those sacrifices in the early days but it was the first four engined VLA with high bypass turbofans so it was benefiting from a step change in technology, and of course the SST provided a rationale to give a lot of focus to the freighter use case. A380 on the other hand did not have a step change in technology to aid it, as the interview said even the scale up was providing less benefit than planned, and Airbus had to have a good idea that the A380 would be undermined by big twins I would think. Seems there really wasn't much more of a market for the F than what they had gained, and even some say UPS got into A380 mostly in exchange for dumping the excessive number of A300s it ordered.

I think the following line is the most intriguing of the interview:

mxaxai wrote:
Airbus overestimated scaling effects. Upscaling "old" technologies to A380 size gave only 7% in efficiency compared to smaller models, the remainder to meet the 15% target had to come from (very expensive) titanium and composite parts.

I'm an engineer and would love to know more about this.

Also the interviewer seemed to not get a good answer:
mxaxai wrote:
Interviewer: "At what point was the A380 doomed? JL told me that the engine OEMs tricked Airbus and doomed the A380."
Thomas: "The engines were the best of their time. Both RR and GP did a good job. Splitting the market between 2 engine OEMs was perhaps a mistake. However, we had been forced to accept single-supplier agreements on the A342/3 and A345/6 and didn't want to put ourselves in that spot again. Also the engine thrust class did not overlap with smaller twins of the time which hampered later improvement. But we should not have waited for the 787 engines."

So what does Thomas think "doomed" the A380? Seems he did not give an answer.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Oct 19, 2020 10:14 pm

Revelation wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
  • Airbus was heavily influenced by the fact that almost all prior models had been built with tight performance margins, leaving very little room for improvement. Especially the A300/310 and the A342/3 had a too small wing, too weak engines. Didn't want to make that mistake again.

This seems to be an odd statement, given how A330 now has 251t MTOW and a NEO and the A321LR has >4000nm range and >200 pax. Yes, they both would benefit from a larger wing, but they both benefit from an optimized core and the usual engine efficiency improvement curve of ~1.5% per year to deliver meaningful performance gains over time.

Literal transcription of some statements:
Interviewer: "Was your expectation that the A380 would take over such a dominant market position for decades, like the 747 had previously?"

Thomas: "Yes, exactly that. At the time we started the development, Boeing had sould thousands of the 747 in the decades since 1969 in a market that was smaller than the contemporary market. We focused especially on one thing at this time: Not repeating mistakes of the past, namely developing aircraft that couldn't be developed further, or only with much additional effort. For example the A340-200 and -300, they were at the limit of their development from the start, due to the CFM engine which was at the upper end of its thrust range and we had a too small wing, so we couldn't increase MTOW any further or increase fuel volume. That's what we wanted to avoid. Also the A310, she was at the end of her development, we did develop the -300 with fuel tanks in the empennage to increase range but we wanted to avoid that with the A3XX, as she was called then. So we gave her a large wing, a large gear with 20 wheels with a size and distribution that could permit a significantly higher MTOW, we provided ample fuel volume to increase range, we did everything, we even changed the engine shortly before the end [i. e. design freeze] to meet noise requirements. We included everything that should've guaranteed the future of this aircraft.

And at this point, I ask myself, to be honest, whether the successors at Airbus that hadn't been involved in this concept phase, whether they really knew that this aircraft was conceived for a long time, for a large family, including a freighter. We accepted penalties for that, we made a main deck that was higher* than regular, we gave ourselves a limit of 1.5% additional operating cost for that - through additional weight, fuel burn - but it had to fit the 8''x8'' containers to allow the development of a freighter. And the freighter was important, not just to offer a cargo aircraft of this size to airlines [at the time] but also to convert old passenger aircraft to freighters. That's a common occurence, to give aircraft a longer lifespan via a freighter conversion. This has an effect on price, often you have to guarantee a residual value at 10, 12, 15 years. Of course it has a higher value if it can [still] be used for something [after this time]. All this was built into the aircraft."

*my mistake, in the original post I translated as "wider".

Regarding the freighter:

Interviewer: "What was ultimately the cause why the -900 was never developed? Could that have been the breakthrough?"

Thomas: "Well, the -900 couldn't have followed immediately. One would've waited a few years to monitor demand. We did get calls from LH and AF, if I recall correctly, when we'd start development of the "stretch-plane". And of course that would've been the optimum model, regarding fuel burn per seat, operating cost per seat, maintenance per seat. The -800 has 560 tons, the -900 was supposed to have 600 tons. With the additional 40 tons, we could've stretched the fuselage for about 100 more passengers."

Interviewer: "So how long would it have taken, after the first flight of the -800, until a -900 could have flown?"

Thomas: "Technically, the engineers would have been ready after the -800 had been certified. It was a question of the demand. And if the airlines had approached us, it would've followed 3 to 4 years later. Our mistake, in my opinion, but this was also due to pressure from FedEx, you know they have the "Pope of Freight" Fred Smith, and he had close business relations with our boss, Jean Pierson. He wanted to have a freighter as soon as possible. And Pierson insisted that we develop the freighter in parallel to the -800. That simply overwhelmed us. That's impossible."

Interviewer: "Nowadays one must ask how such a freighter could have worked in the first place. Loading and unloading the upper deck alone would've been extremely complex for the airlines, for the airports to buy all the necessary equipment? Did you really expect to build up all this infrastructure?"

Thomas: "I don't see a larger challenge than with passenger aircraft. Especially these infrastructure problems were worked on intensely. We had a special team that only discussed airport handling. This also applied to the freighter. I had an own, small team that cooperated with FedEx, including a frenchman that spent more time in Memphis than in Toulouse, that was Richard Carcaillet, and I recall that Pierson insisted that I myself also went to Memphis. And we met with his [Smith's] team of 20 men and us two, Carcaillet and me, and presented our plans. He had spent months watching the small and large aircraft arriving every night, and Carcaillet knew everything in such detail that Smith nearly exploded and claimed "This guy knows my airline better than you [the FedEx managers]". We had worked on this, and I have no doubt that it would've worked. The difficulties had started with the passenger version already, for example there were no loaders [i. e. catering trucks] that could reach the upper deck. The airlines required that there be at least two independent suppliers worldwide for such loaders, that could lift these weights all the way to the upper deck. We chased stuff like this to ensure our credibility with the airlines."
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Oct 19, 2020 10:36 pm

Revelation wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
Airbus overestimated scaling effects. Upscaling "old" technologies to A380 size gave only 7% in efficiency compared to smaller models, the remainder to meet the 15% target had to come from (very expensive) titanium and composite parts.

I'm an engineer and would love to know more about this.

Again, literal transcription:

Interviewer: "Last question, what can we expect in the future? Will there ever, regardless of appearance and design, will there be a new passenger aircraft in the size class of the A380?"

Thomas: "Well, we had to learn some things. We [the interviewer and Thomas] haven't touched on that yet. One talks much about "Economy of Scale". Today, when you have a 100-seater and stretch that to 150 seats, then that is automatically better. A lot of things don't change; you have the same wing, same gear, still only 2 pilots, unchanged maintenance. Everything is better. But that doesn't work 'till infinity. Imagine a plane with a wingspan of 1 km. Those wings will touch the ground, no matter what you do, even if you use massive steel beams. And when they're in the air, they'll bend to say "hi" to each other above the plane. Somewhere, there's a limit. And we overestimated this "Economy of Scale". That, with constant technology, we could reduce operating cost significantly - well we did reduce operating cost, in the range of 7%, but our target had been 15-20% . That should have come from "Economy of Scale". And the rest should have come from new technology, from lighter materials. GLARE, carbon fibre, whatever. In the end, we did reach the target but not with the intended measures alone. We had to, for example, switch to titanium in the gear, to reach that target, and all this really cost us. We simply overestimated the "Economy of Scale".

Now, I believe the A380 is probably the largest aircraft - I don't want to argue about 50 seats one way or another - but the stretch [i. e. the -900] would have been worth it. We don't have a new empennage, no new cockpit, and so on. But larger aircraft, unless you switch to a completely new configuration like a flying wing, that's an entirely different matter. In the conventional architecture with a payload in the center, in the fuselage, with an increasingly larger wingspan that shifts the center of lift further and further away from the payload, it's simply going to rip off. That wing creates such large bending torque that it becomes pointless."

Interviewer: "You already told me that 15 years ago, in our very first interview."

Thomas: "Yes, and I stand by this point. [the BWB being required for larger aircraft]"
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Oct 19, 2020 10:39 pm

Revelation wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
Interviewer: "At what point was the A380 doomed? JL told me that the engine OEMs tricked Airbus and doomed the A380."
Thomas: "The engines were the best of their time. Both RR and GP did a good job. Splitting the market between 2 engine OEMs was perhaps a mistake. However, we had been forced to accept single-supplier agreements on the A342/3 and A345/6 and didn't want to put ourselves in that spot again. Also the engine thrust class did not overlap with smaller twins of the time which hampered later improvement. But we should not have waited for the 787 engines."

So what does Thomas think "doomed" the A380? Seems he did not give an answer.

No, he did not. He dodged that topic, touching on a few points here and there but never giving a clear statement. By the way the interviewer said afterwards that he has a recent interview with JL that will be published soon. I assume that one will be in English.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Mon Oct 19, 2020 11:33 pm

mxaxai wrote:
Literal transcription of some statements:
Interviewer: "Was your expectation that the A380 would take over such a dominant market position for decades, like the 747 had previously?"

Thomas: "Yes, exactly that. At the time we started the development, Boeing had sould thousands of the 747 in the decades since 1969 in a market that was smaller than the contemporary market. We focused especially on one thing at this time: Not repeating mistakes of the past, namely developing aircraft that couldn't be developed further, or only with much additional effort. For example the A340-200 and -300, they were at the limit of their development from the start, due to the CFM engine which was at the upper end of its thrust range and we had a too small wing, so we couldn't increase MTOW any further or increase fuel volume. That's what we wanted to avoid. Also the A310, she was at the end of her development, we did develop the -300 with fuel tanks in the empennage to increase range but we wanted to avoid that with the A3XX, as she was called then. So we gave her a large wing, a large gear with 20 wheels with a size and distribution that could permit a significantly higher MTOW, we provided ample fuel volume to increase range, we did everything, we even changed the engine shortly before the end [i. e. design freeze] to meet noise requirements. We included everything that should've guaranteed the future of this aircraft.


Basically: "We completely overengineered it with heavy capabilities for use in a potential stretch, whose market viability we didn't bother to assess. I'm surprised this didn't assure commercial success."
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Tue Oct 20, 2020 2:35 am

I may well be wrong but I believe there is still a business case for this aircraft, I also believe that air terminals missed the boat and should have had double deck gate lounges with double deck air bridges and load the aircraft as two separate aircraft. Thats an infrastructure error and would have made boarding much faster. Also while covid is a johnny come lately issue it has meant that very few if any airlines actually need the A380 right now and as such most A380's are parked long term in storage and no one really knows how long this will endure. The interest then lies with which airlines actually bring their A380's back into service post covid. Why? well if they do then it shows with out a doubt that there is a business case for the A380 because right now there is no reason to keep them is there?
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Tue Oct 20, 2020 4:10 am

ERJ135 wrote:
The interest then lies with which airlines actually bring their A380's back into service post covid. Why? well if they do then it shows with out a doubt that there is a business case for the A380 because right now there is no reason to keep them is there?


Well one would have to be rather pig-headed to argue that there will never be a business case for any airline to operate A380s in the future. If an airline already owns or is on the hook for leasing A380s, the question is whether they'll make more money/lose less money by flying the planes. And the calculus for a new operator might change if they can get a cut-rate deal from an owner or lessor eager to move the planes -- although the situation pre-Covid didn't seem to point to much interest there.

The multi-billion euro question has always been whether the A380's market segment was large enough to justify the money spent on bringing the product to market. Even if the passengers love the plane, and even if Airbus hadn't shot itself in the foot with the CATIA fiasco, I think the poor sales to airline customers indicate the answer was no.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:17 am

The A380 needed that 2nd and 3rd jump in orders like the 77W had. Lots of customer's coming back for additional orders. The A330 had a similar jump, the biggest was while the 787 did its initial face plant.

In high rise buildings it isn't really that much more to go up, there is a cost jump at 15-20 floors when the 2nd bank of elevators is needed, and a second one at 36 floors when the 3rd set of elevators are needed. But starting around 40 floors in the West Coast seismic area and 50 elsewhere the amount of structure needed to prevent noticeable sway (are the curtains swinging?) goes up as a cube function of the height. Things get big fast.

One project, the Norwest Tower in Minneapolis, was to be a 64 story concrete exterior frame with steel columns in the core area. At the bottom floors these core columns were 30"x24" made of 6" steel slabs. Nearly 2,500 PLF. A week before groundbreaking, construction site getting running, the Owners had a fight and cancelled the building. I went to the Contractor's Denver office but a lot of friends got laid off.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Tue Oct 20, 2020 2:35 pm

mxaxai wrote:
Somewhere, there's a limit. And we overestimated this "Economy of Scale".
...
In the conventional architecture with a payload in the center, in the fuselage, with an increasingly larger wingspan that shifts the center of lift further and further away from the payload, it's simply going to rip off. That wing creates such large bending torque that it becomes pointless."

That raises the question where economy of scale ends, A350 or B777X.

I consider that statement odd. They must have calculated everything.

If wing, landing gear... was designed for the stretch, they should have build the stretch first. And they should have limited themselves to 12 hours flights.
Add the B777-300ER.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Tue Oct 20, 2020 2:57 pm

Revelation wrote:
JannEejit wrote:
What would be the advantage in retaining elderly 744 fleet versus retaining more modern A380 fleet like BA have (or we presume will do)? And indeed what was the thinking behind certain airlines operating both 747 and A380 simultaneously ? How does one type complement the other within a single fleet ?

A380 has 140 or so more seats to fill that serve to only increase trip cost and lower yield in the current climate. It's a much bigger aircraft. It's also not as good with freight.

To me the bigger surprise was that they prefer to keep 744 over A346 which is smaller still and has relatively modern engines. I guess the fleet commonality with 748 helps the 744.

The A346 engine maintenance is pricey. The economics of scale were never achieved. In a low fuel price environment, I could see the 744 being kept over A346.

Sadly, the era if passenger quads seems to have an early experation date. A crisis accelerates trends.

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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Tue Oct 20, 2020 3:28 pm

Sokes wrote:
If wing, landing gear... was designed for the stretch, they should have build the stretch first. And they should have limited themselves to 12 hours flights.
Add the B777-300ER.

The way I understood him, the benchmark route and customer was essentially SQ flying SIN-LHR and later QF flying LAX-SYD, both with a full payload. Those are 14 hour and 15 hour flights, repectively. That was the payload and range that their primary customers demanded. Note that SQ also bought the A340-500 and QF bought the 747-400ER; range was extremely important for those two.

If you look at the performance curves, the A380-800 can fly approx. 6500 nm with maximum structural payload; compare SIN-LHR at 5900 nm and LAX-SYD at 6500 nm. This is also reflected by the fact that SQ wanted the full thrust and full MTOW available out of LHR while complying with noise regulations.

Airbus had seen how poorly received the original A330-300 and 777-300 were. They had managed to sell the A340-300 to SQ only because the MD-11 didn't meet the promised range. If they had built only the -900 they would've risked losing their launch customers. Now, obviously EK has bought the majority of all A380s and many are used on rather short routes to Europea or south Asia. But IMHO the ability to serve all of the US and Australia non-stop was a major factor for EK to grow their fleet so large. DXB-LAX was 777-200LR territory until the A380 arrived.

Additionally, the extra MTOW was not just for the stretch but also for extra range variants, as well as the F. The freighter was an integral part of the program until it was cancelled in the face of delays and cost overruns. I've met people who were reassigned from the F to the pax version overnight. In hindsight, the A380 program should have gone differently and I guess it could've been several percent more efficient and cheaper to manufacture. But at the time these decisions were made, in the late 90s and very early 2000s, with the data they had available, I believe it made sense.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Tue Oct 20, 2020 3:36 pm

ERJ135 wrote:
I may well be wrong but I believe there is still a business case for this aircraft, I also believe that air terminals missed the boat and should have had double deck gate lounges with double deck air bridges and load the aircraft as two separate aircraft. Thats an infrastructure error and would have made boarding much faster.

So who was supposed to invest the millions required to put that infrastructure in place?
Airbus themselves realized that there would be additional cost for the much larger a/c and they made attempts to minimize the cost, inclusive of the wake following test and structural loads of the a/c on pavement. Unfortunately, some cost could not be minimized by design and that is where the buy in by the airlines and or airport operators come in, at least a number of them even before making the financial investment did make operational changes to accommodate the a/c, so I am not sure that any significant portion of blame can be placed on infrastructure. or the lack thereof. I would be inclined to believe that since the A380 was the flagship of the airlines, when it arrived the operators ensured that offload / loading their bags were primary, boarding / un-boarding just required extra time.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Tue Oct 20, 2020 4:52 pm

mzlin wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
Thomas: "Yes, exactly that. At the time we started the development, Boeing had sould thousands of the 747 in the decades since 1969 in a market that was smaller than the contemporary market. We focused especially on one thing at this time: Not repeating mistakes of the past, namely developing aircraft that couldn't be developed further, or only with much additional effort. For example the A340-200 and -300, they were at the limit of their development from the start, due to the CFM engine which was at the upper end of its thrust range and we had a too small wing, so we couldn't increase MTOW any further or increase fuel volume. That's what we wanted to avoid. Also the A310, she was at the end of her development, we did develop the -300 with fuel tanks in the empennage to increase range but we wanted to avoid that with the A3XX, as she was called then. So we gave her a large wing, a large gear with 20 wheels with a size and distribution that could permit a significantly higher MTOW, we provided ample fuel volume to increase range, we did everything, we even changed the engine shortly before the end [i. e. design freeze] to meet noise requirements. We included everything that should've guaranteed the future of this aircraft.

Basically: "We completely overengineered it with heavy capabilities for use in a potential stretch, whose market viability we didn't bother to assess. I'm surprised this didn't assure commercial success."

That's a pretty harsh take, not that I'm disagreeing with it.

My point was why didn't they just design an optimal entry point 550 seater (or perhaps smaller, I never felt the world was begging for 550 seats) then rely on being able to find future weight reductions and future engine and aero improvements to deliver future improvements? This is the formula that have driven A320 and A330 into future payload and range improvements.

His point was they got burned on A300/A310 and A340 so they were going to make it easier on themselves to have a path forward.

I suspect perhaps a lot of the incremental improvements we see on A320 and A330 are largely based on the huge advances in all forms of computer aided engineering and computational fluid dynamics we've seen in the last two decades that wasn't very easy to predict in the late 90s / early 00s. But this is just my guess.

But it probably ties into:

mxaxai wrote:
Somewhere, there's a limit. And we overestimated this "Economy of Scale".
...
In the conventional architecture with a payload in the center, in the fuselage, with an increasingly larger wingspan that shifts the center of lift further and further away from the payload, it's simply going to rip off. That wing creates such large bending torque that it becomes pointless."

A320 and A330 get 'continuous improvement' because they're still in a linear part of the scaling curve. Seems Airbus learned the hard way that the A380 was not. They were already throwing 'special sauce' such as titanium landing gear and all CFRP tail just to meet the baseline guarantees.

mxaxai wrote:
The way I understood him, the benchmark route and customer was essentially SQ flying SIN-LHR and later QF flying LAX-SYD, both with a full payload. Those are 14 hour and 15 hour flights, repectively. That was the payload and range that their primary customers demanded. Note that SQ also bought the A340-500 and QF bought the 747-400ER; range was extremely important for those two.

If you look at the performance curves, the A380-800 can fly approx. 6500 nm with maximum structural payload; compare SIN-LHR at 5900 nm and LAX-SYD at 6500 nm. This is also reflected by the fact that SQ wanted the full thrust and full MTOW available out of LHR while complying with noise regulations.

Seems like Airbus really painted themselves into a corner. 747 did sell in the thousands because its core technology, the high bypass turbofan, was brand new and kept getting better and better generation after generation. 747 needed those huge fuel tanks because the original JT9s were gas guzzlers relatively speaking, and as better engines came out the payload/range curve just got better and better. By the end they were largely selling on range more so than payload. Yet A380 had to come out of the blocks and beat the then-mature 744 and soon to be released 777ER/LR models without having any benefit of breakthrough technology. In fact we now read they found they didn't even have as much to work with as they thought because they were finding sub-linear scaling as they grew the frame.

mxaxai wrote:
Airbus had seen how poorly received the original A330-300 and 777-300 were. They had managed to sell the A340-300 to SQ only because the MD-11 didn't meet the promised range. If they had built only the -900 they would've risked losing their launch customers. Now, obviously EK has bought the majority of all A380s and many are used on rather short routes to Europea or south Asia. But IMHO the ability to serve all of the US and Australia non-stop was a major factor for EK to grow their fleet so large. DXB-LAX was 777-200LR territory until the A380 arrived.

Additionally, the extra MTOW was not just for the stretch but also for extra range variants, as well as the F. The freighter was an integral part of the program until it was cancelled in the face of delays and cost overruns. I've met people who were reassigned from the F to the pax version overnight. In hindsight, the A380 program should have gone differently and I guess it could've been several percent more efficient and cheaper to manufacture. But at the time these decisions were made, in the late 90s and very early 2000s, with the data they had available, I believe it made sense.

Right, but in hindsight the under-performance of the A380 team led to one CEO getting fired and then Power8 and another CEO getting fired. It's hard to see the program not making sacrifices like dropping the freighter, I would think. The leadership was rattled. They were also dealing with the A400M money pit at the same time. They had aimed too high, bitten off more than they could chew.

BTW the Champion slides show some of the early pieces of A380F that had already been fabricated. The tone of the slides is kind of amazing in hindsight. No hint of trouble of any kind, kind of like the people on the Titanic using pieces of the iceberg to chill their drinks.

In a way, this all reminds me of another program, Boeing NMA. They were going to have to compete against the mature tech of the A321, which left them with just a corner of the market, the part of the 'middle of the market' that A321 was not able to reach. This is akin to how A380 found itself pushed into a payload/range corner due to competing with 744s already in the market along with the various 747-500/600/8 proposals/projects. NMA had some tech advances but from what we can tell no actual breakthroughs other than the claimed advances in manufacturing. They were for instance going with a scaled up LEAP engine, so were not getting a generational bump in engine tech, just like A380.

A380 fans claim the longest lasting benefit will be the tech that was rolled into the A350, other less enthusiastic people like me will suggest you really did not need to build an A380 to develop the tech that went into A350. During NMA development the current CEO was not that enthusiastic for the project, then when he was sacked due to the MAX tragedy the new CEO shelved the whole thing. In the end it may have been the wisest course because it needed a lot of things to go right for it to succeed. Now we have COVID and it's clear it would be in a world of hurt had it gone forward. Yet we see Boeing doesn't really have a vehicle for its R&D staff to focus on. The future looks murky, IMO.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 2:18 am

mxaxai wrote:
The way I understood him, the benchmark route and customer was essentially SQ flying SIN-LHR and later QF flying LAX-SYD, both with a full payload. Those are 14 hour and 15 hour flights, repectively. That was the payload and range that their primary customers demanded.
...
If you look at the performance curves, the A380-800 can fly approx. 6500 nm with maximum structural payload; compare SIN-LHR at 5900 nm and LAX-SYD at 6500 nm.
...
Airbus had seen how poorly received the original A330-300 and 777-300 were.
...
IMHO the ability to serve all of the US and Australia non-stop was a major factor for EK to grow their fleet so large. DXB-LAX was 777-200LR territory until the A380 arrived.

Additionally, the extra MTOW was not just for the stretch but also for extra range variants, as well as the F. The freighter was an integral part of the program until it was cancelled in the face of delays and cost overruns.
...

Why not breed an animal that gives milk and wool and lays eggs?

If I wanted to design a transpacific plane I would take the B747 cross section. Maybe one should even reduce the width of the main deck to nine abreast for that purpose.

Otherwise the existing A380 cross section is also o. k., but then one has to limit oneself to transatlantic.
Airlines could have both decks for passengers or lower and main deck for cargo, upper deck for passengers.
At any rate just by looking at wing shape and OEW one can see that something went wrong.
I believe Airbus should have seen it even before it was built.
The MTOW should have been lower and the wing optimized for it. With engine improvements the plane could have been stretched further.
Transpacific with this cross section is overdoing it.

If I want to sell 1000 pieces I don't listen to a launch customer who buys maybe 30 or 50 pieces.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 2:32 am

mxaxai wrote:
Airbus had seen how poorly received the original A330-300 and 777-300 were.

Now that's something to think about.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 2:38 pm

Sokes wrote:
If I wanted to design a transpacific plane I would take the B747 cross section. Maybe one should even reduce the width of the main deck to nine abreast for that purpose.

Otherwise the existing A380 cross section is also o. k., but then one has to limit oneself to transatlantic.

https://www.icas.org/ICAS_ARCHIVE/ICAS2 ... RS/806.PDF shows all the different cross sections they tried and how they sorted them out.

They ended up with 10+8 mainly because they defined their core market as 550-650 seats with room for growth beyond 650.

They could have done 10+6 but that would have stopped at 650 seats and as Father Thomas suggests they did not want to be painted into a corner.

The chart suggests for all-Y configuration:
  • 8+6 optimal around 525 passengers, growth to 600 passengers
  • 10+6 optimal around 575 passengers, growth to 650 passengers
  • 10+8 optimal around 675 passengers, growth to 750 passengers

It seems like Father Thomas et al just went with 'bigger is better' without considering the issues associated with 'too big'.

Yet we know from the interview they ended up finding things did not scale up very well, so they knew they were paying a large price for 'bigness'.

As you suggest maybe they should have revisited their earlier decisions, but perhaps they were too far along to do that.

It seems EK operates with 610 in 2 class configuration so no one ever came close to pushing the limits of the -800, never mind the -900.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 3:20 pm

mxaxai wrote:
But that doesn't work 'till infinity. Imagine a plane with a wingspan of 1 km.


First, thank you a ton for transcribing this interview. It is disappointing how strategically dull this guy is but he's an engineer not a strategy guy.

It really bothers me that we have an engineer talking about the fundamentals of airplane design yet he fails to mention the crucial advantage of a double-decker: twice the pax for only 30% more fuselage friction.

I suspect he knows this at some level, but wouldn't bring it up in a conversation because it leads to the obvious question: how'd you f*%& up this project so bad, given the fundamentals? Instead of telling on himself, he's discussing real but secondary dynamics that make a bigger plane heavier.

One really interesting thing I learned from this interview:

we made a main deck that was higher* than regular, we gave ourselves a limit of 1.5% additional operating cost for that - through additional weight, fuel burn - but it had to fit the 8''x8'' containers to allow the development of a freighter.


Again - thanks for your transcription.

I had been assuming all these years that the excessive deck height was simply for enhanced roominess. I'm sure I said as much in one of my old A380X/NEO posts. The freighter rationale is less stupid but only slightly. The freighter was never going to be a big seller; that Airbus allowed it to hamper the pax versions is just abominable strategic analysis (typical of this program). IMO it also lends weight to my contention that the empennage is oversized for the freighter, which would have had higher weight/thrust and therefore needed bigger control surfaces (same lever arm as A388).

The excessive deck height implies yet another missed opportunity for an A380NEO/X that I never discussed in the past: Probably it would have been possible to lower the upper deck. It would have required modifying the attachment of the tension-carrying function of the UD but from first principles seems very doable (basically a diagonal attachment between UD and sidewalls towards the floor of the UD).

Given the flat angle of the UD at seat/head levels, lowering the UD by 6 inches could gain a foot of effective width for seating. That gives A350 effective width on the UD, making 9ab feasible at little cost.
 
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 3:56 pm

What is UD?
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 4:00 pm

Sokes wrote:
What is UD?

Upper Deck.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 4:24 pm

LH707330 wrote:
lightsaber wrote:
Revelation wrote:
A380 has 140 or so more seats to fill that serve to only increase trip cost and lower yield in the current climate. It's a much bigger aircraft. It's also not as good with freight.

To me the bigger surprise was that they prefer to keep 744 over A346 which is smaller still and has relatively modern engines. I guess the fleet commonality with 748 helps the 744.

There is an economy of scale in maintenance. Due to the large freight fleet (744F+747SF+748F) and for engines, the 787 fleet or 767 fleet, parts are readily available for a 747. RR brought down maintenance costs on the T500 but there just isn't as much commonality as RR advertised. This means an A346 opperator must stockpile more parts, which is an expense.

Serious question, does the A346 have unique tires and brakes? If so, that becomes a challenge.

Aviation is becoming more and more about economics of scale.

Lightsaber

I don't think the tires and brakes are unique, they're shared with the shorter 340 and 330 variants. The center gear strut and bogie is unique, and the wheels on it have brakes (the 342/343 don't, which is why they don't get dusty as fast), but I'm pretty sure they're all the same.

The T500 must be really bad on maintenance if they're yanking the 346 over the 744, the 346 has ~10% better fuel burn, and is slightly smaller, which would be a good thing in the reduced-pax environment.

The maintenance costs on the T500 engines are stunningly bad. I worked the Pratt engine bid for the A345/6 and I cannot believe RR was allowed to charge what they do for parts. Now part of the issue is RR prevented repairs on the T500 parts until a large number of airframes were parked. Those parked airframes provided enough cheap parts that repairs haven't been developed (or more precisely, not enough).

Normally the profit center for LH on engine overhauls is parts repairs. It costs millions to develop the repairs and certify them. It is too late Normally at the overhaul centers they develop a few repairs per year as the stockpile of repairable parts(based on prior repairs) grows.

Too late. This is a side effect of just not selling enough T500s

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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 4:30 pm

Matt6461 wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
But that doesn't work 'till infinity. Imagine a plane with a wingspan of 1 km.


First, thank you a ton for transcribing this interview. It is disappointing how strategically dull this guy is but he's an engineer not a strategy guy.

It really bothers me that we have an engineer talking about the fundamentals of airplane design yet he fails to mention the crucial advantage of a double-decker: twice the pax for only 30% more fuselage friction.

I suspect he knows this at some level, but wouldn't bring it up in a conversation because it leads to the obvious question: how'd you f*%& up this project so bad, given the fundamentals? Instead of telling on himself, he's discussing real but secondary dynamics that make a bigger plane heavier.

One really interesting thing I learned from this interview:

we made a main deck that was higher* than regular, we gave ourselves a limit of 1.5% additional operating cost for that - through additional weight, fuel burn - but it had to fit the 8''x8'' containers to allow the development of a freighter.


Again - thanks for your transcription.

I had been assuming all these years that the excessive deck height was simply for enhanced roominess. I'm sure I said as much in one of my old A380X/NEO posts. The freighter rationale is less stupid but only slightly. The freighter was never going to be a big seller; that Airbus allowed it to hamper the pax versions is just abominable strategic analysis (typical of this program). IMO it also lends weight to my contention that the empennage is oversized for the freighter, which would have had higher weight/thrust and therefore needed bigger control surfaces (same lever arm as A388).

The excessive deck height implies yet another missed opportunity for an A380NEO/X that I never discussed in the past: Probably it would have been possible to lower the upper deck. It would have required modifying the attachment of the tension-carrying function of the UD but from first principles seems very doable (basically a diagonal attachment between UD and sidewalls towards the floor of the UD).

Given the flat angle of the UD at seat/head levels, lowering the UD by 6 inches could gain a foot of effective width for seating. That gives A350 effective width on the UD, making 9ab feasible at little cost.

In my opinion, the packaging of the front and rear staircases was done poorly. I also consider the crew rest options not well thought out and space inefficient. That alone destroyed the economics per passenger.

The upper deck floor was high for the planned freighters. That is a design decision I understand. What I do not understand is Airbus not listening to the trade studies showing how they needed to do little changes to increase the passenger load for a given airframe weight.

I am of the opinion the A388 was also too small. Double decks have a weight and volume penalty that favors larger aircraft. Seriously, Airbus would have failed the late 1980s airframe optimization classes.

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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 4:39 pm

Revelation wrote:
https://www.icas.org/ICAS_ARCHIVE/ICAS2 ... RS/806.PDF shows all the different cross sections they tried and how they sorted them out.

They ended up with 10+8 mainly because they defined their core market as 550-650 seats with room for growth beyond 650.

Funny, the B747 cross section seemed to be bad, as it wasn't considered further. But nobody speaks of retiring B747-8i.

What is a core market? A good plane makes its own demand. It doesn't matter if it's 400 or 600 seats.
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 4:58 pm

lightsaber wrote:
I am of the opinion the A388 was also too small. Double decks have a weight and volume penalty that favors larger aircraft. Seriously, Airbus would have failed the late 1980s airframe optimization classes.

"Too small" doesn't jive with the comments in #228 above. They already found they weren't seeing the scaling they expected and were having to use costly measures to get to the baseline numbers they needed to hit. Then we consider the market reality, only on relatively few occasions are airlines able to take advantage of the capacity already baked into the -800 never mind the -900.

Matt6461 wrote:
I suspect he knows this at some level, but wouldn't bring it up in a conversation because it leads to the obvious question: how'd you f*%& up this project so bad, given the fundamentals? Instead of telling on himself, he's discussing real but secondary dynamics that make a bigger plane heavier.

I think that's a fair characterization of the interview. He avoids the big questions about the fundamentally wrong direction the product took, and lets us in on a few other things that were secondary but still problematic issues found and choices made along the way.

All that Herr Thomas gave us was:

At the time we started the development, Boeing had sold thousands of the 747 in the decades since 1969 in a market that was smaller than the contemporary market.

To me as a computer scientist it reads as "At the time we started the development in the 90s, IBM had sold thousands of mainframes in the decades since 1969 in a market that was smaller than the contemporary market so we decided to spend $billions to develop an even bigger mainframe, and when we found we were having problems scaling up the contemporary designs we threw money at exotic materials instead of questioning the fundamental assumptions we based the program on".
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Re: The Airbus A380 Turns 15 Today (April 27)

Wed Oct 21, 2020 5:11 pm

Sokes wrote:
Funny, the B747 cross section seemed to be bad, as it wasn't considered further. But nobody speaks of retiring B747-8i.

Airbus set themselves the goal of being able to serve 550-650 pax with growth out to 750 pax in all-Y configuration while still fitting into the 80 meter box that airports are designed around. That drove them to the 10+8 cross section.

Sokes wrote:
What is a core market? A good plane makes its own demand. It doesn't matter if it's 400 or 600 seats.

Not really. There are only so many pax on a given day who want to go from A to B and are willing to pay market rates to do so. If your plane is designed to handle more pax either you fly empty and get no revenue for the excess seats that add to the cost side of the equation, or you stimulate demand by reducing fares to add to the revenue side, but this tends to damage future yields. Things like demand curves and yield dilution are real things.

There is a thing as "too big". This interview suggests the father of the A380 had no awareness of that. The interview suggests all he saw was the revenue Boeing had got since 1969 by building 747s so he set the goal of building an even bigger plane. He didn't seem to be aware that trends were moving away from the 747 and towards 767, A330 and 777. He was looking backwards instead of forwards, like a computer executive fixating on mainframes just as PCs were entering the market.
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