Thursday, February 21, 2019

Why did the A380 have to bow out ?

The 4 engined , 2 -storey, 880 capacity A380 at take-off ..
The A380 from Airbus, France was the largest passenger plane, it could carry a maximum of 550 passengers in three different modes or a maximum of 880 people in economy format.

 I have shown many videos of it flying in my class to graduate and undergraduate students at Alliance University and Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship (XIME) in Bangalore right from 2006, the year it was introduced in the global aviation market a s a large plane simultaneously as Boeing 787 got introduced as an economy plane. (Click here for National Geographic video on A380..)

4 nos. of  this Rolls Royce Trent 900 engine
of 360 KN each power each  A380
The majesty of the A380 hovering around an airport to land with its four gigantic engines, Rolls Royce Trent 900, developed in UK in 2004, each capable of achieving a max thrust of 360 KN and costing upto $46 million (incl. support), is indeed a grand sight to see. 

Over the past 13 years of it's introduction in 2013-14, only 234 units have been delivered, even though the break-even point for Airbus was 1200 planes in a 20 year period. Was the Airbus much ahead of its time or was it late in introduction ? The world still does not have an answer. 

Some interesting air travel statistics : 

As per the 67th Travel Report released in 2017 by International Air Travel Association (IATA),  over 4 billion passengers have flown in 2017. Between 2017 and 2036, the global aviation industry is predicted to grow at 4.7 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR).

As per a report by the Air Transport Action Group in 2015, about 1,02,500 flights were being operated daily across the world. It is said that at any point of time there are upto 6000 planes in the air and when US gets ready for work in the morning in rises to 9000-10,000 planes in the air.

The majestic 2 storey 880 capacity 4 engined A380, bowing out of service !! 
Even though the Hartsfield Jackson International airport in Atlanta US with 5 runways has the maximum annual aircraft movements in the world at 8,79,560, the O'Hare international airport in Chicago has the maximum of 8 runways in the world.

Sensing the drying up of demand for A380, Airbus launched the mid-size A350 in 2014 which has been competing with Boeing 787 Dreamliner as the most economical and light weight planes to fly in the world at present.

But, why did the A380 series of jet airplanes had to be dropped out by Airbus ? (click here)

Here I am listing some of the problems as how I foresee the events unfolding leading to the windup of manufacturing of the A380 aircraft by Airbus. 
1. The airlines flying the A380 found it difficult to fill passengers. Almost 50% of the planes were owned by two Gulf carriers, Emirates and Gulf Air.  
2. The 4 Rols Royce engines each with a maximum thrust of 360 KN were great to propel the aircraft, but was an added drain on the airlines as it was also a great fuel guzzler. (although it could fly more than 14 hours and a distance of more than 9000 miles in one single charge) .. 
3. It could profitably operate only between major hubs (to ensure enough p[assengers) and not between major cities and capitals. 
4. The introduction of the more efficient and economical Boeing 787 by the competitor Boeing in 2014 actually put the last nail on the coffin of Airbus A380. 
The 3-storey 1760 capacity 6 engined A390 .. A distant possibility !! 
5. Global air passengers were growing only at a rate of 4 % CAGR from a 4 billion in 2017 expected to reach 8 billion in 2037. ie. the global air passenger market was not ready to receive such large aircrafts as yet. ( maybe in the future, we may need planes of the size of A380 with 4 large 360 KN engines each, but not now)
Even though Airbus is ready with its 3-storey, 1760 passenger capacity plane, A390, (only one prototype made so far), the failure of A380 is enough warning for Airbus to pause, survey the situation before going full steam with the introduction of futuristic planes.


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