Dream Bloat
December 26, 2004 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Everything's bigger in Toulouse. The world's biggest plane has started rolling off assembly lines and is expected to take its first flight in March 2005. The quarter-billion-dollar, twin-deck, four-aisle plane can carry 555 passengers. Thanks to its design's outsized wings, future versions of the economical plane may carry as many as 800 passengers.
With the A380, Airbus hopes to do to Boeing what Boeing did to its competitors over 30 years ago with the 747. Already, Airbus Industrie has outsold and out-delivered Boeing for the last two years. But don't boycott just yet! It turns out the A380 is 51% American-made. Parts are so big they don't fit in this whale-like record-size transporter (though this Russian monster may have a claim); they are transported to Toulouse on a barge. More pics. Let's hope this latest high-tech aerospace gamble does better than the last one.
Europe, of course (troll alert), already makes the world's biggest truck, the fastest trains, the best cars (sorry Japan), and the most successful rocket launchers.
On a darker topic, 10 years ago, French commandos boarded an Airbus and killed Islamic terrorists planning to fly it into the Eiffel Tower.
posted by Turtle (63 comments total)
With regards to "the last [high-tech aerospace gamble]": Sure, a Concorde was lost... eventually. But I wouldn't call a fleet that flew nearly 30 years a failure.
posted by Doohickie at 1:45 PM on December 26, 2004

Am I the only one that would find it funny if terrorists hijacked the world's tallest building and flew it into the A380?
posted by hincandenza at 2:37 PM on December 26, 2004

Technically, the Concorde was a success. Commercially, the gamble was a failure (though it may have been worth it, as a way to subsidize French and British aerospace industries).

The A380 could flop because for some reason it isn't a business success. I guess that's precisely what some people in America are arguing. I have no idea who's right. But I'm all for far-out flying machines flying about as much and as cheaply as possible.
posted by Turtle at 2:45 PM on December 26, 2004

No, hincandenza, you wouldn't : )
posted by Bugbread at 2:56 PM on December 26, 2004 [1 favorite]

Very interesting and thorough post - thanks!
posted by Dr. Wu at 2:59 PM on December 26, 2004

One track mind, hincandenza? :)
posted by Vulpyne at 3:04 PM on December 26, 2004

That transporter may be huge but it is also mofo ugly! And the open hatch scares me like the mouth of Hell.
posted by billsaysthis at 3:07 PM on December 26, 2004

Heh. OK, now that's funny.
posted by 327.ca at 3:10 PM on December 26, 2004

...if terrorists hijacked the world's tallest building and flew it into the A380?

Sigh. I meant that's funny.
posted by 327.ca at 3:13 PM on December 26, 2004

Wait a sec. I thought the Spurce Goose was the world's largest plane. The wingspan of the H-4 Hercules is 98 meters. The A380 is a piddling 79.8 meters by comparison.
posted by ed at 3:16 PM on December 26, 2004

won't this need a longer runway? will it be limited airportwise?
posted by amberglow at 3:18 PM on December 26, 2004

The best cars? Lamborghini?

Right country, wrong car.
posted by Relay at 3:24 PM on December 26, 2004

This holidays I few 4 small jets (32 passenger), and I gotta admit I liked that a helluv a lot better then a bigger planes. With 32 people the boarding and unboarding time was fast (like 15 mins) we didn't have to wait for a longer runway... etc.

Of course the smaller jets won't do transatlantic, or the big jumps, but anything short of that I know what I'm looking for in the future.

+ the idea of being crammed ina plane with 500 - 800 other people frightens me more than any terrorist
posted by edgeways at 3:29 PM on December 26, 2004

There's an airport compatibility link in the second linked page, but apparently viewing it requires membership in some organization that probably costs money...
posted by Bugbread at 3:32 PM on December 26, 2004 [1 favorite]

Airbus finally lives up to its name.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:45 PM on December 26, 2004

The Concorde was a dismall failure, paid for by sheepish French and British tax dollars. Or, at least that's how I would like to view things.

As for the A380, I think it's the work of madmen, or at least the same dellusion as the Concorde. HTF wants to travel on such a plane? Which terrorist would not want to knock it out of the sky, say with a shoulder-mounted missile? Would would want to queue up to get on or off just a whale? What are these people thinking? There's something fishy going at Airbus--I didn't think penis envy was a European thing....
posted by ParisParamus at 3:52 PM on December 26, 2004

> The best cars? Lamborghini?

> Right country, wrong car.

Prove me wrong, Relay! :-D

actually, I know nothing about cars...

...though on second thought I know from experience this is the best car in the world.

Apparently some airports are busy modifying runways and devising two-level boarding-ramps in preparation for the A380 (which link is for pay, bugbread? I'm curious):

To integrate into existing airports, the A380 must fit the standard airport-docking plan. The plane's nearly 262-foot wingspan meets this requirement by about 18 inches. Its outer-most engines, however, would hang just beyond the standard 150-foot runway width, requiring upgrades at many airports. The plane's weight will be distributed to 20 landing gear wheels, actually producing less weight per wheel than the 747. PBS

Airbus said 14 airports were currently equipped to serve the A380. But most of those are in Asia, and none is in the United States. IHT

Virgin Atlantic Airlines said this month that it would put off delivery of its A380s because of delays in the preparation of Los Angeles International Airport.

Strange, resistance by American airports was one of the factors in the Concorde's commercial failure... Of course, this time Asia is where the growth is, so US reactions will matter less.
posted by Turtle at 3:53 PM on December 26, 2004

Correction: HTF should be WHTF, with "WH" being WHO
posted by ParisParamus at 3:54 PM on December 26, 2004

won't this need a longer runway?

Probably, but it depends on how much it can carry (MTOW -- Max Take Off Weight) vs. how much power it has. If they put four of the GE90-110s[1] on it, it could probably take off in less than a mile. Provided, of course, the wings stayed on. We won't really know until they actually start flying the bird.

I would assume that runways that can handle a 747-400 at MTOW could handle a A380. It would be a fatal error for Airbus to build a plane that most of the International airports can't handle. There are a couple of airports with very long runways (JFK has a 14,500' runway, DEN has, now, a 16,000 foot runway.) But most offer 10-11,000 feet for takeoffs.)

will it be limited airportwise?

This is a real issue of concern. In particular, the very long wingspan is the biggest problem. Airports with taxi limits on 747s (example, ORD, where two 747s cannot pass each other on Taxiways A&B -- the main "loop" taxiways around the domestic terminals) are going to have real problems moving the A380 around.

Boarding time is another issue. You have to have at least two jetways to board this craft in a reasonable amount of time.

They're not going to be easy craft to work with.

[1] The GE90-110 is built for the very large 777-300ER Twinjet. One of them can fly the 777-300ER alone, and is the most powerful turbofan ever flown, at 115,000 pounds of thrust. Twinjets, as a class, have much more powerful engines than quadjets, because of redundancy issues.

Having said that, the Twinjets are the dominiant force in the airline industry. The only large jets that aren't twins are the older 747-400, the A340, and the A380. Both the 747 and the A340 may got out of production soon -- airline are buying the 777 and A330 in much larger numbers, and the follow on plane for Boeing is also a twinjet -- the 7E7, which will either ship as the 787 or the 808.
posted by eriko at 3:57 PM on December 26, 2004


" Prove me wrong, Relay! :-D"

I don't have to, Michael Schumacher & Co. have been proving that for the past 6 years running.
posted by Relay at 4:23 PM on December 26, 2004

In my NSHO, the A380 is going to be a costly failure.


1) Very few routes need the capacity it gives. We have proof of this, see the sales of the 747-400D.

2) Very few airports can handle it without expensive upgrades. In particular, if you have to widen and legthen runways, it'll be a serious problem. I would doubt that weight is going to be a problem -- when the 777 came out with only two main gears, everyone said that it wouldn't be allowed to land anywhere. Boeing solved that by using 6, not 4, wheels per main gear. Above, someone mentioned 20 wheels, which is odd -- that implies 4x4 main gear, and a 1x2 nose gear. This is the same layout as the 747. I would think they'd run 6x4 on the main gear.

3) The Euro vs. The Dollar. As the dollar falls, Boeing aircraft are going to get cheaper and cheaper. US airlines won't be able to afford Airbus offerings, non US airlines will be looking at compelling discounts on the Boeings. It's hard to say yes to an A380 when you can get 3 777s for less money -- and no matter how well the A380 performs, it can't fly ORD-LHR, ORD-GLW and ORD-NRT at the same time.

4) Air routes are still trending to the "smaller planes, more often." Customers vastly prefer smaller planes, esp. when that means they get more departures to choose from.

Boeing has floated many different stretches of the 747, and even sold the 747-400D, a short ranger, high passenger capacity version that carried 580 pax. They sold thirty of them. If that was the only mark they'd made, Boeing would be dead -- the capital investment to create those 30 airliners would have sunk them. Thankfully, they had 1000 other 747 marks. But the end is nigh for the Queen of the Sky -- the only orders they have are for 747-400F (Freighters) and a few 747-400ER conversions for Qantas. That won't last -- Qantas is the lead customer on the 777-200LR. (Range is critical to Qantas' International operations)

Airbus is betting that a plane that seats 600 in it's minimum configuration is going to sell 600 frames. I don't see that happening. The fact that, suddenly, we hear talk of the A350 is a sign that someone at Airbus is worried.

The problem with that. The planes the A350 would replace, the A330 and A340, are newish planes that are still selling well -- very well, in the case of the A330. The 7E7 is meant to replace the 757 (no longer in production) and the 767 (none currently ordered). I'm certain that the 7E7 will affect 777 sales (in particular, the 777-200 and -200ER) but Boeing will still have three sellable marks, the larger 777-300 and -300ER. and the ultra-long range 777-200LR.

Worse, Airbus has a bunch of capital tied to the A380 right now. Rolling out a whole new frame (and the plant to build it) is a "bet the company" move -- and they're already doing that with the A380. They could convert the A330/340 line, but that shuts down a viable product. I, and a bunch of others, thing the A350 is a smoke-and-mirror job (see the Sonic Crusier for a Boeing Example.) Then again, the 767X was also widely known as smoke and mirrors -- then it was canceled -- and relaunched the next day as the wildly successful 777.

(Personal note. I like flying on Trips[1]. Sweet planes.)

I think Airbus made a very bad bet -- and fortune has consipired against them. One or two of those factors probably wouldn't doom the plane -- it may not sell well, but it wouldn't kill the company. All four, however, is a real issue.

People like to talk about "Orders" and "Firm Orders." There's no such thing. There were over 400 firm orders for the Concorde. They sold 30 frames.

As a passenger plane, the Concorde was a pretty decent supersonic bomber. But it's great fault was range. It could not fly from Paris to Washington D.C. without a weight restriction. If Concorde could have worked the Pacific routes, it may well have succeeded, despite it's other flaws. But limited passengers, no cargo, and 4000 mile range? Not workable. The Concorde cost billions to build, and billions more to keep flying. It, in all truth, never had a profitable flight.

[1] Trips: the 777. Short form of "Triple 7." Not to be confused with "tripping", which is "triple converging ILS approaches."
posted by eriko at 4:25 PM on December 26, 2004

which link is for pay, bugbread? I'm curious

On the second link, clicking the "A380" tab, and then "Airport Compatibility", I got a popup saying, in part, "The consultation and download of technical data are now available in the Airbus customer portal Airbus|World at www.airbusworld.com." When I went there to register to gain access to the portal, I got a message saying "Currently, only Airbus aircraft owners or operators, and third parties such as vendors, regulatory agencies and other industry partners will be accepted into www.airbusworld.com."

But, as you found the information in question, it's kind of a moot point now.
posted by Bugbread at 4:40 PM on December 26, 2004 [1 favorite]

I heart Turtle. What an awesome post! Thanks so much!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:06 PM on December 26, 2004

Omg, eriko. Thanks. People like you are why I read MeFi comments. Well, that, and the flame-fests...
posted by Turtle at 5:07 PM on December 26, 2004

Excellent post. It's been said quite a few times already, but couldn't resist one more time:

I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.
– National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 5/16/02
posted by Flem Snopes at 5:23 PM on December 26, 2004

As an avid planefan who just took his first excited-as-a-little-boy ride on an A340-500 last week, I give this thread a kid-in-a-candy-store thumbs up. I know the A380 will probably never have any of the luxurious trimmings the airline optimists say it will, but I still look forward to riding on the upper deck of this behemoth, just for the pure cool factor.
posted by brownpau at 5:45 PM on December 26, 2004

Eriko, excellent commentary! I wonder if I'll get the chance any time soon to fly on a Trips since my intercontinental wanderings seem to have dried up since 9/11.
posted by billsaysthis at 5:57 PM on December 26, 2004

Wow, ed, I'd forgotten about the Spruce Goose, the "Flying Lumberyard", which flew only once, with Howard Hughes at the controls, for less than a mile, and indeed has a wider wingspan than the A380.

As does the Antonov An-225 Mriya (88.74 m). It's the world's heaviest and most powerful plane, the only one of its kind, and it's available for commercial service. Mriya means "Dream" in Ukrainian.

So I guess the A380 should be called the biggest production plane, or simply the biggest passenger plane. Note that it hasn't flown yet.
posted by Turtle at 6:47 PM on December 26, 2004

I guess I'll have to contribute the Martin Mars Water Bombers.

They are phenomenal machines, able to scoop an amazing volume of water while in flight, to be dropped on forest fires. Watching them in action, they seem impossible: too big, too slow, too much.

I'm very surprised that other forestry companies do not invest in converting some of the other large-cargo planes for the same purpose.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:54 PM on December 26, 2004

Fascinating stuff. Remember, the US government developed the SST, a supersonic airliner that was noisy, polluting, and impractical. They abandoned it, leaving the Europeans to their noisy, polluting and impractical Concorde. I like Jimmy Breslin's comparison of the SST to the electric pepper mill.
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:37 PM on December 26, 2004

Interesting subject. Excellent arguments, eriko. And Turtle, I had one of one of those cars too, pretty close to this guy's -- lots of fun (when it ran).
posted by pmurray63 at 10:36 PM on December 26, 2004

I honestly would much prefer to fly in a smaller, faster aircraft even if it was far less comfortable, rather than larger slower aircraft. When you're stuck in a plane, your purpose is to get from A to B as quickly as possible. If you value the journey, take an ocean liner or a Zeppelin.
posted by Meridian at 1:12 AM on December 27, 2004

the past 6 years running.

Imagine how well they'd have done if they'd been driving, boom boom.
posted by emf at 1:12 AM on December 27, 2004

Lamborghini is so not the maker of the world's best cars.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:58 AM on December 27, 2004

I honestly would much prefer to fly in a smaller, faster aircraft even if it was far less comfortable, rather than larger slower aircraft.

How much so? Seats on the Concorde were sold at a very high premium, yet, the plane couldn't pay it's own way.

If the Sonic Cruiser could have hauled what a 777-200 could have hauled, for a 10% fuel penalty, it still probably wouldn't sell. If it could match at 777-200ER's range, still haul what a 777-200 could, at .95 mach, then, possibly, airlines would justify the 10% fuel costs on Trans-pacific routes.

Boeing is betting the company that airlines want the fuel savings, and is trying to build an incredibly efficent plane. If they succeed, I think they'll make a killing with the plane. If the fail? We'll have a race to see who's gamble did the most harm. Boeing still has the 737, and Airbus the A320, so both will still have popular lines to sell.
posted by eriko at 4:41 AM on December 27, 2004

There's almost no question that the A380 would have been killed if it was only nine or 12 months earlier in development on 9/11.

Point-to-point fast-turnaround is the wave of the future, being proven daily in the U.S. by Southwest and JetBlue and in Europe by Ryanair and many others.

In an 700-800 pax short-range configuration, it is hard to see the A380 ever delivering effective margins.

In the long-range market, there's very little demand for the hyper-luxury "cabins" which the A380 would facilitate, nor is it likely that the core non-stop trunk routes which it is designed to serve are likely to see increased demand. Rather, high revenue passengers want enhanced business class cabins and aircraft sized smaller so that they can economically operate a wider variety of longer-range routes at higher daily frequency -- in other words, not Tokyo to London, or Hong Kong to New York with a stop in San Francisco, but Guangdong to Munich, Bangalore to San Jose, Kuala Lumpur to Buenos Aires.
posted by MattD at 5:37 AM on December 27, 2004

I think the A380 will be a success, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the up-front order book: according to EADS annual report for 2003 they've got 129 firm orders already. This isn't runaway success, but with a new type that requires alterations to terminals and taxiways at some airports it's a good sign.

Someone mentioned the Euro/Dollar exchange rate. I don't think this will affect things much because (a) about half the components of the A380 are outsourced to American firms (and Boeing are committed to using a load of components made in places like, oops, Europe in their own product line), and (b) you don't go to Airbus or Boeing and say "here's $180M in cash, gimme an airliner" -- the financial setup for an airliner sale will be hedged to hell and probably involves some long-term finance geared against the expected 30-year service life of the vehicle. The airliner industry is among the most globalized on the planet, and while Airbus might be hit by a falling dollar when they want to sell to US airlines, the A380's main market is going to be long-haul intercontinental routes where most of the customers aren't actually American. Besides, the 747's been around for nearly 40 years and it weathered the exchange rate hiccups attendant to the collapse of Bretton-Woods in the early 70's.

One interesting point is that everybody is calling the A380 an airliner. A load of their advance orders are going to FedEx, and the freighter version looks very promising indeed. It's got two large multi-deck lifts to pack in the cargo from both ends, it can carry a 150-tonne load (40-50% more than a cargo 747), and it costs less to operate than a cargo 747. Lest we forget, in 1968 Boeing thought the 747 had a glowing future -- as a subsonic freighter, in the brave new world of supersonic passenger airliners. Even if the A380 fails as a civil airliner it can carry a freight payload that no 747 derivative can be beefed up to match. And thanks to globalization, just-in-time manufacturing, and the dot-com era at the consumer end, we're seeing a sharp increase in the demand for rapid airfreight delivery.

Finally, a number of the posters on this thread who seem to be hoping the A380 will fail are (cough, cough) American and partisan about it, focussing on the potential (or lack thereof) of the A380 on domestic routes. The pattern of air flight within the United States relies increasingly on short (under 3000km) point-to-point routes flown by twin jets with 100-250 passengers. You can turn a 737-400 around in 20 minutes without too much difficulty; a 747-400 takes more like 3 hours, and a 560-seat A380 won't be any less. That, alone, should signal that it's probably not going to eat up any short (under 3000km) routes. But when you look at the ratio of flight time to ground turnaround, the long-haul wide body that takes hours to prep for a flight across the Pacific or the Atlantic is spending about the same proportion of its time being loaded/unloaded/cleaned/fuelled as the short-haul that never stays in the air for more than 2 hours. You shouldn't judge the likely success of a behemoth like the A380 by whether it can be served by the facilities of a local commuter airport, any more than you would judge the success of the Boeing 737 by how well it can handle the LA-Tokyo route: you should judge it against the routes it was designed to handle, not the routes you want it to handle so that you can declare it a failure.

Boeing cancelled their next-gen stretched 747 derivative about six months after the A380 program got under way. And it therefore looks to me like they're ceding the heavy intercontinental airfreight business to Airbus without a fight, regardless of which airliner is the bus of choice for passengers.

Which means the A380 will be a success, in a very large and profitable market segment, regardless of whether any of us ever actually get to fly on one.
posted by cstross at 6:11 AM on December 27, 2004

Hey, it's Charlie. Kewl!

I disagree about the segment being large and profitable. Boeing has offered stretched versions of the 747 for over 20 years, and nobody came close to ordering. The 747-400D, the closest example to the passenger capability of the A380, sold 30 frames. Boeing has been quite clear on this -- if they saw a market for it, they'd build it. Since they've already paid the capital cost, they could afford to build 50 of them and still make money on the frames. Nobody's even touched them. They build the 747-400D as a favor to JAL, offered it formally for sale, and everyone looked and said 'Nope, don't need that many bodies on a plane.'

They're kicking around the idea of the 747 Advanced, one of those configurations is a 10M stretch. But I'm willing to bet that nobody will buy it.

The A380F has a much better chance of success -- but it will really depend on how well and far the plane operates at MTOW. There's precedence -- the McDonnell Douglas-cum-Boeing MD-11 was a failure as a passenger plane, but FedEx is quite thrilled with them as freighters. The reason -- the ungodly high MTOW, compared to a light dry weight. The range is short -- which is why it failed as an airliner, but freight doesn't complain about gas stops.

Range isn't completely unimportant. A number of 747-400F orders have been dropped in favor of the 777-200ERF, which carries 80% of the cargo 30% further for 2/3rds the fuel.

Yes, it's true that you don't just write a check for airliners. But the dollar plummeting, your going to find that any long term deal is going to slaughter you (if you're buying Airbus frames) or is going to be amazingly cheap (if you're buying Boeing frames.)

The other thing -- we won't know until it flies. If the fuel economy is worse than a 747, this plane wil fail badly. That's what killed the MD-11 (and, by extension, McDonnell Douglas.) AA bought them for DFW-NRT, and ended up using them for Hawaii.

If the A380 can offer 747-400 costs and range, while carrying more pax, it might do well. I don't think it will do that, and I don't see a number of airports dealing with it. In particular, EGLL/LHR and KLAX/LAX are going to have some real problems with the frame, and KORD/ORD is going to be impossible for the A380 until/unless the runway rebuild is done. An A380 on Taxiway A/B will close the other one of the pair, and ORD cannot have that. (Two 747s can't pass on that pair -- but other aircraft can keep moving.)

Airbus has built some very good planes -- there no way you can call the A320 anything but a major success. Their shrinks haven't done well (but neither has Boeing's -- see the 747-SP and the 737-600.) The A330 is a solid performer. The A340 had issues, but the A340-500 and -600 have resolved them.

To call your "Americans think Europe Sucks" (and you know I don't think that at all.) I think a fair amount of Airbus buys are because the world thinks America sucks. (And you know I'd agree with that, somewhat.) Politics are very much a part of these sorts of deals -- and you can bet that taking the Queen of the Sky title from the 747 was a factor in the decision to build the A380.

But I think Airbus has made a huge mistake with this frame. If they'd dropped thier money on making a hyperefficent version of the A300 or A330, I think they would have made a killing.

But 120 "firm" (and every launch has seen some of those early orders go away) is just enough frames to utterly destroy Airbus if the economy of the plane doesn't work out -- and I seriously question thier assumptions on range. If the initial mark of the A380 cannot do 7000km at MTOW, those sales will dry up fast. And, if they make 120 frames and that's it, they're dead.

Airbus was doing fine, and if they'd decided to make a better A320 and A330, they'd probably have destroyed Boeing. But, instead, they're going for a trophy plane. I think that's going to cost them, and I really don't want to see Airbus go under -- we can't afford to have either Boeing or Airbus be the sole provider of large aircraft.
posted by eriko at 6:48 AM on December 27, 2004

Those damned French are sure pansies about terrorists
On a darker topic, 10 years ago, French commandos boarded an Airbus and killed Islamic terrorists planning to fly it into the Eiffel Tower.
I find it amusing that our own ParisParimus is such a coward. I'm still trying to parse his comment about something fishy going on at Airbus. Is your bigotry accusing them of purposely designing something a terrorist could use?
posted by substrate at 6:59 AM on December 27, 2004

No, my "bigotry" consists of disbelief that Europeans are so sheepish and stupid as to let, directly and indirectly, their governments take so much in taxes from them in order fund absurd projects such as the Concorde, the Chunnel, and an airplane that sounds no better than the making of a failed, 1970's/80's NBC Fred Silverman tv series. I am saying WAKE THE FUCK UP.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:48 AM on December 27, 2004

PS: Since the French are not a "race," where's the bigotry? Pointing out collective stupidity or submissiveness is not racism.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:52 AM on December 27, 2004

No, the French aren't pansie; more accurately, they're cynical, immoral schemers who see nothing wrong with getting as many contracts as possible from terrorist regimes.

Well, on second thought, maybe they're cowards, too.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:01 AM on December 27, 2004

By the way--at it's absurd that I would have to defend myself on this point--in no way was I suggesting a terrorism alliance involving AirBus. What I am suggesting, however, is a company sufficiently detached from the realities of the market that it's now building a "concept plane" as an actual plane.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:31 AM on December 27, 2004

God, Paris, you are such an idiot.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:45 AM on December 27, 2004

And, you are a smelly fish! There! Ha!
posted by ParisParamus at 8:48 AM on December 27, 2004

back to the plane, i could see a real use for it for NY-Japan/China type of flights, where you're in the air for 20+ hours (and businesses would pay for real sleepers), but wonder about demand. Maybe airlines will codeshare to fill it up?
posted by amberglow at 8:54 AM on December 27, 2004

Does anyone know if the new plane fixes the vibrating that makes riding an Airbus uncomfortable? This isn't a troll, I genuinely do get a backache when I have to ride on an Airbus. My father has an old back injury (slipped disk), and he dreds the Airbus planes like the plague. Usually takes him a good two weeks to recover. I never have been able to figure out why, but they just seem really hard on the back.
posted by unreason at 10:33 AM on December 27, 2004

I'm sorry amberglow, but I really think the Internet ended the need for the numbers of travelers that would be needed to fill up such crafts. IT'S OVER.....
posted by ParisParamus at 10:45 AM on December 27, 2004

I'm sorry amberglow, but I really think the Internet ended the need for the numbers of travelers that would be needed to fill up such crafts. IT'S OVER.....

Yeah, who needs to actually go out and experience things when they can see pictures for free right on their screen? And besides, everything anybody could ever want is right here in America anyway, right, PP?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:11 AM on December 27, 2004

I'm sorry amberglow, but I really think the Internet ended the need for the numbers of travelers that would be needed to fill up such crafts. IT'S OVER.....

I can't tell if that's single sarcasm, double sarcasm, or triple sarcasm...Which means, in the end, I can't tell what you're actually trying to say.
posted by Bugbread at 11:47 AM on December 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

No! I mean that demand for business travel--which is what always kept the big bloated carriers aloft--is down, and is likely to trend downwards further as face-to-face meetings become more rare.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:50 AM on December 27, 2004

Moreover, the Web makes ticket pricing much more transparent, making the ripoff of full-price fares harder to maintain.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:08 PM on December 27, 2004

Fait of Butt: geniuses like yoo should have their own Metafilters.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:09 PM on December 27, 2004

No! I mean that demand for business travel--which is what always kept the big bloated carriers aloft--is down, and is likely to trend downwards further as face-to-face meetings become more rare.

That's actually a fair point, or would be if supported by linked data. Why didn't you say so in the first place? That's what a genius like mee would have done.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:23 PM on December 27, 2004

Thanks for the clarification, ParisParamus.

Woulda been easier if you'd just said it instead of making oblique references, but, hey, you clarified, so it's all good.
posted by Bugbread at 12:53 PM on December 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

no problemo.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:59 PM on December 27, 2004

"Supported by date"? Every contention need not be supported by statistics. Moreover, if you required such, posts here would be few and far between.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:38 PM on December 27, 2004

(and the Metafilter, a much less interesting place)
posted by ParisParamus at 2:39 PM on December 27, 2004

Charlie is indeed cool and knowledgeable about planes. Now I don't know what to think.

But anyway Happy Newtonmass! Since after Gregorian calendar adjustment, his birthday is Jan. 4, we can celebrate his birth for 10 days, right?
posted by Turtle at 2:47 PM on December 27, 2004

Don't lets forget the cost of distillate fuels. A few have mentioned efficiency at some length but not come right out and said that the future of the price of jet fuel is more likely to be the prime dictator of the success of a ship like this one than anything else. Right now, it looks like that price is trending up for the foreseeable future, which is going to put a big dent in all air travel, not just trans-pacific and trans-polar passenger and freight.

I'd tend to agree with eriko simply because of that. Coupled with a weak dollar it makes American airframes, especially highly efficient (if smaller) ones, powered by fuel paid for in USD, quite a bit more attractive financially.

"Range isn't completely unimportant. A number of 747-400F orders have been dropped in favor of the 777-200ERF, which carries 80% of the cargo 30% further for 2/3rds the fuel."

Just looking at that and imagining if I had $1 billion or so to spend over a few years on aircraft and fuel, that makes sense to me.

Of course, I won't be dropping a few hundred million on heavy transport aircraft anytime this decade (or in my life at all, most likely), so YMMV... literally.

Not that I wish Airbus any ill will, I like flying on A320s. Nice plane. But I think maybe this is like a Maybach - a big showy monster that costs a mint just to roll out of your garage. I'm sure the Sultan of Brunei has already ordered one to replace his 747...
posted by zoogleplex at 3:49 PM on December 27, 2004

The future of this plane is in Asia. For airports and airliners over there, it will be more a question of prestige then common sense.
This is probably also where you'll find the luxury version of the A380 that will cater to the Asian nouveau rich. They will be willing to pay a premium for a flight that is filled with leg room and entertainment possibilities. Stuff you can't even enjoy in private jet. For them, it will be a way of distinguishing themselves from the masses.

The biggest market however will be the low-cost airliners that will discover that you can also cut costs on long distant flights and remain profitable. People want to travel as far as possible, so if you can offer it cheaply enough they will. So I wouldn't be surprised if in the future you were able to fly from Europe to Middle-Earth for just 179,- euro. The catch is, if you are hungry, you will have to go to the lower bay and buy your food in one of the shops over there.

What would really be cool is if you could also buy other stuff on board tax free. After paying, your order is beamed back to earth, packed and on arrival, your package is placed together with your luggage on a conveyer belt to be picked up by you. convenient.
posted by Timeless at 4:06 PM on December 27, 2004

Hey, you know what would be great? If they put a rollercoaster on the outside of it, just like in Vegas at the Stratosphere! Talk about X-Treme Thrills! That would sure draw some E-Ticket riders!

posted by zoogleplex at 4:46 PM on December 27, 2004

Funny that airport congestion hasn't been mentioned yet (or did I miss it?). Not being any sort of expert or anything, I was under the impression that many major airports couldn't fit many more take-offs and landings into their already fully packed schedules. A bus that takes more passengers such as the A380 would relieve much of this congestion.
posted by wilful at 6:33 PM on December 28, 2004

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