Farewell to the giant of the Skies

By Steve Allison

Airbus has finally decided to pull the plug and end production of the Airbus A380. Once again commercial considerations have beaten human endeavour and achievement. The A380, the largest passenger aircraft in the world has gone the same way as Concorde, which was the fastest. It has to be said though that the A380 was considerably more successful then Concorde, particularly in the modern world where we measure success by money alone. Airbus managed to sell 234 A380's while of the 20 Concordes only 14 actually entered service.





Unlike so many great innovations, neither Concorde nor the A380 were ahead of their time. Both were developed at a time when the need for them no longer existed. The Concorde was the answer to the ever-increasing desire for shorter journey times just as the industry had moved away from reducing sector times in favour of transporting the masses. The A380 was introduced to increase the number of passengers on a single flight using the hub and spoke model just as the industry moved towards taking fewer passengers point to point on smaller aircraft.





Many have speculated, myself included, that the A380 was designed as an exercise in one-upmanship. Boeing introduced the 747 as the first wide-body mass transport aircraft. It quickly became known as the Jumbo Jet. Airbus wanted to have the accolade of and enter the record books by producing the biggest airliner. Boeing had already seen the writing on the wall and was winding down it's 747-400 production. The 747-8 was being developed but Boeing was aiming that at the freight market. Although it is available in passenger configuration, only 47 have been sold. The future, according to Boeing was smaller fuel efficient twin-engine long-haul aircraft. The 777 was already in operation and the 787 was being developed.






Air travel has moved on since the 1970's becoming commonplace and considered by many to be a chore. The glamour has gone, passengers want to get to their destination with the minimum of fuss. Passengers want point to point travel, which has led the industry towards operating long and thin routes. This has seen demand increase for smaller fuel-efficient aircraft. Another change has been the ETOPS certification, which stands for Extended Range Twin Operations Standard. Previously to that, twin engine aircraft were required to remain within 60 minutes flying time of a suitable airfield. Airlines no longer needed to operate 4 engine aircraft on long haul routes.





Ironically, it was Airbus that was first out of the blocks in the ETOPS race with the A300, which morphed into the A330. Subsequent to that and in response to the Boeing 787, Airbus developed the A350XWB. The A350, I'm sure will end up being the backbone of the Airbus long haul offering.





I thought at the time the A380 was introduced that the sales prediction of 1200 aircraft was somewhat ambitious. Without orders from Emirates production may have been halted much sooner. Emirates set up Dubai as a major international hub. The airline offered excellent service at a reasonable price at the time most other airlines were trying to find new and innovative ways to rip customers off. Emirates level of customer service encouraged passengers to travel via the Dubai hub rather than opting for a direct flight.





We will see the giant of the skies for many years to come although several airlines have fallen out of love with the A380. Nevertheless, it is sad to see this feat of human engineering being cast aside in pursuit of profit. I applaud Airbus for designing and building it just to show they could. The company will go down in history for producing a magnificent aircraft rather than just producing a healthy profit.


Aviation Economy








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