Eleven years ago, the Airbus A380 entered commercial service at Singapore Airlines. Since then, he has become the queen of heaven. It is a double-deck airliner capable of carrying 550 passengers over a distance of 8,000 nautical miles. Some configurations of the A380 include private suites. Some took a shower. It is the epitome of luxury, a dream to fly with long-stemmed glasses, a movie and a pleasant dream in mid-flight.
At present, after the cancellation of A380 orders by Emirates, Airbus has announced that it would terminate the production of this massive aircraft. No, this is not the last flight of the Concorde, but it's the beginning of the end of an era. The biggest and most impressive planes are simply not economical; It is possible to fly three 787s worldwide for a single flight of an A380. The heavens will not be silent, but soon the A380 will not be anymore.
The first double-decker bus (Air)?
While the A380 has the merit of being a huge piece of bright aluminum, the public clearly recognizes it as the largest two-story jet plane. If you travel with the right airline and pay a fortune, you can get a private cabin and take a shower. You may have already seen TV commercials touting this level of well-being, but the planes were historically even more luxurious.
Although the McDonnell Douglas MD-12 never left the picture, it looked like the A380 and would have beaten the A380 in the air from one decade to the next. The MD-12 would be longer, but would have a shorter span. The range of the MD-12 would be about 800 nautical miles lower than that of the A380, but the MD-12 had an advantage over the A380: it could fit into any airport serving a Boeing 747. This was not the case for the A380: because of the large size of the A380, it could only fly to destinations where the doors had been modernized. This is one of the smallest but most important reasons why the A380 has not been adopted by more operators.
Other jet planes have used two decks. We immediately think of the 747 and its graceful hump, but there is more: the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar had the option of installing a lounge in the luggage compartment, accessible from the main deck by a lift. It's a pity that a panoramic window in an airliner is a very, very difficult technical problem. Other jet planes also have a living area nestled in spaces away from the masses. The 777 may have crew rest stations in a small "upper deck". Most wide-body airliners have a crew rest area in the lower deck or above the cabin.
Before the age of airliners, a double-deck aircraft was almost the norm. The Boeing 314 Clipper, the aircraft that accidentally circled the globe had two decks. The Dornier Do X was not really a plane, but a flying ship with two decks. The Breguet Deux-Ponts had two bridges, but it was designed by the French (and it looks like it). The Boeing 377 Stratocruiser included a lounge on the lower deck, but it rivaled the very popular Lockheed Super Constellation and Boeing only sold 56 Stratocruisers. The Stratocruiser is still alive: the Super Guppy, the strange and gigantic ancestor of Airbus Beluga, still carries goods around the United States.
The two-story airliners are not new, but the A380 has been a drastic change. It was the first jet airliner with two complete decks. And now, production will end in 2020 with just over 200 aircraft delivered. In comparison, since 1970, Boeing has shipped more than 1,500,747.
A future for the A380?
When the orders of a jet plane go down, there is usually a market to take over: the freight. Indeed, a cargo version of the A380 had been designed, but it was never built. The approximately eight cargo ship orders have been converted to passenger versions and, to date, no freight company uses the A380.
But this is not the case for all planes. The MD-11 was a somewhat inefficient commercial airliner, but there are no passengers carrying it today. They all carry cartons now, mainly with FedEx. Even the venerable Boeing 747 found an exceptional cargo. Once the planes are grazed near Pima, the transport companies capture them, convert them into cargo specifications and continue to fly them. The economic aspects of this situation are mainly due to the less stringent requirements for inspection between cargo aircraft and passenger aircraft.
However, it is unlikely that the A380 will be used for freight. Last year, Singapore Airlines withdrew the first A380s received. This is not uncommon, and with the costs of additional inspections and the profitability of the aircraft themselves, airliners are regularly retired. It was possible, and even expected by the enthusiasts, that these retired planes of Singapore Airlines be bought and converted into cargo version. It did not happen. The first two retired A380s were divided into several parts. Discarded, roughly, although 270 tons.
Over the years, we will see more and more of these planes heading for the ossuary. The A380 could have been popular with passengers and the public, but it was simply not profitable. Newer aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 and the new Airbus A350, still carry a lot of passengers and are much more efficient. It's a failure, it's a pity: the A380 is a triumph in engineering and it will be sad to see them break down in the desert.