Very interesting article. Even though we have heard some brief mentions of some of this earlier, this was a far more extensive interview. He talks about the economics of it, how many full A380s they fly between LHR and DBX, traffic growth etc..
"I was chuckling to myself, thinking 'Wait and see.' We started flying the A380 into Heathrow six times a day in October of last year, and we haven't had a [free] seat on any of them since."
"The math tells you that you need a big unit, much bigger than we're getting at the moment," he says.
"The biggest one will be the 777-9, whenever that comes to market, which in our configuration [will seat] 364 people against 484 on the A380s with our new premium economy. And it was 519 before, so you get where I'm coming from."
The "math" Clark refers to comes from demand for air travel, which he says was growing by about 4.5% per year before the pandemic.
Assuming that curve is recaptured, it would take just 10 to 15 years to see demand increase by half.
"Even with multiple 787s and A350s all busy flying around the world, I still don't get how you will pick up that growth curve," says Clark.
"Supply will be suppressed, demand will continue to grow, and when that happens prices rise, it's inevitable.
"If you take the A380s out of the frame by the mid-2030s, how are you going to make it work? Do we see massive upgrades of airfields or new airfields?
"At Heathrow, they can't even agree on the third runway. [Amsterdam's] Schiphol has just reduced the number of landings and takeoffs that they will allow. So, one wonders, how would this demand be accommodated?"
"Is it possible to redesign a new A380? Yes. Is it possible to lighten the aircraft? Yes. When they brought this aircraft to market, composites weren't really [widespread]," says Clark.
"Imagine a composite wing and a predominantly composite fuselage. Imagine engines that are giving you a 20 to 25% improvement compared to what you get today.
"So you get a lighter aircraft, far more fuel-efficient, which ticks all the boxes as far as the environmentalists are concerned."
"I've spoken to Airbus more than once," he says. "I think they're beginning to take it a little bit more seriously, but at the moment they are concentrating on their single aisle planes and the A350 line.
"I suspect people like [Airbus CEO] Guillaume Faury really would like to see something like this and recognizes what I could call the commercial imperative for it.
"But he is very much a technologist and will only do what his engineers and the technology will allow him to do."