Pontifications: A380 “oh-woe-is-me” valid, if premature

Hamilton ATR

By Scott Hamilton

Sept. 19, 2016, © Leeham Co. The real (very boring) headline should be: “Aircraft lease reaches end.”

This was the wry comment by Alasdair Whyte of Aircraft Investor last week, reporting on media coverage of Singapore Airlines’ decision to return its first Airbus A380 at the end of its lease term.

The “oh-woe-is-me” series of media stories ignored that Singapore routinely flips its fleet about every 10-12 years. SQ also has five A380s on order that, wonder of wonders, arrive as the earliest models become of age.

It is particularly distressing that one trade publication that should know better jumped on the woe-is-me bandwagon.

Market demand

The media reports raised questions about the secondary market demand, as well as the primary market demand, for the A380. These are good questions, but they aren’t new and the context in which these were raised is one lacking true nexus.

Airbus hopes used A380s coming to market present an opportunity to create a secondary market than proves the value of the giant airplane to skeptical airlines unwilling to buy new but which might be willing to bring on an A380 at a cheap lease rate.

Airbus has been public about this.

Airbus announced at the Farnborough Air Show it will take production down to 12/yr in 2018. This is public.

British Airways indicated it might be interested in some used A380s, but—at least for now—says it’s not interested in more new ones. This is public.

Malaysia Airlines is publicly trying to find homes for its virtually new A380s (six of them), as it restructures following the MH370 and MH17 disasters.

Lessors to Singapore and Emirates Airline are looking into transition costs, including interior reconfiguration and new liveries. This, too, is public.

Yet media—including that trade magazine—went into hand-wringing mode over Singapore’s announcement that it’s going to return the first A380 that will hit the secondary market.

As Alasdair Whyte wrote, The real (very boring) headline should be: “Aircraft lease reaches end.”

A380 Market Demand

So what is the demand for the A380?

Aside from currently dismal, this remains a matter of debate.

Airbus, in its 2016 Global Market Forecast (GMF), forecasts a 20-year demand of 1,480 VLAs, including freighters (which make up a small portion of this).

This figure hasn’t varied all that much since Airbus launched the A380 in 2000. The number went from a high of 1,700+ to a low of 1,200+.

The data’s relative consistency is controversial. In some quarters, it’s even subject of derision.

Boeing’s Current Market Outlook pegs the number at a mere 540, including about 300 freighters. Even the dearth of demand for the 747-8I and -8F, even these figures seem generous.

Japan Aircraft Development Corp. (JADC) puts the figure at 668 in its 2015 forecast, issued in March. (JADC is on a fiscal year.) JADC is partly owned by Mitsubishi, which is a supplier to Boeing and which is developing the MRJ regional jet.

Airbus and Boeing define the VLA sector as 400 seats and more. This definition should put the 777-9, at 407 in three classes, into VLA. Boeing, however, keeps this in the large, medium wide-body sector.

“One of the challenges is no matter how we define airplane categories, some will cross into others over time,” Boeing wrote LNC in an email. “We’re really looking at it from the addressable demand.

“Even though 777-9 is about 400 seats, we included it in the medium wide-body category because it will address the market slightly above it, as well as the market below it.”

The prospective development of the 777-10, at about 450 seats as currently envisioned, puts it squarely in the VLA sector. The 777-10 clearly kills the 747-8I and clearly threatens the A380.

Market share

Airbus figured it would capture about half the VLA Passenger market, or 600-650 sales. (In fact, it’s capturing 90% or more.)

A lawsuit filed in 2010 by Rolls-Royce against Pratt & Whitney over patent infringement shed some light on Airbus’ expectations. RR is one of two engine suppliers for the A380. PW, in a joint venture with GE Aviation, is the other. RR revealed in the lawsuit that Airbus expected to sell 650 A380s over the life of the program (as opposed to 20 years).

So far, sales are a little more than 300, 16 years after launch.

An A380neo, if it proceeds (a highly doubtful prospect at the moment), will give new life to the huge jet. Boeing finally admitted, in its second quarter 10Q financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, that terminating the 747-8 program is a reasonable possibility.

Doing so—something LNC believed has been in the cards for years—means Airbus would have a monopoly on the old competitive level, between the A380 and the 747. But if Boeing proceeds with the 777-10, life for the A380, whether ceo or neo, will become markedly more difficult.

140 Comments on “Pontifications: A380 “oh-woe-is-me” valid, if premature

  1. I guess any A380 news is picked up and people try to generalize it to support something they believe in.

    Jens Flottau:
    “The decision is a major blow for Airbus, which has been desperately trying to promote the aircraft. The SIA move sends a highly unwelcome signal to the market: one of the world’s most famous airlines has doubts about the aircraft’s viability in its network.”


    “major blow, desperately, highly unwelcome, most famous, doubts about aircraft viability.” how much emotion can you pump into a few sentences & what ‘s the message you want to get out there, based on a notice SQ will (maybe) will not extend a 10 yr lease in a year.

  2. Interesting times. I think the airlines are in wait and see mode because the oil price as flat lined. But a combination of traffic growth, forced retirement of airframes as well an increase in oil price will see the market shift.

    Indeed we are already seeing the market upshift. A 160 seater (a320) is becoming a 200 (a321) seater, 250 seater (787-8) is becoming a 300 seater (787-9/10 or a350-900). Equally I think the a350-1000 will sell well, but not the 777X-8 (too heavy). It’s only matter of time before 400 seaters become more common

    The bottom line is Boeing must challenge the a321 and Airbus must challenge the 777X-9/10(if built)

    • The A380-900neo needs an Engine. There is none certified to fit as the T7000/GEnX:class is a bit too small and the Trent XWB is too Heavy. Airbus can focus on making the A350-900/-1000 profitable in volumes and launch the /-1100 or what Lehay calls it. Airbus might need to rewing the A321 to match Boeing new MoM 797 and then dig into the massive work of a RR Advance powered A380-900neo hopefully be full of cash from A350 and A320neo/A330neo sales when they start the A380neo Project. Airbus might first need to invest in a A350 FAL in HAM to get volumes and cashflow and put pressure on Toulouse A350 FAL.

      • RR can no doubt fill the bill with Trent TEN derivative like the T-7000, just do the same to the Trent-900, the problem is this generation is nearly out of date already and there isn’t much point to it right now. A gear box is needed and I guess the engine makers will hold Airbus to a guarantee of being sole supplier both for the A380 and for the A330NEOs replacement, which I think right now would be a NEO mk2.

        • The T-900 is a generation behind T-7000 but both are a generation or more behind GE9X, the RR Advance is GE9X territory. Making it durable, efficient and cost effective in volumes is no easy task and RR-Airbus might want it onto the A330neo IGW derivative first, then grow it to the A380-900neo with a T900 fan size and a bit. The reason the 747-400 sold so well was its range not its pax capacity. The A380-900neo should outrange the 777-9 by at least 1-2 hrs fully loaded to be sure of its market position. To do that the SFC is essential and a RR Advance Hot Rod for the A380neo with a Life of less than 2000cycles on-wing would be enough only its gets it superiour SFC. The A330neo IGW must get more life on-wing close to 5000cy/40 000hrs.

          • @Claes

            GE claims that the GE9X will have:

            – 10% better SFC than the GE90-115B-powered 777-300ER.
            – 5% better SFC than any other twin-aisle engine in 2020.

            That’s not a generation, or more, ahead of the RR Trent-1000TEN/-7000 engines.


          • The A380’s GP70000 engines have their core based on the GE90-110B/115B core. They’re same generation.

      • I bet, Airbus will wait for a geared engine for the A380neo, no matter if that’ll be RR or P&W.

        • I bet nobody will buy an A380neo until the oil price will go up again. A neo version has to be more expensive due to development costs and more expensive engines. The saved fuel has to pay the price difference.

          • RR is already working on the Ultrafan and claim they will have it ready for service in 2025, improving fuel efficiency by 25%.
            About GE and PW we don’t know what they are doing, but I can’t imagine they are not working on geared large engines too.
            But I think not only Airbus wants those engines badly for their A380, but also Boeing for the 787. Nearly the same thrust…

    • Philip: The 777-9 is a sure thing, the 777-8 is almost a sure thing.

      Pretty much Airbus cannot challenge the 777-9/10

      The A350-1000 has sold 183 which does not bode well for that model (and cost more as it had to be up engined not just a stretch)

      • “The 777-9 is a sure thing. The A350-1000 has sold 183 which does not bode well for that model.”

        I don’t understand why you say this. Neither one sold in any appreciable quantity: 253 versus 195. Do you see a big difference there, honestly? And the widebody market is flat presently, so there is no progression for the A350-1000 nor for the 777-9. The fact of the matter is this: The A350-1000 sold only a few less aircraft but to many more customers. This fact alone bodes well for the future because it is much more preferable to sell less aircraft to more customers than more aircraft to fewer customers, like happened to the A380. I am afraid a similar fate might await the 777-9. Furthermore, the A350-1000 is currently the most advanced aircraft in the world whereas the 777-9 is based on an outdated design of the 90s that uses a primitive form of aluminium for its huge fuselage. That is the main reason why it is overweight.

        “Pretty much Airbus cannot challenge the 777-9/10.”

        The A350-1000 already challenges the 777-9 on CASM. And Airbus has an A350-1100 in reserve that will be even more advanced than the A350-1000. But not by much because the former is already state-of-the-art.And the 777X is anything but. The only thing that plays in its favour is its size. But this is counterbalanced by its age.

        • The 777-9 with its impressive range and Alu design of the fuselage it gets a high empty mass. For non ME3 operators that do not need the full range the lighter A350-1000 will be popular. Hence Boeing is smart and use the 777-9 to introduce the 450 seat 777-10 with same MTOW but less range to fit most others and will get a very competitive seat mile cost and cargo capacity. Airbus should respond with a A350-1100 but need to put a fully optimized wing on it, keeping the -1000 wing will not be the optimal solution they need to compete sucessfully.
          At present with Ex-Im bank issues and the US made Airbus and EU stop similar Ex-Im loans. The dead market awaits the US elections and the back to normal financing as soon it is done.

          • Everybody waitng on the “Trumped up decision for Killary” ? 🙂 could be.

            What I find interesting is that OEW growth on the 777X appears to be mostly located “in the wings”.
            a -10 doesn’t have much space lengthwise available. ( Does the MLG get longer struts? I’d assume so the -300ER already needs special heels to lift off.)
            to close: will the 777X show some “sleeper properties” too ?

      • (Something smells fishy here. I’ll go out on a limb and say this is not the TransWorld we know.)

        • I had my 777 specific model numbers wrong.

          Agree with Normand, both are low and slow comparing as best you can.

          A bit hard to assess, I tend to think of the A350-1000 as a sole model vs, the A350 family of two.. I think of the 777X as a combined model (305 total)

          The A350-900 different yet and has the bulk of the A350 orders.

          The A350-1000 not just a stretch, so more costs. It may not be fair to call it a single model but its sitting that way to me.

          • “The A350-1000 not just a stretch, so more costs.”

            To be fair, the 787-10 is a more chalenging stretch than the A350-1000, whose only real competition is the dated 777 200/300 and tbe 777-8X. The (minor) woes of the A35K are more a legacy of widebody woes generally.

          • “I tend to think of the A350-1000 as a sole model vs, the A350 family of two.”

            It is one way of looking at it because the A350-1000 in indeed competing with both. But to say that the A350-1000 “is wobbly” or “it does not bode well for that model” is simply ridiculous. The A350-1000 has everything going for it because it is currently the most advanced aircraft in the world. And it carries enough passengers around to make it highly attractive, while still being easy to fill. But for me the 777-8 has never been in the picture. Like for the 737-10 and 737-7.5, I never thought Boeing would produce it. The ROI is simply not there for any of them. And in my mind an aircraft cannot compete with another one that does not exists and likely never will. We can talk about the CS500 because that’a given. But there is a distinct possibility that like for the 737-10 or 737-7.5, the 777-8 will never see the light of the day. What do we hear about these days? Here is the list: MoM, 737-10 and 737-7.5. It’s all BS, as in Boeing Strategy.

          • Again I continue to struggle with the sitation. In a way it does not matter who has the most advanced (agrualy the 787 is) but what its costs are.

            Effectively the 777-9 and 10 are in a league of their own (sans the 747). The A350-1100 is iffy as market demand may only support one up there, 777X first to the party and grabs the spot.

            A350-1000 seems to take the place of the abandoned 777-300 slot.

            A350-900 above the 787.

            787 and A330NEO battling it out for that slot (range aside)

            A350-1000: Somewhat different wing, different gear, different engine. More than a starch

            787-10: Stretch with same engines (more thrust available)

          • I think the B777-8 will happen, ME3 need it and I think it is half the reason for their B777-9 orders. No 8 might mean no 9, I would imagine they might have some sort of get out of goal card there, it is the one they need. Pushing Airbus to do an A350-8000 optimized for the middle east would be a more efficient answer otherwise.

            As it is the A350-8000 would be an aircraft already planned for when the A350-1000 was re-designed. As TW says, it is nearly a different beast.

          • “To be fair, the 787-10 is a more challenging stretch than the A350-1000, ”

            A challenge not met. 787-10 ( and -9 ) are apparently hard up against some design limit or other having maxed out the airframes MTOW.

            Scope wise the A350-1000 is the bigger change. different MLG, ~30t more MTOW and no range penalty. Beyond beefing up the structure also gets upgrading changes like CFRP dorframes ( from Ti ) and probably station dependent optimized frame hoops ….

            Mostly preplanned and thus less of a challenge.

      • The A350-1000 and A380 already challenge the 777-9. They have more range and many more customers than the 777-9. Furthermore, expect a “stretched -2000”.

        As of now, the 777-9/8 family is a poor seller were it not for the Emirates, Qatar, or Etihad.

        Number of Customers:

        777-9, 7 customers
        A380, delivered to 13 customers (ordered by 18)
        A350-1000, 11 costumers

    • The lack of sales for the a350-1000 is due to a lack of slots. Airbus admitted 3 years ago. These are the numbers: Boeing 20 widebodies a month, Airbus 12 widebodies a month

      • I know Airbus says that, but the 787 sold a ton and no slots there either.

        Not sure I buy lack of slots.

        • Wishful thinking. The number say Airbus are sold out, Boeing isn’t. But Airbus can’t sell as many as Boeing

  3. “Even the dearth of demand for the 747-8I and -8F, even these figures seem generous.”

    Should this be “given the demand…”?

  4. Airbus’ estimates look pretty good to me, how many 777-300ERs and A330-300s are over 400 pax?

    All widebody sales over are dead right now, no telling what will happen in the next aircraft buying cycle.

    I don’t see much alternative for Airbus but to hang on with slow production and hope the market comes back, then do an A380-900NEO once new engines are available. I never cease to be amazed that an aircraft which is super sub-optimal, and which should be compared to the B747SP or the B777-200LR managed 300 orders.

    If the market

    • Well Air Canada has some recently delivered 777-300ER with 450 seats, 3 classes (business, premium economy and economy)

  5. Airbus’ estimates look pretty good to me, how many 777-300ERs and A330-300s are over 400 pax?

    All widebody sales over are dead right now, no telling what will happen in the next aircraft buying cycle.

    I don’t see much alternative for Airbus but to hang on with slow production and hope the market comes back, then do an A380-900NEO once new engines are available. I never cease to be amazed that an aircraft which is super sub-optimal, and which should be compared to the B747SP or the B777-200LR managed 300 orders.

  6. As a flyer between hubs the A380 is a no brainer. It is the best way to travel at either end of the plane. The question regarding the whole industry is when will operators start retiring their fleets of A380 and what would they replace them with. I don’t think that SIA is at that point as they will likely replace an early example with a later more fettled example.

    If we take EK at their word then the future for the A380 is assured as it give them an aircraft to fill the new airport and to offer a critical differentiation to others. As the 744s retire and the hubs fill I believe there will be a market for the A380 going forward. the question is whether that demand is sufficient to maintain production and fund development of neo.

    I feel that given the investment already in the programme Airbus would be loath to bale now. Unfortunately the cost of manufacture is always likely to be high so discounting is not an option

    • Oh I think the question of whether the demand to keep it going is there or not is easy to answer. Emirates have bought themselves into a position of quasi World Domination with the A380, and that’s something they’d lose if A380s became unavailable. A fleet of 777X’s as replacements just won’t cut it in terms of passenger numbers on quite a few routes.

      So Emirates might very well have to buy A380s simply to keep the line open, not just because they really need them there and then. Also, looking at the market capitalisation of Airbus, Emirates could probably afford to take a large shareholding to “encourage” Airbus to continue and/or develop from inside the board room.

      So if that means the A380 effectively becomes a single customer aircraft, so be it. At the end of the day a sale is a sale.

      Another way of looking at Emirates and the A380 is seat count. Emirates will end up with about 77,000 A380 seats. In comparison, all of the 787-9s on order add up to only 167,000 seats. As perceived by the flying buying public that’s 77,000 prime, comfortable seats vs 167,000 so-so, nothing special seats. Throw in their probable selection of A350s, and their bulk order of 777X…

      All in all a large fraction of the capacity in the long haul market will be supplied by a single airline offering seats that people want to sit in at reasonable prices.

      No wonder they need a new airport.

  7. The A380 is certified for over 800 passengers.
    How do you compare it to a 777X?
    A used 380 with a residual value of say $100k could make a real mess of the 320 and Max market on really busy routes.
    Imagine 1 used A380 replacing 4 narrow bodies. Direct costs would be competitive when crewing , landing and navigation charges are included, and the lease rates will not be onerous I suggest. It really could be the AIRBUS!
    Dare I suggest MOL as a customer?

    • The A380 replacing 4 narrow bodies? The 737 and A320 do routes mostly of 1000 miles or less. The time needed to plane and deplane would mean the turn around time that would be frightful. I for one hope I never fly on the A380. The current wide bodies load and unload at a snails pace and when there is a delay or cancellation, the gates areas are overflowing.
      Also one A380 flight instead of 4 narrow bodies gives customers no frequency and flyers would choose frequency over size any day.
      I see the A380 being dropped in a few years, too few routes it can be used on and not being able to be put on other routes when economic conditions worsen. The large twins are future.

      • “The current wide bodies load and unload at a snails pace and when there is a delay or cancellation, the gates areas are overflowing.”

        Botched infrastructure design.

        Is this actually valid for all markets?

        • Its not botched. Its reality. Make a plane that can satisfy the way airports operate or go out of business.

          Theres a reason we dont use taxis or minibuses to move large volumes of people from a city centre to its suburbs. Theres too many people getting on, congestion and inefficiency.

          • If the farmer can’t swim it is due his swim trunks.

            So it is botched reality.
            Could this be a special feature of how things work in the US?

            “Theres a reason we dont use taxis or minibuses to move large volumes of people.”

            So you actually know how to fix the issue.

  8. Once again, as Scott H. (and William S.) said : “much ado about nothing”. Sensationalism is recurrent with news about the A380.
    As Scott mentioned, SIA will receive brand new A380 at the same time as some old airplanes are returned to lessor. It would be interesting to know what is the operational gap between the first A380 and the latest airplanes in production. I imagine that there are several percents in terms of fuel burn and range. If this gap is significant, it’s not a “major blow” for Airbus that the very first customer makes the choice of swapping old airplanes for brand new ones with better performance.

    • Its not that SA is taking new birds.

      Its that there is no growth so they don’t need the old ones.

      Ergo, it is a bellweather, barometer is dropping, storm is coming.

      It may pass to one side and be ok or a dead hit.

      Also who takes up the spares? I think we have 9 for sure (2 from Skymark) 6 from MA and this one, as well as 4 more likely.

      At least one Sky Mark has to be totally redone, not cheap, bigger they are the more the re-fit costs.

  9. What the A380 needs most is state-of-the-art engines that would put it in a class by itself in terms of CASM in any configuration; i.e., three-class, two-class or all economy. New engines accompanied by some key upgrades could make the A380 hard to resist. But the widebody sector remains anemic for the moment. Low interest rates should help the A380, but not low oil prices.

    I always thought that airport congestion would eventually make the A380 a must. Time is proving me wrong. After ten years in service the situation has not become more favourable for the A380 as I had anticipated it would. I am truly disappointed because I have come to like the aircraft very much even though I never had the opportunity to fly in it. Now that I have become accustomed to its look I find it more attractive and I see in its appearance a certain majesty.

    I find the VLA market very hard to understand. The convention to define VLA has been established at 400 seats. I begin to wonder if this is not a barrier. Like if the sweet spot was just below it. But that does not explain the success of the 747-400, which fits squarely into the VLA segment as it is currently defined. The latter sold nearly 700 aircraft but I don’t think the A380 will ever come close to that number. Except perhaps if Airbus came up with an astute neo version. But I suspect they will never do it, because like me they are probably starting to have their doubts.

    This brings me to the 777-9/10, for which I have also started to have my doubts. First I never thought the 777-10 would be done because it would be too big and its fuselage is outdated anyway. The problem I see here reminds me of the twilight zone between the single-aisle and the twin-aisle. The VLA segment starts at a similar twilight zone in between the maximum capabilities of the single-decker and where the double-decker does not yet come into its own. So I see a hole there. Just like I see a hole for the MOM between the single-aisle and the twin-aisle.

    As for the 777-9 I think it is better positioned in terms of size. And if it used more modern materials for its fuselage it would become a very interesting proposition. But it remains a half-done job. If the A350 XWB did not exist the 777-9 would be a remarkable aircraft. But as it is offered it is only a bigger aircraft. So in the end it might be too much in terms of size and not enough in terms of performance. Just like the A380ceo. For the latter needs new engines while the former needs a new fuselage.

    • I am sure Airbus will wait with the A380NEO until a geard engines becomes available. No matter it it’s a RR or PW. Whoever comes first will serve this and probably sell lots of similar engines on the smaller twin-aisles too.
      As for the 777X, maybe Boeing has an ace upon its sleeve: One they have their new production running smooth they might still in a second step replace the aluminum body panels with CFRP panels, similar to the Airbus design.

      • “They might still in a second step replace the aluminum body panels with CFRP panels, similar to the Airbus design.”

        I believe this had been considered previously but we all came to the conclusion that it would bring the aircraft too close to a clean-sheet design and would make the latter inevitable. Because to redesign completely an older aircraft might actually be more costly and less effective than a brand new design.

        • You are right Normad. And probably also the new production system they are introducing on the 777 will not be suitable for CFRP panels either.
          Still, once they have the production of the carbon wings under full control and are under some pressure of for example an A350-1100 they might still do it. Or they safe step this for the 777-10X, where it would have the biggest advantage. They it could later be introduced top down to the -9 and -8 and keep the 777 fit and young.

          • Once the 777-9. 8 (and maybe 10) are up and running, Boeing could and IMO should start development of a new composite fuselage/wing box to go with the new wing. Build it 20+ feet wide inside for 10 abreast at better comfort level than A-350 @ 9 abreast (this would include an extra wide armrest in the middle of the four seat middle section and an inch or two extra in the middle seat of the three seat units.

            With this development they can re-optimize the offered fuselage lengths.

            EIS about 2030 would allow next gen engines (GE 9x mk II or something else, ie geared ultra high bypass).

            Maybe they can learn not to wait too long to launch.

          • Normand:

            As the 777-10 is a stretch, its gets the benefit of that, its numbers are better simply as a result of more seats.

            To me it looks like a winning position for Boeing, keeps the A350-1100 at bay and they can produce both without a major cost (that the 1100 would incur)

            It may not be optimal design anymore, A380 is not either, but both can increase set counts (it seems iffy that the A380 can fill them) so only works if you run with high capacity mostly full.

          • DanF: I think when you re-do the fuselage then its an all new aircraft.

            Probably does not make engineer sense to use the existing wing box that is adapted to the old fuselage.

            Always a trade off but I have not seen a new fuselage that was not an all new aircraft (probably some small exceptions but none I can think of that are significant)

    • Hi Normand, your large twin isle to very large aircraft “dead zone” idea got me thinking about the B707 vs B747. By today’s conventional wisdom the B747 was dead before it started as it was so big. I am too young to know what the CASM difference was between the two but it is often said the B747 made travel cheap. Before the B747 migrants travelled by boat.

      I have posted before why I think the largest aircraft will be a quad for as long as I can see, so if history is anything to go by maybe Airbus made a mistake stopping at the A380-800 thinking anything else would be too big. Perhaps they should have gone in whole hog on the 900 and built an aircraft with CASM much lower than anything else in the hope that the low seat price would fill her up anyway. I don’t know. I am getting more and more convinced that Airbus will have do an A380-900NEO next and not an 800NEO, though maybe later.

      • I like you expression “dead zone” better than the “twilight zone” I often use, for it better expresses what I am trying to convey. So, unless you have copyrights on this, that is what I will be using from now on when speaking of the MoM or VLA.

        That being said, we often forget that the 707 entered service around the time, if not the same year, that air travel surpassed maritime travel for the first time in history. And the 747 was introduced only 12 years later at a time when commercial aviation was progressing at a rate of 10% per year. It makes it that much more difficult to use the 747 as a reference.

        As to the viability of an A380-900neo, I don’t really know what would be its potential, because like I have said earlier I don’t understand the VLA market. And I am not sure Airbus understands it either. That is because what we witness today in the Middle-East distorts the picture somewhat. Unless we have entered a new paradigm and we dont realize it yet.

          • The 747 had everything for it: spacious, comfortable, long range, three choices of engine, etc. And no competition, until the 777-300ER arrived.

        • When is big too big? What about a plane with 1500 seats? Airliners need to fill many routes and routes with high and low seasons for some destinations. With many economies struggling, and the ever present threat of terrorism, VLA are a liability, not an asset.
          EK is the exception, not the rule when the A380 is talked about.
          Speaking of big, do many remember the 1959 Cadillac? It marked a turning point when big was too big.

          • “When is big too big?”

            When the A380 was introduced I saw it as a normal evolution of the 747 legacy. And I was absolutely convinced that hub congestion would eventually make it mandatory. Boy, was I ever wrong! The only explanation I have at the moment is that perhaps we haven’t reached the tipping point yet. If this is so it could then be argued that it’s only be a matter of time. But until this happens you can count me among the Skeptics.

          • The 1959 Cadillac at 18.76 feet long was at the threshold of exceeding the maximum length that Vermont allowed in a vehicle without having to mount running lights. The lights would have made it a truck.

          • Norman:
            Boy, was I ever wrong! The only explanation I have at the moment is that perhaps we haven’t reached the tipping point yet.

            IMU quite a bit is PR( and other influential measures ) based market distortion.
            “no A380” seems to show strong correlation to the US stock market ecology.

    • Airport congestion is already a thing. London Heathrow hasn’t expanded it’s business this year at all…

      In the time the UK has been discussing another runway for London, Dubai has built a massive new terminal at their existing airport and are now looking to complete a whole new airport fairly soon. Dubai and Emirates seem to know what Big Thinking is, not sure anyone else does.

      • London Heathrow cannot even add another runway. I have said for some time, airports should be exempt from local laws and politicians. Their major concern is votes and pleasing the locals.
        Airports wanting to expand , especially on airport land must be free to do so regardless of local public opinion. I have seen this scenario played out at many airports, people move next to an existing airport that has been in operation for years and then scream bloody murder about the noise.

        • I agree there is truth to that, but exempting someone for local concerns if fraught with peril.

          It then become a law unto itself and can’t be reigned in.

          Certainly a dilemma.

          Do like Denver did, build way out of town, get vastly more acreage that you need so they NEVER can cramp your style.

          I have flown into there, amazing the huge areas they have for equipment. Virtually its own county.

          Maybe they shou8ld be allowed to incorporate as such?

          • TransWorld “Do like Denver did, build way out of town, get vastly more acreage that you need so they NEVER can cramp your style.” An impossibility for most large cities, LAX, SFO, ORD, DTW,etc. While some controls could be implemented to prevent abuses by over expanding. It took BOS 20 years to build a 5000 foot runway entirely on airport property due to local interference. HVN has been trying for decades to add to its 5600 foot runway so as to allow different airliners to service the airport but at present is limited to Piedmont’s Dash-8’s.
            Airports have always been a lightning rod for the locals and this should not be allowed to happen. Air travel is increasing and airports need to keep pace with the growth.
            A federal law needs to be enacted to prevent local laws from hampering airport upgrades. At HVN, the locals protested against installing an ILS system and opposed an onsite fire station.
            Keep local interference away from airports, plain and simple.

  10. It would be interesting to what a fully carbon A380 would weigh( 2nd generation learning all the lessons of the A350). Also folding wingtips. I suspect it would be very worthwhile, which could be the problem, might be better to just start again. On the other hand it would only take 2 more airlines to do what Emirates has done and there’s another 10 years of production. Also hundreds less B777X

    • CFRP has a big advantage over aluminum when you try to make it “long and thin”. The A380 is neither, which is why I am not so sure that a full-carbon version would make much sense. Plus, of course, it make the plane quite a bit more expensive, which is probably not favoured by John Leahy nor his customers.
      Still, they might put some serious weight saving program in place for the A380neo that includes significant parts made from CFRP or maybe even the complete wings, but I don’t think they will stretch them. They are quite big already. But this would mean heavy investments in giant machinery and tooling for a relatively small number of planes…

      • The bigger the plane the more loads,I think it’s squared. Please could someone here can remind me what that law is called? I imagine that it’s part of the reason for the thick walls. The skins on the 787 and A350 are thicker than structurally required, they are sized for impact resistance. I would think, although I’m no expert, that the reverse would be the case on a carbon A380 fuselage.

        • Square cube law


          Double the size of an Airbus A380? No problem, aerodynamicists say.

          At about the time Airbus committed to the A380, Ilan Kroo, a Stanford University professor of aeronautics and astronautics and a leading aircraft designer, tried to answer that question.

          Kroo worked with several other aerodynamicists on a NASA-sponsored study to evaluate the effects of size on aircraft performance and cost. He and his colleagues first believed that the growth of an aircraft would bump up against the square-cube law, a principle first outlined by Galileo that suggests that everything has a maximum size. In mathematical terms, the law states that when an object increases in size, its weight multiplies faster than the strength of the structure that supports it. In the case of an airplane, the engineers feared that the weight of a hypothetical craft would grow faster than the lifting ability of its wings until at some point you couldn’t build wings long enough and sturdy enough to get the whole thing into the air.

          But the square-cube law turned out not to limit the size of airplanes until the craft grow much bigger than the A380. “The basic physics that makes flying insects common and flying elephants impossible is not the main factor limiting the size of future aircraft,” Kroo says. He measured the lift-to-drag ratio—the aerodynamic efficiency—for aircraft ranging in size from a 92,000-pound weakling with a span of 75 feet to a whopper that would weigh about 2.5 million pounds on takeoff, about twice as much as the A380. Its wings would stretch 392 feet, half again as long as the Airbus’ and almost twice those of a 747. You’d need a roadmap to find your seat. It had a better lift-to-drag ratio than the smaller designs.

          That a larger wing is more efficient may seem counterintuitive, since a longer wing on a heavier aircraft will need added structure to handle the increased loads from lifting that weighty fuselage. But Kroo found that the weight added to strengthen the wing was only a modest fraction of the airplane’s overall weight—modest enough not to impose a significant penalty. Given a fixed span, in this case a very long one, the aerodynamicist would strengthen the wing by lengthening its chord (the distance from its leading to its trailing edge) and making it thicker—creating a deeper, structural box. Increasing size also confers some advantage in Reynolds number, a parameter that reflects how the size and speed of an object affect the resistance it meets from the fluid (in this case, air) it moves through. The airplane’s larger wings experience less drag per square foot of area.


          • I remember that, be quite a wing fold mechanism though, engines, control surfaces and all (6 engines?)_

          • “John McMasters, an aerodynamicist at Boeing who worked with Kroo on his 1996 analysis of large aircraft, contemplated the problems of fitting the beasts into existing airport infrastructure and found a way out: He designed a seaplane. That way, he reasoned, he wouldn’t have to worry about finding a runway big enough to land on. He calls his concept the Super Clipper, a modern successor to the luxurious flying boats that Pan Am designed in the years before World War II, when runways were scarce.”

            Thank you very much for posting this link! For me it was a brief walk down memory lane. Back in the winter of 1990 I was lucky enough to have John McMasters as the professor of my AA-410 senior airplane design class at the University of Washington. He was an adjunct professor in the Aeronautics & Astronautics department while still working for Boeing.

            He was my one of my favorite teachers during my time there, very knowledgeable, knew his aircraft history, shared plenty of anecdotes (both humorous and not so humorous) from his long career at Boeing, and he had a relaxed and entertaining teaching style. He also displayed a degree of humility not always found among professors. Most of all, he really cared whether or not we understood the concepts and learned anything. I remember him talking about his Super Clipper concept a lot back then. He was very enthusiastic about it, although I remember not liking very much because it wasn’t fast enough. Good guy and great teacher.

          • @Mike Bohnet

            My pleasure.

            Now, IMJ the Super Clipper didn’t “look right” – it might have “flown right”, though.

            Having said that, I do like the trimaran concept – for the first stage of a horizontal take-off and landing space plane (the bigger, the better 🙂 ). Liquid hydrogen (LH2) would be carried in tanks located in the outrigger hulls and with the liquid oxygen tank located in the main hull.

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the fatigue life of CFRP a whole lot better than aluminium? CFRP simply doesn’t age in the way Al does, so long as its not overloaded.

        So presumably that turns into a potentially longer flying life for the aircraft. To my simple mind an aircraft you don’t have to throw away quite so soon sounds likes good value for money, even if it is more expensive to build in the first place.

        • One of the main advantages of CFRP is corrosion resistance. Less corrosion means longer maintenance intervals. But aluminium alloys are in the catch-up mode and have made a lot of progress in recent years. My understanding is that the latest generation of Al-Li has outstanding performances in terms of weight, strength, durability and corrosion resistance. It also offers a natural path for electricity. So the situation is not as black (CFRP) and white (Al) as it used to be. 🙂

          • True, and at the same time CFRP production is improving and becomes more affordable. Still the learning curve is steep and we have not seen what the true potential of this material can be for large aircraft.
            We might still see some surprising moves in the coming years.

        • CFRP can introduce significant corrosion issues needing rather special remedies. All the fasteners are still metal. As was shown on the 787 water vapor management is definitely a must.

          Finally I’d like to question ithat excessive product life is a good thing (TM). Even today there are too many airframes around that have been technologically overtaken and also lack energetic efficiency. Even the military doesn’t fare all that well on superannuated airframes.

          Contrary to expectations new materials never materialize the “quantum leap” of advantages expected ( and strongly pushed by PR ) initially.
          Not unheard of that the downsides overeat on the upsides for net loss and a technological cul de sac.

          • Water vapor is an issue in all aircraft, we see it all the time when water is pouring out of their bellies.

            The rest is true, missed is the interaction between CFRP and metals that can be an issue (forcing the move to titanium and or isolation of the metal/fasters from the CFRP)

            All the forecast for longevity are just that, they still have to prove out that unexpected corrosion has not set in.

            An interesting aspect of the A350 is the non composite section 42 which will require major inspections munch sooner than the rest.

          • “Water vapor is an issue in all aircraft, ..”

            We were talking about significant advantages of CFRP. CFRP has the same issue as Al* designs have.

            Titanium is expensive in all aspects.
            Boeing is bending over backwards to get away from its heavy use on the 787. Extremely nice for fast fixes but costly in the long run.

            The nose section doesn#t really have much fatique loading.
            But it has to serve as protection for electronics and as a benign behavioural recipient of bird hits.

            IMU doing the nose/cockpit in metal is not a dumb idea.

          • Uwe:

            I disagree, it sill has to be inspected, its an integration issue with the body of the bird and it require inspections more often so a special in between cost.

            Airbus just cold not do a CRFP nose so they did what they could.

            The article on the titanium with 787 was BS.

            They changed the windshield to aluminum and then it was all about you recovered and recycled the chips and they were after cost saving anywhere and any when with anything.

            Commodity prices its a good deal now.

            A350 has the same issues and tradeoffs.

          • I don’t think there is much substance to your counter.
            could you be a bit more detailed here?

            “Airbus just could not do a CRFP nose so they did what they could. ”
            {mode Hornblower: harumpf! } we are a bit blinded here?

  11. Despite strong headwinds and serious economic crisis in Russia and Brazil, the passenger traffic keeps its momentum with an annual growth of more than 5% (10 % in China and more than 25% in India).
    Some analysts should take that more into consideration and it’s only one of several factors which could help the A380 in the future. Other factors are :
    – the strong commitment from EK which needs this airplane desperately (considering airport congestion), EK could order more A380 therefore help Airbus to keep production alive until the NEO becomes real (linked with the avaibility of a significant leap in engine efficiency)
    – the engineering ressources available pretty soon at Airbus (no major program to develop after the A330 Neo)
    – no big financial pressure (especially comparing with the situation 10 years ago). The Airbus backlog (thanks to the successful programs : A320, A330 and A350) will be turned into cash-flow in the next 2 or 3 years at the same time as R&D efforts can be reduced. Boeing is not in the same comfortable position with difficulties in many sectors of the market (737, 777 classic, 747, not to mention the 787 financial risk of huge losses).

    • China and India are developing fast but their commercial aviation is booming domestically while remaining anemic on the international, where the A380 finds its raison d’être.

      • You’re right by saying that the domestic traffic is developing fast in China and India but I wouldn’t say that the international traffic is anemic at least for China (I mean passenger traffic).
        Just two comments :
        1) take a look at Emirates growth (which has a strong position in connecting traffic with Asia). This year they take more A380 than 777 and they manage to fill them.
        2) the airport congestion due to short haul traffic has an impact on long-haul : if slots are constrained, it becomes more and more relevant to use bigger airplanes (both for short and long haul). That’s why the A321 is more and more appealing, the A330 is such a success in China (domestically) and the A380 could gain some attraction in the future as airports like Beijing or other big cities are more and more congested. That’s the theory claimed by Airbus; it’s obviously a self-serving argument of Airbus in favor of the A380 and I’m not sure that the Airbus will turn out to be successful. But at least the Airbus theory is not stupid in light of the traffic growth especially in big cities in Asia. That’s why I don’t agree with people who considers the A380 already dead. The 779 offers only 10 to 15 % more capacity than the 777-300ER and it’s not enough towards the traffic rapid growth. By the way that’s probably why Boeing is already talking of a potential 777-10. The game is not over. Not yet.

        • ‘If slots are constrained, it becomes more and more relevant to use bigger airplanes.”

          I have been saying the exact same thing for ten years now. But the A380 has not taken off yet, and it’s getting to the point where I don’t believe my own propaganda anymore.

          What I don’t like about the 777-10 is that it’s getting a little big for a single-decker. And stretching a heavy fuselage does not make it any lighter. The 777-9 is already at the limit of what I find acceptable. Don’t ask me why, it’s only a gut feeling.

          What I have always expected from the 777X, and that’s the reason why I became an early supporter, is that it would come with an Aluminium-Lithium (Al-Li) fuselage. I can understand why Boeing didn’t do it: It made the whole project so expensive that they might as well have come up with a clean-sheet design. The irony is that Al-Li had been seriously considered by Boeing for the Classic. But Mulally vetoed it because it was a relatively new alloy at the time and it posed certain risks. The 777 ended up having less than 400 lbs of Al-Li for the entire airplane. So today we have a 400,000 lbs airplane that pretends to be modern when in fact it comes from another era. Even if it’s a better era than the one we are in today.

          • It might be because at the time the 777X construction was finalised, the fuel prices were expected to go even higher and the advantage was with the engines rather than structure. There is also what price the airlines will pay for a new plane in 777X category and the numbers might have favoured a new wing ( really a developed 787 wing box) only and not a smaller gain from AL-Li fuselage skin. Bombardier has found it hard to get the price it wants when you have both.

          • Normand:

            In all fairness I think that was Airbus propaganda and you just fell for it (grin)

            It made some sense, I always though less than they said but more than Boeing was saying (self serving as they did not have that size aircraft)

            Frequency and or flexibility seems to be more important, not getting so big you can’t move it around as needed.

            Locally for years I have watched Ak Airlines schedule sometimes 4 flight in an hour out of Anchorage to one destination (Seattle)

            I always thought it was where a 767 would work. They seem completely happy with the 737s though more so when the got the 900s as they could shift into Anchorage if there was a shutdown/delay.

            Also makes it most interesting on what they do with the A321s. Are they getting big enough on enough routes to need another step up.

            And going off the rails, my take is all airlines should be obligated to have a large pax charter carrier on retainer so that for delays and airport shutdowns, they can clear the airport out in a day when it opens.

          • Hi again,

            Re the dead zone, feel free.

            Another joker in the pack here is high speed rail. The more track China and Europe lay, and the longer airport security lines get in countries with reasonable rail and road, like the US, then the reduced demand for domestic NBs might make space for more long haul, taking pressure off slots and off airlines to up gauge.

            Then again a few extra dollars in the pocket and people will want bigger seats. There is a reason Clark wants the A380-900 and not eleven across. Pax are paying him to keep it that way.

            As I keep saying, the tea leaves are very opaque at the moment.

  12. I am going to disagree with the implications.

    Its not that it went back, its that Singapore does not need it for more growth capacity.

    Airbus expected customers to add capacity as the aircraft proved itself.

    Obviously that has not happened, they have reached a limit and doing fine, but as BA noted, not at a new price (one that Airbus gets an ROI on as opposed to the early high loss pricing)

    Singapore gets the 5 new ones at early pricing, so that is good and they are not the early aircraft, ie dump those, get all new updated lattest greatest.

    Add in that its not just the cost, you still have to fill the beat 70% or more and how many operators have that need? If Singapore, Qantas, BA, Luft, AF etc don’t who does and can afford to fill that thing up with fuel let alone the Maint costs? Skymark? Hong Cong Air?

    And of those sales keep in mind how many are not going to be sold? (Qantas again, Virgin, Doric.

    What it is is a nail in the coffin, more nails added. MA can’t move theirs and they had early pricing as well.

    So what we see now is the 777-9/10 looks to be the last VLA standing and the A350-1000 fills in the 777-300 market. 777-8 is an adjunct to carriers that don’t want to operate different but its a small market.

    Add in the 383 777-X that have sold the VLA market is healthy, its just not healthy enough for two VLA.

    Its getting whittled down to what it always was, nice market for one mfg.

      • Yep, all depends on if the A380 goes off into oblivion.

        Airbus is playing that hand as best they can holding out as long as they can.

        But I do find it interesting that MA has not moved the aircraft and they have been fishing for a lot longer than the announcement, goes back 8 months or longer as I recall.

        ANA is holding at 3 and that’s the Hawaii specific market, much like the Haj, not what was envisioned as going into a central hub slot restricted, just a narrow need for a lot of lift that works for those two markets (and no ide what Haj market pricing is)

        Maybe US can pick them up for troop movements and save C5 and C17 for cargo!

        • Just go a bit further down in size to the A350 8000 with geared engine. Smaller fuselage crown and much lighter and not that many fewer passengers, where do stop in order to hit the sweet spot?

          • $64 question, Boeing (and Airbus) seem to have got it wrong on the top end anyway.

  13. How many used A380s have been successfully re-sold or re-leased to date? Malaysia Airlines has been trying to sell their A380s unsucessfully for over a year. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Singapore A380. In a few years, dozens of older Emirates A380s will hit the market, causing a glut of these used aircraft. It remains to be seen whether there is any market for used A380s at prices higher than scrap.

      • Add in the two Skymark, one I think they were able to complete for Emirates (or ?) the other one was finished and needs an interior conversion, not sure on status.

        The one unfinished may have gone to ANA but not rolled off/out yet and could get their interior in ahead of time (reportedly they did not take either of the first two)

        At this point a truly used A380 has never been sold or re-leased to anyone.

        As noted MA has been trying to move 6 almost new ones for a year.

  14. Aviation Week is desperately trying to cater to home audience and get clicks and subscriptions through sensationalism. They must be in dire straits to resort to these tactics.

    • Maybe true but also supported as the canary in the mine passing out and does that bode well for the miners?

  15. Also to keep in mind the cost to return the A380 back to full new maint status.

    Not cheap but still their decision.

    It tells me Singapore does not need more, Qantas truncated their order as did AF and Luft.

    BA only used and at the right price.

  16. “I continue to struggle with the situation.”

    – So do I.

    “The most advanced (arguably the 787 is).”

    – This is fast becoming a myth. The Dreamliner is not a step forward but a step sideways. Who wants a spun fuselage? Who wants an all-electric aircraft? Who wants cobalt-lithium batteries? Who wants two control columns in the middle of the cockpit? Here is my point: Since the A350 XWB came after the 787 it is at least as modern and probably more. And if Boeing were to design a new widebody aircraft today it would likely also be equal or slightly ahead of the A350. Boeing wanted to spark a revolution but ended up burning batteries instead.

    “The A350-1100 is iffy as market demand may only support one up there, 777X first to the party and grabs the spot.”

    That’s not the way it works. The most advanced and/or the least expensive usually wins. The 777 is neither the most advanced nor is it the least expensive. It is only bigger. The question is how big an aircraft does the market want? And which one will have the better CASM, the A350 XWB or the 777X? There might not be much difference here after all, one being more advanced while the other is bigger. And here is the trick that might give the 777X a small advantage: ten-abreast configuration. If an airline favours profit over passenger comfort, and there are many out there that do just that, then the 777X may succeed. But that would have to be airlines that can fill them up. Otherwise the advantage goes to the A350 XWB. That is why I believe they both have a chance.

      • Noramnd: A350 has put those same nasty batteries back in.

        While I don’t like all electric, I am a hybrid guy, that is supposed to be the wave of the future.

        Stay tuned.

        Still the 787 is the most advanced, even if a dead end.

        • “Still the 787 is the most advanced, even if a dead end.”

          Well put.

          “A350 has put those same nasty batteries back in.”

          The A350 is certified for both types of batteries, and Lithium is offered as an option. And it does not use the dangerous cobalt like on the 787. The battery set is also arranged in a different configuration. All this had been figured out before the 787 experienced problems with lithium, so we can assume that Airbus made it’s own system even more robust afterwards.

          • Normand:

            All true but as aircraft have gone more electric all the time I suspect that its the ultimate future whether us old pneumatics guys like it or not.

            Its not an option, its where they will be standard.

            And while I agree mixing Saft up with Yusas in any battery let alone LI is a travesty (love Saft) they are in more dangerous mid cabin locations in the aircraft and cannot be isolated.

            So dis the 787 all you want, it is a technical marvel and the experts think the wave of the future.

            It makes the A350 look like a Model T (and they don’t seem to be able to deliver them any better than Boeing did the 787)

          • Beware, object in the mirror may be closer than you think.

            It is interesting to watch some peoples perspective contracting distances to near touching when the real things are miles apart.

          • Still NO.

            What they have in common is two letters : Li

            Different chemistry, fully environmental control from the getgo,
            The Saft setup has a pedigree of uneventfull service in other domains. ( I’ve actually kicked of a project using Saft Battery System using the same cell family for propulsion. Expensive but very nice stuff. )

  17. An outrageous idea for the A380 future, but this thread did start with discussion on the future of used A380’s I think?.
    If Airbus can find the cash to turn the A330 into a Beluga, why not do something similar to the A380.
    Simply(if thats the word) re-locate the cockpit to a lower level and give access to the main deck through clamshell doors.Lots of other work required of course, but not impossible.
    I guess the residual value of the SIA birds is around 30% or $60 million, which is cheap enough to explore options.
    At a point in time all the Antonovs will require replacing and the A380 would definitely have better economics.
    Does anyone remember that when the A380 was launched they had orders from I think Fedex and UPS for a freighter version, which frankly was an abortion of a design, but still attracted orders which if I recall were cancelled at the instigation of Airbus themselves.

    • The original A380F would have had slightly relocated decks from the get go ( do I remember this correctly ?)
      Similar to why the 777F is a bespoke item. The deck introduced on the 777-300ER to lighten the frame is not able and not upgradeable to carry freight loads.

      Then the Belugas are low density freight movers.
      A more functional design than the 747 LCF for sure but still they require external infrastructure to be efficient.

      compare to the versatility of the AN124/225. Not fuel efficient. But that is as long as range is sufficient not a necessity.

  18. They simply can’t cut the A380 or we will have nothing to talk about! I trust that is built into Airbus hierarchy thinking as a key priority

    • Many airlines like the A389 even though they don’t operate it. The A380 keeps the price for the 777 more realistic.

      • No-one seems to have picked up on a quote I posted on here a few days ago, that MAS are talking to some Chinese airlines about their A380s. It does suggest the possibility of a secondary market, but of course that doesn’t suit the agenda of some on here!

  19. Comparing the A350-1000 customer list and the 777X customer list it strikes the first is longer and more impressive.

    Many A350 customers that have conversion rights and even stated they probably will convert to -1000s (SQ, LH).

    Shelter behind one big 777-9 order (EK) and hope everything will be fine is a risky strategy. Ask Airbus!

  20. @claes

    “For non ME3 operators that do not need the full range [of the 777-9] the lighter A350-1000 will be popular.”

    My understanding is that the A350-1000 has better range than the 777-9 (7990 vs 7600). What puts the 777-9 in a class by itself is its capacity, both in terms of passengers and cargo. If an airline can operate it at full capacity most of the time it has no rivals. What I don’t know is how many operators around the world need this kind of capacity when the smaller but more efficient A350-1000 can fly a bit further and in great comfort. And the 777-9 has the flexibility to carry even more passengers in a ten-abreast configuration, and that’s becoming a very interesting proposition for an airline, if not for passengers.

    So for any operator needing a VLA the 777-9 is a must. What’s interesting is that there are only two VLAs on the market and most of them are operated by the same airline. Does that mean the VLA market is limited? Or have we entered a new paradigm like when the 747 was introduced in 1970? Another question I have is this: Will the 777-9 succeed where the A380 failed? Perhaps there is a need for a VLA the size of the 777-9/10 and not the A380. I don’t really know. In fact I don’t understand what’s going on at the moment in the universe of very large aircraft.

    Initially I saw the 777X as risky from a technical and industrial standpoint, but now I also see it as risky commercially speaking. Boeing is certainly pushing the limits of the aircraft, but also perhaps the limits of the market.

    • Well that’s the way of it, keep going further out on the limb until it breaks.

      Its the guy who figure out what far enough is that succeeds.

      Youse buys your tickets and you takes your chances.

      • Sir Grubbie, if you were to stick your own neck out your country would need a new King! 🙂

      • More seriously, my vote goes to the A350-1000 because it is a more modern platform, it is more reasonably sized, it has a slightly better range, and most importantly it has a larger customer base. If anyone is sticking his neck here it is Boeing.

        • I don’t know about Boeing sticking out its neck with the 777X, but it seems everybody is focused on the A380. Skipping reality that the 777X hasn’t sold for two years & an Arab prince can pull the plug on the program if he wants.

          Better discuss the A380.. another major blow for Airbus, which has been desperately trying to promote the aircraft.

          Who knows who will call after a “0 sales/ 1 prince” 777X editorial & no lunch at the 2017 Paris Airshow Chalet..

    • Normand Hamel “Will the 777-9 succeed where the A380 failed? Perhaps there is a need for a VLA the size of the 777-9/10 and not the A380.” I think the A380 was a step too far. 777-9 can cover more routes and operate at most airports and can make money on routes the A380 cannot. The A380 is a niche plane and it seems the niche has been filled. A lack of sizable orders and production going to one a month, it appears the handwriting is on the wall.

  21. @keesje

    As soon as the 777X was launched I viewed the whole entreprise as very risky. What played in Boeing’s favour though was the shear size of the aircraft. Being larger than the A350 XWB the 777X can be configured as a ten-abreast, and I believe most operators would want to do just that. So this gives the 777X a decisive advantage over the A350 XWB. But the former remains handicapped by its excessive weight compared to the latter. The implication of this is that any airline interested to buy the 777-9, let alone the 777-10, would absolutely need to have a requirement for an aircraft this size. This may explain why the A350-1000 found more customers than the 777-9. The latter has not only sold no aircraft for two years but those that are already sold mostly come from a single customer, just like for the A380. This enormous commercial risk adds to the preexisting technological risk involved with the new CFRP wing, plus the manufacturing risk associated with its in-house fabrication. When taken all together that represents a lot of risk indeed. So it is fair to say that Boeing is sticking its neck out with this project. Especially in view of the fact that the 777 has long been Boeing’s biggest cash cow.

  22. It may appear as if Jens Flottau (AW&ST) has taken notice of Scott’s stinging rebuke to his rather ill-founded reasoning:

    “Singapore Airlines Won’t Extend First Airbus A380 Lease”

    Scott H: “It is particularly distressing that one trade publication that should know better jumped on the woe-is-me bandwagon.”

    Instead of clarifying, he seems to be doubling down:

    “Airlines Sending Clear Signals About A380’s Future”

    • Here is a key excerpt from this latest AW article: “SIA no longer plays the dominant role in Asian long-haul travel. Other carriers are growing at its expense: Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways to the northwest of its hub and the Chinese carriers to the north.”

      It looks like the 3MEA are now playing the same role once played by Pan Am.

      • Yes, and DWC will have 200 85m x 85 aircraft stands – each with 3 jetways for the A380 – and 200 65m x 65m aircraft stands – each with 2 Jetways – for A330s/A350s/777s/777Xs/787s, when phase-2 of the DWC expansion project is completed by the late 2020s.

        With 200 specially designed aircraft stands for the A380, the question, of course, is how large an A380/VLA fleet Emirates is eventually planning to operate. My guess: 500+

        • In your judgement, if oil prices were to remain below 50$ a barrel for an extended period of time, perhaps permanently so, could this have an impact on those grandiose plans? Or are these two potential scenarios independent from each other?

          • @Normand Hamel

            For sure, low oil prices have already impacted Emirates.

            Skift: How have lower oil prices affected Emirates?

            Clark: Oil went down from $115 a barrel to $30. In the old days, fuel used to represent 41 precent of our cost. It’s now well down, so you think that’s easy, they can make money. But what then happened is we had a race to the bottom. The euro started to fall. On top of that, the global economy lurched because the oil and gas sectors that drove so much of the economy — exploration, extraction, whatever it is — they tanked. If you talk to International Airlines Group, owner of British Airways and Iberia, or you talk to KLM, you’ll find that that the oil and gas sector has occupied the greatest corporate segments for all of us. When that went, we had empty spaces. Also, the yield fell because those passengers produced very high yields. Then, as a result of the oil going south, the African economies in the developing world, which were producing oil and depended on it, went into meltdown. Many of our markets were those countries. The paradox is that as oil prices fell, so did profits. There are many reasons for that. Had it been oil prices in isolation, without the global economy going into the situation that it is today, then maybe the story would’ve been different. But they’re very, very much linked.


            Now, would $50 dollar a barrel continue to impact Emirates with respect to yields?

            Emirates is still highly profitable. They’re a “super connector” – with their home base handily located between Europe, Asia, Africa and America. Hence, they will continue siphoning off an increasing share of air traffic between Europe and South-East-Asia/Australasia/Africa; between North/South America and Asia/Africa; between Asia and Africa. Except for the mature markets in Austalasia, Europe, Japan and the US, the aviation industry in the rest of the world is on a growth tear – and Emirates is uniquely positioned to take massive advantage of this growth. In fact, Tim Clark is on record saying that Emirates can easily double in size once they move to DWC.

            Now, a 2014 analysis from CAPA pointed out that (link below); Emirates’ advantage in fuel cost per ATK comes from the greater fuel efficiency of its fleet, which have a larger number of seats and modern engines.

            IMJ, Airbus will develop an advanced, next generation A380 that would have more advanced engines than the GE9X, re-designed wings with folding wingtips and composite wing covers etc. – in short, not just merely a “neo”. It could EIS as early as 2025. With DWC seemingly increasing the “80-metre box” to an “85-metre box”, Airbus could IMJ be back on the path to a larger A380 – much larger, in fact. Further developments from Airbus could IMJ be an A380-derived twin (i.e. with an all new wing and two 130,000 lbs trust engines) that would size-wise be as large as the current A388.


            IMJ, an advanced, second generation, 85m long A380-1000 (“Udvar-Hazy edition) would have a fuel burn per seat reduction of around 40 percent compared to the A380-800.

            Can you imagine what a fleet of 500 A380-1000s – or a combined fleet of 500 A380-900s/-1000s/A380-derived-twin – would do to Emirates’ already large advantage in fuel cost per ATK?

            Emirates has a 16% fuel cost per ATK advantage versus the average of IAG and Virgin. Contrary to what some observers still claim, this does not reflect any clandestine price discount provided to Emirates arising from its domicile in an oil-rich region (a claim that conveniently ignores the fact that the emirate of Dubai is actually not an oil producer).

            In fact, a simple calculation involving the division of annual fuel costs by volume of jet fuel consumed (taking figures from the respective annual reports) shows that Emirates paid USD1,064 per tonne for fuel and IAG paid Emirates’ advantage in fuel cost per ATK comes from the greater fuel efficiency of its fleet, which have a larger number of seats and modern engines.

            An over-arching feature of Emirates’ unit cost advantage against European legacy carriers is its operating efficiency. While some argue that Dubai-specific advantages such as low airport charges and the absence of income tax are unfair and represent a form of subsidy, this misses the point that Emirates’ long-haul to long-haul business model is inherently efficient. Each of its aircraft flies a similar total distance annually to those of IAG and Virgin Atlantic.

            However, the average Emirates aircraft makes more flights per day than the average Virgin aircraft and has more seats than the average IAG aircraft. Compared with the average of IAG and Virgin, Emirates’ aircraft make a similar number of daily flights, but they have 27% more seats per departure. As a result, Emirates’ aircraft, on average, carry nearly 40% more passengers per day than both IAG and Virgin Atlantic.


  23. Hawaiian is apparently evaluating the market of new and used A380s for flights to Tokyo and LA.
    The Airbus-Iran deal looks to be on a good path now, only that the A380s might not be purchased as originally planed. Because they are not wanted any more or because Iran is also looking at used A380s? The latter would be my guess. They could be the ideal customers, not beeing to picky about the existing cabin.

  24. @TransWorld

    “Aircraft have gone more electric all the time I suspect that its the ultimate future whether us old pneumatics guys like it or not.”

    I don’t know of any aircraft manufacturer who wants to go in that direction, including Boeing. Going all-electric was a mistake.

    “Its not an option, its where they will be standard.”

    My understanding is that the first A350 XWB were delivered with Ni-Cad batteries because their Lithium-ion batteries had not been certified yet. We have to keep in mind though that these batteries do not serve the same purpose as on the 787. They are used only to start the APU and as a back-up in case of a power loss. Because the A350 XWB uses much less electricity. In fact in that regard it is designed like any Boeing aircraft will be designed in the future, except for electric brakes, which I am confident Boeing will retain. Anything else was just a futile experiment where Boeing was trying to reestablish it’s technical superiority. Because when Airbus came out with the A320, which was a the time the most advanced aircraft in the world, Boeing were in denial. And when Airbus mentioned that they were going to do the A380 Boeing were again in denial. But when the Super Jumbo was finally launched they had to do something to convince the rest of the world that Boeing was still in the driving seat. That is what gave us the 787, one of the most beautiful airplane ever designed. But a monumental flop.

    “So dis the 787 all you want, it is a technical marvel and the experts think the wave of the future. It makes the A350 look like a Model T.”

    I don’t see how an airplane that sports two big control columns in the middle of the cockpit can make ANY modern aircraft look like a Model T. In fact it’s not hard to imagine the disbelief of any well-seasoned Airbus pilot upon entering for the first time the 20th century cockpit of the Dreamliner.

    • Battery size doesn’t really have much link to “more electric” or not !!beyond!! having to drive the electric brake on the 787. nobody will try to use electric wing deice via the battery. 🙂

      IMU the roundabout way of creating hydraulic power (generator engine take off, then electric drive for a hydraulic pump ) is less reliable than taking the hyd power directly from the engine. Airbus uses a fully redundant 2E 2H System
      while the 787 flies on a colourful mix of 3EH and 2/4E system elements.
      Boeings central driver on the battery problems was the need for full batteries being available as early as possible
      after having been significantly drained from APU Start ( and permanent load from all the electric gimmicks ) .
      That lead to a volatile chemistry, a rather brutal recharge to charge levels usually avoided. Aggravated by incompatible ground power units demanding regular APU boot straps. )

      You’ll never see a hodge podge of interdependent solutions/systems again.

    • Normand, Nornmand, Nornamnd:

      Are you a pilot? Some of us grew up with a control yoke and like it to this day. Maybe AF447 would not have happened if they could have seen the yoke pulled all the way back?

      I drove some big trucks that had the bump steer side stick controller thing. Hated it. Get used to it, sure, but give me a recirculating ball steering system any day of the week.

      You continue to be out of it as to the electric nature. It is where its going.

      Airbus did not do it for the same reason they did not do a spun fuselage, they had not put any research into it and nothing to go with. Boeing had.

      The interesting part is they made the old fuselage stringer system work as that is all they had, and it worked well. I admit I was shocked.

      Remember the claim that with the panels they would just remove a whole panel to repair damage?

      That truly was and is a crock. They will patch like they have always done, aluminum or composite. About as stupid a technical statement as I have ever heard.

      So, Boeing starts their APU with that battery, so does Airbus. hmmm

      System support on total power loss yep, same for both.

      Boeing could go with NiCad, there is nothing in the systems that say you can’t go between them (we do it all the time with Lead Acid and NiCad).

      A bit more to it as the monitor boards for that applications have to change, but voltage is voltage and DC is by far the easiers, you just stack the batteries to match (we need more Nicacds cells to match a Led Acid as they don’t have the same VPC.

      Problem is NiCad are not as energy dense and the 787 would have fitment issues, could be done probably but not pretty (split them or airframe mods) and a lot heavier.

      Its not so much that Boeing went with them, it was the horrible chemistry selected and the grossly stupid approach to such a critical component, insane in many ways.

      Now they are talking all electric Aircraft, power included, ain’t going to be no bleed air in them.

      • “Boeing could go with NiCad, there is nothing in the systems that say you can’t go between them (we do it all the time with Lead Acid and NiCad).”

        I have my doubts.
        The 787 needs to have its batteries nearly fully charged to provide for engine out braking power. ( This seems to require most of the charge available in a <30s braking sequence discharge. )
        Starting the APU is a massive power drain on a similar level.
        You need a battery design that has low impedance and low cycling losses. You don't get that from NiCd. NiMH is better but underperforms at low temps. LiPo and Li-CoO* chemistry fit well but are volatile below that is Li-MnO*
        and LiFePO4. ( And take note, all the Li-* thingies like it cosy too )

        ie. and IMHO Boeing can't swap out Li* for NiCd without changes avalancheing through the systems design.

        • It’s not just the braking system because the C Series also has electric brakes and operates with Ni-Cad batteries. If it were just for the brakes the 787 would only need a bigger battery, because it has a bigger APU and a more powerful braking system. My understanding, which is admittedly poor, is that because of its all-electric architecture the 787 requires the kind of power that only Li-Ion can deliver. Or perhaps Boeing were only trying to save weight and space. And to lower maintenance; but in this case the exact opposite happened because Li-Ion now requires much greater attention since the EIS problems we have witnessed a few years ago.

      • “Some of us grew up with a control yoke and like it to this day.”

        Let me rephrase this: Some of us grew up with the technological supremacy of Boeing and can’t get over the fact that Airbus is in control now, and with a Joy Stick.

        The best system today is the Boebus* pure-joy stick. But to enjoy this marvel you have to be a C Series pilot.

        Let me explain. Bombardier has retained the best from Boeing and Airbus and incorporated what was universally recognized as best practises into the C Series: Joy Stick (à la Airbus) with soft stops that can be overcome by the pilot to let him do what he wants with the airplane if he thinks it can save his ass (à la Boeing). And with auto-throttles that move to reflect the actual power setting of the engines (à la Boeing). The C Series is currently the best airplane in the world because the engineers who have conceived it have incorporated in its design the best from Boeing and Airbus.

        *Boebus = Boeing + Airbus.

    • Uwe: We agree on the amazing split of power.

      Batteries have nothing to do with operation issues though. Once the APU and or engines are fired up, they are totally passive (re-charge aside)

      The are simply backup power until the RAM deploys (front) or attempted restart on APU if all the power bus fails.

      But despite the fact I am an ardent Pneumatics guy, that day is going away, all aircraft will have those type systems.

      Hydraulics are bleed air on a miniature scale, it cost a ton to run those all over the aircraft.

      Far better to run a wire and run a tiny hydraulic motor at the point of use. No fittings, no leaking, no having to dismal large areas to get to a bad tube, no blowouts.

      Routing is always an issue and electric is vastly easier.

      Now a puddle jumper like the C series I can see it, its just too small to justify the expense. Any new twin aisle is going to be more if not all electric.

      And in the end its all a power source, just how you get it, what is more efficient overall .

      At one time the electronics to do it were too huge, now they are both miniature and inverters are both small and reliable and you can do it.

      Airbus is big an electronics for propulsion , and you aren’t going to have large hydraulic distribution systems or bleed air on those.

      It will be a at the spot hydraulic motor or an all electric actuator.

      Just like push rods and links going to FBW, the days of bleed air and hydraulics are numbered.

      • “Batteries have nothing to do with operation issues though.”

        In case of a power loss batteries are essential for aircraft equipped with electric brakes, like the 787 and C Series,

      • All that stuff you mention was introduced on the A380.
        Especially the electrically backed up hydraulic thingies
        that boost availability.
        But I do see using electric wing deice as a rather roundabout way of heating, traversing energy transport methods while picking up fault probability.
        Bleed air seems to give the better KISS here.

  25. The CSeries has an electric braking system but uses Ni-Cad batteries. They had initially evaluated Li-Ion batteries and came to the conclusion that the risks of overheating were too high. Boeing says that the 787 requires Li-Ion because they pack more power. In my judgement they could have installed Ni-Cad batteries like BBD did, but they probably wanted to save as much weight as possible. It is my understanding that it would be too late at this stage to change the battery type because the aircraft electrical system has been designed around those Li-Ion batteries.

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