Airbus A380-800 Series
Archive Photos ¹
[Airbus A380-841 (F-WWOW, c/n 1) on display 3/20/2007 at LAX (Allen Hess photos copyright © 2007 Allen Hess)]
[Airbus A380-841 (F-WWJB, c/n 7) on display 11/29/2007 LAX (Allen Hess photos copyright © 2007 Allen Hess)]
The Airbus A380 is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner. It is the world's largest passenger airliner; many airports have upgraded their facilities to accommodate it because of its size. Initially named Airbus A3XX, Airbus designed the aircraft to challenge Boeing's monopoly in the large-aircraft market; the A380 made its first flight on 27 April 2005 and began commercial service in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines.
The A380's upper deck extends along the entire length of the fuselage, with a width equivalent to a wide-body aircraft. This allows for an A380-800's cabin with 478 m² (5,145.1 ft²) of floor space; 49% more floor space than the next-largest airliner, the Boeing 747-8, and provides seating for 525 people in a typical three-class configuration or up to 853 people in all-economy class configurations. The A380-800 has a design range of 15,700 km (8,500 nmi; 9,800 mi), sufficient to fly from New York to Hong Kong, and a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 (about 900 km/h or 560 mph at cruising altitude).
As of March 2013, Airbus has received 262 firm orders for the A380 and delivered 101 aircraft. Emirates made the largest order, for 90 aircraft. Airbus delivered the 100th A380 to Malaysia Airlines.
In the summer of 1988, a group of Airbus engineers led by Jean Roeder began work in secret on the development of an ultra-high-capacity airliner (UHCA), both to complete its own range of products and to break the dominance that Boeing had enjoyed in this market segment since the early 1970s with its 747. McDonnell Douglas unsuccessfully offered its smaller, double-deck MD-12 concept for sale. Roeder was given approval for further evaluations of the UHCA after a formal presentation to the President and CEO in June 1990. The mega project was announced at the 1990 Farnborough Air Show, with the stated goal of 15% lower operating costs than the 747-400. Airbus organized four teams of designers, one from each of its partners (Aérospatiale, Deutsche Aerospace AG, British Aerospace, CASA) to propose new technologies for its future aircraft designs. The designs would be presented in 1992 and the most competitive designs would be used.
In January 1993, Boeing and several companies in the Airbus consortium started a joint feasibility study of an aircraft known as the Very Large Commercial Transport (VLCT), aiming to form a partnership to share the limited market. This joint study was abandoned two years later, Boeing's interest having declined because analysts thought that such a product was unlikely to cover the projected $15 billion development cost. Despite the fact that only two airlines had expressed public interest in purchasing such a plane, Airbus was already pursuing its own large plane project. Analysts suggested that Boeing instead would pursue stretching its 747 design, and that air travel was already moving away from the hub and spoke system that consolidated traffic into large planes, and toward more non-stop routes that could be served by smaller planes.
In June 1994, Airbus announced its plan to develop its own very large airliner, designated the A3XX. Airbus considered several designs, including an odd side-by-side combination of two fuselages from the A340, which was Airbus's largest jet at the time. The A3XX was pitted against the VLCT study and Boeing's own New Large Aircraft successor to the 747. From 1997 to 2000, as the East Asian financial crisis darkened the market outlook, Airbus refined its design, targeting a 15-20% reduction in operating costs over the existing Boeing 747-400. The A3XX design converged on a double-decker layout that provided more passenger volume than a traditional single-deck design, in line with traditional hub-and-spoke theory as opposed to the point-to-point theory of the Boeing 777, after conducting an extensive market analysis with over 200 focus groups.
On 19 December 2000, the supervisory board of newly restructured Airbus voted to launch an €8.8-billion program to build the A3XX, re-christened as the A380, with 50 firm orders from six launch customers. The A380 designation was a break from previous Airbus families, which had progressed sequentially from A300 to A340. It was chosen because the number 8 resembles the double-deck cross section, and is a lucky number in some Asian countries where the aircraft was being marketed. The aircraft configuration was finalized in early 2001, and manufacturing of the first A380 wing box component started on 23 January 2002. The development cost of the A380 had grown to €11 billion when the first aircraft was completed.
Major structural sections of the A380 are built in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Due to their size, traditional transportation methods proved unfeasible, so they are brought to the assembly hall (the Jean-Luc Lagardère Plant) in Toulouse in France by specialized surface transportation, though some parts are moved by the A300-600ST Beluga aircraft used in the construction of other Airbus models. A380 components are provided by suppliers from around the world; the four largest contributors, by value, are Rolls-Royce, Safran, United Technologies and General Electric.
For the surface movement of large A380 structural components, a complex route known as the Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit was developed. This involved the construction of a fleet of roll-on/roll-off (RORO) ships and barges, the construction of port facilities and the development of new and modified roads to accommodate oversized road convoys. The front and rear fuselage sections are shipped on one of three RORO ships from Hamburg in northern Germany to the United Kingdom. The wings are manufactured at Filton in Bristol and Broughton in North Wales, then transported by barge to Mostyn docks, where the ship adds them to its cargo.
In Saint-Nazaire in western France, the ship trades the fuselage sections from Hamburg for larger, assembled sections, some of which include the nose. The ship unloads in Bordeaux. The ship then picks up the belly and tail sections from Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA in Cádiz in southern Spain, and delivers them to Bordeaux. From there, the A380 parts are transported by barge to Langon, and by oversize road convoys to the assembly hall in Toulouse. The parts are not handled directly.
After assembly, the aircraft are flown to Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport (XFW) to be furnished and painted. It takes 3,600 L (950 US gal) of paint to cover the 3,100 m² (33,000 ft²) exterior of an A380. Airbus sized the production facilities and supply chain for a production rate of four A380s per month.
Five A380s were built for testing and demonstration purposes. The first A380, serial number MSN001 and registration F-WWOW, was unveiled in Toulouse 18 January 2005. Its first flight took place at 10:29 am local time (08:29 UTC) on 27 April 2005. This plane, equipped with Trent 900 engines, flew from Toulouse Blagnac International Airport with a crew of six headed by chief test pilot Jacques Rosay. After landing, 3 hours 54 minutes later, Rosay said flying the A380 had been “like handling a bicycle”.
On 1 December 2005, the A380 achieved its maximum design speed of Mach 0.96, over its design cruise speed of Mach 0.85, in a shallow dive, completing the opening of the flight envelope. In 2006, the A380 flew its first high-altitude test at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa. It conducted its second high-altitude test at the same airport in 2009. On 10 January 2006, it flew to José María Córdova International Airport in Colombia, accomplishing the transatlantic testing, and then it went to El Dorado International Airport to test the engine operation in high-altitude airports. It arrived in North America on 6 February 2006, landing in Iqaluit, Nunavut in Canada for cold-weather testing.
On 14 February 2006, during the destructive wing strength certification test on MSN5000, the test wing of the A380 failed at 145% of the limit load, short of the required 150% level. Airbus announced modifications adding 30 kg to the wing to provide the required strength. On 26 March 2006, the A380 underwent evacuation certification in Hamburg. With 8 of the 16 exits arbitrarily blocked, 853 mixed passengers and 20 crew left the darkened aircraft in 78 seconds, less than the 90 seconds required for certification. Three days later, the A380 received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to carry up to 853 passengers.
The first A380 using GP7200 engines—serial number MSN009 and registration F-WWEA flew on 25 August 2006. On 4 September 2006, the first full passenger-carrying flight test took place. The aircraft flew from Toulouse with 474 Airbus employees on board, in the first of a series of flights to test passenger facilities and comfort. In November 2006, a further series of route-proving flights demonstrated the aircraft's performance for 150 flight hours under typical airline operating conditions.
Airbus obtained type certificates for the A380-841 and A380-842 model from the EASA and FAA on 12 December 2006 in a joint ceremony at the company's French headquarters, receiving the ICAO code A388. The A380-861 model obtained its type certificate on 14 December 2007.
Production and Delivery Delays
Initial production of the A380 was troubled by delays attributed to the 530 km (330 mi) of wiring in each aircraft. Airbus cited as underlying causes the complexity of the cabin wiring (98,000 wires and 40,000 connectors), its concurrent design and production, the high degree of customization for each airline, and failures of configuration management and change control. The German and Spanish Airbus facilities continued to use CATIA version 4, while British and French sites migrated to version 5. This caused overall configuration management problems, at least in part because wiring harnesses manufactured using aluminum rather than copper conductors necessitated special design rules including non-standard dimensions and bend radii; these were not easily transferred between versions of the software.
Airbus announced the first delay in June 2005 and notified airlines that deliveries would be delayed by six months. This reduced the total number of planned deliveries by the end of 2009 from about 120 to 90-100. On 13 June 2006, Airbus announced a second delay, with the delivery schedule slipping an additional six to seven months. Although the first delivery was still planned before the end of 2006, deliveries in 2007 would drop to only 9 aircraft, and deliveries by the end of 2009 would be cut to 70-80 aircraft. The announcement caused a 26% drop in the share price of Airbus' parent, EADS, and led to the departure of EADS CEO Noël Forgeard, Airbus CEO Gustav Humbert, and A380 program manager Charles Champion. On 3 October 2006, upon completion of a review of the A380 program, Airbus CEO Christian Streiff announced a third delay, pushing the first delivery to October 2007, to be followed by 13 deliveries in 2008, 25 in 2009, and the full production rate of 45 aircraft per year in 2010. The delay also increased the earnings shortfall projected by Airbus through 2010 to €4.8 billion.
As Airbus prioritized the work on the A380-800 over the A380F, freighter orders were cancelled by FedEx and UPS, or converted to A380-800 by Emirates and ILFC. Airbus suspended work on the freighter version, but said it remained on offer, albeit without a service entry date. For the passenger version Airbus negotiated a revised delivery schedule and compensation with the 13 customers, all of which retained their orders with some placing subsequent orders, including Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Air France, Qatar Airways, and Korean Air.
On 13 May 2008, Airbus announced reduced deliveries for the years 2008 (12) and 2009 (21). After further manufacturing setbacks, Airbus announced its plan to deliver 14 A380s in 2009, down from the previously revised target of 18. A total of 10 A380s were delivered in 2009. In 2010 Airbus delivered only 18 of the expected 20 A380s, due to Rolls-Royce engine availability problems. Airbus planned to deliver “between 20 and 25” A380s in 2011 before ramping up to three a month in 2012. In the event, Airbus delivered 26 units, thus outdoing its predicted output for the first time. As of July 2012, production was 3 aircraft per month. Among the production problems are challenging interiors, interiors being installed sequentially rather than concurrently like in smaller planes, and union/government objections to streamlining.
Entry into Service
Dubbed the Superjumbo by the media the first aircraft, MSN003, (registered as 9V-SKA) was delivered to Singapore Airlines on 15 October 2007 and entered service on 25 October 2007 with flight number SQ380 between Singapore and Sydney. Passengers bought seats in a charity online auction paying between $560 and $100,380. Two months later, Singapore Airlines CEO Chew Choong Seng stated the A380 was performing better than both the airline and Airbus had anticipated, burning 20% less fuel per passenger than the airline's 747-400 fleet. Emirates' Tim Clark claims that the A380 is more fuel economic at Mach 0.86 than at Mach 0.83.
Emirates was the second airline to receive the A380 and commenced services between Dubai and New York in August 2008. Qantas followed on 19 September 2008, starting flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles in October 2008. By the end of 2008, 890,000 passengers had flown on 2,200 flights totalling 21,000 hours.
In February 2009, the one millionth passenger was flown with Singapore Airlines and by May of that year 1,500,000 passengers had flown on 4,200 flights totalling 41,000 hours. Air France received its first A380 in October 2009. Lufthansa received its first A380 in May 2010. By July 2010, the 31 A380s then in service had transported 6 million passengers on 17,000 flights totalling over 156,000 hours between 20 international destinations.
Airbus delivered the 100th A380 on 14 March 2013 to Malaysia Airlines.
During repairs following the Qantas Flight 32 engine failure incident, cracks were discovered in fittings within the wings. As a result of the discovery, EASA issued an Airworthiness Directive in January 2012 affecting 20 A380 aircraft that had accumulated over 1,300 flights. A380s with under 1,800 flight hours were to be inspected within 6 weeks or 84 flights; aircraft with over 1,800 flight hours were to be examined within four days or 14 flights. Fittings found to be cracked were being replaced following the inspections to maintain structural integrity. On 8 February 2012, the checks were extended to cover all 68 A380 aircraft in operation. The problem is considered to be minor and is not expected to affect operations. EADS acknowledged that the cost of repairs would be over $130 million, to be borne by Airbus. The company said the problem was traced to stress and material used for the fittings. Additionally, major airlines are seeking compensation from Airbus for revenue lost as a result of the cracks and subsequent grounding of fleets. Airbus has switched to a different type of aluminum alloy so aircraft delivered from 2014 onwards will not have this issue.
The A380 was initially offered in two models. The A380-800 original configuration carried 555 passengers in a three-class configuration or 853 passengers (538 on the main deck and 315 on the upper deck) in a single-class economy configuration. In May 2007, Airbus began marketing a configuration with 30 fewer passengers, (525 total in three classes), traded for 370 km (200 nmi) more range, to better reflect trends in premium class accommodation. The design range for the A380-800 model is 15,400 km (8,300 nmi); capable of flying from Hong Kong to New York or from Sydney to Istanbul non-stop. The second model, the A380F freighter, would carry 150 tonnes of cargo 10,400 km (5,600 nmi). The freighter development was put on hold as Airbus prioritized the passenger version and all cargo orders were cancelled. Future variants may include an A380-900 stretch seating about 656 passengers (or up to 960 passengers in an all economy configuration) and an extended-range version with the same passenger capacity as the A380-800.
The A380's wing is sized for a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) over 650 tonnes in order to accommodate these future versions, albeit with some strengthening required. The optimal wingspan for this weight would be about 90 m, but airport restrictions limited it to less than 80 m, reducing fuel efficiency about 10% and increasing operating costs a few percent. The stronger wing (and structure) would be used on the A380F freighter.
The common wing design approach sacrifices fuel efficiency (due to a weight penalty) on the A380-800 passenger model, but Airbus estimates that the size of the aircraft, coupled with the uses of advanced technology, will provide lower operating costs per passenger than the 747-400 and older 747 variants. The A380 also includes wingtip fences similar to those found on the A310 and A320 to reduce induced drag, increasing fuel efficiency and performance.
The A380 is available with two types of turbofan engines, the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 (variants A380-841, A380-842 and A380-843F) or the Engine Alliance GP7000 (A380-861 and A380-863F). The Trent 900 is a derivative of the Trent 800, and the GP7000 has roots from the GE90 and PW4000. The Trent 900 core is a scaled version of the Trent 500, but incorporates the swept fan technology of the stillborn Trent 8104. The GP7200 has a GE90 - derived core and PW4090 - derived fan and low-pressure turbo-machinery. Noise reduction was an important requirement in the A380 design, and particularly affects engine design. Both engine types allow the aircraft to achieve well under the QC/2 departure and QC/0.5 arrival noise limits under the Quota Count system set by London Heathrow Airport, which is a key destination for the A380. The A380 has received an award for its reduced noise.
The A380 was initially planned without thrust reversers, incorporating sufficient braking capacity to do without them. However Airbus elected to equip the two inboard engines with thrust reversers in a late stage of development. The two outboard engines do not have reversers, reducing the amount of debris stirred up during landing. The A380 has electrically actuated thrust reversers, giving them better reliability than their pneumatic or hydraulic equivalents, in addition to saving weight.
The A380 was used to demonstrate the viability of a synthetic fuel comprising standard jet fuel with a natural-gas-derived component. On 1 February 2008, a three-hour test flight operated between Britain and France, with one of the A380's four engines using a mix of 60% standard jet kerosene and 40% gas to liquids (GTL) fuel supplied by Shell. The aircraft needed no modification to use the GTL fuel, which was designed to be mixed with normal jet fuel. Sebastien Remy, head of Airbus SAS's alternative fuel program, said the GTL used was no cleaner in CO2 terms than standard fuel but it had local air quality benefits because the GTL portion contains no sulphur.
The Auxiliary power unit comprises the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), the electronic control box (ECB), and mounting hardware. The APU in use on the A380 is the PW 980A APU is the world's most powerful APU, providing 1,800 horsepower, which is 20 percent more powerful than the largest existing APU in service. The APU primarily provides air to power the Analysis Ground Station (AGS) on the ground and to start the engines. The AGS is a semi-automatic analysis system of flight data that helps to optimize management of maintenance and reduce costs. The APU also powers electric generators which provide auxiliary electric power to the aircraft.
While most of the fuselage is aluminum, composite materials comprise more than 20% of the A380's airframe. Carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, glass-fibre reinforced plastic and quartz-fibre reinforced plastic are used extensively in wings, fuselage sections (such as the undercarriage and rear end of fuselage), tail surfaces, and doors. The A380 is the first commercial airliner to have a central wing box made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic. It is also the first to have a smoothly contoured wing cross section. The wings of other commercial airliners are partitioned span-wise into sections. This flowing, continuous cross section optimizes aerodynamic efficiency. Thermoplastics are used in the leading edges of the slats.] The composite material GLARE (GLass-REinforced fibre metal laminate) is used in the upper fuselage and on the stabilizers' leading edges. This aluminum-glass-fibre laminate is lighter and has better corrosion and impact resistance than conventional aluminum alloys used in aviation. Unlike earlier composite materials, GLARE can be repaired using conventional aluminum repair techniques.
Newer weldable aluminum alloys are also used. This enables the widespread use of laser beam welding manufacturing techniques, eliminating rows of rivets and resulting in a lighter, stronger structure. High-strength aluminum (type 7449) reinforced with carbon fiber is being used in the wing brackets of the first 120 A380s to reduce weight, but cracks have been discovered and the new sets of the more critical brackets will be made of regular aluminum 7010, increasing weight by 90 kg. Repair costs are expected to be around EUR€500 million (USD$629 million).
The A380 employs an Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) architecture, first used in advanced military aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, and Dassault Rafale. The main IMA systems on the A380 were developed by the Thales Group. Designed and developed by Airbus, Thales and Diehl Aerospace, the IMA suite was first used on the A380. The suite is a technological innovation, with networked computing modules to support different applications. The data communication networks use Avionics Full-Duplex Switched Ethernet, an implementation of ARINC 664. The data networks are switched, full-duplex, star-topology and based on 100baseTX fast-Ethernet. This reduces the amount of wiring required and minimizes latency.
Airbus used similar cockpit layout, procedures and handling characteristics to other Airbus aircraft, reducing crew training costs. The A380 has an improved glass cockpit, using fly-by-wire flight controls linked to side-sticks. The cockpit has eight 15 by 20 cm (5.9 by 7.9 in) liquid crystal displays, all physically identical and interchangeable; comprising two Primary Flight Displays, two navigation displays, one engine parameter display, one system display and two Multi-Function Displays. The MFDs were introduced on the A380 to provide an easy-to-use interface to the flight management system—replacing three multifunction control and display units. They include QWERTY keyboards and trackballs, interfacing with a graphical “point-and-click” display system.
The Network Systems Server (NSS) is the heart of A380's paperless cockpit; it eliminates bulky manuals and charts traditionally used. The NSS has enough inbuilt robustness to eliminate onboard backup paper documents. The A380's network and server system stores data and offers electronic documentation, providing a required equipment list, navigation charts, performance calculations, and an aircraft logbook. This is accessed through the MFDs and controlled via the keyboard interface.
Power-by-wire flight control actuators have been used for the first time in civil aviation to back up primary hydraulic actuators. Also, during certain maneuvers they augment the primary actuators. They have self-contained hydraulic and electrical power supplies. Electro-hydrostatic actuators (EHA) are used in the aileron and elevator, electric and hydraulic motors to drive the slats as well as electrical backup hydrostatic actuators (EBHA) for the rudder and some spoilers.
The A380's 350 bar (35 MPa or 5,000 psi) hydraulic system is a significant difference from the typical 210 bar (21 MPa or 3,000 psi) hydraulics used on most commercial aircraft since the 1940s. First used in military aircraft, high-pressure hydraulics reduce the weight and size of pipelines, actuators and related components. The 350 bar pressure is generated by eight de-clutchable hydraulic pumps. The hydraulic lines are typically made from titanium; the system features both fuel-cooled and air-cooled heat exchangers. Self-contained electrically powered hydraulic power packs serve as backups for the primary systems, instead of a secondary hydraulic system, saving weight and reducing maintenance.
The A380 uses four 150 kVA variable-frequency electrical generators, eliminating constant-speed drives and improving reliability. The A380 uses aluminum power cables instead of copper for weight reduction. The electrical power system is fully computerized and many conductors and breakers have been replaced by solid-state devices for better performance and increased reliability.
The cabin has features to reduce traveler fatigue such as a quieter interior and higher pressurization than previous aircraft; the A380 has 50% less cabin noise than the 747-400 and is pressurized to the equivalent of 5,000 ft (1,500 m)(up to 41,000 ft (12,000 m)). The A380 has 50% more cabin area and volume, larger windows, bigger overhead bins, and 60 cm (2.0 ft) extra headroom versus the 747-400. Seating options range from 4-abreast in first class to 11-across in economy. On other aircraft, economy seats range from 41.5 cm (16.3 in) to 52.3 cm (20.6 in) in width, A380 economy seats are up to 48 cm (19 in) wide in a 10-abreast configuration; compared with the 10-abreast configuration on the 747-400 which typically has seats 44.5 cm (17.5 in) wide.
The A380's upper and lower decks are connected by two stairways, fore and aft, wide enough to accommodate two passengers side-by-side; this cabin arrangement allows multiple seat configurations. The maximum certified carrying capacity is 853 passengers in an all-economy-class layout, Airbus lists the typical three-class layout as accommodating 525 passengers, with 10 first, 76 business, and 439 economy class seats. Airline configurations range from Korean Air's 407 passengers to Air Austral's 840 passengers. The A380's interior illumination system uses bulbless LEDs in the cabin, cockpit, and cargo decks. The LEDs in the cabin can be altered to create an ambience simulating daylight, night, or intermediate levels. On the outside of the aircraft, HID lighting is used for brighter illumination.
Airbus' publicity has stressed the comfort and space of the A380 cabin, and advertised onboard relaxation areas such as bars, beauty salons, duty-free shops, and restaurants. Proposed amenities resembled those installed on earlier airliners, particularly 1970s wide-body jets, which largely gave way to regular seats for more passenger capacity. Airbus has acknowledged that some cabin proposals were unlikely to be installed, and that it was ultimately the airlines' decision how to configure the interior. Industry analysts suggested that implementing customization has slowed the production speeds, and raised costs. Due to delivery delays, Singapore Airlines and Air France debuted their seat designs on different aircraft prior to the A380.
Initial operators typically configured their A380s for three-class service, while adding extra features for passengers in premium cabins. Launch customer Singapore Airlines debuted partly enclosed first class suites on its A380s in 2007, each featuring a leather seat with a separate bed; center suites could be joined to create a double bed. A year later, Qantas debuted a new first class seat-bed and a sofa lounge at the front of the upper deck on its A380s. In late 2008, Emirates introduced “shower spas” in first class on its A380s, along with a bar lounge and seating area on the upper deck, and in 2009 Air France unveiled an upper deck electronic art gallery. In addition to lounge areas, some A380 operators have installed amenities consistent with other aircraft in their respective fleets, including self-serve snack bars, premium economy sections, and redesigned business class seating.
Integration with Infrastructure and Regulations ²
In the 1990s, aircraft manufacturers were planning to introduce larger planes than the Boeing 747. In a common effort of the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, with manufacturers, airports and its member agencies, the “80-metro box” was created, the airport gates allowing planes up to 80 m (260 ft) wingspan and length to be accommodated. Airbus designed the A380 according to these guidelines, and to operate safely on Group V runways and taxiways with a 60 meter load-bearing width. The U.S. FAA initially opposed this, then in July 2007, the FAA and EASA agreed to let the A380 operate on 45 m runways without restrictions. The A380-800 is approximately 30% larger in overall size than the 747-400. Runway lighting and signage may need changes to provide clearance to the wings and avoid blast damage from the engines. Runways, runway shoulders and taxiway shoulders may be required to be stabilized to reduce the likelihood of foreign object damage caused to (or by) the outboard engines, which are more than 25 m (82 ft) from the center line of the aircraft, compared to 21 m (69 ft) for the 747-400, and 747-8.
Airbus measured pavement loads using a 540-tonne (595 short tons) ballasted test rig, designed to replicate the landing gear of the A380. The rig was towed over a section of pavement at Airbus' facilities that had been instrumented with embedded load sensors. It was determined that the pavement of most runways will not need to be reinforced despite the higher weight, as it is distributed on more wheels than in other passenger aircraft with a total of 22 wheels. The A380 undercarriage consists of four main landing gear legs and one noseleg (a similar layout to the 747), with the two inboard landing gear legs each supporting six wheels.
The A380 requires service vehicles with lifts capable of reaching the upper deck, as well as tractors capable of handling the A380's maximum ramp weight. Using two jetway bridges the boarding time is 45 min, using an extra jetway to the upper deck it is reduced to 34 min. The A380 test aircraft have participated in a campaign of airport compatibility testing to verify the modifications already made at several large airports, visiting a number of airports around the world.
Takeoff and Landing Separation
In 2005, the ICAO recommended that provisional separation criteria for the A380 on takeoff and landing be substantially greater than for the 747 because preliminary flight test data suggested a stronger wake turbulence. These criteria were in effect while the ICAO's wake vortex steering group, with representatives from the JAA, Eurocontrol, the FAA, and Airbus, refined its 3-year study of the issue with additional flight testing. In September 2006, the working group presented its first conclusions to the ICAO.
In November 2006, the ICAO issued new interim recommendations. Replacing a blanket 10 nmi (19 km) separation for aircraft trailing an A380 during approach, the new distances were 6 nmi (11 km), 8 nmi (15 km) and 10 nmi (19 km) respectively for non-A380 “Heavy”, “Medium”, and “Light” ICAO aircraft categories. These compared with the 4 nmi (7.4 km), 5 nmi (9.3 km) and 6 nmi (11 km) spacing applicable to other “Heavy” aircraft. Another A380 following an A380 should maintain a separation of 4 nmi (7.4 km). On departure behind an A380, non-A380 “Heavy” aircraft are required to wait two minutes, and “Medium”/“Light” aircraft three minutes for time based operations. The ICAO also recommends that pilots append the term “Super” to the aircraft's callsign when initiating communication with air traffic control, in order to distinguish the A380 from “Heavy” aircraft.
In August 2008, the ICAO issued revised approach separations of 4 nmi (7.4 km) for Super (another A380), 6 nmi (11 km) for Heavy, 7 nmi (13 km) for medium/small, and 8 nmi (15 km) for light. In November 2008, an incident on a parallel runway during crosswinds made the Australian authorities change procedures for those conditions.
Future Variants ²
From 2013, Airbus will introduce a new A380 build standard incorporating a strengthened airframe structure and a 1.5° increase in wing twist. Airbus will also offer, as an option, an improved maximum take-off weight, thus providing a better payload/range performance. Maximum take-off weight is increased by 4 t (8,800 lb), to 573 t (1,260,000 lb) and an additional 190 km (100 nmi) in range. This is achieved by reducing flight loads, partly from optimizing the fly-by-wire control laws. British Airways and Emirates are to be the first two customers to receive this new option. Vietnam Airlines has shown interest in the higher-weight variant.
In November 2007, Airbus top sales executive and chief operating officer John Leahy confirmed plans for an enlarged variant, the A380-900, which would have more passenger space than the A380-800. This version would have a seating capacity of 650 passengers in standard configuration, and approximately 900 passengers in economy-only configuration. In May 2010, Airbus announced that A380-900 development was postponed, until production of the A380-800 has stabilized. Airlines that have expressed interest in the model include Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, Kingfisher Airlines, as well as the leasing company ILFC.
Airbus originally accepted orders for the freighter version, offering the second largest payload capacity of any cargo aircraft, exceeded only by the Antonov An-225. An aerospace consultant has estimated that the A380F would have 7% better payload and better range than the 747-8F, but also higher trip costs. However, production has been suspended until the A380 production lines have settled with no firm availability date.
In 2006, industry analysts Philip Lawrence of the Aerospace Research Centre in Bristol and Richard Aboulafia of the consulting Teal Group in Fairfax anticipated 880 and 400 A380 sales respectively by 2025. According to Lawrence, parallel to the design of the A380, Airbus conducted the most extensive and thorough market analysis of commercial aviation ever undertaken, justifying its VLA (very large aircraft, those with more than 400 seats) plans, while according to Aboulafia, the rise of mid-size aircraft and market fragmentation reduced VLAs to niche market status, making such plans unjustified. The two analysts' market forecasts differed in the incorporation of spoke-hub and point-to-point models.
In 2007, Airbus estimated a demand for 1,283 passenger planes in the VLA category for the next 20 years if airport congestion remains at the current level. According to this estimate, demand could reach up to 1,771 VLAs if congestion increases. Most of this demand will be due to the urbanization and rapid economic growth in Asia. The A380 will be used on relatively few routes, between the most saturated airports. Airbus also estimates a demand for 415 freighters in the category 120-tonne plus. Boeing, which offers the only competition in that class, the 747-8, estimates the demand for passenger VLAs at 590 and that for freighter VLAs at 370 for the period 2007-2026.
At one time the A380 was considered as a potential replacement for the existing Boeing VC-25 serving as Air Force One, but in January 2009 EADS declared that they were not going to bid for the contract, as assembling only three planes in the US would not make financial sense.
The break-even for the A380 was initially supposed to be reached by selling 270 units, but due to the delays and the falling exchange rate of the US dollar, it increased to 420 units. In 2010, EADS CFO Hans Peter Ring said that break-even (on the aircraft that are delivered) could be achieved by 2015, despite the delays; there should be around 200 deliveries by that time, on current projections. In 2012, Airbus clarified that in 2015, production costs to build the aircraft would be less than the sales price. As of March 2010 the average list price of an A380 was US$375.3 million (about €261 million or £229 million), depending on equipment installed. As of July 2012 this list price was US$390 million, but negotiated discounts made the actual prices much lower, and industry experts questioned whether the A380 project would ever pay for itself.
Orders and Deliveries ²
Twenty customers have ordered the A380, including one VIP order by Airbus Executive and Private Aviation. Total orders for the A380 stand at 262 as of March 2013. The biggest customer is Emirates, which in June 2010 increased its order by 32 aircraft to 90 total, or nearly 40% of all A380 orders at the time. The A380F version totalled 27 orders before they were either cancelled (20) or converted to A380-800 (7), following the production delay and the subsequent suspension of the freighter program.
Delivery takes place in Hamburg for customers from Europe and the Middle East and in Toulouse for customers from the rest of the world.
EADS expects deliveries in 2013 to slow temporarily in order to accommodate remedial works to the wing cracks detected earlier in the existing fleet.
There were 101 aircraft in service with 9 operators as of 31 March 2013; these are Emirates (31), Singapore Airlines (19), Qantas (12), Lufthansa (10), Air France (8), Korean Air (6), Malaysia Airlines (6), China Southern Airlines (5), and Thai Airways International (4). The shortest regular commercial route that the A380 flies is from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (1202 km or 747 miles great circle distance) with China Southern, a flight averaging 2 hours 20 minutes; the longest route is from Los Angeles International Airport to Melbourne Airport (12747 km or 7921 miles great circle distance) with Qantas, which averages 15 hours 50 minutes. Air France has also operated the A380 on the even shorter Paris-Charles de Gaulle to London-Heathrow route (344 km or 214 miles) in mid-2010.
Incidents and Accidents ²
The A380 has been involved in one aviation occurrence but no hull-loss accidents as of December 2011.
4 November 2010: Qantas Flight 32, en route from Singapore Changi Airport to Sydney Airport, suffered an uncontained engine failure, resulting in a series of related problems, and forcing the flight to return to Singapore. There were no injuries to the passengers, crew or people on the ground despite debris falling onto the Indonesian island of Batam. The A380 was damaged sufficiently for the event to be classified as an accident. Qantas subsequently grounded all of its A380s that day subject to an internal investigation taken in conjunction with the engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce. Engine Alliance GP7000 powered A380s were unaffected but other operators of Rolls-Royce Trent 900 powered A380s were also affected. Investigators later determined the cause of the explosion to be an oil leak in the Trent 900 engine. Repairs cost an estimated A$139 million (~US$145m). As other Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines also showed problems with the same oil-leak, Rolls-Royce ordered many engines to be changed, including about half of the engines in the Qantas A380 fleet.
Specifications (A380-800 & A380F) ²
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