Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

Scrapped A380 leaves more than contrails in the sky

Its design and innovation will influence aircraft for years to come

An Emirates A380 parked in front of the Airbus plant. Remy Gabalda / AFP
An Emirates A380 parked in front of the Airbus plant. Remy Gabalda / AFP

Over the past decade, airline passengers have fallen in love with the A380, the aircraft from Airbus that has set such high standards of comfort that it is known as the hotel in the sky. The news that Airbus is to halt production of the world’s largest commercial aircraft will therefore, perhaps, come as a surprise to many of the 200 million people who have enjoyed the experience of flying on the double-decker superjumbo jet to date. The reasons for its demise are many and complex. With design and production schedules stretching over years, the airline industry is always vulnerable to faster-paced economical and technological changes. When it entered commercial service in 2007, with a capacity of anything from 450 to 853 passengers, the A380 was the perfect solution for airlines struggling to find landing slots at increasingly overcrowded airports. With Dubai expanding rapidly to become the world’s busiest international air hub, the A380 was a natural fit for Emirates airline, which became Airbus’s biggest customer.

Now, however, like so many technological innovations before it, the A380 has run into the headwinds of change. Many airlines, including Emirates, are increasingly sensitive to environmental issues and are taking advantage of rapid innovations in engine design and construction materials to switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft. Airbus is a beneficiary of this strategic rethink. It has a bulging order book for its smaller aircraft and last year saw revenue climb from Dh244 billion in 2017 to more than Dh263 billion. Emirates’ decision to significantly reduce its original order of A380s might have sealed the aircraft’s fate but in its place it has ordered 70 of Airbus’s lighter, more fuel-efficient models.

The A380 is a revolutionary aircraft that set new standards of comfort and pushed back the frontiers of technology, introducing innovations that continue to influence aircraft design. It will leave its contrails in the sky and its mark on the industry for years to come. Its demise is not a story of failure. Rather, it is one more chapter in the story of human ingenuity, a record of relentless progress that in the field of aircraft design has seen constant innovation since the day the Wright brothers briefly took to the skies 116 years ago.

Updated: February 14, 2019 07:19 PM

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