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Airbus A380

Airbus A380 Etihad Airways

An Etihad Airways Airbus A380 approaches London Heathrow Airport.

Airbus A380

The Airbus A380 is the biggest operational passenger airliner in the world. The megajet took over this position from the Boeing 747 in October 2007 when Singapore Airlines began commercial operations with the A380. The A380 has two main decks over the full length of the fuselage, offering room to 525 passengers in a three-class layout and more than 800 in high-density configuration.

Airbus began studying large capacity airliner concepts in the early 1990s to attack Boeing's 747-monopoly. The project was first designated 'A3XX' and later renamed 'A380'. The designation 'A380' was chosen because the double-deck fuselage cross section looks like an '8'. In the earliest phases of the project, Airbus studied several design proposals, including a concept with two A340-fuselages side-by-side, but in the end Airbus chose a layout with two main passenger decks. In the standard cabin layout, the main deck offers ten abreast seating (3+4+3 - eleven-abreast in high-density configuration) and on the upper deck, the passengers sit eight-abreast (2+4+2).


Airbus launched full-scale development of the A380 in December 2000 after collecting orders for 55 aircraft from six airlines. The first flight of the A380 took place on 27 April 2005. About 25 per cent of the airframe consists of composite materials instead of aluminium. One of the new materials used is GLARE, a composite of aluminium and glass fibre layers developed in The Netherlands. GLARE (GLAss-REinforced fibre metal laminate) is used in upper fuselage skin panels.

A380 parts transport by ship The logistic process of bringing all Airbus A380 parts to the final assembly line in Toulouse is very complex. Major components are built by Airbus plants in the UK, Germany, Spain and Northern France have to be transported to the final assembly line in Toulouse. Smaller components, like the vertical fin, are carried by Airbus A300-600ST Beluga aircraft, but for the transport of bigger parts, like fuselage sections, the tailplane and the wings special ships, barges and road vehicles have been constructed for this job. These are first transported to Bordeaux by ship. There the components are loaded on barges, which bring them to Langon. From there a road convoy travels 200 kilometres (124 miles) to Toulouse, where final assembly of the A380 takes place. The convoy, escorted by police and security vehicles, passes narrow country roads and village streets. Sometimes the aircraft parts are only centimetres away from the buildings in the villages. At some places new roads were created to avoid towns and bridges, but in Levignac, the convoy has to pass right through the middle of the village. This happens during the night. Many people come to see it, as if it is part of the yearly Tour de France bicycle race.

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First delivery

The first delivery took place to Singapore Airlines on 15 October 2007 and the airline introduced the A380 on 25 October 2007 on its Singapore-Sydney service, one and a half year later than originally planned. The delay was caused by problems with the complex wiring of the aircraft. On the assembly line, many wires and cables appeared too short. The wiring system of the aircraft had to be redesigned. The cause of the problem was the use of two different versions of the CATIA computer-aided design software by the Airbus partners which didn't match correctly. Correcting the problem increased the development costs with billions of euro's.

Other airlines putting the A380 into service were Qantas, Air France, Lufthansa, Emirates Airline, China Southern Airlines , Korean Air, British Airways, Thai Airways International, Malaysia Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and All Nippon Airways. The Portuguese carrier HiFly began operating a second hand, ex-Singapore Airlines aircraft, but the market for used A380s has appeared almost non-existent.

Airbus A380 parts transport The A380 is a technological success, but a commercial disaster. Until mid 2015 it had customers for 317 aircraft, but several airlines, like Virgin Atlantic (6) and Hong Kong Airlines (10), cancelled their orders. Among passengers the aircraft is very popular and it is attracting gazes from the public at airports everywhere in the world, but airlines were hesitant to buy it, because they feared that they wouldn't fill the large number of seats. In spite of the recent success of the Middle-Eastern hubs Dubai, Abu Dhabi (Etihad), Doha (Qatar Airways) and Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), the hub transfer concept for which the A380 was designed, seems to become less important with the advance of twin-engine, very long-haul aircraft like the Boeing 777 and 787 and Airbus's own A350, which can connect secondary cities bypassing the big hub airports.


By far the biggest user is Emirates. Early in 2018 it flew a hundred of them. In the first class section of the Emirates A380s are two shower suites, a unique feature for an airliner. Emirates has had 162 A380s on order, but in February 2019 the airline decided to cancel orders for 39 aircraft and buy twin-engined A330neos and A350s instead. Because of this, Airbus was to decide to stop the production of the megajet. The production line will close in 2021 after 250 aircraft built. Final deliveries will take place to Emirates and All Nippon Airways. By then Emirates will have taken delivery of 123 A380s.

Airbus has only built the basic A380, the A380-800. It discontinued the development of the A380-800F freighter after all customers, including UPS and Federal Express (FedEx), cancelled their orders because of the development and production delays. Airbus had ideas about a shortened A380-700 and a stretched A380-900 seating more than one thousand passengers in a single-class layout. These versions will never be built.

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Airbus A380-800 Specifications

Airbus A380 Singapore Airlines Wing span: 79.8m (261 ft 10 in). Length 72,75m (238 ft 8 in). Height 24,08 m (79 ft).
Empty weight: 276,800 kg (610,700 lb). Max. take-off weight: 560,000 kg (1,234,600 lb).
Passengers: 525-822. Range: 14,800km (8,000 nm). Cruise speed: 945 km/h (510 kts)
Engines: four Engine Alliance GP7270 (311 kN / 70.000 lb) or Rolls-Royce Trent 970 (311 kN / 70,000 lb).


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