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ElroyJetson
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Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 1:27 am

They have been quite a few excellent aircraft that never really caught on in the marketplace sufficiently to make the program profitable.

The L1011 comes to mind. The A346. The 764 and 753. The A310. The 737 Max may end up being a major failure, it remains to be seen.

But the A380 is in a unique position. Most passengers loved it, but with the rapid fragmentation of long haul flying and the success of more efficient twins like the 777, A330, and 787 it floundered. So is the A380 the biggest failure, or is another choice more appropriate?

And you may define failure however you choose.
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IADCA
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 3:15 am

I'll define it in a literal sense. Of passenger airliners, it was the largest. Therefore, it was the biggest failure.

More seriously - in a normative sense - probably not. There have been airframes that killed the airliner divisions of their companies and/or had very short service lives (think CV-880/990, Mercure). It didn't do that. But without the EK orders, it'd be an even uglier dead-end that it is. Oh, and it's also hideous-looking, so there's that too.
 
VSMUT
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:54 am

ElroyJetson wrote:
The L1011 comes to mind. The A346. The 764 and 753. The A310. The 737 Max may end up being a major failure, it remains to be seen.


The Tristar I agree.
The A340NG was a disappointment, but being a modification of an existing product, I wouldn't call it a failure. Ditto for the 767-400 and 757-300.
The A310?! IMO, that was a success. 255 might not sound like a lot today, but by 1980s standards for a startup manufacturer it was a tremendous success, and a simple derivative too.
The 737MAX rightfully deserves the title as an engineering failure on par with the Comet, even if sales will eventually make it a sales success.
 
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Loran
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 11:41 am

To be able to draw a fair conclusion you need to consider the A380-specific innovations which were developed and then applied to other programs. In this regard the DNA of the A380 is found in every subsequent Airbus platform and its development cost can be spread across other programs. Commercially it was probably not a success, however technology-wise (and passenger comfort-wise) it was.

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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:09 pm

Loran wrote:
To be able to draw a fair conclusion you need to consider the A380-specific innovations which were developed and then applied to other programs. In this regard the DNA of the A380 is found in every subsequent Airbus platform and its development cost can be spread across other programs. Commercially it was probably not a success, however technology-wise (and passenger comfort-wise) it was.

Regards,
Loran


I agree to that.

While the A380 was an economical failure (it was simply too big), a lot of knowledge has been gained from it's development. That knowledge is now being used in other aircraft. Without the A380, we might never have had that knowledge. That would mean other aircraft, in which this knowledge is being put to use, wouldn't be as good as they are now.

So in the sense of gathering knowledge, the A380 was a stunning success. As an aircraft it didn't meet it's expectations, but that's fine. Perhaps you could say that without the A380 we wouldn't have had an A350 today, or at least not as good as it is now.
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:54 pm

PatrickZ80 wrote:
Perhaps you could say that without the A380 we wouldn't have had an A350 today, or at least not as good as it is now.

There most likely would have been an A350 even without the A380, although whether that would be the same A350 is debatable. I mean, given that it's the next number after A340 and all. :duck:
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 4:14 pm

I would put the MD-90 in the category of an economic failure. It came out at a time when airlines were eager to replace large fleets of B722's and it was supposed to be MD's answer to the requirement. Given the "Buy American" attitude of the time, MD should have sold many hundreds MD-90's. But the A320 was more techologically-modern, with longer range and better efficiency. Then Boeing came up with the B737NG series, which while less technologically-advanced, had similar range and was at least equally efficient. As a result, the MD-90 landed with a "Thud!" as far as sales were concerned.
 
MartijnNL
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 4:50 pm

The total 'grounding cost' of the Boeing 737 MAX is approaching the total development cost of the Airbus A380. :scratchchin:
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 6:42 pm

The A380 isn't even in the top 10 failures, IMO.

As much as I love Concorde from a sales standpoint it was disaster. When the state funded airlines of the two development countries are the only two, extremely reluctant, operators that says a lot.
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ElroyJetson
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 8:03 pm

MartijnNL wrote:
The total 'grounding cost' of the Boeing 737 MAX is approaching the total development cost of the Airbus A380. :scratchchin:


I agree. To this point the MAX is a stunning failure. Whether or not it will recoup all the costs incurred is a major open question. If it ends up selling 3 or 4 thousand units maybe. We probably won't know for many years.
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sun Jul 05, 2020 9:13 pm

A380 is easily the biggest failure in history, based on the combination of cost, promise, projection and damage inflicted on most of the operators.
Having said that, the MAX could handily outdo the A380's failure if it is not soon recertified by both FAA AND EASA , and only one of those two is a given.

Boeing (and by extension, US industry and regulation) has already significantly damaged their stature for all of our lifetimes.
 
e38
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 06, 2020 12:54 am

PatrickZ80,

In your reply above you used the word “knowledge” five times.

So, specifically, what knowledge was gained from the design and manufacture of the Airbus A380 that would not have been achieved had the aircraft not been produced? And which specific aircraft, and particular systems, are using that knowledge?

e38
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 06, 2020 3:03 am

I saw someone mention Concorde, but I would argue the Boeing 2707 is the biggest failure in commercial aviation. About $40 billion (edit: in today’s dollars) spent on a plane that never flew.

Concorde would probably be #2 though. As much as it pains me to admit, its hard to make a case for a plane that sold for 1£.

I’d also put the MD-11 in an honorable mention slot. It’d did okay-ish sales wise, but it was based on a tri-jet concept that was already irrelevant when it came out.
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 06, 2020 3:50 am

VSMUT wrote:
The 737MAX rightfully deserves the title as an engineering failure on par with the Comet, even if sales will eventually make it a sales success.


A sales success, perhaps. But *MAYBE* Boeing will be able to turn an overall program profit. And with recent events, it is not clear that the market will be as big as Boeing hoped, at least for the next 3-5 years. If the market is smaller, I think that Airbus, with their more extensive service record for the A320-NEO family, will have the advantage in such a contest.
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 06, 2020 4:25 am

BowlingShoeDC9 wrote:
I saw someone mention Concorde, but I would argue the Boeing 2707 is the biggest failure in commercial aviation. About $40 billion (edit: in today’s dollars) spent on a plane that never flew.

Concorde would probably be #2 though. As much as it pains me to admit, its hard to make a case for a plane that sold for 1£.

I’d also put the MD-11 in an honorable mention slot. It’d did okay-ish sales wise, but it was based on a tri-jet concept that was already irrelevant when it came out.



The 2707 seemed to be a matter off stupid one-upsmanship in no small part due to the politics.. Everything the Europeans were planning, the Americans were going to do better. Bigger, faster, longer range, more power! When one considers the aircraft that American manufacturers were building at the time, It simply shouldn't have been such a mess. Concorde is a magnificent aircraft, but it's true that it was a failure. What a future those engineers dreamt of...

The md11 was just outdated before it was even a competition. A trijet in the era of the twins. Found its niche, but hardly a widespread success.
 
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FlyRow
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 06, 2020 8:13 am

Does anyone use the search function in this place? There are dozens of threads about this exact same topic. It's been debated, rebated and reconsidered over and over again.
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 06, 2020 1:07 pm

IADCA wrote:
... Oh, and it's also hideous-looking, so there's that too.


Really? I mean it's a little stumpy because the wings are so big, but it's not hideous. Infact I think the fuselage and actual look is nicer than the B747. It makes the 747 look as old as it is.
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 06, 2020 1:42 pm

BowlingShoeDC9 wrote:
I saw someone mention Concorde, but I would argue the Boeing 2707 is the biggest failure in commercial aviation. About $40 billion (edit: in today’s dollars) spent on a plane that never flew.

Concorde would probably be #2 though. As much as it pains me to admit, its hard to make a case for a plane that sold for 1£.

I’d also put the MD-11 in an honorable mention slot. It’d did okay-ish sales wise, but it was based on a tri-jet concept that was already irrelevant when it came out.


I'm sure BA's predecessor BOAC would have liked to have had the original 5 Concorde frames for a £1, rather than around 20% more than a 747 each in 1972 prices which was the reality.
(Yes, I know that did not account for development costs, however this was far from the only type that did not include them in the sales price).

As for the other two frames, nominal amount to hand to BA, maybe it was a £1, the mods to bring them up to BA standard the airline paid for.
In all this, we have to separate reality from 'BransonSpeak', a form of BS particular to him, usually to use in stories he generated.
Especially when it's BA doing something, successfully, which he never did or could.

For all that, it outsold the Mercure, (also only sold to a state company).
 
IADCA
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 06, 2020 2:19 pm

Reinhardt wrote:
IADCA wrote:
... Oh, and it's also hideous-looking, so there's that too.


Really? I mean it's a little stumpy because the wings are so big, but it's not hideous. Infact I think the fuselage and actual look is nicer than the B747. It makes the 747 look as old as it is.


It was a throwaway comment, but yes. It looks like someone ripped the cockpit and wings off an A330 and stacked it on top of an A340. The "fivehead" alone makes the 777 above-cockpit section look like a masterpiece of aesthetics.
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 06, 2020 3:15 pm

e38 wrote:
So, specifically, what knowledge was gained from the design and manufacture of the Airbus A380 that would not have been achieved had the aircraft not been produced? And which specific aircraft, and particular systems, are using that knowledge?

e38


I was wondering the same thing. Can anyone articulate specific technologies or "knowledge" that were applied to downstream Airbus aircraft?
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 06, 2020 8:09 pm

FGITD wrote:
BowlingShoeDC9 wrote:
I saw someone mention Concorde, but I would argue the Boeing 2707 is the biggest failure in commercial aviation. About $40 billion (edit: in today’s dollars) spent on a plane that never flew.

Concorde would probably be #2 though. As much as it pains me to admit, its hard to make a case for a plane that sold for 1£.

I’d also put the MD-11 in an honorable mention slot. It’d did okay-ish sales wise, but it was based on a tri-jet concept that was already irrelevant when it came out.



The 2707 seemed to be a matter off stupid one-upsmanship in no small part due to the politics.. Everything the Europeans were planning, the Americans were going to do better. Bigger, faster, longer range, more power! When one considers the aircraft that American manufacturers were building at the time, It simply shouldn't have been such a mess. Concorde is a magnificent aircraft, but it's true that it was a failure. What a future those engineers dreamt of...

The md11 was just outdated before it was even a competition. A trijet in the era of the twins. Found its niche, but hardly a widespread success.

This might be splitting hairs but since the 2707 never was completely built and never flew, not sure you can put it in this category. Yes, it was a waste of resources (monetary and engineering) so you could lump it in I suppose. The A380 made it into service so it's in a different category IMO. The jury's still out on the Max. If it's fixed now and if passengers and airlines end up being comfortable flying it then it can redeem itself. If it permanently has a stigma of a dangerous airplane attached to it in the flying public's mind, then it may take the top prize in this category.
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Tue Jul 07, 2020 4:28 am

GDB wrote:
BowlingShoeDC9 wrote:
I saw someone mention Concorde, but I would argue the Boeing 2707 is the biggest failure in commercial aviation. About $40 billion (edit: in today’s dollars) spent on a plane that never flew.

Concorde would probably be #2 though. As much as it pains me to admit, its hard to make a case for a plane that sold for 1£.

I’d also put the MD-11 in an honorable mention slot. It’d did okay-ish sales wise, but it was based on a tri-jet concept that was already irrelevant when it came out.


I'm sure BA's predecessor BOAC would have liked to have had the original 5 Concorde frames for a £1, rather than around 20% more than a 747 each in 1972 prices which was the reality.
(Yes, I know that did not account for development costs, however this was far from the only type that did not include them in the sales price).

As for the other two frames, nominal amount to hand to BA, maybe it was a £1, the mods to bring them up to BA standard the airline paid for.
In all this, we have to separate reality from 'BransonSpeak', a form of BS particular to him, usually to use in stories he generated.
Especially when it's BA doing something, successfully, which he never did or could.

For all that, it outsold the Mercure, (also only sold to a state company).



Ahh I didn’t know the story that 1£ story was a Branson thing. It still seems like they didn’t really pay for the first 5 planes since they got to write the value off as a loss (since the government set the value of the plane to nil). Maybe I don’t have a great understanding of tax law though. I haven’t read anything about how much the planes cost Air France, but I’m assuming the situation was similar.

ER757 wrote:
FGITD wrote:
BowlingShoeDC9 wrote:
I saw someone mention Concorde, but I would argue the Boeing 2707 is the biggest failure in commercial aviation. About $40 billion (edit: in today’s dollars) spent on a plane that never flew.

Concorde would probably be #2 though. As much as it pains me to admit, its hard to make a case for a plane that sold for 1£.

I’d also put the MD-11 in an honorable mention slot. It’d did okay-ish sales wise, but it was based on a tri-jet concept that was already irrelevant when it came out.



The 2707 seemed to be a matter off stupid one-upsmanship in no small part due to the politics.. Everything the Europeans were planning, the Americans were going to do better. Bigger, faster, longer range, more power! When one considers the aircraft that American manufacturers were building at the time, It simply shouldn't have been such a mess. Concorde is a magnificent aircraft, but it's true that it was a failure. What a future those engineers dreamt of...

The md11 was just outdated before it was even a competition. A trijet in the era of the twins. Found its niche, but hardly a widespread success.

This might be splitting hairs but since the 2707 never was completely built and never flew, not sure you can put it in this category. Yes, it was a waste of resources (monetary and engineering) so you could lump it in I suppose. The A380 made it into service so it's in a different category IMO. The jury's still out on the Max. If it's fixed now and if passengers and airlines end up being comfortable flying it then it can redeem itself. If it permanently has a stigma of a dangerous airplane attached to it in the flying public's mind, then it may take the top prize in this category.


I suppose it depends on how you define failure and from whose perspective you’re looking at it from (manufacture vs airliner). The fact that so much was put into the program (approximately equal to the A380 development in todays money) and the end result makes it worthy of being on the list.
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Tue Jul 07, 2020 5:11 am

fbgdavidson wrote:
The A380 isn't even in the top 10 failures, IMO.

As much as I love Concorde from a sales standpoint it was disaster. When the state funded airlines of the two development countries are the only two, extremely reluctant, operators that says a lot.

the Concorde died as a result of it not being 0able to Overfly the USA at supersonic speed. Once that capability was denied the SST? the Concorde and the TU-144 were s moot point unable to gain traction. The A380? was already going out while coming IN! the USA didn't need it and thus didn't bother to support it. Hell! It was enough we modified some airports to handle it! It was a "status symbol" a me too airplane without any other reason than to be larger than the 747.
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:59 am

strfyr51 wrote:
fbgdavidson wrote:
Hell! It was enough we modified some airports to handle it! It was a "status symbol" a me too airplane without any other reason than to be larger than the 747.

Then what was the reason for creating the 747-8?
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:06 pm

e38 wrote:
So, specifically, what knowledge was gained from the design and manufacture of the Airbus A380 that would not have been achieved had the aircraft not been produced? And which specific aircraft, and particular systems, are using that knowledge?e38


https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/passeng ... ation.html

I don't think these innovations wouldn't have been achieved, clearly they would have been achieved through other programs, too (except A380/VLA-specific innovations).
Referring to my earlier post, I did point out that the cost for developing these innovations were accounted to the A380 program, and not to subsequent platforms. Hence the later platforms benefit from the relatively bad A380 business case. At the same time the A380 did also benefit from earlier innovations. I simply find it a bit short-sighted to call the A380 "the biggest failure in commercial aviation history".

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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:21 pm

ER757 wrote:
FGITD wrote:
BowlingShoeDC9 wrote:
I saw someone mention Concorde, but I would argue the Boeing 2707 is the biggest failure in commercial aviation. About $40 billion (edit: in today’s dollars) spent on a plane that never flew.

Concorde would probably be #2 though. As much as it pains me to admit, its hard to make a case for a plane that sold for 1£.

I’d also put the MD-11 in an honorable mention slot. It’d did okay-ish sales wise, but it was based on a tri-jet concept that was already irrelevant when it came out.



The 2707 seemed to be a matter off stupid one-upsmanship in no small part due to the politics.. Everything the Europeans were planning, the Americans were going to do better. Bigger, faster, longer range, more power! When one considers the aircraft that American manufacturers were building at the time, It simply shouldn't have been such a mess. Concorde is a magnificent aircraft, but it's true that it was a failure. What a future those engineers dreamt of...

The md11 was just outdated before it was even a competition. A trijet in the era of the twins. Found its niche, but hardly a widespread success.

This might be splitting hairs but since the 2707 never was completely built and never flew, not sure you can put it in this category. Yes, it was a waste of resources (monetary and engineering) so you could lump it in I suppose. The A380 made it into service so it's in a different category IMO. The jury's still out on the Max. If it's fixed now and if passengers and airlines end up being comfortable flying it then it can redeem itself. If it permanently has a stigma of a dangerous airplane attached to it in the flying public's mind, then it may take the top prize in this category.


It's a fun thought exercise, but you're right. The aircraft that actually flew/entered service is still more successful than the one that only made it as far as being a wooden mockup, regardless of history beyond that.

The MAX has a tough uphill battle ahead of it. Saving grace might just be that there are so many of them that hopefully will be flying around, people won't even notice
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Thu Jul 09, 2020 11:33 am

The Dassault Mercure, the VFW-614, Convair 880/990 and the Electra all come to mind as well.
the truth does matter, guys. too bad it's often quite subjective. the truth is beyond the mere facts and figures. it's beyond good and bad, right and wrong...
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Thu Jul 09, 2020 2:22 pm

I guess the A380 is everyone's favourite current aviation failure. Especially those not old enough to remember other considered failures. The Tristar sold slightly less than the A380, do you hear many conversations calling it a failure ? In terms of a bigger failure, right from the start, what about the Bristol Brabazon ? A large unwieldy propliner, conceived just as the world was turning to jet aircraft. The thing that gets me about the A380 critics in the main, are all the sleeves rolled up, 20/20 hindsight, pursed lipped types. I don't deem the A380 to be a 'failure' it flies and carries countless passengers in a great deal of comfort. But then again I'm not using the term 'great success' either. There may in fact be a fine line between success and failure after all.
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Thu Jul 09, 2020 7:28 pm

I guess as of this decade. Sadly, I think the 748 is close behind... :( And also another sad one, the A340... :( Also, if you count the Tu-204 too.


Flops of other times

Boeing 717
Boeing 757-300
Boeing 767-400
Mcdonnell Douglas MD-11
Concorde
Convair 880/990 Coronado
Tu-144
Lockheed L1011
DASSAULT MERCURE
De Havilland Comet
ROTODYNE
Douglas DC-5
Boeing Stratocruiser
Boeing 247
CHRISTMAS BULLET
Last edited by Boeing757100 on Thu Jul 09, 2020 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Thu Jul 09, 2020 7:30 pm

klm617 wrote:
The Dassault Mercure, the VFW-614, Convair 880/990 and the Electra all come to mind as well.



True. Fun fact: I think more L1011s were built than all those aircraft combined
 
FGITD
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:35 pm

Boeing757100 wrote:
klm617 wrote:
The Dassault Mercure, the VFW-614, Convair 880/990 and the Electra all come to mind as well.



True. Fun fact: I think more L1011s were built than all those aircraft combined


Not quite. Combined it looks like the other types make up about 300 aircraft, compared to around 250 1011s

The Electra is also a completely different story if you include the derivative p3 Orion, which in total adds up to about 750 frames.
 
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klm617
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sat Jul 11, 2020 11:57 am

FGITD wrote:
Boeing757100 wrote:
klm617 wrote:
The Dassault Mercure, the VFW-614, Convair 880/990 and the Electra all come to mind as well.



True. Fun fact: I think more L1011s were built than all those aircraft combined


Not quite. Combined it looks like the other types make up about 300 aircraft, compared to around 250 1011s

The Electra is also a completely different story if you include the derivative p3 Orion, which in total adds up to about 750 frames.


Agreed on you point about the Electra.
the truth does matter, guys. too bad it's often quite subjective. the truth is beyond the mere facts and figures. it's beyond good and bad, right and wrong...
 
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sat Jul 11, 2020 12:44 pm

VSMUT wrote:
The 737MAX rightfully deserves the title as an engineering failure on par with the Comet, even if sales will eventually make it a sales success.


at the rate the cancellations are going, it might be even 1/2 or 3/4 of its backlog GONE within a year, plus a couple of months, which is when we'll see it come back to service most likely, due to other issues it facing right now. Those issues may take a year and a few months extra to solve. By then, most everyone would've pulled out. To call it a sales success by then, I have no idea.
 
Chemist
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sat Jul 11, 2020 5:36 pm

I'd consider derivative failures to be less a failure, since the primary type still did well. So the MAX, the 747-8, even the A340 (since A330 shares wing/fuselage) are less egregious than the A380, L1011, etc.
 
Sdmccray1984
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Thu Jul 16, 2020 12:52 am

Well... The very concept of a 500-seat aircraft is NOT flawed; the planning and execution of the A380 program, however, IS flawed. Look at the number of capacity-constrained airports in some mega cities (LAX, LHR, JFK, etc). Multiple daily frequencies would stress the slot constraints at such airports. The issue with the A380 was simply that airlines bit off more than they could chew.
 
hinckley
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Thu Jul 16, 2020 12:44 pm

Loran wrote:
e38 wrote:
So, specifically, what knowledge was gained from the design and manufacture of the Airbus A380 that would not have been achieved had the aircraft not been produced? And which specific aircraft, and particular systems, are using that knowledge?e38

https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/passeng ... ation.html

Respectfully, I don't think that "more" and "bigger" are innovations. They're . . . well . . . more and bigger. They're not new or innovative. Imo, the A380 is certainly the biggest commercial failure of the current generation of commercial airliners. I think most of us had thought we were past the folly days of the CV990 or B2707.

I think that the 748 deserves an honorable mention in the folly department. Imo, Boeing originally planned the 748 as a low cost derivative with little hope of significant profit. But it would serve as a foil to the A380, maintaining pricing pressure and dooming its chance of significant profit as well. As it turns out, Boeing was being too clever. Customer demands significantly inflated 748 development costs and the VLA market was even smaller than expected. The A380 didn't need any help being unprofitable and Boeing ended up with a white elephant of its own. Stupid hubris on both A's and B's part.

Finally, I think that the MAX is the biggest technological failure in modern aviation, and maybe in historical aviation. I think that what sets the MAX apart is that its engineering shortcomings were known, hidden and covered-up. I think of it as comparable to VW's dieselgate scandal. The MAX represented a wanton and criminal disregard for passenger safety. You could never say that of the Comet.
 
airhansa
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Fri Jul 17, 2020 2:51 am

737 MAX is a far bigger failure. It has failed not only economically, but brought down a major company and actually killed people. It's a plane that can't fly properly.

A380 failed economically but succeeded in every other aspect, including doing what it was designed to do. More importantly everyone really likes flying the plane to the point that it's an attraction in itself.

Concorde was a failure for modern economics. A better product is offered but businesses don't like it because they can make more money by offering less.
 
Calledonian
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Mon Jul 20, 2020 8:32 pm

This is a tough question to answer, because it heavily depends how you define an aircraft to be a failure. It's probably best considered as a venn diagram, with aircraft that were economic failures, aircraft that were design failures, and aircraft that were both.

When it comes to aircraft that failed economically, the obvious candidate to "win" this category would be the Dasault Mercure, with only slightly more than a dozen built, putting the manufacturer off going in to commercial aircraft building ever again. But, it was well designed, had a flawless safety record and did what it was designed to do excellently. There was just no market for it. Other aircraft that could be considered "economic" failures would probably be the Concorde, Airbus A380, Bristol Brabizon, and the Saab 2000.

Finding aircraft that were design failures but not economic failures is difficult, but the two are not mutually exclusive. Whilst the De Havilland Comet began life with a fatal flaw, it still sold in good numbers and forged aviation in to the jet age. Other candidates here would include the Douglas DC-10, Lockheed Electra and potentially the Boeing 737-200. These three aircraft all had flawed designs, but went on to have long somewhat successful careers.

For the final category, aircraft that fit both, two aircraft come to mind, the Boeing 737 MAX series and the British Aerospace ATP. There are arguments to be made about both.

The 737 MAX had a fatal flaw, that was covered up by its manufacturer and still allowed in to service. Had an exceptionally long grounding, and had a hugely significant impact on Boeing. Yet, it hasn't returned to service this far, so the long-term impact is not yet known, and it may still sell thousands of frames, with Boeing still making a profit on the program.

The British Aerospace ATP sold very few frames, and had a large financial impact on the manufacturer. It was also incredibly unreliable, it's poor reputation no doubt contributing to lack of sales. Yet, some frames are still in operation (albeit cargo only) and the actual safety record for the aircraft is near faultless.

I will probably find myself thinking I should have answered this differently, but that is my current assessment of the question. But, I am almost 100% convinced the A380 is nowhere near the biggest failure in commercial aviation history.
 
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Loran
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Tue Jul 21, 2020 3:49 pm

hinckley wrote:
Respectfully, I don't think that "more" and "bigger" are innovations.

Did you actually read the article? Neither I claimed "more" and "bigger" are innovations, nor does the article.

There are specific technical innovations which have been introduced with the A380 (as outlined in the article). What I am trying to say that these innovations were accounted to the A380 program and hence burden the program's ROI and later platforms benefit from these innovations. However I am also saying that most of these innovations would *probably* have been achieved with other aircraft developments, too (except VLA-specific innovations).

So to draw a conclusion if "the A380 was the biggest failure in commercial aviation history", you need to compare the EBIT and/or ROI of all these aircraft programs under consideration of the technological advancements the A380 has contributed. I have not seen such a figure in here yet, so I am wondering on what basis everyone draws a conclusion.

Regards,
Loran
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hinckley
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Tue Jul 21, 2020 5:25 pm

Loran wrote:
hinckley wrote:
Respectfully, I don't think that "more" and "bigger" are innovations.

Did you actually read the article? Neither I claimed "more" and "bigger" are innovations, nor does the article.

I did. I read every bit of it. It's not an article btw. It's Airbus marketing materials. Here are examples of the "innovations":
    - The A380’s cockpit – which is based on Airbus’ industry-leading flight deck design for its fly-by-wire jetliner families – features the latest advances in cockpit technology, including larger interactive displays, an advanced flight management system and improved navigation modes.
    - Airbus introduced its innovative Brake to Vacate technology on the A380, allowing flight crews to more effectively manage approach and landing by pre-selecting the optimum runway exit.
    - By incorporating the latest advances in structures and materials, the A380 offers the lowest cost per seat of any wide-body aircraft

So, when Airbus designed the A380, they used the latest tech? Well, of course they did. They didn't use tech from 10 years prior. But there were no huge technological leaps in creating the A380. All were incremental advancements of then-current technologies. And there's nothing wrong with that, but real "innovations" are things like the 787's composite structure or Tesla's battery technology.
 
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Centaurus
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:11 am

strfyr51 wrote:
fbgdavidson wrote:
The A380 isn't even in the top 10 failures, IMO.

As much as I love Concorde from a sales standpoint it was disaster. When the state funded airlines of the two development countries are the only two, extremely reluctant, operators that says a lot.

the Concorde died as a result of it not being 0able to Overfly the USA at supersonic speed. Once that capability was denied the SST? the Concorde and the TU-144 were s moot point unable to gain traction. The A380? was already going out while coming IN! the USA didn't need it and thus didn't bother to support it. Hell! It was enough we modified some airports to handle it! It was a "status symbol" a me too airplane without any other reason than to be larger than the 747.


Airbus bet the farm, and lost big time. Their predictions for a potential shift in air travel was way off the mark.

And to your point regarding airports.... I think this also played a role in the demise of the A380 The airbus a380 needs a massive airport so right off the bat there are only so many destinations to collect on and cash in on. This is a potential deal breaker for some airlines.

So yes, to answer your question directly, the a380 was in fact the worst.
Worlds biggest airplane but also the worlds biggest failure... kind of ironic if you ask me.

One could argue the a380 is one of the worst looking aircraft of all time.

Every time I look at an a380 in a front to back orientation it makes me think of an egghead for some strange reason.
 
hinckley
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:52 am

The more I think about the OP's question, the more I think that Concorde has to be considered the biggest commercial failure. And as a business, commercial success or failure is the only thing that matters. Obviously, the French and British governments ended up picking up the tab, but if you consider the massive development costs vs the de minimis revenues (14 units x £1/frame), Concorde has got to be the biggest loss maker in time-adjusted dollars/pounds/francs/euro.
 
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Centaurus
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:25 pm

hinckley wrote:
The more I think about the OP's question, the more I think that Concorde has to be considered the biggest commercial failure. And as a business, commercial success or failure is the only thing that matters. Obviously, the French and British governments ended up picking up the tab, but if you consider the massive development costs vs the de minimis revenues (14 units x £1/frame), Concorde has got to be the biggest loss maker in time-adjusted dollars/pounds/francs/euro.


But nations took pride in the Concorde and it's development. At the same time, I do see your point, however. The cost / return ratio is probably the worst ever. But if you look beyond that, it was dream come true more than a cash cow moneymaker and was flown for vastly different reasons than the A380 was. (notice I said was, as in the a380 in past tense)… Supersonic travel must be made a reality no matter the cost.

Like building a rocket ship and going to the moon, humans had a picture of the massive costs but at that point it wasn't about the money. It was about the pride of a nation. The Concorde represented that on a very high level. The a380 did not.

In terms of similarities? They were both major milestone achievements in the field of aviation. Both planes broke new ground. And both planes failed for different reasons. And it's a shame too, because without that blasted piece of metal on the runway, the Concorde may have continued flying to this very day.

I think Airbus has always been trying to figure out how they could get around the 747. The answer was the a380. They obviously could not accept the fact that Boeing owned the jumbo jet market with its 747. In looking beyond that and blindly following predictions airbus kind of let their emotions do the talking. Here we go, lets see if we can one up Boeing. If we build it, they will come. So in that sense of the word, I feel like Airbus was a little blind to the vulnerabilities of the a380.
 
FGITD
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Thu Jul 23, 2020 6:00 pm

Bit of a double standard there though, isn't it?

Concorde was massively expensive, sold very few to airlines that pretty much had no choice, had a comparably poor safety record, and while technologically advanced...There's been no realfurther progress in the SST field since. It's more akin to a technology demonstrator that everyone decided wasn't worth it.

It's an odd argument to say that having the fastest plane vs no one else in the market is the absolute pride of the nations, yet having the biggest vs your direct competition is a massive failure.
 
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Centaurus
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Thu Jul 23, 2020 10:33 pm

FGITD wrote:
Bit of a double standard there though, isn't it?

Concorde was massively expensive, sold very few to airlines that pretty much had no choice, had a comparably poor safety record, and while technologically advanced...There's been no realfurther progress in the SST field since. It's more akin to a technology demonstrator that everyone decided wasn't worth it.

It's an odd argument to say that having the fastest plane vs no one else in the market is the absolute pride of the nations, yet having the biggest vs your direct competition is a massive failure.


Are you kidding me? Concorde WAS the choice of airplane, that's why it was built in the first place---because everyone believed it could work and that it would revolutionize air travel and it did. Make no mistake, Air France and British shared the same sentiment and they certainly weren't looking for anything else. Your argument is akin to Air France saying "Hey, we would prefer a supersonic airliner with larger engines and vectored thrust, the Concorde just doesn't cut it!" They wanted the pinnacle of performance, and Concorde delivered. The Concorde was the envy of the world. Huge source of pride for both the British and the French for decades... don't have to look far to see that. Even now it stands alone as the undisputed king and champion of the skies and it will likely remain in that position for a very long time.

With only seven airframes each being operated by the British and French, the per-unit cost was impossible to recoup, so the French and British governments absorbed the development costs. But British Airways and Air France were actually able to operate Concorde at a profit, in spite of very high maintenance costs, because the aircraft was able to sustain a high ticket price.

Regards to safety record: This quirk shows the dangers of measuring aviation safety by numbers alone in an era when flight is so safe that just one accident can skew the ratings dramatically. But statistics can also tell useful stories.

For more than three decades, the Concorde flew the earth's airways with no crashes, no deaths and no injuries more serious than bumps and bruises from nonfatal incidents and mishaps. That means that on the industry's standard safety measure, "hull losses" per million flights, it scored a perfect zero.
And because the Concorde has been in service far longer than other aircraft that now have zero hull-loss ratings--the Airbus A330 and 340 and the Boeing 777, 737NG and 717--many people considered its record to be the best.
 
FGITD
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Fri Jul 24, 2020 4:26 am

But what I'm saying is you cannot claim it was the airliner of choice and the envy of all others when literally no one else wanted it. After the fuel prices went up, the only customers left were the ones who were told in no uncertain terms that they would fly these airplanes, and the government will pay them to make it happen. It's not unreasonable to say that the only reason AF and BA made a profit is exactly because no one else had Concorde. Give them a monopoly in the market and charge them £1 per aircraft, and it shouldn't be too difficult to make a little money.

Some air travel revolution it started...explains why it still takes 6 hours to go JFK-LHR. History will look back at Concorde as a a technological feat, and a remarkable "what could have been" and in my opinion, what travel should be like these days. But the revolution Concorde was leading never came. If anything, most modern aircraft are actually slower than their counterparts of previous eras.

Safety record I will agree is a bit of a moot point, given how statistics can be skewed and also that what would be a non event on say a 707 was a big deal on Concorde.

So my original point remains...it's very challenging to call a heavily government subsidized, extremely limited production aircraft more of a success than one that sold a few hundred frames. Not that the failure of Concorde means the a380 is therefore a success, but comparatively speaking it seems to be doing ok.
 
GDB
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:31 am

hinckley wrote:
The more I think about the OP's question, the more I think that Concorde has to be considered the biggest commercial failure. And as a business, commercial success or failure is the only thing that matters. Obviously, the French and British governments ended up picking up the tab, but if you consider the massive development costs vs the de minimis revenues (14 units x £1/frame), Concorde has got to be the biggest loss maker in time-adjusted dollars/pounds/francs/euro.


There is the technology gained, first FBW in a civil aircraft, something Airbus would expand upon, with the A320 (which Boeing and many observers poo-poohed at the time). First with electronic engine controls, first with carbon brakes, it raised the game of the avionic industries of both nations.
Most of all, perhaps, it proved that two nations could combine their talents to make a complex aircraft, the most ambitious at the time. That was a major stepping stone to what would become Airbus.

As some NASA people who visited us in 1998 (they were looking to how BA Concorde sustain a small number of unique air vehicles, long out of production, with the STS in mind), told us, 'Concorde was the Anglo-French version of the Apollo Program, in terms of technical challenge'.

Yes the pride thing too, the mere Europeans managed to do what the USSR could not, at least in terms of technical success, while the US spent on the 2707 roughly the same amount as the UK did on Concorde but for what? And those were mostly tax $.
They could do it technically but there, 'pride' did for them, in a different way.

The unrealistic requirements on speed, materials and that unholy mess of Boeing's initial swing wing 2707 design. A bigger aircraft sure, had they made it Mach 2-2.2 it would have met the same environmental and with the 1973 oil crisis, financial and market problems, though they at least would have by then flying aircraft to show for it and spent a whole lot less getting there. NASA would likely have taken any prototypes/pre-production frames.

So when it is claimed that the A380 was maybe pure one-upmanship, if it was it still sold enough to break even and a bit more, which is rather more impressive than the example of the same line of thinking with the 2707.

If the P-3 can be included with the Electra, then the Nimrod can be with the Comet, which takes total Comet 1-4 and Nimrod frames to 160. Not a huge leap but to be fair....

If everything was framed in commercial success terms, the aerospace industry, even purely civil programs, would not have advanced to anything like today. This includes the US one.
Someone has to be first, take the risk, sometimes it pays off commercially, sometimes not.
Comet, even after the Comet 1's fate, broke even.
But the first ever turboprop, The Vickers Viscount, did sell. Over 400 sales in the 1950's was big, even penetrated the US market, with it's then hostility to non US designs, but if you are, for a number of years, the only game in town for a turboprop, that market will decide.

I would argue too that the French Caravelle was a major innovator too, the first short/medium range (in 1950's terms) airliner. It sold respectfully for it's time, in a much smaller worldwide market, (something those just counting numbers need to adjust to when comparing success by that measure alone).

You also have to remember that unlike the US in WW2, which built huge numbers of transports and continued to develop and build improved versions, in the UK all aircraft had to be military. There was no spare capacity.
So post war, to try and regain a market, now set to increase as the world recovered, the UK industry, which in some areas, such as jet engines, was ahead of the US, had to go for innovation.
No good trying to regain a market filled with Douglas and Lockheed mass produced designs, with similar technology aircraft, that would not have had the pure economies of scales the US types already had.

Hence the trend, even with failures like the Brabazon, Princess Flying Boat, (planned late in WW2 though no actual work began on them until peacetime), which were victims of a lack of knowledge about what the post war airline market would look like, these taking pre war trends with new technology, along with a bit later, with a better idea of the market, big leaps like the Comet, The Viscount.
All done when the country was effectively bankrupt and war damaged, again unlike the US.
 
surrodox2001
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Fri Jul 24, 2020 1:59 pm

To add some other airliner flops, I think the RR variant 767, 707 and DC8, DC10 40 are as not much carriers ordered it apart from the original requester and some other carriers.
 
cpd
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Sat Jul 25, 2020 10:46 pm

I would say the 737Max or the USA SST program as a whole, where a huge amount of money was spent and gained nothing from it, except for maybe flight deck technologies.

The USA SST program was stupid bigger better, faster, higher rather than what was technically feasible.

I’m still of the thought that the L2000 Lockheed probably would have been a more sensible option.

The simple answer to the OP question is literally to find whatever aircraft was a failure and arrange them in order of size or weight. ;)
 
B777LRF
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Re: Is the A380 the Biggest Failure in Commercial Aviation History?

Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:38 am

The Bristol Brabazon wins the price. One prototype built, which accumulated fewer than 400 hours and was sold for scrap. Didn't secure a single sale and was never certified.
Signature. You just read one.

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