Airbus to Halt A380 Production

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PRR 60

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In a move that surprised no one, Airbus has pulled the plug on production of the super-jumbo A380 aircraft.  The final aircraft will roll out in 2021.

The A380 double-decker, seating over 500 passengers, was a classic example of the right plane at the wrong time.  Conceived at the height of the popularity of the Boeing 747, it was hoped to be the new standard aircraft for long haul air travel.  By the time the first plane was in the air, travel had changed with smaller and more efficient planes allowing nimbler scheduling.  Giant, four-engine planes like the 747 and the 380 were on their way out replaced by twin-engine planes with advanced aerodynamics and lower fuel burn. I never got to ride on a 380, but still could since many will be in the air for years to come.  However, my guess is that the fleet will not last long as the 777's, 787's 330's and 350's take over the world of long haul travel.

BBC
 
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cirdan

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Good products, especially if developments cycles are as long and slow as they are with aircraft,  should anticipate the future needs of the market rather than addressing the present needs.
 
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In a move that surprised no one, Airbus has pulled the plug on peoduction of the super-jumbo A380 aircraft.  The final aircraft will roll out in 2021.
The A380 double-decker, seating over 500 passengers, was a classic example of the right plane at the wrong time.  Conceived at the height of the popularity of the Boeing 747, it was hoped to be the new standard aircraft for long haul air travel.  By the time the first plane was in the air, travel had changed with smaller and more efficient planes allowing nimbler scheduling.  Giant, four-engine planes like the 747 and the 380 were on their way out replaced by twin-engine planes with advanced aerodynamics and lower fuel burn. I never got to ride on a 380, but still could since many will be in the air for years to come.  However, my guess is that the fleet will not last long as the 777's, 787's 330's and 350's take over the world of long haul travel.
BBC
I have flown the 380 in coach. With Emirates. Crowded and uncomfortable.
 

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In my experience A380 flights have the most spacious seating, the smoothest movement, the most amenities, and the best long haul experience.  It has almost everything passengers have claimed they wanted out of a modern long haul aircraft.  It also remains relatively efficient on a per-seat fuel burn basis.  What really kills the A380 compared to modern twins is a substantially reduced seating density, the cost of servicing and maintaining two additional engines, and a much more limited suitable airport and maintenance hanger list.  If you only fly US/NA/SA airlines you will never find yourself on an A380.  My guess is that many of these aircraft will eventually be repurposed for extremely dense charter travel (US military escapades, climate related exodus flights, and dogmatic pilgrimages like the Hajj) along with long haul parcel shipping service.  The A380 wasn't just built as a better and more efficient 747; it was built as a workaround for airports that had painted themselves into a corner like LHR.  Now that the UK appears to be headed for some sort of nativistic dark ages many of these aircraft will no longer be needed.

I have flown the 380 in coach. With Emirates. Crowded and uncomfortable.
This is not an A380 specific issue.  Emirates favors coach pitch over coach width regardless of aircraft.
 
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jis

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I bet there are many at Boeing saying "I told you so". They made a very hotly debated but deliberate decision to not enter the super-jumbo fray and instead put all their bets on the 777 to deal with the larger size end of the market. A bet that appears to be paying off with the advent of the 777X which was probably one of the last straws that broke the camel's back, in a manner of speaking. Of course the failure of Rolls-Royce and Emirates to agree on the engine is probably the most immediate proximate cause of the event.

I agree with DA that the 380 is by far the most luxuriously appointed plane where the airlines chose to make it so. The same Emirates upstairs is spectacularly nice. I have actually never flown it in Coach so can't say based on personal experience what that is like, but I suspect it is like any other Coach, though my acquaintances who have flown it in Coach do say it is no worse than anything else and in general it feel a little roomier than anything else, and it is quieter. I have only flown it in Business Class with Lufthansa FRA - DEL - FRA and FRA - BOM - FRA.

The need for larger than standard stands at airport turned out to be a very major issue. So much so that Boeing took it to heart and designed a folding wing for the super-efficient and super-long 777X wing, so that it can fit in a standard gate where any other 777 fits.
 
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One of my friends actually designed the folding wing for Boeing. I love the A380-800s in my experience they are some of the smoothest birds in the sky.

And I always spent the extra money except for my most recent flight to get 76A which was a double exit row in economy. I will definitely have to plan a few more A380-800 flights before the end arrives. Good thing I love Lufthansa.
 

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One of my friends actually designed the folding wing for Boeing. I love the A380-800s in my experience they are some of the smoothest birds in the sky.

And I always spent the extra money except for my most recent flight to get 76A which was a double exit row in economy. I will definitely have to plan a few more A380-800 flights before the end arrives. Good thing I love Lufthansa.
Emirates just committed to continue flying the 380 as the core of their operations into mid 2030's if not later, so you still have some time.

ANA is in the process of receiving new ones for their fleet of 4 or 5. Only the Emirates order of 15 or so and ANA's remaining 3 are on the order book, which is now apparently closed.
 

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It is a shame of course for employment this side of the pond, as wing parts of the A380 are made in the UK.

I am not a plane "buff", but I always tried to choose Emirates A380 flights, finding the coach option was fine, at least for me.

Straying off topic, are planes with 4 engines going to be safer if one engine fails than a 2 engine plane suffering one engine shutting down?

I assume the engines on a twin engine plane will each be more powerful, anyway...?

Ed.
 

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It is a shame of course for employment this side of the pond, as wing parts of the A380 are made in the UK. I am not a plane "buff", but I always tried to choose Emirates A380 flights, finding the coach option was fine, at least for me. Straying off topic, are planes with 4 engines going to be safer if one engine fails than a 2 engine plane suffering one engine shutting down? I assume the engines on a twin engine plane will each be more powerful, anyway...?
If you're a tall skinny guy then coach on Emirates should be acceptable if not preferable in your case.  Yes, four engines is somewhat safer and more resilient, but in the era of refined turbofans it's not as much of a selling point relative to the expected number of failures over the productive life of a modern aircraft.  Even Virgin Atlantic, whose marketing specifically implied that having four engines on long haul flights was safer now flies twins on the same routes.  Back in the era of late model pistons and early model jets the potential safety issues were very real and rather significant, but today it's a nonissue in most respects. Personally I've never given the number of engines much thought myself.  Once I've made it to the airport 99% of the potential risk to life and limb has already been resolved in my favor simply by way of surviving the taxi/uber/lyft ride over. 
 
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saxman

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I've been on an A380 only twice now. First being Thai Airways from HKG to BKK, a fairly quick flight, and then on Qantas DFW to SYD. Hopefully one of these day I can predict when I have time off and clamor my miles together and enjoy Singapore Suites, Emirates, or Etihad's A380 product. Since my overseas business travel will be picking up soon, hopefully I'll have no problem getting to experience it soon. 

No one is surprised. Airbus just wanted to make something bigger than a 747 for bragging rights. I think their A350 program will be successful though, a true competitor to the 787.
 

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In my experience A380 flights have the most spacious seating, the smoothest movement, the most amenities, and the best long haul experience.  It has almost everything passengers have claimed they wanted out of a modern long haul aircraft.  It also remains relatively efficient on a per-seat fuel burn basis
Couldn't agree more. My one ride on an A380 (Air France in coach from CDG to JFK) was exceedingly smooth, spacious, and comfortable.
 

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Airbus just wanted to make something bigger than a 747 for bragging rights.
You mean like how some cities hand out free money for vanity flights?

It may seem irrational now, but back when the A388 was first announced it actually came with a reasonable sales pitch.  The vast majority of intercontinental traffic was still handled through a relatively small number of gateway airports, several of which were running out of options for additional frequencies.  Only a few outliers like CO were routinely flying long and narrow flights across oceans back then.  Originally there was also going to be a freighter variant for long and medium haul parcel freight that could have helped offset the massive design and development costs. 

Unfortunately multiple schedule setbacks and lack of immediate interest sank the freighter version while in the passenger market long and narrow flights started attracting government giveaways.  Now that every mid-sized airport seems to fancy itself as the next global gateway they're handing out operational discounts and taxpayer funded incentives for almost any intercontinental route they can get their hands on.  That dynamic has become a boon for more mid-sized high density aircraft like the A350 and B787 that can make a tidy profit on subsidized routes with questionable long term demand.
 
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Straying off topic, are planes with 4 engines going to be safer if one engine fails than a 2 engine plane suffering one engine shutting down?
There isn't really much different in terms of safety nowadays. Any twin engine plane flying out over the ocean needs to be tested and ETOPS (Extended-Range Twin-Engined Operation Performance Standards) certified. Among other things, this means that the plane is verified to be able to fly a certain number of minutes with only one engine. Any flight plan for that aircraft must then be calculated such that at any given point in the flight, there will always be an airport capable of handling the aircraft within range with one engine. They also need to plan in advance how the passengers will be handled at each one of those possible emergency airports. This video does a great job explaining it.

I assume the engines on a twin engine plane will each be more powerful, anyway...?
Nope, not really. Aircraft manufacturers don't put four engines on a plane just for the sake of it. They put all those engines on if two of even the most powerful would be unable to produce enough thrust. The fact is that the vast majority of air routes (and airports) are unable to support a plane so massive that it needs four engines.  There really aren't any benefits nowadays of having four if it's not strictly necessary, so quad-engined planes really are a dying breed.
 
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jis

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Even twin engines are becoming so large that they have to have folding wings to fit into most airports.

The engines on the twins are vastly more powerful than the individual engines on the four engine planes. Even the old GE90-115s are a thing of wonder on the 777-300ERs. The new engines for the 777Xs will be even larger.

BTW, not only do the twins have to fly a number of minutes as per their ETOPS rating on a single engine, but they also have to be able to take off on a single engine should one fail after the commit point. That is why they are more powerful than they would have to be just to take off and fly.
 
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cpotisch

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Even twin engines are becoming so large that they have to have folding wings to fit into most airports.

The engines on the twins are vastly more powerful than the individual engines on the four engine planes. Even the old GE90-115s are a thing of wonder on the 777-300ERs. The new engines for the 777Xs will be even larger and more powerful.
Actually, the GE9X engines to be used on the 777X are a fair bit less powerful than the GE90. The 9X is rated for 105,000 pounds of thrust, while the 90-115B (the most powerful variant of the GE90) is rated for 115,540 pounds of thrust, even reaching 127,900 on one takeoff back in 2002. The point of the GE9X design is not improved thrust, but rather incredible fuel efficiency, which is why the fan is significantly wider than its predecessor, making the engine even wider than the actual fuselage of a 737. :eek:
 

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ANA is in the process of receiving new ones for their fleet of 4 or 5. Only the Emirates order of 15 or so and ANA's remaining 3 are on the order book, which is now apparently closed.


ANA is only getting a total of 3 (not 4 or 5).  Those three were essentially Airbus's conditions for allowing ANA to take over defunct Skymark Airlines (to whom Airbus was a major creditor).

Incidentally, the first of ANA's A380s made its first flight in full paint today.

Nope, not really. Aircraft manufacturers don't put four engines on a plane just for the sake of it. They put all those engines on if two of even the most powerful would be unable to produce enough thrust. The fact is that the vast majority of air routes (and airports) are unable to support a plane so massive that it needs four engines.  There really aren't any benefits nowadays of having four if it's not strictly necessary, so quad-engined planes really are a dying breed.


I believe the requirement is that the airplane must be able to takeoff at whatever its calculated takeoff weight is, within the available runway, and clear any obstacles that may be higher than ground level, if one engine fails at the critical decision speed (V1).  Therefore, a four-engined airplane will have engines at least 33% more powerful than needed for takeoff thrust, whereas a twin will have engines that are at least 100% more powerful than needed.
 

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Nope, not really. Aircraft manufacturers don't put four engines on a plane just for the sake of it. They put all those engines on if two of even the most powerful would be unable to produce enough thrust. The fact is that the vast majority of air routes (and airports) are unable to support a plane so massive that it needs four engines.  There really aren't any benefits nowadays of having four if it's not strictly necessary, so quad-engined planes really are a dying breed.
I believe the requirement is that the airplane must be able to takeoff at whatever its calculated takeoff weight is, within the available runway, and clear any obstacles that may be higher than ground level, if one engine fails at the critical decision speed (V1).  Therefore, a four-engined airplane will have engines at least 33% more powerful than needed for takeoff thrust, whereas a twin will have engines that are at least 100% more powerful than needed.
Most planes can take off at around 50% thrust anyway, so I'm not sure how much of an issue that is...
 
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I would say that is a gross overstatement. What it takes to get a lightly loaded and/or fueled aircraft off the ground in optimal altitude and temperature conditions is very different from that which is required at the other end of the spectrum. Available runway length and obstructions are major factors. Look at thrust to weight ratio, engine out climb capability, but at the difficult, not optimum end of the scale. It is one of the reasons many 757 got sold.
 
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My thoughts have nothing to do with engine capabilities or any other technical and comfort aspects of these very large planes.

What about the passengers' ability to survive an accident?  I understand that for the plane to be certified to fly, certain evacuation standards must be met.  With an A380 or similar aircraft when one is traveling with your closest hundreds friends, what truly will be reality?

My comment applies to the cruise industry as well.  The most recent disaster of which I am aware was the Costa Concordia accident.  A few lost their lives.  Most were saved.  But, many had to use extraordinarily means to do so.  (When was the last time that you crawled along the side of a ship in order to be rescued by a helicopter hovering overhead?)  These huge new ships coming into service with 5,000-6,000 passengers and crew:  do they meet USCG certification?  Surely, they do or they would not be in-service.  But....

Bigger and newer is not always better in my humble opinion.  
 

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Even twin engines are becoming so large that they have to have folding wings to fit into most airports.
The engines on the twins are vastly more powerful than the individual engines on the four engine planes. Even the old GE90-115s are a thing of wonder on the 777-300ERs. The new engines for the 777Xs will be even larger.
BTW, not only do the twins have to fly a number of minutes as per their ETOPS rating on a single engine, but they also have to be able to take off on a single engine should one fail after the commit point. That is why they are more powerful than they would have to be just to take off and fly.
On my return from my yearlong, all expense paid vacation by Uncle Sam in SE Asia, I was in a 707 stretch TWA charter when shortly after the pilot announced that we had reached the point of no return on the Honolulu to Travis Airforce base segment of the trip, there was a bump and then those in my row (we were sitting 4 to a row on each side of the isle) saw the outter starboard engine flare up and catch on fire. It burned for a short time, probably 15 seconds or so when it went out. The steward came running over and leaned across me to look out the window. I told him that “the fire is out”. The steward said that the engine had been shut down and could fly well with just three engines.

It seemed that we continued to slowly lose some altitude for another 15 minutes or so and then seemed to stabilize.

When we passed over the Golden Gate Bridge all lit up in the pre dawn morning, it was a beautiful sight!

I was later told that we could have flown with just two engines without any problems.
 

cirdan

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It is a shame of course for employment this side of the pond, as wing parts of the A380 are made in the UK.

I am not a plane "buff", but I always tried to choose Emirates A380 flights, finding the coach option was fine, at least for me.

Straying off topic, are planes with 4 engines going to be safer if one engine fails than a 2 engine plane suffering one engine shutting down?

I assume the engines on a twin engine plane will each be more powerful, anyway...?

Ed.
A friend of mine was on a two-engine plane once when one engine failed and they had to turn around (mid Atlantic) and go back to the starting airport.

On a four engine plane I understand you can keep going, as even if a second one fails you can still continue.
 

chakk

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It is a shame of course for employment this side of the pond, as wing parts of the A380 are made in the UK.
I am not a plane "buff", but I always tried to choose Emirates A380 flights, finding the coach option was fine, at least for me.
Straying off topic, are planes with 4 engines going to be safer if one engine fails than a 2 engine plane suffering one engine shutting down?
I assume the engines on a twin engine plane will each be more powerful, anyway...?
Ed.
Twin engine planes are now quite reliable over long distances — like oceans — and get certified (e.g. Southwest 737s now between Calif and Hawaii) for such Extended Twin OPerationS. (ETOPS means “Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim”)
 

jis

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The longest ETOPS flight  today is apparently Air New Zealand's Auckland to Buenos Aires, which requires ETOPS 330 (i.e. 330 mins on single engine certification), flown using a 777-200ER with RR Trent 800 engines. Compared to that mainland US to Hawaii is peanuts.

At present there is no known commercial flight that requires ETOPS 370, but QANTAS is exploring a couple.
 
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