Pontifications: re-engining airliners and the A380

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

June 1, 2015, c. Leeham Co. The Paris Air Show begins in two weeks. One thing that won’t happen is the launch of the Airbus A380neo.

We still think it will happen, though at a later date.

Re-engining the A380 is highly controversial. The A380 is the plane critics love to hate. You can argue whether it should have been built in the first place. You can argue whether it was 10 years too soon. You can argue whether Airbus misjudged the size of the market. You can even argue its passenger appeal. I haven’t flown on the A380 yet, so I can’t speak from personal experience on the latter. I’ve previously discussed the other points.

You can argue whether the airplane should be re-engined. Leeham News concluded in January 2014 Airbus really had no choice but to re-engine the A380 if it wants to continue offering the model. If done inexpensively (a relative term, to be sure), it makes sense given the arrival around 2020 of the Boeing 777-9. It’s when design creep happens that trouble arises. Just ask Boeing on the 747-8.

Emirates Airlines says it will buy up to 200 A380neos if Airbus proceeds. Qatar Airways expresses interest. Lufthansa Airlines said a neo is needed to keep the A380 viable in the future, though it hasn’t taken the next step of saying it will buy more.

Re-engining is hardly new. Let’s take a look.Douglas DC-7 and Lockheed Constellation: Only avid aviation enthusiasts, old timers and voracious readers will remember that Douglas and Lockheed seriously

Proposed Douglas DC-7D with Rolls-Royce Dart Engines.

looked at putting turbo-props on the DC-7 and Constellation. Lockheed even had a designation: the 1449 and 1549 before proceeding with the 1649, the last of the family. Douglas had a concept, the DC-7D (for Dart turbo-props) and DC-7T (for Allison engines). Neither concept proceeded; the jet age was just too close and the hybrids didn’t pencil out.

Convair 600, a Rolls-Royce Dart conversion of the CV-240.

Convair 240/340/440: In the 1960s, these venerable piston airliners were upgraded to the Convair 600/640 (the 240/340 with Dart engines), the 540 (Napier Eland engines, an unsuccessful program) and the 580 (the Allison turbos, the same engines as on the Lockheed Electra). Minimal changes to the airplanes, a highly successful program.

Douglas DC-8-71, the CFM 56-powered version of the DC-8-61.

Douglas DC-8 Super 60 Series: CFM 56 engines, the first of what would become probably the most successful engines ever designed, replaced Pratt & Whitney JT8Ds on the DC-8-61/62/63 to become the 71/72/73. There were only a handful of the DC-8-72s converted; the airplane carried too few passengers to pencil out the costs, the same reason the commercial Boeing 707 didn’t get the treatment–though the US Air Force did convert a number of 707-based KC-135s to CFM power. Once again, minimal changes.

Bristol Britannia: This was originally designed with piston engines and turbo-props were

The Bristol Britannia began development as a piston-engined airplane. Turbo-props were selected during development.

substituted during development. The airplane was a failure for a number of reasons, being late and ill-timed, but the re-engining was made.

Boeing 737: The Boeing 737-200/200A was successful but needed upgrading. Boeing re-engined the airplane with the CFM 56, creating the -300/400/500 series (now called the Classic). Minimal changes. The Boeing 737NG became an 80% new airplane, driven by the need to become more competitive with the then-new Airbus A320. The engine remained largely the same, but adding a new wing and other improvements. The 737 MAX gets a new engine but design creep to be competitive with the A320neo results in a substantially new airplane.

A320 Family: Boeing pooh-poohed the Airbus concept of a re-engined A320, but the A320neo turned out to be the fastest selling airliner in history. Minimal changes–95% of the airplane (so Airbus claims) remains unchanged from the A320ceo. Re-engining the A320 Family proved a boon to performance and range, leading the way to the development of the A321LR intended to replace the Boeing 757.

Boeing 747-8: a classic case of design creep from what was to be a straight-forward re-engining.

Boeing 747: This is a classic example of design creep. The 747-500/600/X never caught on with customers but once the GEnx was designed for the Boeing 787, officials decided re-engining the 747 was the way to go. But the “simple” re-engining became an airplane with new wings, which changed aerodynamics, which required changes to the tail, and systems to account for flight characteristic changes. By the time Boeing was done, the airplane was two years late, 80% new and suffering a forward loss. The delay caused the airplane to miss the market for whatever demand there was. It’s also an example of what Airbus has to avoid at all costs with an A380neo.

Airbus followed the minimum-change route with the A320 and A330 neo families. It can be expected it will do the same for an A380neo. We concluded in our own analysis that the A380neo will require sharklets to supplement engine gains, most likely from a Rolls-Royce Advance engine design that can be applied to future, smaller aircraft–thus supporting what would otherwise be a marginal business case for the engine for the A380. Airbus could also tweak the wing, as it is doing on the A330neo.

Since the engine maker covers most of the R&D cost–up to 90%, according to some with knowledge of these things–the investment by Airbus to “PIP” the airframe (Performance Improvement Package) becomes quite reasonable to extend the life and sales of the super-jumbo.

Although critics, including Boeing, say doing a neo for one customer (Emirates) doesn’t make sense, and largely they are right, there are other factors involved, as we’ve written in the past.

The keys are minimal change to the airplane and the expectation RR will be able to apply the technology to other, smaller airplanes. If either fails, the project doesn’t make sense.


138 Comments on “Pontifications: re-engining airliners and the A380

  1. So in your opinion Scott, the chances of a stretch (to the -900) in order to get better use out of the wing, is essentially zero?

    That’d be a pity – while I see the logic of minimising risk by minimising change, I’m also not sure the A380 will ever really succeed by being little more than a larger alternative to the big twins for fat routes. If a stretch would lower CASM to a point where airlines would start to consolidate frequency on not-so-fat routes to take advantage of (much) lower costs, then the 380 could be onto a winner.

    Maybe a stretch wouldn’t quite get there anyway.

  2. The DC8 had JT3D engines not JT8D’s.
    Interesting acticle. I agree, I think they will NEO the 380 but only after the 777X design is firm.

  3. The A380neo can be a small change aircraft with some mass reduction and aero cleanup with RR Trent7000’s. It requires some wing work and corrections of earlier wing designs, maybe an A350 cockpit style modernization as well and minor systems simplification and cleanup. But to be ready for 2020 deliveries Airbus cannot do too much. The A380-900 is another story with a RR Advance, stretch, new wing and more A350’ification of systems, maybe a more carbon fuselage aft of the wing box. But certification will be 2025 or later. However an increased payload/range to bypass Dubai and fly Asia non-stop US would be nice for Qantas, Cathay, BA, LH, AF, SQ, ANA. The -900 would take resources from the all important A350-1100 that will be a more effective aircraft but Airbus want the A380 to fight the 777-9 and it needs a 777-9 type of major surgery to do it. Airbus also must realize they need to take 100’s of 777 as trade-in’s and what to do with them.

    • Hi Claes,

      The current wing was designed from the start for a -900 (and the -800F); I’m not sure how much modifying would be needed for the stretched fuselage. As far as I am aware, the modifications would be centred around the new pylon/nacelle integration.

      • The original A380 wing design/fabrication did not make it as Airbus had to fix the rib feet cracking and add mass. Also the range of the A380 is a bit short. 1-2 hrs more range for the same payload will do wonders. Hence a modified wing with tweaked aero (i.e. massive split sharlets, partly filled with fuel) and a tad more fuel together with the more fuel efficient Engines that might add more mass and force more carbon fiber composites into the wing can give a nice package that most likely RR will finacially support like GE would have done for Boeing.

        • The wasn’t really mass added during the rib-feet fix. There*was* composite removed. That was for a reason…

          Adding composites again just for the sake of it won’t improve anything.

          • Putting new RR engines like the 7277kg Trent XWB on it risks adding mass and require a modified pylon. Putting the Trent7000 on it makes you reduce bypass ratio with its 112″ fan. Ideally would maybe be the Trent7000 with a 119″ compostite ALPS fan but it can take time as RR does not want to be in the Lookheed Tristar situation again. Hence dry wing mass could be reduced if a modified wing was made today under the same TC much the same way Boeing does with the 777-9. The wing could hold some more fuel and take the MTOW up to the original design limit especially with wet winglets raising 2.5-3.5m and a smaller dry lower split winglet.

  4. I think if re-engine projects failed, it was usually not due to technical issues but due to marketing failures. There was competition, and market demand changed. Actually, most re-engine projects looked great from the engineering perspective.

    • As an example, for the 777, the PIP’s improvement is about 5% (2% from aerodynamics, engines and weight improvements, 3% from increased seating).

  5. That Douglas DC-7D looks sharp / efficient, even better then the Electra 😀 Knowing the Dart, it would have been noisy on the platform though.

    I think Airbus will try to move out the A380 NEO. Making sure much of the backlog is build and benefitting from a next generation of engines.

    11 Abreast, a substantial stretch/MTOW boost, new windtips and lessons learned from the -800 will be in.

    I contest the 777-9X is a real threat to the A380. The 777-9X will be similar sized as the A380, main deck.

    Forget a few percent CASM, it’s 40% smaller in capacity. And that matters far more for an airline.

    • Forget a few percent CASM, it’s 40% smaller in capacity. And that matters far more for an airline.

      I agree with that. I see the A380 as the disruptive product that hasn’t disrupted. generally airlines have built their longhaul business model around premium passengers and airplanes that are no bigger than they need be. The A380 with potentially the capacity of two 777s could wipe the floor on a business model that is based around economy passengers and scale. So far no-one, with the partial exception of Emirates, has moved. Airbus has to keep hoping that at some point airlines will go for it. Once they do, the current business model will be hard to maintain. A bit similar to LCCs on short haul.

      • “So far no-one, with the partial exception of Emirates, has moved.”

        Lets not exaggerate 😉 13 operators, 160 delivered, 100 city pairs in operation, 5 years backlog & Paris in 2 weeks..

      • Once the airlines become aware of the dangers of global climate change and the imperatives of reducing the hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide now generated by their passenger and cargo operations — and growing at a 5% per year rate –the all economy or mostly economy A380 with new engines, sharklets and other continuing improvements will look pretty good.

        The A380 luxury business model will vanish within a few years — to be superseded by a lowest fuel burn/lowest pollution per seat mile business model. Airbus is likely to figure this out.

        Advanced A380’s could then be useful on a lot of different routes for a lot of years

        Some would say that a new 800 passenger hybrid blended wing/ body composite aircraft for the 2030’s and beyond would be a lot better than a modernized A380, but I haven’t seen any study data. They could both be using the same engine technology, the A380 could have composite wings with folding wing tips etc etc — and could be stretched. Also slowed down.

    • Operator strategy with A380 is RASM-oriented : from mere scale effect, CASM is under safe control. With a stretch, CASM will dwindle and RASM will prosper, trip yield climbing to record levels … provided the aircraft can be filled up to sustainable (resilient) load factors, which is the Kunst of fleet planners, route marketeers and retail psychologists … skills which are abundant in 2015 throughout the airline community. In summary, the A380-900 (logically NEO-tised, tweaked and PIP-ped) is certainly on the agenda of an indefinite number of majors’ top Executives, whence also on John and Fabrice’s ! We’ll soon know more, time is of essence !

  6. If you look close!y the a380 story is similar to the a380. First they wanted to stretch it then the wanted to put just new engines and finally the proceed with a stretch new engine and a new wing with very low sales.

    • What’s this about a new wing for the A380, nobody says so..

      • I agree. I see this argument on a.net etc. all the time but I don’t get why – unless it’s just because Boeing did it on the 747-8.

        But Boeing needed to – the A380 wing, as mentioned up thread, is already intended for a larger, heavier A380 than the 800. Obviously there will be some work to ensure strengthening is sufficient, and the opportunity will be taken for aero tweaks and to add new tip devices, but there’s really not much to be won with a major redesign like some people think.

        And people really need to stop having a near-religious faith in the restorative power of composites. They have their place but they’re not as great as some believe, and they behave differently. Great care must be taken when mixing them with existing structures. Simply swapping metal for composite is a recipe for disaster.

      • My understanding is that designing the wing is one of the most expensive parts of an aircraft.

        If the business case for a straight forward “NEO-fication” is not clear… imagine if you add a few extra billions for a wing redesign

        • I agree that just replace aluminum Alloys with carbon fiber “black aluminum” does not gain much. However correctly designed with the latest epoxi subsitutes and mixed in shear enhancing particles it gives alot especially in tension loaded areas. It is what Boeing is doing with the new 777-9 wing. Of cause you need to be very careful with galvanic dissimilar materials, electrical return paths, Lightning strike load, compressive loads, the aniostropic behaviour especially in non symmetric parts, repairability, NDT, anti-ice system design and allowances of non perfect fibers and autoclave baking process. What limits A380 sales today is that the 777-300ER is too close in net profit per pax-km. It is easier to add a 777-300ER to the fleet than an A380, hence the need for the A380 to be much more profitable to motivate adding a large number to the fleet or being able to charge the pax more. If the A380neo get true LHR-SYD, SIN-JFK, SIN-DFW, SIN-SAO of 8647nm range fully loaded it would maybe take over from the 777-300ER’s and the 4 Engine maintenance cost disadvantage would go away as it would see half of todays cycles flying non-stop these routes at full payload.

  7. Exept for Middle East and probably Turkey, due to geographical situation, many airlines find it difficult to fill the A380- 800. at least some peoplesays so.

    So a stretch is not probably the first priority to consider.

    The survival of the A380 is linked to expanding the market. Avoiding middle East geography is probably needed as said above (trans oceans, northern Asia to Europe …usw.) were existing volumes exist and airport constraint are at play.

    Scott, I flew on A380 economy, Try it .. it is a must … it is quite a nice experience.

    • That maybe true but that doesen’t chance the fact that the -800 in it’s current form is a supotimal “shrink” or base-model with a non-optimal fitness-ratio and many other shortcommings (wing and structure designed for a 80m plus plane, big tail, to much weight for the size).
      I stay to it. Given the upcomming 777X-9, i’m not concinced a simple re-engining helps the A380 much in the medium term. It’s engines are not that old, just new engines and some minor tweaks will bring maybe 10% better CASM. The 777 will get at least 15%.
      Yes, EK will order 100 planes anyway, maybe some more from Qatar and 2-3 other airlines. This will bring it to 2025, but that’s it. (The same holds for the A330 anyway)
      That’s not i’m expecting otherwise from Airbus. I belive they will just re-engine it with minimal risk for the stakeholders. It’s just that i don’t buy the “minor” chances strategy in this special case (because the base-plan is not as optimal as a A330-300, it’s the A330-200 aka A330-800neo).

  8. Lately I’ve found John rather silent, more than customary … and when John is silent, trust me folks, he’s got a kettle on the cooker brewing another ‘surprise surprise’ of his ?! Let’s wait & see what he comes up with ?

    • John’s surprises this year could be A350-900 to -1000 coversions by SQ (30-40), LH (15)and AF (10).

      A321 orders / conversions by UA. Norwegian, Chinese Big 3, Air France, BA, LATAM, etc. In anticipation of FAL rate bump up.

      A330s by China Eastern, Southern, Turkish.

      Additional A350 orders possible for Emirates, Korean, Qantas, Lufthansa, AF/KL, ANA, Saudia, Turkish, China Southern.

      These could be expected. However surprises are always there at PAS.

      • The surprise would be if he kept quiet, sort of like Howard Cossell, ahh the bliss when he was gone.

  9. the A380neo will require sharklets to supplement engine gains

    Wouldn’t that take the wingspan beyond 80m and the limit of a category F aircraft? All recent Airbus aircraft have had winglets. I assume they decided the first time round to maximize lift by taking the wings right out to the 80m boundary and not trade some of that with winglets.

    most likely from a Rolls-Royce Advance engine design that can be applied to future, smaller aircraft–thus supporting what would otherwise be a marginal business case for the engine for the A380.

    There could be a issue of timing here. The Advance is a transitional engine between the current Trents and the Ultra Fan coming in the second half of the next decade. There are no re-engining projects coming up apart from the A380 that might use the Advance engine. I think Airbus would ideally wait for the Ultra Fan or other new engines from Pratt and GE. These engines could also be used to update the 787 and the A350 and possibly be put on a replacement aircraft for the A330. The risk is the A380 runs out of steam before those engines are ready.

    Would Rolls Royce be willing to supply the Advance to the A380 program as a kind of technology demonstrator? It’s also interesting that Tim Clark announced he was committed to RR engines for his next twin aircraft purchase although he hasn’t announced whether that’s a 787 or A350. Could that be part of some deal to encourage Rolls to re-engine the A380?

  10. Looks like many agree that a longer A380 (900 or even a 2 frame stretch) is a good idea. I think so too as the -800 still looks a little stubby.

    A re-engine exercise, especially if the A330NEO and A380NEO shares the same basic engine – will be beneficial to RR in production tooling and the airline with keeping spares.

    My pontification is – if a stretch is involved then the announcement will be made in Dubai along with a massive order. If a straight engine makeover is decided upon, then the announcement may be made in Paris. The big order will still have to wait for Dubai.

  11. “You can even argue its passenger appeal. I haven’t flown on the A380 yet, so I can’t speak from personal experience on the latter.” I’ve flown a round-trip from San Francisco to Frankfurt on an A380. In steerage. Mostly what I saw was the entertainment system in the seat-back in front of me and the path between my seat at the lavatory. It didn’t strike me as significantly different from any other trip I’ve taken in steerage. Virtually all of any pleasantness of the flight stemmed from the quality of the service provided by the cabin crew and perhaps the comparative newness of the aircraft.

    Perhaps the flight was smoother than it would have been in a smaller aircraft with less mass, but that is just a guess and luck of the route perhaps.

    Now, after the flight when I went upstairs to see where the other half flew things looked like they might be just a little different…

    • @Rick Jones: Any perception about the quietness vs other airplanes? This is supposed to be a particular feature.

      • I flew China Southern’s A380 and 787 back-to-back specifically so I could compare the on-board experience. The 787 won handily. Much quieter, bigger windows, a feeling of space and light, and an airiness to the whole thing. The 380 was better than a 747-400 and about on par with a 777 – the 380 was quieter and a little smoother than a 77w, but the cabin felt more utilitarian and boxy, with the porthole-type windows making it feel more like a submarine than a plane.

        • @Trevor: I’ve been on two subs (USS Alabama and USS Maryland). The only window is the periscope!


      • On the topic of quietness, I can’t say that I sat there thinking “Wow, this is quiet” but then again I also wasn’t thinking “I can’t even hear myself think” (e.g. in the rear of a DC-9 🙂 )

        My most vivid recollection was one common to economy class everywhere I suppose – there just wasn’t quite enough room in front of me to put the tray table down and nap kindergarten style. And I’m not especially tall – about 5’7″. I used to be able to do that regularly, but I suppose that was years ago.

      • I’m an avid reader of this site but have never posted. However, this thread is something on which I can offer something useful. I have flown the A380 on LH once and SQ regularly, as I live in Singapore–my next journey will be to London in 10 days, with the A380 both outbound and inbound. My sense is that the A380 offers something qualitatively different for premium passengers (I only fly economy since I am a university professor). I am not entirely convinced by what it offers in economy.

        The one thing I did notice (referring back to Scott’s initial query) is that the A380 is very quiet, and perhaps quieter than anything else I’ve been on. That said, I would be counted among those who prefer other aircraft. One problem with the A380 in economy is that typical ‘good’ seats–window and aisles–are not necessarily good. The window seats on the main deck are surprisingly restricted because the cabin is narrow at the floor is rather narrower than at shoulder height. The results is that for taller passengers (I’m 6′ tall) there is less room to shift around and stretch one’s legs; enough, indeed, to make a difference. For this reason I much prefer the SQ 777-300ER 9 abreast layout to the A380–same seats but more room on balance, at least for certain seats. One caveat relates to the small upper deck economy cabin on the SQ380. Only half the fleet is fitted with this cabin and even those are being phased out–I suspect because SQ is introducing premium economy. I have flown in this cabin several times and will do again for the aforementioned London trip. The experience in this cabin is outstanding. Seating is 2-4-2 (better than the main deck) and it is here that the cabin is whisper quiet, even though one is behind the wing.

        For what it is worth, I have also flown the 787, all on Qatar Airways, although I will experience the ANA 787 in July. This aircraft would have been a world beater if airlines had gone with the original intended 2-4-2 seating plan. Even with the 9 abreast 3-3-3 it is a good experience. I am tall but thin, so the narrower seat does not impact me as much as it probably would others. It, too, is very quiet, but I think the upper deck on the A380 is probably slightly quieter. The truth, though, is that there is not much in it between the 787 and the A380 on cabin noise–not enough to make a choice on it. I was really surprised by the difference the 787 window size makes in cultivating a sense of cabin spaciousness. I also was also surprised by effect of the cabin arch when boarding the 787. Finally, I may be projecting, but I do think there is something to the moister cabin air on the 787. I have not yet experienced the dry nose effect as I did last week, for example, on a Singapore-Moscow-Houston marathon.

        In the end, I tend to avoid the A380 due to the seating issues described above, but that should not be interpreted to mean it is a bad aircraft. Rather, when getting down to finer details I prefer other aircraft if they are on offer. In closing, I want to make clear that these observations reflect my personal experience, and the views of an aviation enthusiast; hence I cannot afford to subscribe to Scott’s excellent site, even if it costs just the equivalent of a latter a day. Still, I’m am avid reader and enjoy the comments as well

        • If you have the opportunity to fly on the A350 one day I would love to hear you on how it compares to both the A380 and 787, or the 777 for that mater.

          Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

          • @Normand: I flew on the A350-900 last year on Innovation Days and it was very quiet. Standing in the forward galley, the wind noise was noisier than the engines. Some of the other media said the A350 is quieter than the A380.


          • The closest I’ve gotten to an A350 was last month in Doha. I was sitting on a QR 787 and one of their two A350s (at the time) was immediately ahead of us for take-off. I did get a good look, but I’m afraid not much more than that. I may, however, get a chance as one of QR’s daily Singapore services (QR 939) is on the A350. I will be sure to post if I get on one.

      • I flew the A380 on a few occasions both in Economy and Business. While the actual flying wasn’t much different from any other aircraft, I felt that it is a very sturdy aircraft. I didn’t notice that it was considerably quieter.

        I also specifically chose to fly Lufthansa on my return to Hong Kong as I wanted to fly the 747-8 (in Economy). I was very surprised as the aircraft seemed to be extremely “weak” during take off and landing, rattling and shaking like it was made of thin paper. The A380 in comparison was a lot more rigid and stiff. A bit like closing a door in an old car from the 70s compared with a S-Class Mercedes nowadays. Despite being a fan of the 747-8, it was utterly disappointed as it felt so tinny and cheap compared with the Airbus.

        I also was recently on a 787 flight in Business and somehow felt that it was quite loud. Though it might have been just my perception when taking off the noise cancelling headphones, as these were really working well.

        • @ Matthias Karl

          I had a very similar experience in the early eighties as I boarded an Airbus for the first time. One morning I went to London from Paris on an Air France A300B, and I came back in the afternoon on a British Airways L-1011. I had the same impression of sturdiness with the A300B. I remember the first thought that occurred to me: this aircraft is built like a Mercedes. When I came back onboard an L-1011 it was a totally different experience. It was more like riding in a big Chevrolet. When we landed the pilot activated the reverse thrust and the ceiling panels were rattling like if we were going through an earthquake.

          In those days a subcontractor to both Boeing and Airbus told me that when they had their first contract with Airbus they had to change the specifications they had been working with until then. With Boeing the tolerances were 1000th of an inch, but Airbus was asking 10,000th of an inch. They had tu use lasers to make the measurements. I remembered this when I sat in that A300B and I thought it might explain the feeling I had.

          In regards to the 747-8i I am surprised by what you say, as the 747 is my all-time favourite aircraft to fly on. I have never flown on the 747-8i and it is possible, even likely, that it would be quite a bit different than the earlier -100/200. Already the -400 was starting to be less sturdy as the parts were more optimized and therefore less overdesigned. In the more recent models they don’t repair the parts anymore, they just throw them away and install new ones. That is because there is no more margin. Everything is strong enough but not any stronger. It is safe and reliable, but most of the time it is not repairable. This applies to both Airbus and Boeing.

          One last remark on personal flying experience. As much as I love the 747 I never enjoyed the 777. I am not sure exactly why but it is not as pleasant as the 747. It may have to do with the noise and vibrations of the two big engines. It may also have to do with the galley layout behind the cockpit, which I never liked. That being said, nothing will ever beat the experience of sitting in the cockpit of a Lockheed L-1011, in flight or on the ground.

  12. Airbus have to play the cards dealt and there is zero point in reflecting on the wasted €15bn in original development. Instead it is a pretty simple relevant cost analysis problem where they have to assess future costs and revenues associated with NEO and upgrades. the single tricky issue is timing because as soon as the market can smell the NEO then CEOs will become massively hard to place. Perhaps Airbus is playing a game of chicken with Emirates on this as they will be the backlog soon. The longer the NEO is delayed the better the likely technological advance in engines in particular and the more enduring the fuel burn advantage over the 777x. So a game of chicken, who will blink first?

    • sunk money is sunk money. that $15B is gone and no longer relevant to decisions about future updates to the A380

      in fact, except to the extent of any outstanding loans needing to be repaid, that $15B is not financially relevant to Airbus in any way going forward.

      any decisions regarding updates to the A380 have to be seen from the context of if they are expected to be additive to expected program profits over the life of the program from now going forwards. i.e. if a no-update A380 makes the same amount of overall profit between now and end of program (say 10-15 years more production) as a NEO would over the same time period (after accounting for the cost of NEO engineering) then there is no reason whatsoever to go NEO. the financial justification must be compelling, not just a prestige holding action.

  13. I think Airbus needs to get over it and accept that 4 engine aircraft are dead. Emirates will also have to get over it too.

    One might argue that because of capacity constraints at hub airports carrier would be better off operating only A380’s only.

    However we often speak about lack of runway capacity but fail to focus on the lack of the airport infrastructure.

    Can you imagine what would happen if between 0500 and 0800 you had ninety A380s arriving at LHR? Just suppose you had 10,000 passengers an hour trying to board the Heathrow express every hour! With most tourist destinations at bursting point I believe were in for capacity constraints and not bigger planes.

    • The capacity constraint at Heathrow is more severe on the airport side than on the terminal side. It would be easier to enlarge the terminal than building a new runway because the latter is opposed by the citizens. With an A380 you can cut the number of landings by half. So this way you can increase the number of passengers without the need to build a new runway. This would happen gradually over a number of years and the authorities would have time to make the necessary adjustments on the terminal side.

    • Another religious belief – that somehow the number of engines is a philosophical divide.

      The number of engines used will be the number of engines required. As a result of the trade-off of many factors.

      The actual digit on the dial is really not important.

      • Today the number of engines makes a difference in operating cost. Just compare the 2 engine 777-300ER with the 4 engine Airbus 340-600. The engine spare parts prices has exceeded inflation for decades, the engine reliability has for the most parts improved alot. But sending 4ea large RR engines to shop for major work has never been cheap.

        • yeah, but try and get RR or GE to design 150 klb engines for the VLA market. Just not doable, ROI wise, so anything really over 400 ton MTOW is going to be a quad for the foreseeable future. At least engines for an A380 NEO will also be usable on an A330 replacement and on the 787 NEO:-).

  14. If going to the effort of re-engining, I really think they may as well jump to the 900 series, and future proof themselves in the VLA market, whatever it ends up being.

    When doing so, restricting the customization of the aircraft would be wise… A350 style.

    Waiting for RR to develop their 2025 generation engine with gears and CRFP fan blades etc. would in turn be the ideal jump point.

    I would hope they would also use their CRFP panel and structures experience from the A350 and retrofit this tech into the upgrade, where useful.

    I also think ULCC should seriously considered using secondhand A380s in all or most economy from large cities to large cities… Perhaps non-core airports where passenger flows can be dealt with more easily in batches.

  15. Another weakness of the A380 is its lack of cargo capacity. As airlines try to carry as much cargo as possible as belly freight, the A380 is a comparative shrimp compared to the 777 and coming 777X. That may be one of the reasons airlines like Cathay fly double 777s rather than single A380s. It’s a problem that’s not really fixable without a major re-design. I wonder if they’ve considered an A380 combi? That would reduce the number of seats which have to be filled and provide a decent cargo capacity if the structure could handle it. The 747 produced a number of combis, so the idea isn’t new..

  16. Bigger than the A350, in the time period 2015 to 2045, does Airbus build a new big fuselage? No, the A380 is the offering for the next 30 years in some way, shape, or form.

    Airbus and Boeing will use their resources during that period to both build a new 6 abreast single aisle and a new middle of market airplane.

  17. The a380 is a clear win if the airplanes that is compared with do not carry any cargo. Because if we include the massive cargo capacity of a 777X or a350 into the equation the clear winner is the twin.

    • @michael

      The A380 can carry 38 LD-3 containers on its lower deck; or 32 LD-3 containers and 3 LD-7 pallets (i.e. IATA ULD code: P1P flat pallet with net and dimensions of 88″ x 125″ x 64″). A full LD-3 container is usually assumed to have the capacity for 40 to 50 bags. Assuming 2 bags per passenger, that’s 20-25 passengers per LD-3s. A 550 seat A380 with a 90 percent load factor would thus have between 20 and 25 LD-3s filled with luggage. Hence, it could carry an additional 3 LD-7 pallets and between 7 and 12 LD-3s filled with cargo.

      Maximum gross weight of one LD-7 is 4,626 kg (10,198 lb) and Maximum gross weight of one LD-3 is: 1,588 kg (3,500 lb). So, it would seem as if the additional lower deck volume that’s available for general cargo on an A380-800 can be upwards of at least 30 tonnes – depending on the route sector length. That’s not an insignificant figure.

      • Yea but on the first flights all they talked about was the lack of belly capacity.

        So apparently most of the belly was taken up by pax luggage leaving very little left for cargo. .

        that got quiet as they seemed to realize it was a big negative they were handing Boeing for negotiation purposes but I remember it well (Av Week did a write up on it and no I don’t have the attribution)

        • Singapore Airlines has their A380 crew rest facilites located in the lower deck forward aft cargo compartment (i.e. the area between the main landing gear bays), thus reducing the maximum LD-3 container capacity from 38 to 32 units.

  18. Pls check what cargo payload capasity is left on a big twin flown from e.g. HKG to LAX. With all reserves, winds included, cargo volume isn’t the issue. Lift is.

  19. I would love for Leeham to do an analysis of an A388X. Everyone knows that the -800 carries too much structure for the -900 and that the wing is compromised by the 80m box. I believe a new wing/engines/empennage, plus maybe landing gear, would give an MTOW <1,000,000 lbs and a ~20% CASM improvement. Then you have efficiency room to do a combi if desired.

    Per Amedeo's published numbers, the A380 is only ~11% more efficient than 77W per floor area and pretty much equal to the 777-9. Leeham has slightly better numbers for A380 but I'd trust Amedeo as the upper bound here – why would they undersell their only product? A NEO would improve CASM by only 5-6% after the capital cost delta, giving it a 5-6% edge per cabin m2. Cargo delta against the A380 pretty much wipes that out and even a 6% cost edge will rarely justify a 50% capacity upgauge. The problem with the A380 isn't the VLA market, which should be much bigger. Rather it's that the A380 is a poor VLA.

    If Airbus really has faith in the VLA market – it should – this plane could sell for monopoly profits.

    • Why should Leeham do an analysis on the basis of a wet dream by an a-net troll? BTW are you the same annoying guy who peddles his tiresome agenda in virtually every single A380 thread over there? Face it. There will be no hypothetical A380x nor is one needed. NEO will be plenty enough and cost much less.

      • The point is the A380 was supposed to move to the 900 and has not, so he has a valid point.

        Of course it was supposed to be a freighter too and will never be.

  20. Isn’t it time to at least consider whether to develop an A380X? Everyone knows that the -800’s wing is both too big/heavy and too short. I bet a new CFRP wing, empennage, engines, and maybe MLG would give at ~20% CASM improvement. Plus Airbus wouldn’t have to make the plane so cheap, per seat, to market it.

    If a new wing/empennage/engines is good for the 777, then why not for the A380? Perhaps because the VLA market is too weak. But that’s overlearning the lesson of the A380’s poor sales.

    • Because that would be an almighty waste of money and time.

      • Only if you don’t *really* believe in a viable VLA market. I don’t believe it’s a 1,600-plane market either, but if you can build 40/year at $50mil profit per frame, that’s a $2bil future profit stream. That can justify even a $10bil development project. I think an A380X would cost in the neighborhood of the 777X’s $5bil.

        The other option is to sink a couple billion into a NEO, build *maybe* 20-30/year, and make maybe $10-20mil profit per frame. Leeham’s A380NEO deep analysis, in fact, assumed that Airbus/RR would get only ~$10mil additional revenue from each NEO sold. That’s not going to make much of a profit. Indeed, commercially speaking, it’s conceding that Airbus will never make serious money off the VLA market.

        That’s an insane concession imo. The VLA market is a natural monopoly: much like Highlander there can be only one. If Airbus had a decent offering that gave a step change in efficiency (and a double-decker should), it could be making money hand over fist in this space. Just like any good monopolist.

        It’s weird that there’s so many A380 fans around but so few who really believe that the plane could sell in decent numbers and for a decent price if upgraded…

        • Airbus need to produce the A380ceo at 30 units/year in order to be cash positive and the A380ceo will only break even on an unit cost basis by the end of this year. The A380X will be really expensive not only because of the R&D but because of other “indirect cost”: initial production losses, reduction of the profitability of the ceo*, production gap issue between the ceo and neo.

          *The ceo will be cash negative again because of the reduced production rate and the need to significant discount the ceo in order to sell it.

          You can’t just said that the A380NEO will made 50 millions profit per unit and multiply this value by an arbitrary number of units. You need first to consider to total development and industrialization cost.

          • Please share us with your source about the CEO being cash negative again? When? Let’s remember a production rate of about 25 planes/year currently is enough to break even and I’m sure Airbus can trim that down.

          • The A380 will be cash positive at a production rate of 30 (not 25) units/year by the end of this year, this is an official statement of Airbus. If Airbus decide to launch a A380NG, then the transition from the CEO to the NG will be an important issue.

            Reducing the production rate will increase the unit cost and implementing significant change in the production line will also increase cost. So it is obvious that the A380 will be cash negative again if Airbus launch a NG. The situation will be the same with a NEO but it will be worse with a NG.

          • Actually it was supposed to build at 4 a month.

          • I think it was 45 units/years. But this is still lower than the production rate based on 1700 VLA overs 20 years. The fact that Airbus produces the A380 at 25-30 units/year explains why it is still loosing money 8 years after the EIS.

        • @Eric

          The A380 doesn’t need a new wing. It’s already a very advanced super critical aerofoil, nor does it need a new empennage.

          The heaviest parts of a wing, by far, is the wing covers. That’s why it might be a good idea to re-engineer the A380’s wing box using the same technology that was developed for the A350 programme (e.g. composite spars and wing covers). The A350 wing has aluminium-lithium wing-ribs. Therefore, the A380 wings would retain the current wing ribs on the modified wing box. So, the existing leading and trailing edges should remain laregly unmodified. However, the modified wing should be outfitted with two 7.5 m long foldable wing tips, thereby increasing overall wingspan to about 95 m and aspect ratio from 7.6 to about 10.15.

          The significant lower weight of the wings + the significantly higher aspect ratio + new generation engines 5 percent more efficient than the GE9X engines (i.e. RR UltraFan Level) should enable a reduction in trip fuel burn for the baseline A380-800NG of at least 25 percent. Hence, the stretched A380-900NG and A380-1000NG would be much more efficent than the “neo-baseline”.

          • This will be extremely expensive and not justified be the current market. You are asking Airbus to throw an additionnal $ 10B in the A380 program.

          • A CFRP reskin sounds like a good idea. One would think that would be quite a bit less than an all new CFRP wing.

          • “A CFRP reskin sounds like a good idea. One would think that would be quite a bit less than an all new CFRP wing.”

            As I’ve tried to point out several times here already – “black metal” is absolutely the WORST thing to do!

            1) Only minor weight savings (are the 787 and 350 significantly lighter than they would have been in metal? No they are not!)
            2) All sorts of issues due to different stiffnesses, thermal expansion coefficients, conductivity, etc.

            For point 1, the public were slightly conned by the glorious PR a decade ago. You may notice that A & B no longer harp on about the benefits of composites as a selling point like they used to.

            Point 2 brings major headaches. This will bite you in the arse if you’re not careful.

          • @Jacques Xing

            May I ask where you’re getting your $10 billion dollar figure from? I’m talking about a the development of a modified and lighter wing (i.e. minus 7.5 tonnes x 2), that would re-use the leading and trailing edges and part of the structure from the current wing box (i.e. wing ribs), in order to mimimise development costs. That’s not a $10 billion dollar undertaking.

            The development of high-lift systems is a major step in the design of modern Aircraft. It has a strong influence on the overall aircraft performance and cost. The R&D for high-lift systems typically accounts for at least 50 percent of the R&D costs for an all new wing. Therefore, you’d not want to do much, or anything, to the excellent high-lift, movable surfaces on the A380.

            IMJ, about $5 billion would pay for the wing enhancements and certification costs. RR would cover the engine costs.

          • Addendum

            The $5 billion would also pay for an A380-900NG.

          • You also need to consider transition from CEO to NEO, reduced production rate, increased production cost and production losses.

          • @Jacques Xing

            An A380-800NG that would have at least a 25 percent lower fuel consumption than the current A380-800ceo should be priced significantly higher than the current A380 offering.

            The list price of a 777-9X is currently $388.7 million, while it’s currently $428 million for an A380-800ceo. So, the current A380 lists for only about 10 percent more than the 777-9X – still, it has more than 50 percent greater floor area.

            Reducing trip fuel consumption on an A380-800NG by at least 25 percent would significantly increase the value proposition of an A380-800NG over that of the current A380-800ceo – and, of course, over that of the 777-9X as well.

            An A380-800NG should IMO have a list price at least 35 percent higher than the 777-9X; or about $525 million (i.e. current dollar value). A 10 frame stretched A380-900NG should have a list price 15 percent higher; or about $600 million. A 19 frame stretched, 600 tonne A380-1000 should have a list price of around $680 million.

            Therefore, operators ordering last of the line A380 airframes of the current generation would pay much less than what they would have to pay for next generation ones.
            Therefore, an A380 programme transition from last generation to next generation would in all likelihood be not much different than what we’re currently seeing with the A330ceo to A330neo and 77L/77W to 777-8X/-9X. What is different, is that an A380NG as described above would tend to be far more disruptive than the A330neo and 777X.

          • The 777-300ER is already a very profitable aircraft while the A380 will only be barely profitable by the end of 2015. Introducing the A380NEO will be much more expensive in term of production losses even if the initial pricing is higher.

          • I’m talking about an A380NG, not an A380neo. 🙂

            All of the A380 research and development costs are now considered to be sunk costs, and a large chunk of it has already been paid for by Airbus’ free cash flows (i.e. remainder covered by RLI loans etc.).

            The fact of the matter is that on the 777-9X, we’re talking about an all new wing and massive changes to the fuselage and systems. IMJ, it’s at least twice as costly as the changes that I’ve proposed for an A380NG.

            Therefore, the introduction of an A380NG, as described above, will not be more expensive than what’s the case with the 777-9X. Firthermore, the 777-9X already has a tough competitor in the similar sized A350-1000. Not so with an A380NG family. For example, a 19 frame stretched, 85 m long A380-1000NG will be about twice as large as the 777-9X (i.e. 700 m2 vs. 355 m2).

          • I know that the R&D costs are sunk cost. But the difference is Boeing can eat the profit margin of the 777ceo and still be profitable for some time. On the other hand, Airbus can’t do the same thing. The A380 is cash negative and will be only cash positive by the end of this year.

            So implementing the change in the current production line will be expensive for Airbus. R&D is only part of the cost. For exemple, the deferred production of the 787 is larger than the R&D cost (I know, the 787 is not the best exemple in term of industrialisation…)

          • @OV-099

            I love that you’re recognizing the opportunity for more radical change to the A380. A few points:
            -I doubt you can extend span as you suggest without redoing the wing spars.
            -re “supercritical airfoil”: it’s not the airfoil profile that is deficient on A380, it’s the aspect ratio and attendant induced drag. Your proposal to extend span address this but, again, I don’t think you can do this without new spars. You’re already doing new skins so imo we’re on the same general page – put a new wing on it.
            -re empennage: after redoing the wing and engines, MTOW is going to be much lower thus empennage too big. Airbus could save 20k lbs plus reduce wetted area and drag by putting a new CFRP empennage on the plane. This also allows for a smaller wing and smaller engines. Basically you reoptimize the whole “flying system,” allowing iterative shrinking of wing area, engine size, empennage weight. Might want to touch the MLG then too – could save another 10k lbs there if MTOW is <1,.000,000 lbs. It's the reverse of the dreaded "wing loop" that saddled the A380 with its high structural weight. In the end I think you get trip fuel burn about equal to the 777-9 (!).

          • @JacquesKing

            You are correct that I am asking Airbus to throw billions more at the A380. I doubt it would be quite $10bn, probably $7bn. And yes, it definitely means that the A380CEO faces a production gap.

            The issue we all have to face is that, absent big changes, the A380 is going to be a nonfactor financially for Airbus. They’ll have trouble selling 30/year, and will sell each NEO for marginal, if any, profit. So from Airbus’s perspective it’s time to analyze anew what else can be done to make money in a market in which they have a monopoly, after all. Ask yourself this – if the A380 didn’t exist, would a clean sheet VLA be warranted? I believe the answer is yes. If you disagree then the A380 was a mistake after all. If you agree that a VLA should exist, then the existence of the A380NEO or CEO doesn’t really change the rational financial analysis much because it’s a program that will never make serious money. So, if Airbus were being rational, they would be considering a clean sheet VLA or a cheaper alternative. An A380X or NG is precisely the cheaper alternative to making the profit that should be made in the VLA field but which is not now, and which will not be made with a NEO.

            Now of course I doubt that it is possible for many, including Airbus, to be rational about the A380/VLA’s. Airbus got burned so badly by this program that they probably don’t want to do anything in this space. They’d rather the A380 quietly died I bet, but are having trouble with the implications of such a death.

            The good news is that they have a great fuselage and a real market. If they just fix the flight parts of the aircraft (*just*… I know), they’ll have a world beater.

          • @Erik

            1) What I’m talking about is all new wing covers – and new composite spars as well. The wing covers would be made in one piece. However, the existing ribs would largely remain unmodified as the wing box would be nearly identical in shape to the current metallic one.

            2) You’re forgetting that the movable surfaces account for at least 50 percent of the development costs of an all new wing. Therefore, developing an all new wing for the A380 would IMO not be a very smart thing to do.

            3) By increasing span to 95 m – by the way of two 7.5 m foldable wingtips – the induced drag will be reduced by more than 30 percent – and consequently, there would be a significant reduction in the lift-induced wingtip vortices as well.

            4) The current wing planform and MLG is perfect for a 79m long A380-900NG and an 85 m long A380-1000NG. The latter would be the equivalent of two 777-9Xs and would IMJ be enormously disruptive. In fact, Dubai is already planning to build 200 contact stands with critical aircraft box dimensions of 85m x 85m.

            5) An intermediate ranged, twin engine derivative of the A380 (i.e. A370X or A390X) would need an all new wing and MLG. IMJ, it should be optimised for 6000nm and would be similar in concept to what the original A333 was to the A343. Wing area would be just short of 600 m2.

            6) The intermediate ranged, twin engined A380 derivative could share a common wing with a stretched A350-derived family (i.e. A360X). In fact, the wing could be derived from the wing on the A350-1000, by adding chord-wise the equivalent of two fuselage frames to the wing box. In addition, you’d increase span to around 75m (i.e. 2 x 5 m long folding wing tips).

            7) An intermediate ranged, twin engined A380 derivative family could be developed ahead of the A380NG in order to help sustain A380 fuselage production during the transition from the A380ceo to the A380NG.

          • @Jacques Xing

            What you say would hold true if the A380 was Airbus’ only product.

          • @ OV-099

            Of course Airbus can feed the A380 with the profits of other programs but this will eating money for other projects such as a clean sheet successor of the A320 or a clean sheet aircraft for the gap between A320 and A330.

          • @OV-099

            If I understand correctly, you’re proposing:
            -new spars
            -new skins
            -same high-lift system
            -15m wing extensions
            -same wing planform (correct?)

            I don’t see how you can keep the same planform. Those extensions need to keep the angle of sweep of the general wing or else so much goes wrong. I.e. you have to change root chord length along with span, or change angle of sweep. If you change either of those, I can’t imagine how you can keep the same high-lift system. Even if you somehow can, your control surfaces (ailerons) are going to have to be moved outboard and/or reinforced for their lower moment arm versus the center of lift.

            If I’m reading you correctly, you basically want to get all the benefits of a new wing, minus having to develop a new high-lift system. I see some sense in that motive but don’t see it working. Plus if the wing costs $4bn, you’re saying high lift if $2bn. If, as we both believe, an A380NG/X would be a massively profitable program, I don’t believe that $2bn makes or breaks it. We’re talking, I believe, a forward NPV of $20bn for this program after all, so it’s still viable with an additional $2bn development cost.

            PLUS I want to argue that an A380X would have lower wing loading and better thrust/MTOW than A380CEO. I would argue that the A380X could get off the ground with a much simpler, lighter high-lift system. It’s landing approach speed is already very low no worries if that goes up a bit. If the new high lift system saved several thousand pounds of OEW and saved millions in recurring production cost, Airbus could easily recover the development cost in incremental unit profit.

          • @Eric

            1) The tip chord length of the A380 wing is 3.98m – and that’s without any fancy wingtip devices. In other words, the tip chord length is so big that if you drew two lines parallel to the leading and trailing edges at the outer wingbox, you’d reach more than 105 m of span before the lines intersected. Also, like the foldable raked wing tips on the 777X, you could change the sweep angle of the trailing edge if there’s a “problem”. NB: if you look at the image of the 777-200 folding wing “option” in the link below – in addition to the raked wing tip of the 777X wing, you’ll see roughly how large the A380NG foldable wing tip would be.
            Interesting to note that the tip chord length of the A380 wing is still larger than the chord length of the 772 wing at the point of which the wing would fold.

            Page 11:

            2) There’s more than enough room on the A380 wing to extend the aileron outboards.

            3) Again, an A380NG programme would IMJ turn out to be disruptive only if you’d develop the A380-900NG/A380-1000NG. Why would you want to waste a lot of money on smaller wing not optimised for these two larger models.

            4) New wing – Yes! – but only for a twin-engined, intermediate ranged version of the A380.

          • AOV-099

            Like I said I admire the imagination of this idea. I still think you have some problems to overcome, just quickly:
            -if you want to keep wing planform and thickness (so you keep the ribs), the outboard spars through which bending moment gets transferred from the tip extensions are going to be extremely thin and therefore extremely heavy.
            -same goes in general for spars downstream – bending moment is escalating cubically with span but chord taper isn’t changing so they’ll be less-than-optimally thick and therefore heavy.
            -you’re not thickening spars in the vertical plane, but you’ll have to beef them up horizontally, which will require changes to the ribs internally

            Other points:
            -if you’re in favor of a new wing for a twin A370, I don’t see how a new wing for the broader program isn’t justified…

            -I disagree re only the bigger models being disruptive. At current capacity an optimized A380X would be a quantum leap in efficiency. This is because the A380’s biggest virtue isn’t its size per se, but the game-changing efficiency of a double-deck fuselage. This enables drastically lower wetted area and fuselage structural weight per passenger. It’s a testament to the double-decker that the -800CEO, 15 years behind on technology and lugging structure intended for the -900, can match the 777-9 on CASM. Match that fuselage efficiency to contemporary and optimally-sized wing/engines/empennage/MLG and you have world-beating CASM already – 25-30% improvement by my estimates. A stretch lowers CASM but only to the degree of typical stretches, nothing like the game change of a double-deck fuselage. Meanwhile, the stretch puts you further into niche status, harming program profitability (i.e. unit sales). The A388X could have trip costs around 15% higher than 777-9 but offering 55-60% greater capacity. That basically kills the 777-9. Meanwhile your VLA monopoly is still secure because there isn’t a business case for Boeing to launch a bigger plane – the 700 seat market just isn’t that big and efficiency gains wouldn’t be sufficiently dramatic.

            In short the goal should be to exploit the VLA monopoly. A single 550-seat plane does so, and ensures monopoly profits for decades. No need to worry about competition anywhere near its size range.

          • What you are proposing cost 4 billion. It would be something like the a350 mk1

          • @Erik

            1) On the A380 wing there’s already a significant bending relief due to the outboard engines.

            2) When you increase the number of spars, you reduce the gauge of the wing covers, and vice versa.

            Hence, the additional load would mainly be taken up by the increase in the thickness of the composite skins of the wing covers in the area that’s outboard of the outboard engines. Also, spars are U-shaped. Any further strengthening required would be done on the inside

            3) All new wing could be shared with a growth model of the A350 (i.e. A360X). Wing are between 550m2 and 600m2, MTOW from 350 metric tonnes (A350 stretch) to slightly more than 400 metric tonnes (A380 twin).

            4) However good an A380-800NG would turn out to be, it would still have an inferior lower deck cargo space compared to the A350-1000 and 777-9X. Only the larger A380 stretch models and combi-versions would provide a disruptive change IMO. In fact, the A380 fuselage only starts to become ultra competitive IMJ at fuselage lengths of 80 metres and above.

            5) Finally, there’s more to a wing than movable surfaces and wing boxes. I would only upgrade the outer wing boxes – not the centre wing box – in order to both re-use the leading and trailing edges in addition to all of the systems that are installed in the wing.

          • Addendum

            Please do note how the completed all-metallic inboard trailing edge is attached to the inner spar of the A350 wing in image nr. 2 in this link:


            A380 leading edge:

            On an A380NG, you’d want to keep all of these highly intricate assemblies on the trailing and leading edges as unchanged as possible. In short, you’d want to retain the entire production infrastructure for these structures. Thus, we’re not talking only about the ribs between the spars.

            Also, I’ve forgotten to mention that the air conditioning packs are located in the cavernous wing leading edge section inboard of the inner engines. That’s yet another good reason in why you’d want to retain as much of the wing architecture as possible.

            The layout differs from earlier Airbus wings in having most ribs perpendicular to the rear spar, almost to the root. Aft of the auxiliary spar the ribs begin trending longitudinally towards the root where the inboard ribs are around 2.5m in depth. The forward spar is unusually kinked back towards the fuselage to make extra space in the cavernous leading edge section for the air conditioning packs, or as Airbus calls them, air generation units. Innovative, trussed, ribs have also been specially designed to support the huge depth of the leading edge at the wing root.


          • @OV-099

            I hope that what you are suggesting gets produced, as opposed to a NEO. A few questions:

            -to what extent is your suggestion similar to what was done on the 747 from -200/-300 to -400, and from -400 to -8? Boeing added wing tip extensions in both cases but nearly to the extent you suggest (20% increase in span). Were the 747 revisions able to keep the high lift system?

            It also seems less than ideal to me to keep the 9,000ft2 wing. With significant engine/aero advances, that’s way too much wing for the -800, probably for -900 as well. I guess it’s maybe good for your -1000. But the bigger the A380, the more niche it is. IMO the design goal should be to build a double decker, but to do so at the smallest acceptable fineness ratio. It’s the efficiency of the fuselage that sets the A380 apart, and which keeps its efficiency on par with the much newer, better-optimized 777-9. Optimizing for a -1000 consigns you to a small niche status, optimizing for a -800 gets you within 15% of 777-9 trip costs by my analysis. If that’s true, program sales and profit will be much greater at -800 size, easily recovering the $2bil incremental investment versus A380NG.

            Plus a new high lift system, optimized for a <1,000,000 MTOW, would be much lighter.

            If you're spending $5bil for a giant niche product, it would probably better to spend $7bil for a broadly-selling product.

  21. For Cathay the seatcount for a 9x compared to their 300ER goes from 275 to 300 seats. That that for CASM. Don’t use Boeings 495, it is just to help their CASM.

  22. In the airliners.net forum it was mentioned from one of the members that Airbus is developing in UK a back big door for the A380 combi. Considering that thy can stretch it by 7m and bring it close to the 80m box, the upper deck would be 55m, 3.8m lower than the A351 and 4.3m longer than the 359. By lowering a little bit the upper deck accommodating 9 abreast in Y the capacity would be somewhere around 330 by CX standards (36J, 32 E+, 265Y). The OEW weight of the 389neo combi would be would be 7x ~2.2tonnes/m= 15tonnes from the heavier fuselage, but they can shave ~5t tones from the seats and IFE on the lower deck+2-3tonnes from water, food etc. If they can shave additional 2-3 tones from the rest of the aircraft then the OEW would be the +5tones from the current 520 pax, 575tones A380. The weight of the back door will be compensated by the removal of the 8 pax doors on the lower deck. Now Airbus has to increase the MTOW by another 5tones to 580 tones and lower the fuel block by 13% (10% by engines, 3% aero) for the neo. This aircraft would be able to carry 330 pax and 60 tones of cargo over 7000nm, approximately the distance from LAX to HKG in Leeham A380neo initial analysis. This would kill the b777f and force Boeing to proceed to the B777X-F development immediately.

    • This won’t work. You’re carrying the same pax as a 777 but have 60% higher trip costs. 60 tonnes of cargo won’t make that up.

      The simple fact is that cargo yield is lower than pax yield. This is why cargo only flies under the cabin – nobody has traded cabin space for cargo space in a widebody for a couple decades (KLM’s combis). In order for the trade to even being to make sense, you have to start out with a plane that has such a huge efficiency edge that it can afford a big hit to its CASM. The A380 – CEO, NEO, or -900NEO – is not that kind of plane.

      • Actually it is 50% higher and not 60% higher. If you can’t fill the 600 seats of a A389neo, then why don’t you have a combi where you can carry the pax of a 389 and the cargo of a b777? In city pairs with multiple frequencies you can send one combi each day, instead of a b789, a350 plus one b777f. Of course if you can fill the 600 seats that would be a no brainier to send the A389 full pax. If I was EK or CX I would buy them by 3:1 proportional.

      • A combi version of a 10 frame stretched A380-900neo would have more than 50 percent higher cargo capacity than the 777-9X; or about 12,000 cubic feet vs. 7500 cubic feet. It would have space for 7 (96-in x 125-in x 96-in M-1 containers) on the aft main deck between doors 4 and 5. Each M-1 container can carry about 6.5 tonnes of cargo; or 45.5 tonnes for 7 containers. So, I dont know where @CV is getting his numbers from (e.g. 60 tonnes for an entire main deck of an A380-900). They’re plainly wrong!

        Again, we’re only talking about the area aft of doors 4 L/R on the main deck; or similar to how it’s done on the 747-400M.


        So, what do we have?

        An A380-900neo-combi having about the same trip fuel burn as that of the A380-800ceo. It would have a slightly higher passenger capacity and the ability to carry 50 percent more freight than the 777-9X. IMJ, that looks like a winning combination. 🙂

        • The maximum payload for the A380 is 85 tones by payload range chart. Assuming 30tones for the 330 pax then you have 55 tones of cargo available. Boosting the MTOW to 580 tones you can get additional 5tones. 600 pax and 45.5 tones of fuel are equivalent to ~100 tones, far beyond the maximum structural weight.

          • The original A380F was going to be 590 tonnes, according to Wikipedia, so this plane could presumably take at least 10 more tonnes again. Interesting idea. One problem with dedicated freighters is that you are often flying it empty one way, unlike passenger planes.

          • Again, a combi version of an A380-900neo would only carry main deck cargo in the aft portion of the main deck. I don’t know why you’re insisting on carrying passengers only on the upper deck – and only 55 tonnes of cargo carried on the entire main deck? It doesn’t make any sense. The cargo density would be terrible. In fact, a combi version of an A380-900neo, as you’re describing, with the entire main deck set aside for cargo, should be able to carry as much cargo as a 747-400F. However, that’s not what I’m talking about.

            The maximum structural payload of the discontinued A380-800F, with a MTOW of 590 metric tonnes, was going to be over 50 percent higher than the A380-800 (i.e. 150 tonnes vs. 90 tonnes). Also, keep in mind that a 10 frame stretched A380-900ceo that has a 30 tonnes higher MTOW than the current A380-800 will have at least the same nominal range as the A380-800ceo. A MTOW of 590 tonnes, or even 600 tonnes for an A380-900neo – including a combi version – is easily doable, as the current 20 wheel main landing gear configuration can support 600 tonnes in MTOW (e.g. wing landing gear x2 and body landing gear x2). Going higher than 600 tonnes would just mean adding a four-wheel centre bogie landing gear. The A380 wing is good for at least 650 metric tonnes in MTOW.

            Hence, a combi version of an A380-900neo having a MTOW of some 600 metric tonnes should quite easily be able to carry 45 metric tonnes of cargo on its aft main deck – just like the 747-400M.

            The boeing 747-400 Combi is a conversion of the standard 747 with 7 maindeck positions and a capacity of 45 tonnes.


        • @OV-099

          I can’t wrap my head around how you think a -900neoCombi would have same trip fuel burn as -800ceo.

          -The stretch is going to add ~25,000lbs to fuselage weight.
          -Payload will have to increase by ~100,000 lbs.
          -Thus wing spars will have to add several thousand pounds reinforcement for greater MZFW
          -Engines will have to be bigger, also increasing OEW.
          -need to beef up MLG and add another truck for increased MTOW

          In sum I’d be shocked if the -900neo didn’t add 40,000lbs to OEW, 140,000lbs to MZFW. Becuase induced drag increases with the square of lift, induced drag delta at MZFW would 37%. Because induced drag is ~50% of A380’s drag, that’s 18% drag delta. Plus you’ve got a parasitic drag delta for bigger fuse and engines and for lower cruise altitude. Now way do the new engines make up that much drag difference.

          But I like that you’re thinking about bigger changes to A380, especially in the wing. Check out my proposal if you care. http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/tech_ops/read.main/356214/

          • @Eric

            Please do take a look at this link:


            Page 18: The 13m long Section 13/14 has an empty weight of 13 tonnes. That weight includes heavy reinforcements around doors 2L/2R and the lower deck cargo door, plus the weight of the doors etc. Thus, the total weight of a6 frames forward and 4 frames aft (i.e. total of 6.35 m), should be slightly less than 13 tonnes divided by two. Let’s say 6 metric tonnes; or 13,200 pounds. That’s close to half of your weight estimate.

            Next, I’m increasing MTOW to 600 metric tonnes. There’s no need to increase the fuel capacity as the new engines and/or other aerodynamic improvements will lead to a 10 percent lower fuel consumption. Passenger capacity would only be slightly higher than the current A380-800ceo, and there would be an additional 20 tonnes in added structural payload capability (i.e. 110 tonnes vs 90 tonnes). I’m not sure why you believe the payload would have to increase by some 100,000 pounds.

            Finally, a MTOW of 590 tonnes only requires engines with a thrust level of 76,000 lbs – and slightly more if the MTOW is raised to 600 tonnes. In fact, the Trent-1000 -TEN for the 787-10 is apparently going to certified at 78,000 lbs of thrust. It may look as if that engine, or a Trent 7000 equivalent, would be sufficient – and the Trent 1000/7000 weighs about 500 kg less than the Trent 9000; or 2 tonnes for four engines.

          • @OV-099

            Thanks for the link but I didn’t find the numbers you were referencing. I did see (page 12) that the center fuselage section is listed at 44T.

            Re your 13,600 pounds figure, you’d have to add floor beams and pax systems/furnishings to this total. A 20ft stretch adds ~800ft2 of floor beams. At 6lbs/ft2 that’s 4,800lbs. If pax systems/furnishings are 50lbs/pax, and the stretch adds 100 pax, that’s another 5,000lbs. Plus the weight of incremental fuselage sections rises quadratically with length – not linearly (because of bending moment escalation). So I think 25,000lbs is right for the fuselage. That’s before considering wing spar weight gain for increased ultimate load at MZFW. You’re probably right about 100,000lb payload increase – can’t remember why I said that.

          • Ok nevermind was reading my browser’s page numbers instead of the document’s page numbers.

          • @OV-099

            It looks like the 75ft center fuselage weighs 44T, about 1,300lbs/ft. It looks like this includes floor beams as shipped but not pax systems/furnishings. So a 20ft stretch would have to be at least 25,000lbs, likely more given (1) systems/furnishings (2) quadratic escalation of fuselage weight with length.

          • @OV-099

            Now in anticipation of your response that I’m using the heaviest fuselage section, per foot, I should say:
            -you might have a point but
            -the lighter sections are tapered, only the center section has the full cross-section throughout, as would the stretch. Only it carries floor beams throughout as well, as would the stretch.
            -the lighter sections, being furthest from the wing box, require the least reinforcement for bending moments. The stretch sections would add more reinforcement than even the baseline center section.

          • @Erik

            1) Remember, we’re talking about a combi version of an A380-900neo and where the area aft of doors 4L/4R and forward of the rear pressure bulkhead on the main deck, is set aside for cargo. Now that area is greater in length than a 10 frame stretch x 2 (i.e. about 13m in length), which means, of course, that the net increase in pax systems/furnishings would be close to zero, over that of the current A380-800.

            2) No, the weight of incremental fuselage sections does not rise quadratically with length.

            Björn Fehrm wrote an excellent piece on fuselages a couple of months back. Please do look at Figure 2 and the comment by ikkeman.


            In fact, the A380-800 is really the “A318-version” of the A380. The distance between the centre wing box and the first frame forward of doors 2L/2R is about 9 metres. The centre wingbox itself is 10 x 0.635m = 6.35m in length.

            You’d put the stretched sections forward of doors 2L/2R and aft of doors 4L/4R. By looking at figure 2 in the link above, you’ll see that the compression buckling criteria is dominent in the lower part of A380 fuselage that’s aft of doors 2L/2R and forward of the centre wing box, and in the area immediately aft of the centre wing box and forward of doors 4L/4R. In fact, most of the compressive buckling criteria occurs in the centre section itself.


            3) Section 12/13 is slightly tapered on the top, less so on the sides and with no tapering at the bottom. However, it doesn’t change the picture by much.


            The stretch sections would add more reinforcement than even the baseline center section.

            No, not at all. That’s all wrong. The stretch sections would add very little strengthening over what’s required for Section 13/14.

          • @OV099

            I never realized before how small the windows are on the A380. We can clearly see it on the picture you have provided here. Is there a technical reason for this? The trend right now is to have larger windows à la 787. This is in my opinion one of the best features that the Dreamliner has to offer to increasingly frustrated passengers. For me the three most important aspects of flying from the point of view of the passenger are as follow:

            1. Cabin space (seats, aisles and toilets)
            2. Window size
            3. Noise

          • @Normand Hamel

            The A380 windows are not that small. They’re almost as wide as the ones on the 787. It’s note size of the A380 windows that creates this port hole effect, it’s the much larger distance between the outer window and the inner window panes. Due to the extruded side frames on the A380 fuselage, this distance is somewhere between 5″ and 6″. On all other LCAs, it’s about an inch.

            Window size comparison: http://tinyurl.com/pfy7n2l

            A380 fuselage section: http://tinyurl.com/oe37kbf

            NB: In the last link you can see how the fuselage frames start to thicken in depth just above the floor of the lower cargo hold.

          • @OV-099

            “The A380 windows are not that small. They’re almost as wide as the ones on the 787.”

            You don’t need to be an engineer to recognize that the 787 windows are a much better concept than anything Airbus has ever designed, including what can be found on the A350. The A350 windows are only marginally wider than the ones on the 787, but the latter offers windows that are quite a bit longer . And that is exactly what I want as a passenger. I want to be able to see up and down. The worst windows I have ever seen in an aircraft are the ones on the Bombardier CRJ-200. They are extremely small and very low in relation to the vertical plane of the seat. And to add to the discomfort they are not properly lined up with the horizontal plane either. The CSeries represents a big improvement on all accounts. Unfortunately Airbus did not bring the same kind of improvement to the A380 windows. They are certainly better than the ones on the A330 but it does not compare favourably to the 787.

            Is this a lack of vision (no pun intended) on the part of Airbus, or a design constraint due to the enormous size of the A380? But for sure Airbus has no excuse for the A350 since it came after the 787 which as an aircraft is similar in terms of size and design.

          • Addendum

            Also, please keep in mind that the frame spacing on the A380 is 25 inches on the A380 and A350. It’s 21 inches on the A330. Thus, the Windows are spaced further apart on the A380 than they are on the A330 (and 747and 777 as well). Also, due to the enormous bulk of the fuselage, the windows seems to appear smaller than they actually are.

          • @Normand Hamel

            It’s my understanding that the 787 windows are too tall to have conventional blinds. For example, look at the images of 737 sky interior sidepanels in the link below. On the backside of the panels one can see the “rails” for the blinds. On a 787 side panel, such “rails” would extend further out than the panels are tall.


            The 787 does have have conventional sunshades in the lavatories. However, these sunshades/blinds are built into the side wall of the lavatory ( i.e. much thicker wall) – and furthermore, there are no overhead bins in a lavatory. 🙂

            So, there seems to be both pros and cons with the tall 787 windows. 😉

            The A350 is a gorgeous plane. Does it have the amenities of the A380? Nope. But it’s quiet and efficient, and from a passenger comfort standpoint, definitely has an edge over the 787 (it’s wider, quieter, and doesn’t have those annoying dimming window shades which don’t actually work).



          • @OV-099

            I always thought you displayed more objectivity towards Boeing than the average Airbus fan boy. But in this particular case I have the impression that you are just trying to drown the fish (noyer le poisson*). 🙂

            I think I have uncovered your tactic: you inundate your ‘opponent’ with data, informations, facts and figures until he can no longer see where he is going because he is buried under a pile of engineering exegesis. This is definitely more elegant than what the average Boeing fan boy does, but in the end it shows that you may be as partial as they are. 😉

            * “Noyer le poisson” is a French expression that refers to a fisherman that drags a big fish alongside his boat until the fish runs out of breath.

          • At the end, there is no point to argue that the A380’s windows are larger than they really look since what it is important is the passenger impression.

          • @Normand Hamel

            I was merely answering your questions. 😉

            Now, I can’t see that it’s not objective to point out that 1), the 787 windows seem to be too tall in order to accommodate conventional window shades – and 2), that the dimmable windows have been a point of contention on travel blogs, with some fliers complaining they are not dark enough (etc.).

            Airbus decided early on that they wanted to use conventional window shades in economy class on the A350. AFAIK, that’s the primary reason why the A350 windows are not as tall as the ones on the 787 – or, put in different words, a typical engineering trade-off.

          • @OV-099

            You’re misinterpreting the comment and the post. Ikke says, correctly, that for a fuselage plug the slope of the highest line in the graph continues over the extended length. That means the added section requires thicker material – i.e. is heavier. Thus you have the weight increment from longer fuselage along with the weight increment from the added section being heavier: a quadratic relationship.

          • @Eric

            No, I misinterpreted your comment. I thought you implied that the structural weight of the stretched sections increase by the square of the increases in incremental length, and not that the increase in structural weight due to increased bending loads, increase by the square of fuselage length.

            Now, it was really the second paragraph in ikkeman’s comment that I wanted you to read. It’s quite relevant to the discussion.

  23. What about a 777-10X? A 5 3.25 meter stetch with 4 more LD3 cargo and 4 more rows of economy class. It would kill both the a380-800neo and the a380-900neo

    • No, a 777-10X wouldn’t change much.

      The problem is that Boeing can’t grow the MTOW of the 777X much beyond 351.5 tonnes. A 777-10X would have to be a pure stretch that would have the same the same MTOW as that of the 777-9X. A significant increase in MTOW would require a 747-type MLG with four four-wheel bogies instead of the current 777 set-up of two three-wheel MLG bogies.

  24. I am insisting on the upper deck only because it simplifies things. You don’t need stairs so you gain at least 10 seats. Perhaps you can put down the crew resting area with a vertical ladder. Also the security systems/insulation would be much simpler. Security rules are very tight for combi aircrafts. You don’t need extra walls to isolate cargo from the passengers. You don’t need special gates at the airplanes, … Of course if you want to add a first class on the lower deck and take some space this is of course doable, but it complexes things.

    With 590t MTOW the freight would be 65t, the equivalent cargo of a b777f at 7000nm (SFO-HKG). Asian carriers would order it by dozens. OV -099 you are insisting to 105t structural payload with the 575 pax (525+7 rows of 8 in the upper deck) and 45t of cargo. I don’t know if this is really feasible.

    Kesjee I am investigating an interesting option that could be in major carriers fleet in 3:1 ratio to the standard pax model. CX and LH had the option to purchase A380 and have it in their fleet in very short term but instead they chose the 779 and wait until 2021. This says something about the attractiveness of A380 ceo and the reasons are really clear. Carriers don’t have the routes to fill year round a 500 pax airplane and they wanted more cargo. The A389 neo would bring that to the 650 pax region while cargo space will remain limited. CX, LH, AF/KLM they don’t have a problem filling year round 330 seats and this is why b777 is the king of widebodies right now. This is the sweet spot and this why I am insisting on this. The ability to deliver additionally the freight of b777f will render standard cargo fleets obsolete. The final nail in the coffin of B748. Also the freight is year round, so it is standard revenue. No fluctuations where you can fly an A380 with only 40% load just like DFW-DXB in winter.

    Just a quick question that came to my mind right now. In B744combi how they are controlling the center of gravity of the aircraft with 45 tones on the aft section.

  25. Something to throw into the ring!
    How practical would it be to re-locate the cockpit onto the upper deck.
    Thinking ahead, it would offer the opportunity for a forward cargo door.
    Always have thought the existing nose layout involved a lot of wasted space, which could earn money with either seats or cargo with the cockpit out of the way.

  26. “CX and LH had the option to purchase A380 and have it in their fleet in very short term but instead they chose the 779 and wait until 2021. This says something about the attractiveness of A380 ceo and the reasons are really clear.”

    That’s partly correct I think. (pump up the volume)

    “Carriers don’t have the routes to fill year round a 500 pax airplane and they wanted more cargo. ”

    Some carriers do, some don’t, sometimes. Mostly it changes on the routes / season. So they change frequencies/ move around their A380/777s/A330s to match network capacity requirements over the year.

    “CX, LH, AF/KLM they don’t have a problem filling year round 330 seats and this is why b777 is the king of widebodies right now.”

    Big networkcarriers don’t have a problem filling their 330 seats, on important routes. More important is if they can fill it in a profitable way. On a A380 carriers are able to do a premium + leisure flight in the same slot, 500-600 seats. 4 Seat classes is the trend. LH & KL fill their VLA’s 85%, on average!

  27. Meanwhile, the upper deck configuration on Emirates’ A380s continue to win rave reviews (e.g.. A380 inflight cocktail bar and lounge, etc.):

    A little trivia: We’re told that the overhead lockers were installed here on earlier aircraft in case the inflight bar concept proved unpopular. That would allow Emirates to easily nix the idea and install more business class seating here without totally revamping the aircraft – yet as the bar became a proven hit, future A380s were delivered sans lockers to make the area feel more spacious.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *