Odds and Ends: Repairing composites; More on Rolls-Royce; Boeing layoffs; Book Review; A380 assessment

Repairing composites: Aviation Week has a good article about repairing composites: specifically the Boeing 787 that caught fire at London Heathrow Airport a year ago.

More on Rolls-Royce: Aviation Week also has a longer article to follow up its previous one on the development of new engines by Rolls-Royce. This one details RR’s 20-year engine plan.

Boeing layoffs: It’s one of those good news-bad news things. Boeing announced layoffs for 600 workers in San Antonio (TX). That’s bad news. But it’s because there is little 787 work remaining at this center used to catch up on fixing and finishing 787s during the huge backlog of airplanes. That’s good news. The San Antonio Business Journal has this story.

Separately, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports that St. Louis apparently was the leading contender to be the home for the Boeing 777X if Seattle’s IAM 751 hadn’t approved a new contract.

Book review-The Aviators: We’ve just finished a book focusing on Charles Lindbergh, Eddie Rickenbacker and Jimmy Doolittle and recommend it. The Aviators provides a single location for coverage of these three remarkable pioneers. If you’ve read dedicated biographies of these three, you probably won’t learn much that’s new but if not, this is a great one-stop shop.

Lindbergh was much more than “just” an aviator. He was an environmentalist and a scientist. Aviators also covers the kidnapping of his namesake son. Doolittle’s career as a salesman of airplanes and his hand in urging his employer, Shell Oil, to create 100 octane aviation gas, is chronicled. Rickenbacker’s entry into England is highlighted when British authorities thought him a German spy because of his name.

Aviators follows their stories through to death.

A380 assessment: No, it’s not by Richard Aboulafia, who views the Airbus A380 as his favorite whipping boy. It’s an opinion written by an Aviation Week reporter. It’s not a rousing endorsement of the A380’s future.

110 Comments on “Odds and Ends: Repairing composites; More on Rolls-Royce; Boeing layoffs; Book Review; A380 assessment

  1. RE Lindberg- If I recall correctly-in the early 60’s, Charles Lindberg also had a son named ‘ Jon ‘ who lived in this area, enjoyed scuba diving, and worked at Boeing.

  2. I wonder if that guy who wrote the 380 article is qualified: the numbers of deliveries necessary for break even (120, then 200, then 420) were always meant on programme cost. The 2015 break even is on the delivered plane, meaning the delivered plane costs less to build than its revenues are.

      • …and yet he can’t tell the difference between programme break-even and break-even on a per-frame basis. Or he doesn’t want to make the distinction.
        I don’t know which is worse.

        Remember – and this applies generally – Just being qualified in a certain field doesn’t mean you’re right all the time, or that you (want to) draw the right conclusions.
        I’m not only saying that because of Monsieur Sparaco’s piece above (which is basically just a re-hash of the stuff that Aboulafia keeps re-hashing about the A380), but from my own experience as well.

      • From your link, Matt B. (click on the British Flag for English)


        Monsieur Pierre SPARACO

        Journaliste – Ancien rédacteur en chef-Europe d’Aviation Week & Space Technology

        Date de naissance : 19/05/1940

        Lieu de naissance : Verviers, province de Liège (Belgique)

        Career: Secrétaire de Rédaction du mensuel “Air Revue” (1961-1963), reporter au mensuel “Aviation et Astronautique” (1963-1972), reporter-rédacteur en chef adjoint puis rédacteur en Chef d’Aviation Magazine (1973-1992), European Bureau Chief de l’hebdomadaire américain “Aviation Week & Space Technology” (1992-2005) puis éditorialiste européen (2005- ), chroniqueur de aeroMorning.com.

        Medals & distinctions: Decade of Excellence Award, RAeS (1996). Lyman Award (USA) 2002, Président de l’AJPAE (2000/2001), Prix Guynemer 2003, Grand Prix de l’Aéro-Club de France

        Works & publications: Qinze livres dont “L’industrie aérospatiale française” (Que sais-je ?/PUF), “La véritable histoire de Concorde” (Larivière), “Aéronautique et espace (Larivière), “Airbus la véritable histoire” (Privat), “Snecma” Galodé/Cherche Midi), “Une Epopée française”, avec André Turcat et Germain Chambost (Galodé).

        Air & Space Academy:

        Board of governors: Membership:

        Vice-président (2005 – 2008)

        Correspondant ( 1997 )
        Regular member ( 1999 )

        Section(s): Commission(s):

        5 – History, literature and arts (Chairman)
        5 – History, literature and arts (administrator)

        Prizes & Medals ()
        Europe (Member)

    • “Former Paris Bureau Chief Pierre Sparaco has covered aviation and aerospace since the 1960s.”. that is on the bottom of the written article in the link Scott provided. Indeed, Mr. Sparaco is well qualified. Just because you may disagree with his opinion doesn’t make his opinion less qualified than yours.

      Also he is French, which gives him a good insight into the French culture and way of thinking.

      Airbus’s announcement that the A-380 will break even with a 2015 delivery only means the program will begin making a return on its investment. It will take years to decades to break even for the entire program. So that delivery in 2015 is almost meaningless to investors.

      The A-380 program has been delivering airplanes since 2007, it will be 8 years of deliveries in 2015. I believe Airbus has only delivered about 125, or so, airplanes.

      • “Qualified”? Certainly! 😉

        However, the “analysis” presented in the op-ed piece is below the mark.

        NB: KC, the following is not a response to you, but rather, to Monsieur Sparaco and his underwhelming “analysis”:

        Recently, Emirates signed an impressive order for an additional 50 Airbus A380s and Amedeo (formerly Doric Leasing) ordered 20 of the mega-transports. These orders are enough to maintain A380 production for more than two years; they also breed false hope. Realistically, the program is probably limping toward its end point, unless a mid-life update is put in play and spurs new sales. But it looks unlikely that Toulouse could rapidly fund, for example, a “neo” derivative—a new engine option version that could further decrease direct operating costs as well as confirm the 550-seat long-range transport remains more attractive than the stretched-fuselage 777X.


        1) The 50 additional EK orders effectively secured production output at a rate of 30 per year until 2020. I’d guess that talking about the “end point” for the A380 in an op-ed piece at AW&ST is just what most readers want to hear, right?

        2) The mid-life update is likely for 2020. Why didn’t anyone tell you about that? You know, writing op-ed pieces and not knowing what’s really going on, isn’t that just a little bit embarrassing, Monsieur Sparaco?

        3) Why Monsieur Sparaco, would Airbus not be able to fund a “neo-derivative”? Not even mentioning a Rolls Royce Advance engine design timed for EIS in 2020, but is this just another blanket statement of yours? You know, the typical blanket statement that have little, or no root in reality.

    • Really? You are going to attack the messenger instead of address what he says By all accounts, the guy is “qualified”. But, hey, just seems like a lot of posters on here want to “Aboulafia”-him because he speaks something you don’t like about the A380.

      Just because he presents stuff you don’t like doesn’t make him any less “qualified”. Certainly, his background is out there for all to see, unlike “others” calling him out.

      Debate his reasoning; don’t call him an “idiot” (why that comment wasn’t stripped is beyond me) or “not qualified”.

      • Debate his reasoning; don’t call him an “idiot” (why that comment wasn’t stripped is beyond me) or “not qualified”.

        I called out OV for that and gave a warning.


        • Come on, I didn’t use the word “idiot”” but the phrase “useful idiot”**. Two totally different things. Again, I apologised for “stretching” the rules, but not for using that phrase. I would, of course, never call someone an “idiot” in a discourse.


  3. Unfortunately the AvWeek article follows the same lazy and flawed line as many A380 bashers: that absent Emirates supply/demand for the worl’s remaining operators would have been as it is today. As it is, demand for A380s could have been greater, the same, or less than it is with Emirates existence. Only a rigorous analysis can shed any honest light on this to come up with a range of likely outcomes.

    • Indeed – the most annoying thing about that argument is that Emirates has disrupted the market… if they hadn’t come along and taken business from the legacy carriers then it’s reasonable to assume the legacy carriers would be flying those passengers instead. Ergo there would still be the demand for the kind of traffic suited to the A380, ergo the legacies might well have been using as many A380s as Emirates eventually took. If not more – without Emirates’ economy of scale, multiple carrier’s fleets imply some overcapacity would result.

      • Well put!

        Here’s another quote from Monsieur Sparaco:

        14 years ago, Airbus secured orders for 324 A380s, nearly half for rapidly growing Emirates, a “sixth freedom” carrier with no home market and an incredibly savvy strategy.

        I’m a former long time subscriber of AW&ST. It’s funny, but I can’t ever recall Monsieur Sparaco voicing the same concerns in an op-ed about Singapore Airlines and their once 42 strong 747-400 fleet. A “sixth freedom” carrier with no home market and with some sort of savvy strategy… 😉

  4. Aviation Week is a very US centric publication and their general view on Airbus is to be expected. For a balanced view on aviation matters one needs to read Flight Global.

    • I agree AvWeek is sometimes U.S. centric, but I think it’s hard to argue with the particulars of this piece on A380 costs. I understand there is a lot of emotion surrounding “fans” of various OEMS, which can sometimes cloud judgement. I think there are two sides to the A380 story: the OEM perspective and the airline perspective. From the airline perspective, the A380 is a great aircraft for certain routes and operators, and can indeed be extremely profitable when used properly. However, from the OEM perspective at Airbus, the A380 was not a good investment, and continues to be a financial sinkhole to this day. I know there is often confusion on this forum and elsewhere online about how Boeing and Airbus account for recurring and non-recurring costs differently, and how that may affect these type of analyses. That is a topic I have a decent bit of experience on, but they main point is that Airbus is losing money on the A380 recurring costs still, and the extra charges from the wing fix and other development expenses have pushed actual program break even and profit out beyond the original 400 aircraft target (even assuming individual aircraft break even on recurring costs in 2015).

      Personally, I like the A380, and I know it’s a great investment for many airlines. The fact remains, however, that Airbus would have been in a better financial position if they didn’t launch the A380 (and I’ve heard Airbus executives privately express similar opinions). I think it’s important to separate these two perspectives when reading articles like this.

  5. As for AW&ST op-ed on the A380, with all due respect to Pierre Sparaco; his raison d’être of being (formerly) employed by Aviation Week as their Paris bureau chief, was apparently caused by AW&ST wanting to get hold of a European-based “useful idiot” that could write stuff that would primarily be catering to an american audience; thus confirming the typical sterotypes about European aerospace, which apparently so many Americans seem to hold (e.g. “Airbus is really only a govrnment entity etc.).

    Well, AW&ST has IMJ been a complete joke for quite some time. Just to name a few examples; they riffed Craig Covault in late 2008; temporarily suspended Bill Sweetman** on the F-35 since they didn’t want to “hurt” their industry sponsor (LM) on the F-35 boondoogle; and continue to invite industry “experts” holding unfavourable views on the A380, to write op-ed pieces. Anybody holding divergent views on the A380 are apparently not invited to write op-ed pieces at AW&ST.

    ** http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2010/05/aviation-week-suspends-bill-sw/

    As for the op-ed piece itself, Pierre Sparaco seems to be rather confused and bewildered about an A380 re-engining programme. Just like Richard Aboulafia, he seems to not have a clue on what Emirates is doing and that all those 140 EK A380s will, in all likelihood, be replaced With dash-800s or even larger versions further down the road. Hence, based on EK fleet renewal alone, the A380 can be kept in production for a very long time, even at lower production rates than what is the case today. And then of course, we haven’t talked about any growth……

      • Ok, apologies for stretching the Reader Comment rules. 🙂

        However, it’s quite noteworthy IMO that less than a month after Ricard Aboulafia’s “Airbus will be paying the price for the A380 for many years to come” piece was published as an op-ed at Aviation Week, another AW&ST doom and gloom op-ed piece on the A380 pops-up.

          • I laughed out loud when I read Scott’s rejoinder!!

            But in all serious OV-99, I also find that arguments are much more effective, more likely to be read and to be taken seriously, when they keep the heat and rhetoric to a minimum.

            Not that I have not been guilty of that myself on occasion!

        • That’s true Aero Ninja, but sometimes your “evil twin” gets the better of you. 🙂

    • I personally don’t understand people who are blatantly pro-Airbus or pro-Boeing to the point of ignoring or spinning facts. Can we get some perspective here? Whether you work for either of these companies or not, they are just that: for-profit corporations. There is no point in getting emotional about them.

      I have read this blog for quite a while, and finally have been compelled to comment to try to make sense of the comments section. Reading your posts and many of the posts here, one would get the impression that it was Boeing that had a year of poor financial performance, and not Airbus… Just for the record:

      Boeing Commercial Airplanes reported operating earnings of $5.7B in 2013, or 10.9% of earnings (with expected improvements in both revenue and earnings in 2014). Airbus commercial reported operating earnings of $1.6B in 2013, or 4.0% of revenue (also expecting moderate growth in revenue and earnings, with a target of 7-8% EBIT by 2015).

      Again, not trying to get into a Boeing vs. Airbus debate, because I’m not a “fan” of either OEM, but rather a fan of aerospace and aviation in general. Can we try to keep the rhetoric to a minimal and get back to the fun part, speculating on new programs and the future direction of the industry? I usually enjoy reading the comments, and very much respect the opinions of the authors and most of the posters, but as an avid reader, the extremely partisan comments were starting to get out of hand…

      • I think we should take into consideration if an OEM throws foreseen and unforeseen costs far into the future or writes off part, or all of those cost short term. Ignoring it and simply comparing short term financial results takes the public or a ride IMO.

        • I agree to a point, but both OEMs clearly do this (as does every company, to be honest). It’s just how accounting rules work. For instance, Airbus is able to capitalize part of their R&D spend as an “asset” and amortize it over the life of an aircraft program. Boeing plays games with program accounting blocks. I don’t think this is deceptive in either case, it’s just how accounting rules work. Claiming Boeing does this to a greater extent than Airbus doesn’t represent reality. In the same way that 787 program profitability was boosted in 2013 by considering program accounting, 777, 737, and 767 profitability was negatively impacted by program accounting (by averaging costs from the development and ramp-up stage of those programs long ago). If Boeing is unable to achieve cost reduction targets on the 787 (all indications are they are on track for the stated 2015 aircraft recurring cost break-even point), then that’s another matter. No one is “being taken for a ride” by Boeing or Airbus’s financial results…

      • Uhh rational observer re Boeing ” profits”- you might find this local seattle times article http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2023026545_boeingtaxesxml.html

        of interest – title “Boeing has big tax refund coming from Uncle Sam — again
        Boeing got a $199 million federal tax refund in 2013, and over the past 12 years has accumulated tax refunds of $1.6 billion.”

        Its a sad but true comment on the financial games and reporting of ” profits” or ” taxes” or subsidies or even pension costs by both BA and Airbus that the numbers presented are very deppendant on the publication, the time of day, the tax forms, and the PR media. ” depends on which beans one counts for what purpose.

        BA uses so called ” program accounting’ deferring real costs of a program ( 7 late 7) by prorating them over the ” program quantity ” which number can usually be found in the Annual report.; Airbus does similar- both in accordance with local ( country ) rules. And who would believe that BA can and has used pension ‘ surplus’ to boost reported operating earnings ? Yes they do !!. And in the 2002 to 2004 time period, then numbers were on the order of several hundred million $$$$. Its tough to dig out from the annual reports- but no math comparisons needed, just a close reading of the notes.

        My point is that almost any media comments/comparison/ SEC report rarely provides enough detail as to how or what is contained/counted in the ‘ profit ‘ numbers or in the ‘ cost’ numbers. It is NOT simple household accounting. Fact is IF as an indivudual you were to use the same methods- you might enjoy a long stint in club fed. Yes its legal what they do- but NO its rarely a fair compairison.

        And any numbers based on ‘ list price ‘ are mostly vapor based..

        • Look, I agree profit figures aren’t always what they seem, and there is a lot that goes into them. However, see my comment above to Keesje, Boeing and Airbus both are simply using the accounting rules they have to live by, as is every other company in the world. Informed investors are aware of these rules, and can interpret results accordingly. Boeing’s reported operating earnings under these rules, however, is what drives the returns to shareholders, both in terms of dividends and stock price increases, so this is the number that actually matters (regardless of what accounting rules were used to generate it).

          I agree that the accounting and tax rules are very convoluted! I have been spending the past week really digging into aircraft program development costs for my day job (fun stuff, for sure 😉 ), so it interesting seeing how different airframe OEMs treat different elements of cost. On the whole though, I don’t believe there is a substantial difference in how the different airframe OEMs use (and abuse) the accounting rules available to them.

          I completely agree on the apparent absurdity of Boeing’s low tax rate (and the hidden subsidies gained by all 4 of the major aircraft OEMs). I saw a good presentation a few weeks ago (posted on this very site) about some of Boeing’s rather excessive tax incentives.

      • Where’s the A. vs B. in my comment?

        Why is it “partisan” and “emotional” to critique Aviation Week & Space Technology for publishing 2 highly critical op-ed pieces on the A380 within a month?

        I’m on record being critical of Boeing’s product strategy the long term. In my opinion the 777X, for example, would be highly vulnerable to an all new Airbus “super twin” entering into service post 2025. That’s not being anti-B, but pro-industry and pro-consumer as it would not be a good thing if Airbus were to be as dominant as Boeing 30 years ago.

        • I guess I unfairly replied to your post, which wasn’t the main example of partisanship or emotion, but it was fairly defensive of the A380. AvWeek (and others) have penned critiques of the A380 because of the issues I pointed out, it has not and likely will not be a financial success for Airbus (definitely not to the scale they hoped when they launched it). While it doesn’t change the fact that the A380 is a good aircraft for many airlines (and probably will be good for new customers in the future), people are right to criticize the limits to the A380’s business plan due to finite market appeal.

          2025 is a long time from now, and of course a lot could happen between now and then, but I think it’s unlikely that Airbus will launch a new super twin, given the relatively small size of the market between the 777X and the A380. A twin engined A380 replacement could indeed be compelling, but the nonrecurring costs required to make it a reality could be too much for Airbus to handle, given their new financial goals. I don’t think any market analysts are afraid that Airbus will be more dominant than Boeing anytime soon. In fact, I think very few analysts predict that Airbus will even match Boeing in revenue or profit by the end of the decade. The 777X may not be a long term solution (20+ year production run), but it is a relatively cheap incremental upgrade that will have the performance to sell decently well into the early 2030’s. I think Boeing will do just fine, and will respond appropriately if they need to.

          Again, not trying to attack your post in particular (and I do like hearing the other viewpoints on this site for some interesting discussion), but I think predicting the market failure of one OEM or another is usually overblown. Remember the OEMs have supply chain pressures, cost reduction, and airframe discounting as significant levers to drive sales as needed.

        • Being defensive of the A380? Well, with all due respect, that’s really the typical ad hominem being thrown at those who never jumped on the anti-A380 bandwagon. Airbus launched the A380 programme primarily on strategic grounds and was supposed to break-even at 250 airframes. It was never about making a shed load of money. One would like to think, though, that those people who are criticising the A380 on financial grounds would probably have criticised the 747 before the advent of the 747-400 as well. Or perhaps with the A380, everything is different.

          There are a number of historical reasons why Boeing’s commercial aircraft group might be expected, in the late 1990s, to have had some degree of discretion to influence the pursuit of strategies that emphasized investment and plane development instead of value maximization. For decades after it was founded in 1915, Boeing remained focused on military aircraft. But in 1952, it decided to wager a substantial fraction of its net worth on the introduction of the first commercial jet aircraft, the Boeing 707, at a time when Douglas, the leader in the commercial segment, and other producers continued to bet on propeller-driven planes. This “sporty” bet made Boeing the leader in commercial aircraft, and it followed up with large-scale and ultimately successful commitments to the 727 and the 747 in the 1960s. As a result, risk-taking and “technical bravado” became deeply engrained values at Boeing, and were even feted publicly. According to James Collins, co-author of a best-selling book on visionary companies titled Built to Last Collins and Porras [1994]):

          There’s one thing that made Boeing really great all the way along. They always understood that they were an engineering-driven company, not a financially driven company. They were always thinking in terms of “What could we build?” not “What does it make sense to build?” If they’re no longer honoring that as their central mission [with the concession of the very large aircraft segment to Airbus], then over time they’ll just become another company.”

          http://homepage.ntlworld.com/duc_huynh/PDF Files/SIA_Airbus v Boeing.pdf

          As for the 777X, I wouldn’t necessarily listen to what the American centric “analysts” are saying about it, but rather look at the game theoretic aspects of Airbus launching an all new A360X super twin. Also, the 777X is not cheap. It’s a highly expensive undertaking costing upwards of two-thirds of that of an all new airplane. If the 777X programme is cut short by the advent of a significantly more efficient A360X a decade hence, then what are the options for Boeing?

  6. LH premium economy 2-4-2 on the 747-8, SkyMark A333 at 2-3-2, what does it mean? I’m thinking more premium economy and that United, American, or Delta order some 747-8 in the not to distant future, because the A350 and 777 don’t have enough floorspace.

      • Sorry for not being clear in my comment.

        I think Pierre is only stating the obvious about the A380.
        The A380 per set is okay. It is just big, too big, for the current air transport landscape and in the coming decade.

        • Yiou may be right about it being too big for the current air transport landscape. On the other hand, what if someone were to inform the people opposing new runways at all of the slot limited airports in just the right manner? What if such citizens can force their local politicians to abandon such plans? Would that not change the VLA landscape, and the A380 business case to some degree?

          By the way, does anybody know how the Porter order of the C-Series and the proposed extension of the runway at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto is going?

        • Interesting news. However it does not change the fact that Mr Sparraco wrote something very interesting on the A380. His article reflects today’s reality. I can’t qualify him as a “Airbus basher” as some people like to qualify those who write something not too good on the A380.

          It seems a negative review of the A380’s situation always generates a very violent and passionate reaction.
          I still do not understand how an aircraft can produce such a huge psychological effect on some people. It reminds me a bit about religions.

        • “That’s quite a large tanker fleet for such a small country.”
          The reason for a large tanker fleet is the size of Singapore. Singapore has to stop the enemy as far away from its small island as possible. The step from 4 KC-135R to 6 A330MRTT is huge. One A330 provides 50 % more fuel. Fuel offload capability is more than doubled.

        • It is interesting they are still trying to sell it as freighter and tanker when it is the only 300-400 seater widebody they are producing today. Is the demand for passenger version dwindling down?

        • However it does not change the fact that Mr Sparraco wrote something very interesting on the A380. His article reflects today’s reality. I can’t qualify him as a “Airbus basher” as some people like to qualify those who write something not too good on the A380.

          Interesting how eager some people suddenly are to stay on topic, now that the topic finally is the A380 which otherwise gets brought up every so often in discussions about the A350, A330neo etc.

          Anyway – I hadn’t heard of Monsieur Sparaco before Scott linked to his article. So I can’t judge how biased he is in general.
          But reading that article, it does look like a typical piece of A380 bashing.
          Just beginning with simple fact-checking – the author can’t tell the difference between “programme break-even” and “break-even on a per-frame basis”. He also talks about the programme limping towards its end-point – based recent orders for 50 and 20 A380s, two of the four biggest single orders the type ever received.
          So, sure, Sparaco is taking one possible perspective in the light of these orders. (And Qatar just said they may order more – although not 50 – A380s.)

          Don’t get me wrong – especially with the production ramp-up disaster, wing rib cracks, etc., it’s not exactly a programme with great execution, and programme break-even moved ever further to the right. To the point where it’s a very remote prospect.
          And no, they’re quite probably never going to sell 1000 A380s.

          But we’ve seen so many naysayers declaring the A380 dead ever since it was launched. Dead on arrival (too big, overweight, too late, etc.), then soon-to-be-dead at the hands of the 747-8i, then dead again because it’s just too big and the programme execution was flawed.
          None of this actually came to pass. In fact, almost 25% of the total A380 order book was signed within the last four months.

          So please understand if I treat more rumours/opinion pieces spelling the end for the A380 with a fair amount of scepticism, particularly as Sparaco in the piece above (just like Aboulafia) keeps re-hashing exactly the same arguments that were already used to declare the A380 dead five years ago:
          * Big planes aren’t the way to go (an argument that assumes that the trend of increasing airplane sizes miraculously stops above the 747-8i/777X category; both of which ironically are perfect examples of planes becoming bigger)
          * Airbus is too reliant on EK, who won’t take all those A380s anyway (an argument that the same people never bring up in the context of 747-8i and LH, or the 777X and EK; also, an argument proven wrong with regard to EK supposedly never taking the A380s they already ordered)
          * The Boeing XXX (initially the 747-8i, now the 777X) is cheaper, “just the right size” and has better CASM (an argument proven quite convincingly wrong with regard to the 747-8i; the 777X is tougher to counter, but not impossible, particularly considering that the 777X won’t EIS until 2020, which is the rough timeframe earmarked for an A380 refresh as well).

          There have been slight additions or variations (such as the availability of second hand A380s a few years down the road supposedly being bad for new-built A380 sales; an affliction that exclusively affects the A380 while it’s no concern for any other plane), but by and large, that’s what the main points boil down to.

          So really, a lot of FUD has been spread so far, and a lot of people have been trying very hard to make it stick by reiterating the same few points. Except the A380 still isn’t dead.

          As I said: I don’t think the A380 is an overwhelming success in economical terms for Airbus, and I don’t think it’ll sell 1000s.
          But I am more than a bit sceptical when I read all those obituaries, often from the same people who’ve been eager to write A380 obituaries from the start, and using the same old arguments. Well, if you keep repeating something for just long enough, it just might turn out to be true at some point, I guess.

        • “I still do not understand how an aircraft can produce such a huge psychological effect on some people. It reminds me a bit about religions.”

          The effects seem to work in both directions.
          “[…] the need for ‘quads’ is dissipating”(Pierre Sparaco)
          Is there any twin in the pipe to move 525 pax in a comfortable way? I even think the Amedeo order with 11-abreast at 18” is OK (558). The magic 400 pax for 777X9 are not that comfortable. As long as airlines have enough pax to fill an A380 then they will use this aircraft and make money.

          “If the envisioned A380neo does not become a reality by the end of this decade, the European program could reach its premature limit, a sad epilogue.” (Pierre Sparaco)
          It is still not so obvious to me that seat mile cost would be better far a 777X compared to a todays A380. The 748 is a smaller competitor and the 777X with appropriate seating is far smaller.

          My guess is Airbus will wait and the A380 will get a GTF engine. I’m not so sure about an A330 GTF. Maybe Airbus can close the gap till such an engine is available (20 MRTT for France, Spain and India, about 200 A330R and a reduced production speed, reduced price, freighters … ~ 2020)

  7. Nice article on the composite repair. Does the repair (sans bolts) signficantly increase weight? Does it impinge on the smoothness/aerodynamics? If the base metal lightning protection is damaged does that require a larger patch? Does CFRP require periodic buffing or polishing?

    Nice to see the patch seems to be straightforward.

  8. I guess some people are jst hypersensitive about the 380. It is a good plane, it does what it was supposed to do. It is an engineering marvel. Unfortunately, the business plan for it was/is flawed and it does not appear to be selling very well (and far below Airbus predictions) (and a genuine hit would be wanted by everybody…). But the investment is already made so as long as it isn’t a money/resource sink it has a chance to be profitable in a couple decades.

    Now throwing more money and resources at it is another question… what kind of return can you expect from the investment? Would the resources be better spent elsewhere? That is the issue…you definitely can make it better. But a few billion here, a few there…pretty soon you are talking real money ;0)

    • To be fair, a lot of people get hypersensitive about the 787, or the CSeries, or the E-Jets too (usually based on nationality 😉 ). I agree with your conclusion though. Airbus by no means should discontinue the A380 or anything like that, but whether they should invest in a re-engine or other improvements is unclear to me. With little competition, perhaps Airbus can accept lower order volumes at the end of the decade in return for avoiding further non-recurring development costs.

      • To truly utilize he 380 advantage, perhaps they should increase the seat count. The CASM would improve significantly and would be an easier way to improve the efficiency. The problem is that I don’t think the demand is there consistently for most airlines to fill a 525 seat aircraft, much less a 580, or 600, or 700 etc.

        It is just not flexible enough to account for the natural cycles of the airline industry, hence not many airlines are buying. Not a knock on the aircraft, mostly just an observation of the industry and the razor thin margins most airlines are at.

    • “Unfortunately, the business plan for it was/is flawed”

      There never is and never was anything wrong with the business plan. What was wrong was how Airbus executed the programme. Without delays 250 planes was enough for breakeven. Now as there is over 300 sold planes they would have been making good money.

  9. I think the comment on the A380 is balanced. The threats to the program have been named, and I can’t recall any “bashing” or US-centric view. The A380 is sort of “pushed” by Emirates, and at the same time Emirates sucks away demand from the established carriers.

    In my opinion the upcoming performance of the A350 program will have an influence. If it runs well, Airbus has financial firepower to update the A380. Single aisle sector is also influential: a “big move” by Boeing may force Airbus to redirect resources.

    Nuff said.

    • “Single aisle sector is also influential: a “big move” by Boeing may force Airbus to redirect resources.”

      I think this is inevitable. There are rumors the efficiency figures for the GTF are very conservative and in reality there is a possibility a CASM chasm will appear in favor of the A320 NEO GTF. That will force Boeing to pull the trigger on a new narrowbody plane.

  10. I think there is an inflection point where newer technology will obsolete the A380. Since the roll out of CFRP has been slower and slightly less than promised, the A380 will fare better than it looked five years ago. Still more A380s delivered than 787s.

    • I cannot see any technology so far that has made the A380 obsolete. It is still newer than the B777, which still sells well. The engine technology lags behind the 2020 reference. But don’t assume that the B787 engines are that much better than the A380 engines. Marketing.

      • Engine technology advances could be applied by a re-engine and can’t obsolete the whole design. I think what TC had in mind are better ecomonics by applying CFRP to wings and body. The 787 is 80% composites, the A380 20%, the A330 already used mostly composite vertical stabiliser and rudder [source 1=”wikipedia” language=”:”][/source].

        The 787-10 seems to be (only) 5% better in fuel burn than the A330-300 when you disregard the engine. That’s not really the big step change yet which obsoletes a design that uses less composites. Maybe second gen composite designs can materialize more weight improvements. But both OEMs have no plans for any clean sheet composite plane in the near future.

        • “The 787-10 seems to be (only) 5% better in fuel burn than the A330-300 when you disregard the engine. ”

          Isn’t that why Boeing didn’t do the NSA in the end? Airframe technology does not seem to be advancing at the same rate as that of engines. There would have been a long wait for it, and it wouldn’t have been sufficiently worthwhile making the investment for such a relatively small improvement, given that it would still be using the same engines as the NEO.

          It’s the same reason I query whether there will be a 757 replacement from to Boeing challenge the A321, much as they may hate conceding this sector of the market to Airbus. If they do that plane is sure to be the first model of the NSA range and Airbus will have plenty of time to leapfrog it.

  11. I occasionally read Pierre Sparaco’s blog a few years ago. For some reason, he has fallen under the radar, but at the time, I found his opinions interesting and logical.

    While I like the A380 myself, I am not blinded to the fact that it is definitely not a program that is running well and the greatest part of that problem lies with Airbus itself and it’s execution of the program.

    I see the problem with the OEMs being that they don’t want to pay qualified, experienced people a decent wage and hence farm out the work to the cheapest bidder (the outsourcing orgy, as it were). Some say, “Money talks & bulls_it walks.” or others might say, “You get what you pay for.” I believe both Boeing ands Airbus have been getting what they paid for over the past 10 to 12 years and are still taking it out on the people that do the work for them thorough their “cost cutting” programs, where the biggest “cost” that is “cut” is the hard working employee’s wages.

    Had the A380 been delivered on time and without the major delays, including for production ramp up, we would now not be arguing about if the program would be profitable and any
    talk of a new engine along with stretching would not be so speculative.

    I think the A380 as is will not be selling that much more unless something drastic changes in the airline industry over the next 5 to 10 years (hardly likely). the question for Airbus is then how to make the A380 more attractive and how to achieve that without investing too much more into the program (Where is the balance between future investment/return compared with investment/return up until now)? Obviously nobody has the answer or else it would already be in the works.

  12. Frome the 787 repair article, “Although airline confidence in the day-to-day resilience of composites has come a long way since 2004, when Boeing’s sales pitch for what was then called the 7E7 often involved inviting skeptics to bash a specimen with a hammer”

    I would like to know what would happen to anyone who would walk up to a 787 on the line at Everett, Charleston or even at some airport, and whack/bash the side of it with a hammer? I am very certain they would not be rewarded or appreciated for demonstrating “confidence in the day-to-day resilience of composites”!!

    • ” inviting skeptics to bash a specimen with a hammer”

      O yes, I did and told my Boeing friends I was standing next to a Dreamliner on a African outstation & convinced there was some internal delaminination, although I could see nothing.. and what then? Call Goldcare?

  13. Regarding the A380 – my partner just went to New York from London on BA (LHR- JFK). Outbound 77W, return 747. I understand there are 7 BA flights per day, add to that AA as a partner I guess. How much more frequency is needed here? And if the frequency can not be had, particularly at desirable times, how else than an A380 can BA upgauge this prior to 2022, i.e. 8 years from now (which I should think is the earliest available date for a 779)? Answers on a postcard please.

    • I would guess that many of the flights from LHR to New York are mid sized aircraft at 787, 757, 330 size. The logical thing would be to upsize to a 777 size aircraft to preserve frequency and increase yield yet retain flexibility. The 380 conundrum is it has to be 0.6-0.7 x 500+ to make money. Also, the LHR to NYC flight is fairly short at 3020 nm so fixed costs would be relatively higher (weight, 4 engines vs 2 etc)

      • I am sorry, but your guess is quite wrong. Let me clear up my post, after some research.
        i) I asked specifically about BA.
        ii) BA has eight rotations per day out of LHR, plus two out of LCY (A318)
        iii) today ALL of the LHR rotations are either a 77W or a 744. All of them. No 757, 787, 330 size, or whatever one might ‘guess’ in order to not have to face the question.

        So let me repeat my question. Given that all 8 rotations are already the biggest size planes that BA can field other than the A380, and given that these rotations are very close together (as I am typing this, at least 4 of the LHR-JFK flights are in the air, according to Flightaware),what can BA do to increase capacity on the route.

        I would appreciate the next response not to be based on a bad guess.

        As for the idea that the cost of an A380 on LHR-JFK is going to be higher than that of a 744, I don’t think even Randy would suggest it, although it is a new one, and he might be tempted. Last I checked BA did not fly 2-engined 744s in any case. But I may just never have been on one.

        • To clarify, for ‘cost’ read ‘seat-mile-cost’, not trip cost. I know the latter is higher.

        • Notice about Lufthansa:
          LH 400 (FRA to JFK) and LH 401 by A380 from April on.
          Today a 744.
          LH 454 (FRA to SFO) and LH 455 from Mai on.
          Houston and Miami are already served by an A380.

        • You are right Andreas, however, please note that LHR and especially LHR to New York is probably the ideal place for an A 380. There were once estimates (probably not valid anymore) that by around 2020 more than half of the intercont traffic out of LHR would be 380s, just because of the limited number of slots.

          The decisive question is if the 380 will be capable of generating enough demand on other routes. If you look isolated on Emirates, you would assume that other companies must buy 380s like crazy. Fact is: they don’t. So, will it change once the economy gets better of not?

        • Well, I personally flew to LHR from Newark on a 787 last month…so at least some of the flights are 787. As they are just introducing the 787 it will be interesting to see if they switch it into the lineup (downsize) or place a 380 (upsize).

  14. Perhaps a partly off topic issue. Boeing ( and Airbus ) use major quantities of Titanium..AFIK the largest supplier of Titanium ( sponge ) is Russia. Now if the little spat with Putin – Ukraine results in Economic sanctions, and Ukraine being also a major aerospace player . . . wonder what the effect might be on both Airbus and Boeing re supply of Titanium AND certain offloaded Engineering work by Boeing to Moscow ????

    • A bit more on Ti issue and Russia



      Plane Purchases
      Boeing’s 2013 industry outlook estimated that the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, including Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, will buy 1,170 aircraft worth $140 billion over the next 20 years. Boeing’s seven deliveries to Russian carriers last year had a list value of $2.1 billion.
      “We are watching developments closely to determine what impact, if any, there may be to our ongoing business and partnerships in the region,” Doug Alder, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, said by e-mail. “We won’t speculate on the potential impact of sanctions or any other potential government actions.”
      A prolonged trade standoff could squeeze U.S. and European aerospace manufacturers’ access to titanium, since Russia is the largest global supplier of the lightweight metal widely used in aircraft, said Richard Aboulafia, aerospace analyst with Teal Group, a Fairfax, Virginia-based consultant.
      Boeing’s receives about 35 percent of its titanium from VSMPO-AVISMA Corp., which is owned by State Corporation Russian Technologies and produces parts for the 787 Dreamliner, 737 narrow-body jets and other models, according to the U.S. planemaker’s website. Boeing expects to spend $27 billion over the next three decades on Russian titanium, aerospace design-engineering services and other services and materials.
      Aerospace Ties
      “It’s going to put a chill on Western-Russian aerospace relations,” Aboulafia said. “You can’t rule out the price of titanium being affected.”


    • Mr Boeing must watch out for the inferior grade aluminum/metal coming out of the old ‘USSR’ they might get stung again like they did from No15 to 686 on the 747’s 100/200/300’s? ‘strong but brittle aluminum 7575?’.

      • SOURCE for your comment re 7575 Aluminum – AFIK that version is not usually aircraft grade/use. Perhaps 7075 ? In any case source for you claim ??

    • What is the average passenger per aircraft at LHR Heathrow? Perhaps increasing the average size of THE SMALLEST ones would be more than enough to relieve the slot issue there.

      • Well how does that work with the frequency-is-king argument? 😉 You can’t have it both ways. When I am flying to FRA from LHR I absolutely want the frequency, but when I fly to IAD I don’t really need it. Also, it doesn’t resolve the question: what is the better option when you are upgauging from a 77W? Add a 787 and another flight, or replace by an A380 and use the 787 and its slot for e.g. a completely new market?

  15. Meanwhile, http://www.strategicaeroresearch.com has gone completely bonkers about the fact that Airbus has asked airlines to inspect the A380’s wing’s spars during regular major overhauls carried out after six years in service, and then again at 12 years, instead of waiting for the 12-year overhaul.


    https://twitter.com/StratAero : Entertaining tweets, indeed – from the “chief” analyst himself at StratAero. Who else might be working there? 😉

      • What?

        I just don’t understand the logic. Buy fifty and park twenty.

        Who is going to pay the lease of those parked aircraft? Their 777-300ER?

        • Sorry, which part of ‘the airline will ground mainly Airbus A330s and A340s as well as some Boeing 777s, but not A380s’ did you not understand? And you do understand that the parking is for a limited period of time during the summer of this year, so the order of 50 A380 that will start being delivered from next year has nothing to do with it?

          As for your question, my guess is that the A380s will pay the lease fees on the parked planes, including the 777s.

        • The good thing at least from that is that no reputable aviation news source seems to have quoted him.

    • I can probably think of another blogger who is either in cohorts with him or is the same person as him under different names. So he probably has employees, in his own head.

  16. The A380 is one solution to congested airports like London Heathrow. A better solution is bigger airports with more runways, terminals and gates. Those in charge of airports serving London should decide on a third runway, a new airport or something else pretty soon.

    • That’s about as realistic as expecting flying pigs to take over scheduled services. And even if they decided that, given how ‘fast’ things work in the UK, it won’t be done this side of 2030, and I am being optimistic. Just building Terminal 5 took 19 years from conception to finish. What do you do in the meantime?

    • A third runway at Heathrow could make London streets look like Kiev a few days ago. A new London airport is far in the future. A report for the “Thames Estuary Airports” is expected in 2015.

      The next thing I as a traveler always stumble about is “frequency”. There is a ideal time frame for meetings. I have to be there at a certain time and a certain time for my way back. I guess it is more expensive to solve this problem with a higher frequency. Especially then 2 787 are more expensive then one A380.

      E.g. Lufthansa replaces its 744 against 748 or A380.

      Qantas has some A380 on offer. We will see who will take them. Turkish Airlines is rumored but maybe BA.

      • Indeed. I note that two of the proposed locations are in an area where a windfarm just got killed because of concerns about the impact on the bird population. Just the bird study was supposed to take three years!


        Basically, you could expect to get through up to two 12-year leases on an A380 before a new airport that would make the upgauging unnecessary is operational.

        In other words, we’d still be flying from LHR on two runways when these planes are being sent to VCV for parting out. It’s a non-issue in the discussion on whether BA needs more than 12 A380s to upgauge its trunk routes.

      • What about a new mega project constructing an all new airport out in the North Sea midway between England, Holland and Belgium? It could replace Heathrow, Schipol and BRU. It would kill three birds with one stone. It should be connected to all three countries by at least 4 tunnels, providing very high rail speeds in the tunnel of at least 250 km/h. Plenty of work for an armada of tunnel boring machines (TBMs). The excavated materials would be used for the massive new artifical island and protective reefs, and the Dutch are masters in reclaiming land from the sea.


        • I am 45 years old. If I make it to the statistical average for a male in the UK, I still won’t be able to fly from this airport during my lifetime.

  17. Well there are some people publishing on the web that take “Airbus has a problem” as a starting point rather then a conclusion. I guess that goes for both sides. Thinking about it, I cannot actually point to a blog / publisher / analyst that takes “Boeing has a problem” as a starting point or automatically assumes Airbus has it right again. Can anyone point out such a medium? Maybe it doesn’t go for both sides..

  18. I will again paraphrase what has been said loud and clear and validated in the industry:
    The A380 was a poor vision brilliantly executed while the 787 is a brilliant vison poorly executed.

    I think that what matters really to Airbus is the A350 appears to be a brilliant vision being brilliantly executed.

    The problem for Boeing: It must brilliantly execute the 777X which still needs to be qualified as a brilliant vision or not…;)

    • The A380 was a poor vision brilliantly executed

      First time I heard that, I have to say. No idea why somebody would call it “brilliantly executed”, as the initial execution was an unmitigated disaster, which led to the EADS share price dropping by over 30% at some point if I recall correctly.
      Boeing then set a new standard for poor execution with the 787 – but it’s only in the light of the 787 that somebody would say that, comparatively, the A380 was better executed. In reality, though, both programmes are good examples of poor project management.

      • “poor execution” is an open scale.
        The distance between A350 and A380 on that scale is decidedly smaller than between A380 and 787. Perception is distorted by how the press filters Boeing and Airbus information. For guidance see the “787 new wing cracks” postings further below.

    • Excuse me, but “validated” by whom in the industry?

      The A380 programme was, in fact, not brilliantly executed — far from it. As for the “vision” thing, I can’t see why larger aircraft in every market segment should not be part of the equation in a market that doubles every 15 years, or so. If anything, the A380 might be looked upon in the future as a programme that was perhaps slightly ahead of its time, but that created its own market over time.

      What’s so “brilliant” about the 787 “vision”? It was, in fact, Boeing’s response to the A330 mid market aircraft. For sure, it has additional range over the current A330 models and can fly longer, thinner route sectors, but wasn’t that also the case with the 767-200/-300 vs. the A330-200? As for the 787 programme execution, I would rather lay the fault squarely at the programme’s inception instead of the programme execution. Boeing’s engineers were given a hopelessly, unrealistic timetable to work with. Four years scheduled from the official launch to planned EIS was nothing but crazy. The 787 programme constituted a paradigm shift for Boeing where everything was different. As is well known, the company didn’t follow industrial best-practice recommendations suggesting that new products should use existing processes and tools, the existing organization and demonstrated technologies. If Boeing had gone for an R&D schedule for the 787 that would have been as long as that planned for the 777X, or even the slightly longer schedule orignally planned for the A350, I’m sure the execution of the programme would have gone down in history entirely different.

      As for the A350 programme, it may look as if you’re right on that one. 😉

      As for the 777X; well, I’m not so sure about the longevity of that programme if Airbus would launch an all new “super twin” by the end of the decade. IMO, Boeing should have gone for an all new and larger airframe that would be immune against anything Airbus will throw at it.

      • That you like it or not, having about 800 models of a plane sold before its first flight is validation by industry of a brilliant vision…
        Fanboyism does not bring anything to discussions

        • cue Aboulafia: ” .. Druglike rush .. ”
          A PR campaign brilliantly executed.

        • 800 aircraft are easily sold at discount prices. The problem is to produce the advertised aircraft for far less money. How many millions or billions Boeing did pay or has to pay in the future for late deliveries? How many was paid for the fat one-hundred?

  19. Oh dear… Search Google News for ‘Boeing to Inspect Wings of Undelivered Dreamliners for Cracks’

    Some people’s heads are going to explode.

    Funny they chose today to release the news, when the A380 problem broke… Coincidence, shurely. “A person familiar with the issue said the company was told by Mitsubishi in the second half of February of the issue after its routine quality checks.” – oh, and so much for the oft-repeated mantra of ‘Boeing is a publicly quoted company, they must release news affecting the share price when they get it.”

    • “Must release information”

      Obviously some buffer time is required to prepare the public with some badmouthing of the competition. This is a regularly observable Boeing PR feature.

      ( didn’t see your post before I sent of the chicagobusiness link ( originally from the WSJ, paywalled there )

  20. Re A380 article:
    Looks like I have found the reason for printing Mr. Pierre SPARACO’s OpEd piece
    and also some other articles referencing defects found on the A380 fatique
    frame after cycles reached 3 times life expectancy ( news from last fall):

    “Boeing Co. said today a manufacturing problem had caused hairline cracks in the wings on some of its 787 Dreamliner jets, requiring inspections on 42 aircraft and delaying the delivery of some to airlines, the Wall Street Journal reports.”

    see: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140307/NEWS05/140309794/boeing-to-inspect-wings-of-undelivered-dreamliners-for-cracks

    • Okay, that’s funny. 🙂 It’s about as obvious as my 6-year old answering with his mouth full and crumbs falling out that of course he’s been nowhere near the cookie jar. 🙂

  21. On repairing composites .. faster- cheaper- does not pay-
    seems a few cracks in wing rib shear ties … only about 1/3 of planes produced to date . . .
    Boeing to Inspect Wings of Undelivered Dreamliners for Cracks
    Airplane Maker Says Supplier’s Manufacturing Defect Could Cause Delays in Delivering the Jets


    Boeing Co. BA -0.25% said Friday that a manufacturing problem had caused hairline cracks in the wings on some of its 787 Dreamliner jets, requiring inspections on 42 aircraft and delaying the delivery of some to airlines.

    Wing-maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. 7011.TO +0.16% informed Boeing that a change in its manufacturing process may cause the cracks in the wings it produces for yet-to-be-delivered jets, according to a spokesman for the U.S. aerospace giant. Subsequent inspections revealed cracks on some jets, the spokesman said.

    The defect is a major headache for Boeing, which is working to consistently produce 10 Dreamliners a month this year, though it still plans to deliver around 110 of the jets in 2014 and said its revenue guidance for the year remained unchanged.

    The inspections and repairs at Boeing plants in Washington state, South Carolina and Mitsubishi facilities in Japan illustrate how manufacturing problems can be spread quickly through the supply chain while it builds Dreamliners at a record rate.

    Boeing said none of the 123 787s delivered to date are affected by the wing issue. A person familiar with the issue said the company was told by Mitsubishi in the second half of February of the issue after its routine quality checks…

    goes on…

    What price glory Mr mcnearney ?? Hows that outsourcing of the company jewels working out. And look at what you just did to the rest of the loyal employees re pensions..

    • Interpretation is a bit dependent on who pushed for that process change and why, isn’t it?
      ( And again PR was very well managed. Wondering over the command path from Boeing mishap to “preparatory” negative airbus press.

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