The Airbus A380 can be visualized as many things: a flying whale, a portable fortress, but there is nothing like the world’s largest airliner which can carry as much as 800 passengers.
The maiden flight of the European Airbus took place exactly ten years ago today. The grandiose project evolved from the tight competition between the two largest commercial plane manufacturers in the world: The European “Airbus” and the American “Boeing”.
Arie Egozi, civil and military aviation expert: “Boeing had the 747 model which was the ‘king of the sky’ and Airbus, which has great planes, did not have that kind of a plane. So they decided to design a big plane. Really big”.
The scales and capabilities of the double-decker aircraft are amazing: It is 73 meters long and 24 meters high. It has a wingspan of 80 meters and its maximum takeoff weight is over 500 tons.
“Technologically, it is an amazing aircraft – 25% of the plane is made of composite materials, which is a lot. I remember boarding the plane and knocking on the wall – it felt like plastic”, says Egozi. “It is lighter and stronger. The cockpit is a technological wonder – nothing but screens. Airbus has proven their technological supremacy”.
The plane is indeed a herald in terms of technology and using composite materials, but it seems that Egozi have doubts regarding its economic success. “The initial goal was that the plane would only fly between central locations and that the passengers would continue their journey with smaller planes”, he explains. “But passengers today prefer direct flights over stopovers. The perception was wrong and the biggest proof to this day is that it is still not clear when the project would start being profitable”.
The size of the plane is indeed very impressive, but it seems that it also poses a challenge for airports worldwide. “If a plane of that kind lands in Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, it is going to be difficult to handle because the airport does not possess the suitable equipment for it. It can land here one time, but if an airline would want to bring A380s to Israel, the Airport Authority is going to have to invest money”.
Competition between manufacturers is often an unpleasant game, but it can also lead to significant progress in commercial aviation and aircraft technology in the future.
“The whole concept of supersonic airplanes is now being reconsidered”, he says. “The ‘Concord’ was an amazing jet and could hold 100 passengers. It took me three hours and forty minutes to fly from New-York to Paris. You sat in the plane and watched it pass the speed of sound like a fighter jet and then reach twice that speed”.
It sounds amazing, but do not expect to be flying in an aircraft like that in the next years. To design such an airplane, many problems, most of them technological ones, have to be solved.
“There is the sonic boom – the Concord could pass the sonic speed only above the sea and not while flying above cities. The undesired effects of the sonic boom would have to be resolved”, he says. “Investment in the development of such an aircraft would be tremendous, but I believe that this is what companies want to possess 20 years from now. This would be their ‘money maker'”.