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The Final Airbus A380 Has Been Assembled (simpleflying.com)
139 points by us0r 36 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 117 comments



I worked on some of the automated machinery that manufactured these, and the scale of it all really is impressive.

It was fun building a robot bigger than most houses. We had to be careful to design it in small and light enough pieces that they could be safely transported to the final install location. Any time we talked to a supplier about a widget to go on the machines, it was always "What is the biggest X you make? OK, we need that one."

The wing assembly bay was built on a scale such that the curvature of the earth was an important factor in our machine install process.


I imagine that produced a few funny conversations, that combined with the inevitable "I will take all of the ball screws that you have available, thank you" call.


The worst issue we had was competing with the windmill people for giant bearings. We were actually ordering those 1.5 years out at one point, for machines that no one had ordered and weren't designed yet.


At least you could sell them on to the windmill people if you never got an order for said machine, I guess.


"Wait…I'm worried what you just heard was give me a lot of balls screws. What I said..."


Was it the curvature of the coordinate system you were using during machine install, or was it the actual curvature of earth's surface that was important here?


The actual curvature of the earth is what mattered. We used both laser interferometers and highly precise levels as part of the install.

If you assume the vertical axis and gravity are aligned, over the distances our machines moved the deviation between the two is enough to matter when setting up the machine alignment. The measurements would only match if you accounted for the curvature of the earth.


> If you assume the vertical axis and gravity are aligned

Gravity's vector is not the same as earth's surface-normal though - if you stand at the base of Mt. Everest then gravity is slightly angled compared to the curvature of the earth at that point.


There isn't really a local good reference for "earth's surface normal" at the scale we're talking here anyway, though - it seems that what matters is the divergence between the gravity vector at one end of the factory and the other.


Speaking as somebody who has flown one regularly between Australia and the US I'll really miss them when they go. They were a much nicer, quieter, smoother experience than the 747 or 777 - though the 787 is almost as good and I guess that'll be the way forward...

I had hopes for a 787 from Sydney to Seattle and Chicago direct but I imagine that sort of expansion is likely off the cards for the foreseeable futute...


Second that - frequenting between OZ, Singapore and Japan I'd always prefer A380 against 777/787. It's unbeatable beast when it comes to long haul flights.

Too sad we are left with A350 and B777 for now.


SYD->ORD is around 8100 nm, a bit outside the range of any 787. You'd need a 777-200LR or A350 for that, or a 777-8 if they ever get made.


I thought it was ex SYD but it looks like what Qantas was planning on doing was ex BNE.

https://www.qantasnewsroom.com.au/media-releases/qantas-sets...


I feel like Airbus planes in general are much quieter than Boeing planes. I flew in a A320 from Bangkok - Singapore and Amsterdam - Moscow and both of these times the flight was much quieter then all of my other flights. Other flights included a diversity of (Boeing) planes including the 737, 747, 777 (300ER) and Embraer 190 (KLMs city hopper). I do usually sit in the front of the plane so it wasn't just the engine noise that was quieter.


First time I saw one of those in person (SFO) I could not believe a plane that large could fly and be reliably controlled in adverse situations. Maybe it wasn't a huge commercial success but it reminded me that sometimes huge and insanely complicated projects can still be successfully executed. We could use a reminder of that these days from time to time. RIP A380.


I remember standing outside a few years ago and glancing up and seeing a plane which, even ~40,000ft up, appeared huge. I pulled out my phone and looked it up on an aircraft tracking app and it was an A380.


Those red bellied Emirates A380s stand out so well against the sky.


When I moved to the US 5 years ago, I flew on an A380. It was my first flight in almost 20 years. I had remembered that as a kid I used to have awful flight sickness, but the A380 flight was a pleasure.


I had the good luck to see the Mriya take off. It's... uh... something else. Six engines and more wheels you can count. Indeed, it looks utter impossible for something that big to fly.


> I could not believe a plane that large could fly and be reliably controlled in adverse situations.

I suppose somebody outside the aviation industry could think that, but in general, the larger the airplane, the smoother the ride and control are. In fact, airliners have specific certification requirements to "be smooth" for IFR handling:

FAA SFARS 14 CFR § 25.171 General (Stability)

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/25.171

There's other FARS that list more specific requirements for airliners.

The only transport category class that I've seen which looks surprising in flight is the C-5 on takeoff. It's huge (about the size of a 747) and climbs out so slowly that it looks like it will fall out of the sky:

C-5 Takeoff at Abbotsford

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCC6ZbZvG8I

The US lost a cargo 747 in 2013 in the Middle East due to the load shifting - armored vehicles rolled backwards, moving the CG aft and damaging hydraulic lines. Notice how slow (and vertical) it gets:

US Military 747 Takeoff and Crash at Bagram (caution: actual crash footage with flames)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M01RmcKsm2k


> moving the CG aft and damaging hydraulic lines

It did worse than that. It snapped the jackscrew off that changes the angle of attack of the stabilizer, which is a certain crash.


Why are the C-5's engines so small?


They're not actually that small compared to other contemporary engines. Here's one being tested alongside the J57:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boeing_JB-52E_(SN_57-0119...

The C-5 fuselage is quite big, so they look smaller than they are.


A380s are much more comfortable to fly in, even in Economy: there's more space around, cabin air is better (thanks to higher humidity). They're also much quieter and apparently less likely to suffer turbulence. In Business/First (depending on the carrier), they came with private suites, on-board shower, and a bar. Also, I believe the 4-engine design is still considered safer, just less fuel efficient. Such a beautiful piece of engineering gets discontinued at the time something like the 737 Max, which should have never been built, is on its way to be reapproved. This is a sad day for airline passengers.


Sad day for passengers? I disagree, and here's why:

This thing was built for one thing only: hub and spoke model.

That's a model of flying where you don't go directly from A to B with a smaller plane but you always go through a hub.

This adds a ton of time to your route. Point to point is way more efficient and relaxed for passengers. Only Airlines with big hubs prefer that model; they gladly sacrifice your time to make more money.

Lots of people in this thread say the A380 was luxurious and had a lot of leg space. But that what airlines configure it to be. And most A380 went to luxury airlines like Emirates.

The A380 was dead on arrival. Built for a model of aviation that the world departing from just as the A380 arrived.


Sadly, this is it. You know why Boeing didn’t build a competitor? Because they weren’t competing planes they were competing business models. When the A380 was announced Boeing announced the 747-900 and then said this was the last iteration of this line. Their largest plane now is the 777.

But I wouldn’t call the A380 doa. When it arrived the Middle East and Asia were booming. Newly minted millionaires wanted to travel and for a while they did. But the hub and spoke wasn’t enough. You can only stop in DXB so many times before realizing this isn’t your destination just another distraction from where you really want to be. And those destination terminals figured it out. Expanded the airport accommodate more flights. And the hubs became less relevant. And so did the A380.


> And the hubs became less relevant

Dubai is the 4th busiest airport in the world

Atlanta is the busiest, don't tell me people want to go to Atlanta.

If I fly Manchester to Singapore, I can either fly on a 90 minute narrow shorthaul flight to Heathrow then spend 15 hours on a tired BA plane departing evening, arriving the next evening, or I have a choice of multiple departures on Qatar and Emirates, with two 8 hour flights. Same amount of hassle, but works far better for jetlag.

Now if I'm flying UK to South Africa, and there's little time change, then sure I want an overnight 12 hour flight where I can get a good 9 hour sleep in addition to dinner and breakfast. Not many routes like that (10+ hours, overnight, sub-3 hour time difference).


> 15 hours on a tired BA plane departing evening, arriving the next evening

I mean there's a number of other airlines you could fly on - Singapore Air, or Qantas (I'm pretty sure they offered that as a fifth freedom flight)


Not from Manchester (actually I think there was a flight on Singapore, but you still had to fly via Frankfurt), that's the point.

Sure you can fly on Singapore and (used to Qantas) from Heathrow, that's a hub to hub flight, and both are/were on A380s.

Fly from Dublin to Singapore you're going via a hub -- Healthrow, Frankfurt, Dubai, doesn't matter.

Fly from Delhi to Manchester you're going via a hub

Fly from Edinburgh to Muscat you're going via a hub

The 787 and A350 perform well for gulf carriers in flying to places like Edinburgh, where Emirates I think were doing 2 flights a day. The A380 doesn't work for these region-hub airports, but we still have Spoke-Hub-Spoke on long haul, and will for the forseeable. What we don't have (much) is Spoke-Hub-Hub-Spoke, as the 787 and A350 have made it more economic to serve long haul spokes from a single hub.


sorry, i just meant from heathrow. it was a "well actually" that didnt actually contribute anything of value, now that i look back on it.


If a non-stop itinerary is an option, and you're flying in business with a fully-reclining seat, it'd of course be preferable. In economy though, I'd likely rather have a stopover than a 10h+ non-stop long-haul flight, or at least would be indifferent between the two.

However, having to transfer at least once on the way to their destination is the reality for most long-haul passengers anyway, unless you're travelling between tier 1 global cities. And even in such cases, a business flight with a stopover is usually significantly lower-priced than a non-stop, so many people are choosing between a longer flight time in business (where they also get to use the lounge during the transfer) vs. economy non-stop.

The A380 was not dead on arrival but killed largely due to the lack of adoption in the US market, for a number of reasons but generally not because of the industry moving away from the hub-and-spoke model, which is still alive and well but now increasingly with the tendency to fly narrow-body aircraft long-haul, such as over the Atlantic, due to the relaxed ETOPS regulations.

The A380's premature demise mostly means reduced "hard product" differentiation between carriers. I can't see how that could be a good development for passengers.


Exactly when did the hub and spoke die (on long haul, where the A380 tends to operate)?

When I think of large airlines across the world very few point to points come to mind. The 787 has allows hubs to serve smaller cities so it's no longer 2 stops, just 1.

If I want to fly from say Dar es Salaam to Ho Chi Minh City, or Athens to Lima, I'm going to be flying via a hub (probably Dubai / Frankfurt respectively).

Perhaps I no longer need to fly Athens-Frankfurt-LAX-SanDiago, with Frankfurt-LAX leg therefore justifying a large jet, but that's a change from multi-hub to single-hub

Thinking of the big long haul (>2500 mile) routes, very few fly direct outside of their hubs

Cathay / Hong Kong JAL / Tokyo China Southern / Guangzhou Singapore / Singapore BA / London Emirates / Dubai Qatar / Qatar Ethiad / Abu Dhabi Turkish / Istanbul


What I appreciated about Business/First on the A380, depending on the carrier, was the stairs. On a long 13 hour flight, going for a walk up down the stairs to the snack bar or whatever was good.

I will never forget the bathroom/shower onboard the Emirates A380s. Being able to show onboard a plane in a bathroom bigger than that of some apartments was extremely decadant.


That is unfortunate. The plane was too early and too late at the same time.

It was too early. With better engines that are available now and in a longer version with over 1000 passengers it would have been more cost efficient and interesting for price sensitive customers in some Asian countries.

It was too late since the HUB airport model is currently out of fashion.


The too early is easily fixed - you can upgrade the engines; the current version (-800) is also the baby version; it has the wings and tail designed for a large expansion (-1000) that would sit over 1000 passengers in economy-only class comfortable. The plan was to reach that stage.

What really doomed it was the proliferation of small airports where large planes can easily land (737NG or Airbus's own A321). One stroke of business genius on Airbus's part was buying the share in Bombardier - the A220 is gonna see massive usage in Europe).

Airbus really played on the whole spectrum - the company is well positioned on all segments of the market. Unfortunately the market is dwindling, and this marvelous piece of engineering is dying. I only hope I'll get to fly one before it retires.


What really doomed it was the proliferation of small airports where large planes can easily land

The way I've heard it expressed is that the commercial aviators are moving away from the hub-and-spoke model: it used to be that there were few long-haul airports in any region, and to get to the smaller airports you'd need to transfer at the hub.

But nowadays it's much more common to fly directly on a regional airport, even for long-haul flights. That means the passenger number per long-haul flight gets smaller (it no longer includes the regional destinations), and the regional airports don't have the size nor the capacity to handle these large planes.

The airlines flying these planes are the ones still using a hub-and-spoke model, like Emirates.


"The too early is easily fixed"

You can not just stick some new engines to a plane and elongate the body. This needs more investments and certification. Less costly than a new plane but still costs.

"What really doomed it was the proliferation of small airports "

It is hard to predict the future. Just as an example: Many small EU airports may close due to new EU regulation and limited subsidiaries. Many of the small airports create heavy losses that are financed by taxes. This may come to an end. Also, Europe is thinking to revive the TEE trains (Trans Europe Express).

The bottom line: things can change.


>You can not just stick some new engines to a plane and elongate the body. This needs more investments and certification. Less costly than a new plane but still costs.

Isn't what Boeing basically did with their 737-Max ? With no new certification ?


I am not an airplane engineer. Part of the certification is that you can do this. Elongating the body would be a different thing again.

My "new certification" was in regarding to the Federal Aviation Administration. You are referring to pilots certification. Yes, after the FAA gives green light, the plane is certified. And a pilot may or may not, based in his types of licenses fly the plane or require new training. In case of 737-Max new training was not deemed necessary. :-(


Isn't ICE (Inter City Express) basically the descendant of TEE ? I wonder what revived TEE would bring on top of that, possibly other than retro nostalgia.

Also often trains are limitted by inadequate or missing high speed rail infrastructure.


It is sad to me that the aviation industry doesn't appear to be able reward the manufacturers that take risks with their designs. Both Concorde and the A380 have been disasters commercially. It seems like we will be stuck with the current widebody, single deck, subsonic planes for most of our lifetimes with little real advancement in comfort or speed.


we will be stuck with the current widebody, single deck, subsonic planes for most of our lifetimes with little real advancement in comfort or speed.

Which, by what is surely pure coincidence, suits Boeing perfectly. After all American regulators would never favour a domestic company.


The hub and spoke model was not new when the 380 launched. Engine and airframe manufacturers innovated and are now replacing the hub and spoke model with long haul point-to-point aircraft and routes. Sounds to me like a great innovation that will be rewarded.


It is sad to me that the aviation industry doesn't appear to be able reward the manufacturers that take risks with their designs. Both Concorde and the A380 have been disasters commercially. It seems like we will be stuck with the current widebody, single deck, subsonic planes for most of our lifetimes with little real advancement in comfort or speed.


The aviation startups that are in the development phase today, e.g. Boom and Lilium, seem to my casual observation to be planning on operating the service themselves. And thereby forcing change directly, instead of trying to convince the incumbents.

This seems like the way to do it when pioneering a new technological approach in an entrenched industry with an established status quo. The incumbents must be dragged into the future by their hair.


> the aviation industry doesn't appear to be able reward the manufacturers that take risks with their designs. Both Concorde and the A380 have been disasters commercially.

The aviation industry (for passenger planes) is people that purchase flights. Evidently, sufficient people don’t value the time a Concorde saves with the extra operating costs, and they don’t value the advantages of the A380 versus the disadvantages, such as time spent transferring to smaller planes.

It would take a lot for me to prefer a longer flight with more stops than a shorter non stop flight.


Russian supersonic airliner by 2022?

https://www.airlineratings.com/news/russian-supersonic-airli...

Not sure it makes economic sense but good for dick comparisons :-)


For those interested in some pictures from the early days, Mark Power shot the initial construction of the A380 and construction of the things required to construct the A380: https://www.markpower.co.uk/projects/a-380



TIL Google employs vampires to make the StreetView photos. https://www.google.com/maps/@25.242908,55.3720413,2a,86.7y,9...


You can just see the operators' hand controlling the remote shutter button.

It's interesting that the street view pics, are ONLY of the upper deck. I'm guessing the poor peoples deck doesn't look nearly as good.


> It's interesting that the street view pics, are ONLY of the upper deck. I'm guessing the poor peoples deck doesn't look nearly as good.

You can switch the "floors" (like Street View supports for multi-floor buildings) using the selector for "B"/"E" on the lower right (desktop version):

https://goo.gl/maps/tcEAYdDpjRfyktBp6


Ahhh, thanks. It looks the same as cattle-class on all other planes tbh. I'd rather not travel, than fly like that.


I am sure that it's comfy but the colors choices makes it look like a hospital's intensive care ward.


Sad. A380 flights were always the smoothest in my experience.


Indeed. A350-1000 are even smoother at the moment.


The A380 era is ending with a whimper, not a bang. It never generated the love inspired by aircraft like the Douglas DC-3, the Lockheed Constellation, or the Boeing 747.


I like all things airplane-y not ending with a bang, thank you very much.


it launched straight into an era where hub and spoke had died.

We don't need new jumbo jets, we need efficient and smaller jets that can go point to point directly.


Yet the vast majority of 787s and A350s fly... Hub and spoke or hub to minihub. Because that's what makes money.

The A380 was a missed opportunity to move air travel on by a seismic shift. The initial Airbus concepts for a blended-wing-body would have had unassailably better economics than any tube-with-wings. Instead they took a lower-risk option and its efficiency margin was quickly closed by newer twinjet designs.

It died the death it deserved given its conservative design. Yes it was an engineering marvel, but it could have been so much more.

What an era we could have been in right now with a BWB A380 and the Boeing Sonic Cruiser; mass-transit efficiency or get-me-home speed. But the airlines and the manufacturers shied away. And the punters keep buying tickets anyway


Was the evacuation problem solved for BWBs?

Being able to evacuate quickly enough in the event of a crash was one of the showstoppers for BWBs when they were under serious consideration and I don't know if that problem was ever solved.


787s and 350s are quite large, so this makes sense.

Point to point is doing fantastically. They just use smaller planes for it, A320s and 737s. Even after the whole MAX debacle the MAX order book stands at 4,129 planes, far ahead of the 787 and its 1,507 planes. Airbus has a similar story with 7,445 A320neo family planes vs 930 A350 orders.


Except perhaps for the A321 XLR in the future, the 737 and A320 series don’t remotely compete on the routes the A380 was designed for.

The big shift is away from Spoke-Hub-Hub-Spoke flights to Spoke-Hub-Spoke flights (in each case cut off one spoke if your origin or destination is a Hub). The 787 and later A350 allow airlines to serve many more secondary destinations from their hubs, eliminating the need for a 2nd transfer.

There’s really no market for longhaul (intercontinental) P2P flights without a Hub at one end. The A321 XLR might change that, we‘ll see.

Except for some rare exceptions, the A380 is mainly suitable as a Hub-Hub shuttle.


I wouldn't say there's no market. There just haven't been new planes built for it in a while. 757s are old, relatively inefficient planes and Boeing just scrapped the NMA.


Wouldn't BWB compromise passenger capacity, and wouldn't flying mach 0.98 be extremely fuel inefficient?

I think there were more hurdles here than a lack of daring.


Yeah, the Sonic Cruiser was scrapped after the first decline in air travel ever post 9/11.


We need to drastically cut down on air travel, its growth and the excerbated effects from emissions in the upper atmosphere are really unsustainable pending technological developments that seem far off[1].

[1] excluding some very different modes of air travel, like lifting gas based aircraft.


I think the pandemic is going to take care of that.

We're looking at years before people will feel it's safe to travel again and borders are reopened to tourism.

No industry can survive that long without revenue. Once major portions of the civil aviation industry, and it's supply chains, start going into receivership it's going to take a very long time to get it started again. Unmaintained equipment decays, and employees who have found other jobs won't necessarily come back to their old jobs when their ex-employers want them.

Restarting the aviation industry after a multi-year shutdown will require rebuilding a lot of hardware, (re)hiring a lot of people, and rebuilding a vast amount of institutional knowledge. This will take years or even decades--and I wouldn't want to fly on the first airliner to come off a restarted production line staffed mostly by new employees and flown by pilots without much recent experience.

No one has ever needed to attempt restarting an entire industry since the demilitarization of the economy following WWII, and it's unclear if it's even possible anymore.

By the time all is said and done, most people may well be used to doing things other than flying and the demand might not even re-emerge.


It looks like Airbus is betting on hydrogen as next fuel for planes..

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/sep/21/airbus-reve...


Now that Zoom meetings have been normalized, a lot of business travel is not going to come back (ever).

Vacations will still exist.


We need to make air travel more sustainable, eliminating unnecessary ones such as business trips that can be replaced with online conference. Air travel is still crucial because personal witness and person to person interaction can't be replaced with other forms of communication. Racism and nationalism thrive on isolation and ignorance, not to mentioned impact to mental health.


It takes about 80 hours to get from San Francisco to New York City by train.


But it's a fantastic journey, or at least it was before covid...

A 2-person sleeper car used to cost a bit less than 2 coach tickets on a plane, at the expense of a 66-hour delay (plus another 6-12 hours of actual delays). And it was glorious.

Okay, you didn't always have the time. But when you did, Amtrak was the way to go. That book you meant to read? Done, along with the pulp novel you didn't really mean to read. Side projects? Easy to work on when you're watching the continental US from an observation car with a transparent ceiling.

And the meal cars. I am going to miss the meal cars, which Amtrak was phasing out even before covid because "my generation doesn't like taking to people". But in the past 5 years, those meal cars were the only place where I got to candidly talk with a more or less random slice of the American population. And that's including my cross-country road trips!

You got free meals with a sleeper car, but there was only one dining room and seating was random, so you'd see different people every meal. And you'd just talk, politely, for about an hour with people who you probably would have never otherwise interacted with.

I miss that.


Europe still has extensive passenger rail network, but in my experience a train trip is roughly twice the price of flying in 500-1000 kilometer journeys. That needs to change somehow before trains can have a chance of a renaissance.


But a few seconds to start up a video call.


And it takes 2 minutes to set up a Zoom/Teams/Jitsi call.

A lot of air travel is completely needless and only done "because we can".


Why is this being commented multiple times in an article about flying? If you want to talk to someone in person, or have to be somewhere for work you don't just video conference and forget about it. They are two different things.


Boeing made the better business decision betting against the hub-and-spoke model and instead betting on "thin" long-haul routes. Same with the 737 Max. It was the airplane airlines wanted.

Boeing was just a little too good at looking at the business side of things.


I've heard this argument many times, but people seem to forget that Boeing also launched the passenger version of the 747-8, 5 years after the launch of the 380. And Airbus also made the 350. Both Boeing and Airbus, were obviously trying to hedge and not put all their eggs in one basket.


Boeing did bet on more point to point connections. Their 2003 commercial market outlook states "Passenger preference for more frequent, nonstop flights with shorter trip times will continue to drive market evolution and airline strategies. After all, air travel is all about passenger convenience and saving time." - [0]

They projected 18% or airplane deliveries would be for smaller regional jets. 56% for larger regional jets and single-aisle airplanes. Only 4% (or about 890 deliveries) for 747-size airplanes.

Airbus on the other hand were much more bullish on hub and spoke model: "After a period when airlines experimented with services linking almost all possible combinations of cities, the global route network seems to have reached a point of saturation. Moreover, the bulk of air travel will continue to be generated by the concentrations of population, business and industry in and around the major cities, and the great majority of passengers will be carried over and through the major hubs." - [1]

Airbus projected 1,535 VLA (i.e. A380) as opposed to 890 by Boeing.

It cost much less to Boeing to offer 748 compared to full program like A380. Also most of 748 orders have been cargo, which is still a very healthy market.

[0] - http://www.asiatraveltips.com/travelnews03/166Boeing.shtml

[1] - https://airinsight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Airbus-GMF...


Sure, I see your points, just 2 counter arguments:

1. The reason why it cost less for Boeing to offer the 748, and the reason why the 748 is well suited for cargo, are both the result of choices made several decades ago not just the result of a bet made by Boeing in recent times on the point to point model. (IIRC at some point during design it was thought that supersonic aircraft would soon replace all conventional airliners so they developed the 747 in such a way that it could be easily converted for cargo).

2. The A350 suits the point to point model so well that I believe it was developed by Airbus with that model in mind.

Airbus comparatively spent more then Boeing on the hub and spoke model, sure, but unlike Boeing they didn’t have a pre-existing 4-engine type to build upon.


But who is going to fly on a 737 willingly again? Boeing is trying to ditch the “max” moniker in their new releases and to play it safe people will just avoid all 737s in the future.

Unfortunately this doesn’t end well for those airlines who have large numbers of them, because if you have a crapshoot on whether you are going to fly a 737 max death or not, it’s easier to choose a different airline who doesn’t run that particular model of Boeing.


> But who is going to fly on a 737 willingly again?

I will. And the airlines and environmentalists need it because the reason for the MAX is 15% less fuel burn. That's a whopping improvement.


It should be the safest airplane in the sky after how much attention it's getting.


Weren’t they recently caught meddling with FAA regulations to continue with non-redundant MCAS implementation?


It seems to me that the hub and spoke model would have been a lot more environment friendly. I think governments should tax airlines for their emissions.


> It seems to me that the hub and spoke model would have been a lot more environment friendly.

I would think it's the opposite, with more takeoffs and landings, and more miles traveled.

A380 IIRC has higher fuel consumption per passenger than the latest generation twinjets (B787 & A350), but probably a new generation superjumbo could close that gap if there were a need for such a plane (which currently it doesn't seem like).

> I think governments should tax airlines for their emissions.

Absolutely. We need to drastically reduce flying. Most governments talk about the need to reduce emissions, but guess who received hundreds of billions of COVID handouts? Yup, airlines. A huge opportunity to instead invest in low-carbon infrastructure wasted..


Each individual passenger would have more takeoffs and landings, and travel more miles, but in total I would assume the airlines flies less miles and has less takeoffs and landings. The number of flights is O(N) instead of O(N^2).

I remember that the A380 was the most fuel efficient per passenger when it debuted.


I agree for sure. Less flights the better. They should even enforce a cap on arrivals and departures.


The Boeing 747 has some art or sexuality to its lines, I can't explain what it is, but I cannot look away from one when I see it. An A380, on the other hand, looks like a fish who got dared by his friends to inhale as much water as he could.


They're so huge. I'm surprised they didn't retrofit for cargo.


They can't lift the mass of a full load of cargo of any realistic density though. This is a nice summary:

https://www.flexport.com/blog/airbus-a380-no-cargo-equivalen...

Oops.


>The A380-F would be able to carry 60% more volume than the 747, but only 28% more weight

That sounds really short-sited on airbus. How could they not see having a plane double as a freighter would mean more sales?


It's inevitable physics.

Things get heavier with the cube of the dimensions (a 2m cube is 8 times heavier than a 1m cube in the most simplistic example). Lift is a function of wing area, which only goes up with the square of the dimensions (a stupid "cubic wing" that's a 2m cube only has 4 times as much surface area as a 1m cubic "wing.

Bigger planes can fly in spite of this because they're hollow. If you start filling them up with dense stuff, they get heavier way faster than they gain wing area (and hence lift capacity).

That's why big birds are rare (or flightless, like emus), ands huge flying birds don't exist. And why there's a lot of conjecture that pterosaurs didn't fly very well, perhaps more like sugar gliders (which do extended/controlled jumps from high places) rather than taking of and soaring like eagles or albatrosses.


Modern research in Azhdarchids suggests that they could indeed fly. This is in spite of the fact that they largest of them would dwarf an ostrich.


I'm not sure anyones suggesting they couldn't fly at all, just that some researchers propose what they were capable was closer to jumping off trees or hills and gliding to the ground, rather than launching from flat ground and flapping their way across continents.

Though there's at least one guy who ran some calculations for Quetzalcoatl's probable aerodynamics and came up with numbers suggesting it could fly ~10,000 miles. Other people criticise that saying it only takes into account estimates of bone/wing structure and body weight, and ignores energy requirements which reptilian metabolic possibly cannot provide.

I hope they're wrong. I desperately want to believe that there once existed 35 foot wingspan "dragons" which were capable of trans continental flight :-)


“energy requirements which reptilian metabolic possibly cannot provide”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pterosaur#Pycnofibers: “The presence of pycnofibers strongly indicates that pterosaurs were endothermic (warm-blooded)”

(Warm-blooded reptiles sort of still exist. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2074982-first-warm-bloo...: “The surprise came when the lizards reached the reproductive time of the year, from September to December. During the cold early hours of the morning in that season, their breathing and heart rates rose and their temperatures reached as much as 10 °C above those of their burrows”)


Soaring birds get most of their energy from currents of rising air, not flapping their wings. So it’s plausible it did a lot of soaring over land, assuming it could get in the air under its own power. Human-built gliders can fly thousands of kilometers in one go, admittedly uncomfortably and geographically constrained.

But easily hundreds of kilometers on a day with good conditions, with a good degree of navigational freedom.


Because it wouldn't mean more sales when it can only fly into a fraction of the worlds airports - the taxiways at most airports aren't strong or wide enough.

Volume isn't generally the constraint on air freight, anyway.


Once a planes hits a certain big size it looks like the math means it's probably going to generally be a passenger plane / move low density stuff only and won't be able to really compete for freight.


That's really interesting, I had no idea how density really plays a huge part in balancing the equation. Of course it makes sense after reading it but it didn't immediately occur to me.


One major mistake Airbus made, or perhaps tradeoff, is that they put the cockpit on the first level, you'll note the 747's is on the second level. This made it dead in the water for cargo, the ability to include an opening nose cargo door massively improves the cargo options of an airline freighter.

As others have pointed out, the A380 brought volume more than tonnage to the game, and to utilize volume you need a way to get large objects into the plane, a nose door is the only way to do this on a passenger turned cargo jet, no backdoors.

The Airbus Beluga is an example of getting around this limitation, but this isn't a scalable option for normal freighters.


Recently Lufthansa announced that they (will) remove all A380 airliners from active service earlier than planned. The Covid-19 pandemic hit the airlines hard and those big airliners are the first to go.


Actually they are second, first farewell we have sang for passenger 747 fleet.


Yes, but a lot of those were old, I imagine. They've been making that plane for half a century now, surely they're pulling the old ones first?


Lufthansa has 8 Boeing 747-400 and 19 Boeing 747-8i, which came to the fleet recently. They will keep the 747-8i for now I think. But you are right, the 747 will also disappear sooner than later.


Bye and thanks for all the fish, I attend both shows on Paris when it was demoed.

The first one traditionally carriage down, due to security regulations and the following air show already flying properly.


I was there as well for both shows at Le Bourget. I remember the low level flybys and thinking how absolutely massive and nimble this thing was.


The article references "the current situation" repeatedly but I thought the A380s fate was sealed long ago?


Sure, but if you blame the plague maybe some C-suiters will keep their jobs.


The 747 first flew in 1969, and is still planned to be in production until 2022.

Boeing _really_ used to do things right...


It’s not like they’re still building the same model 50 years later though, I imagine every single thing about it has changed


About every one off the line is slightly different. The engineers work on it continuously.


I don't find that reassuring at all.


I look forward to seeing the A350


I have been on a tour of the assembly hall in Toulouse. Was with some senior Airbus people so we got the "customer" tour rather than the public one.


I thought they had stopped making them. The used market is flooded with 380s.




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