Saturday, July 16, 2005


Is the Airbus 380 being haunted by weight problems?

When an aircraft manufacturer struggles to develop a new aircraft and is constantly dogged by weight problems, what would you conclude when they end up pushing back delivery of their huge new aircraft to their first set of customers?

What’s more the aircraft manufacturer says that the delays are due to required modifications on the plane.

We are of course referring to the Airbus and their new 555-seat behemoth, the A380.

In the announcement in June it is instructive that the aircraft manufacturer firmly refused to specify what particular modifications had delayed delivery.

Maybe the most telling comment came from Richard Aboulafia, vice president of the Teal group, an aerospace consulting firm.

“The A380 delay is serious. It might suggest a problem with the weight of the plane, and therefore with the economics.”

What this aerospace consultant was saying is that Airbus have already priced their new super jet and modifications as a result of weight problems will cause havoc to costing.

Airbus executives announcing the delay were at pains to play it down and emphasized on the fact that no new plane had ever been delivered on schedule after its’ launch.

Probably no other airline in history is being watched with so much interest as the A380. As has been indicated in the earlier blogs, this writer believes that Airbus is correct in its’ projections of future air travel.

There is plenty of evidence that the internet is doing to air travel what the radio did to pop music and rather than reduce travel is triggering a huge growth in worldwide travel which has been somewhat masked by the terrorist threat in recent years.

The amazing growth of air travel in India is one example. The other example that seems to fuel the thinking at Airbus emerged from a recent low-key function presided by an Airbus executive in Africa - of all places.

Airbus vice-president for Africa, Mr Hadi Akoum was in Nairobi, headquarters of one of the very few profitable African airlines, Kenya Airways. Mr Akoum released Airbus’ 20-year global market forecast which had some fascinating revelations and forecasts.

Airbus expect an unprecedented growth in the air transport sector in Africa over the next 20 years. Kenya, in East Africa has already experienced traffic growth in excess of 70 per cent in the last six years. This is absolutely awesome when you consider all the havoc caused by terrorism and even more important the fact that Kenya has been the target of two devastating terrorist attacks over the last 8 years or so.

Airbus expects traffic growth to remain robust in Africa over the next 20 years.

If the previously lowest-traffic continent is experiencing such explosive traffic growth, then my bet firmly remains on the A380 being the most commercially successful airline in history. Even despite the current delays and weight problems.

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The A380 will have to go down in history as the most contoversial new aircraft launch ever. If it were one of those technical online college courses then 50 % of the lessons would be about weight problems.

Fly-by wire technology also developed by Airbus) ended up having an impact on auto insurance so will the extensive use of lighweight material to cut down on the weight of the A380 end up being of some use to the auto industry this time? Probably unlikely.

So where will the huge team of extra A380 development engineers go after it's all over, the nearest employment agency?

So many questions associated with the A380 and no answers forthcoming kind of reminds youi of that Viagra lawyer you met who talked so much without answering any question and started his answers each time with the words, "Well, it depends..."

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