The 555 seat, double deck Airbus A380 is the most ambitious civil aircraft program yet. When it entered service in 2007, the A380 is the World”s largest airliner, easily eclipsing Boeing’s 747. Airbus first began studies on vary large 500 seat airliner in the early 1990s. The European manufacturer saw developing a competitor and successor to the Boeing 747 as a strategic play to end Boeing”s dominance of the very large airliner market and round out Airbus’s product line-up.

Airbus began engineering development work on such an aircraft, then designated the A3XX, in June 1994. Airbus studied numerous design configurations for the A3XX and gave serious consideration to a single deck aircraft which have seated 12 abreast and twin vertical tails. However Airbus settled upon a twin deck configuration, largely because of the significantly lighter structure required.

Key deign aims include the ability to use existing airport infrastructure with little modifications to the airports, and direct operating costs per seat 15-20% less than those for 747-400. With 49% more floor space and only 35% more seating than the pervious largest aircraft, Airbus is ensuring wider seats and aisles for more passenger comfort. Using the most advanced technologies, the A380 is also designed to have 10-15% more range, lower fuel burn and emissions, and less noise.

Country of Origin

Europe (France, Germany, Spain, UK)

Type

High capacity, long range, twin deck, wide body airliner.

Power plants

A380-800 – Four 333kN (70,000lb), initially derated to 302kN (68,000lb), later growing to 374kN (84,000lb) thrust Rolls-Royce Trent 900 or 363kN (81,500lb) thrust Engine Alliance (General Electric-Pratt & Whitney) GP-7200 turbofans.

Performance

A380-800 – Max cruising speed M 0.88. Long distance speed M 0.85. Range 14,800km (8,000nm). Service ceiling 43.000ft (13,100m). A380-800F – Range 10,370km (5,600nm).

Weighs

A380-800 – Operating empty 277,000kg (610,700lb), max takeoff 560,000kg (1,234,600lb).

A380-800F – Operating empty 252,000kg (555,600lb), max takeoff 590,000kg (1,30,700lb).

Dimensions

A380-800 – Wing span 79.8m (261ft 10in), length 72,75m (238ft 8in). Height 24,08m (79ft).

Capacity

A380-800 – Flight crew of two. Standard seating for 555 passengers on two decks in a three class arrangement. Qantas plans to fit its aircraft with 523 seats (in three classes). A380 has 49% more floor area but only 35% more seats (in 555 seat configuration) than the 747-400, allowing room for passenger amenities such as bars, gymnasiums and duty free shops. Cargo capacity 38 LD3s or 13 pallets

Production

149 firm orders (including 27 freighters) by January 2005. Airbus has forecast a market for approx 1235 airliners of 400 seats and above through to 2020. First deliveries was to Singapore Airlines in October 2007.

The A380 features and advanced version of the Airbus A380 common two crew cockpit, with pull-out keyboards for the pilots, extensive use of composite materials such as Glare (an aluminium/glass fibre composite), and four 302 to 374kN (68,000 to 84,000lb) class Rolls-Royce Trent 900 or Engine Alliance (General Electric/Pratt & Whitney) GP7200 turbofans now under development.

Several A380 models are planned: the basic aircraft is the 555 seat A380-800 (launch customer Emirates). The 590 ton MTOW 10,410km (5620nm) A380-800F freighter will be able to carry a 150 tonne payload and is die to enter service in 2008 (launch customer FedEx). Potential future models will include the shortened, 480 seat A380-700, and the stretched, 656 seat, A380-900.

On receipt of the required 50th launch order commitment, the airbus A3XX was renamed A380 and officially launched on December 19, 2000. In Early 2001 the general configuration design was frozen, and metal cutting for the first A380 component occurred on January 23, 2002 at Nantes in France. In 2002 more than 6000 people were working on A380 development.

On January 18, 2005 the first Airbus A380 was officially revealed in a lavish ceremony, attended by 5000 invited guests including the French, German, British and Spanish president and prime ministers, representing the countries that invested heavily in the 10-year €10 billion + (413 billion+) aircraft program, and the CEOs of the 14 A380 customers who had placed firm orders for 149 aircraft by then.

The out of sequence A380 designation was chosen as the ”’8”’ represents the cross-section of the town decks. The first commercial flight was at 8am on October 2007 by Singapore airlines, 2 years later than scheduled.

Apart from the prime contractors in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain, components fro the A380 airframe are also manufactured by industrial partners in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. A380 final assembly is taking place in Toulouse, France, with interior fitment in Hamburg, Germany. Major A380 assemblies are transported to Toulouse by ship, barge and road.

On July 24, 2000, Emirates became the first customer making a firm order commitment, followed by Air France, International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC), Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic. Together these companies completed the 50 orders needed to launch the programme.

Later, the following companies also ordered the A380: FedEx (the launch customer for the A380-800F freighter), Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Etihad Airways, Thai Airways and UPS.

Four prototypes will be used in a 2200 hours flight test programme lasting 15 months.

Incidents and accidents

On 4 November 2010, Qantas Flight 32, en route from Singapore Changi Airport to Sydney Airport, suffered an uncontained engine failure, resulting in a series of related problems, and forcing the flight to return to Singapore. There were no injuries to the passengers, crew or people on the ground despite debris falling onto the Indonesian island of Batam. The A380 was damaged sufficiently for the event to be classified as an accident. Qantas subsequently grounded all of its A380s that day subject to an internal investigation taken in conjunction with the engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce plc. A380s powered by Engine Alliance GP7000 were unaffected but operators of Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered A380s were affected. Investigators determined that an oil leak, caused by a defective oil supply pipe, led to an engine fire and subsequent uncontained engine failure. Repairs cost an estimated A$139 million (~US$145M). As other Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines also showed problems with the same oil leak, Rolls-Royce ordered many engines to be changed, including about half of the engines in the Qantas A380 fleet. During the airplane’s repair, cracks were discovered in wing structural fittings which also resulted in mandatory inspections of all A380s and subsequent design changes.

Useful Links

Airbus Website