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.
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.
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.
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...
Too sad we are left with A350 and B777 for now.
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)
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
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)
It did worse than that. It snapped the jackscrew off that changes the angle of attack of the stabilizer, which is a certain crash.
The C-5 fuselage is quite big, so they look smaller than they are.
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.
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.
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).
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Isn't what Boeing basically did with their 737-Max ? With no new certification ?
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. :-(
Also often trains are limitted by inadequate or missing high speed rail infrastructure.
Which, by what is surely pure coincidence, suits Boeing perfectly. After all American regulators would never favour a domestic company.
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 (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.
Not sure it makes economic sense but good for dick comparisons :-)
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):
We don't need new jumbo jets, we need efficient and smaller jets that can go point to point directly.
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
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.
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.
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 think there were more hurdles here than a lack of daring.
 excluding some very different modes of air travel, like lifting gas based aircraft.
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.
Vacations will still exist.
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.
A lot of air travel is completely needless and only done "because we can".
Boeing was just a little too good at looking at the business side of things.
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." - 
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.
 - http://www.asiatraveltips.com/travelnews03/166Boeing.shtml
 - https://airinsight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Airbus-GMF...
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.
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.
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.
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..
I remember that the A380 was the most fuel efficient per passenger when it debuted.
That sounds really short-sited on airbus. How could they not see having a plane double as a freighter would mean more sales?
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.
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 :-)
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”)
But easily hundreds of kilometers on a day with good conditions, with a good degree of navigational freedom.
Volume isn't generally the constraint on air freight, anyway.
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.
The first one traditionally carriage down, due to security regulations and the following air show already flying properly.
Boeing _really_ used to do things right...