Thursday, April 28, 2005


Let Fly

Since 2/3rds of commenters seem to believe their driving cannot be improved, I shall say no more on the subject.

So today let's tip our hats to the snail chewing developers of the Airbus A380 and the European taxpayers who contributed about a third of the $6-$12BN development cost (depending on who you believe and bearing in mind the opaque nature of EU funding)

So 35 years after the Americans came up with the 747, the Europeans now have a jumbo aircraft.

I think Boeing were absolutely right not to try to create their own, even larger, plane, but instead listened to what a lot of the airlines were telling them, which is to improve what they already have in the 777. The world does not need two manufacturers of (potentially) 800 seater planes. You don't win in business by playing 'catch-up'.

It will be very interesting to see if Airbus makes its money back. Apparently they need to sell 250 A380s to break even and have orders for about 150.

We have come a long way since Concorde was developed in the 1960s. Lavishly funded by European taxpayers, the designers created a beautiful, technologically advanced aircraft without even considering the commercial environment in which it would have to play; in the end, only 16 were built and they were virtually given away to the British and French state-owned airlines.

I don't think there is any chance that the A380 will be such a failure. But questions remain, mainly due to the logistics of boarding and deplaning 600-700 passengers efficiently in the world's overcrowded airports, and processing them efficiently through immigration and customs.

That said, most airports seem to be under round the clock construction as it is, so adding extra capacity to departure lounges, together with the extra washroom and dining facilities these huge numbers of passengers will require (particularly in the event of flight disruptions) should not cause any more disruption than there already is.

If the A380 is successful, it might put pressure on older airports which physically cannot be expanded to cope, and give an advantage to newer upstarts.
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