AVIATION: Airbus Versus Boeing: A World Heavyweight Title Fight

Clyde McMorrow writes: It is unfortunate that Randy Black never got to ride on a 747 with a piano bar, because I did.  However, I don't think it was a 747.  In the early days of wide-body aircraft, some - I think they were the L1011 and something else - did install lounges with electric pianos.  This lasted until the airlines found out that these were non-revenue producing.  I recall the piano bars only lasted a couple of years around the early to mid 1970s.

Clyde McMorrow discusses the problems of  Airbus 380: It is probably true that gates will have to be modified to accommodate the Airbus 380 and that it will be most useful in the U.S. to Asia flights.  I can remember when the same concerns were raised about the 747 (and those were the 100 series) and estimates that the world could use 10 or so of the aircraft.  Today we see 747s used as tramp air freighters throughout Asia and 747-400s flying nose to tail from San Francisco to Tokyo.  It is possible that some of the newer airports in Asia were built to accommodate this plane, since they were completed in the last 2 or 3 years.  Even the San Francisco international terminal expansion occurred after the announcement of this type of aircraft.  Does anyone know if appropriate gates were included in the new design?
If one looks at the Pacific flight patterns, there is huge traffic between the U.S. West Coast and Tokyo. At Tokyo, most people reboard aircraft to other Asian destinations.  I think Boeing's reasoning is that there is a bigger market for an aircraft that can fly between Los Angeles and Singapore, Los Angeles and Beijing, Los Angeles and Manila (that's 3 planes) than there is for a huge aircraft that can fly between Los Angeles and Tokyo where most people will board smaller aircraft (747s?) to fly on to their Asian destinations.  When we talk of fuel economy, it is not just gallons/seat-mile that is important to an airline, it is the cost of fuel relative to the cost of the ticket.  Since the major portion of the fuel is used to take-off and climb to flight level, a solution that involved fewer take-off's would be less expensive, given that the overall fuel efficiency was about the same.   I, for one, would pay extra not to have to stop in Tokyo on my way to Beijing.
The Brazil runs used to be 747s (actually, I can remember when they were 707 routes).  There were flights from Miami-Rio with a continuation to Sao Paulo, Los Angeles to Rio via Guatemala, and New York to Rio.  The 747s are gone.  Today airlines use 777s with flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Newark, Dallas, Miami, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Houston to Rio, Sao Paulo, Manaus, Fortaleza, Recife, and Belo Horizonte.  As passenger traffic picked-up, airlines expanded their networks to include more origins and destinations.  This would be the Boeing model.  Now, if we could just get a flight from San Jose to Porto Velho!
But these are all big boys.  I am sure there is room for the A-380 and the 7E7.  If airport modifications are required, airport commissions will fall all over themselves to sell bonds to make the necessary changes.

RH: The younger generation flies to distant places on the slightest pretext such as a friend's wedding. I don't know where they get the money.

From Moscow, Cameron Sawyer writes: I seriously doubt that Airbus developed the A380 without planning and agreeing in advance which airports would be able to accept it.  The airlines which will actually use a new aircraft are closely involved in the development of new planes.
I would also like to say that fuel consumption of aircraft is not calculated on a per engine basis.  The A380, therefore, does NOT consume twice the fuel of the new Boeing 7E7 Dreamliner (largely designed and made in Russia, by the way).   Its fuel consumption per seat/mile (the way it's done with airliners) is projected to be lower.
As a frequent transatlantic air passenger, I welcome the appearance of this aircraft.  Twelve (Moscow-New York), thirteen, and fourteen (Moscow- Los Angeles) hour flights are grueling.  The same period of time on a train or on a ship is not.  Why?  Because the current generation of aircraft are extremely cramped compared to trains and ships.  There is no place to walk besides up and down the aisle.  An airliner big enough to walk around in, and to have some place to go to, would be a godsend -- would change my life and that of other frequent long-haul travellers.   Airbus airliners may or may not be technically better than Boeings, but they are definitely more comfortable.  Therefore I think it is reasonable to hope that the A380 will represent a great leap forward in long distance comfort.
Boeing is the U.S. biggest exporter, and is a pillar of the U.S. economy.  I am glad, therefore, that Boeing has real competition to keep it on its toes.  History proves that any company with a monopoly will inevitably decline.

Randy Black answers Cameron Sawyer about the Airbus 380: This week, the airport administration of one major airport stated that they would need $20 million per gate in alterations in order to accommodate the A-380, and they are moving ahead with those modifications immediately. That’s roughly the cost of the double decked, front and rear jet ways to the doors of the double decked plane in order to expedite the loading and unloading of the aircraft. That will be necessary at each airport where the plane lands. Presumably, there won’t be the need to rebuild more than one or two gates at each airport since it will be a rare occasion to have more than one or two of them at the gates at the same time.  Then there’s the matter of the plane’s width which will, in many airports, mean that the adjoining gates will not be used due to space constrictions while the A-380 is at the gate.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for the plane. Anytime there’s a new product in aviation, we all eventually benefit. I simply followed the trail to the facts of the matter. There is no question as to the usefulness of the plane in major markets. But to say that hundreds of millions, if not billions will not have to be spent to accommodate it is simply not accurate. RH: Cameron and I are sure that such problems were considered in making plans for the A-380.

From France, David Pike sent an account of the unveiling of  the Airbus 380. Randy Black counters with what appears to be based on a  rebuttal by Boeing: The so-called fuel efficient engines that will power the Airbus 380 include Rolls-Royce and U.S. made General Electric-Pratt & Whitney power plants.  The statement, “The A380 passenger aircraft has a range of up to 15,000 kilometers (8,000 nautical miles). That is 10 per cent more than any aircraft flying today…” is factually correct, if not a bit deceptive. The Boeing 7E7 will outdistance the Airbus 380 when it goes into service and will feature more powerful engines by about 20 percent. Additionally, with four engines, the so-called rate of consumption for the A-380 will DOUBLE the Boeing 7E7, which has two engines, albeit more powerful, while flying further. Of course, the A-380 will indeed carry more passengers than anything in the air today or far into the future. But to what benefit?
Is the distance claim such a big deal in the long run. Perhaps yes, perhaps not so fast. I recall flying American Airlines nonstop DFW to Japan in the late 80s. Something like 16 plus hours in the air, five full meals plus snacks, four full length movies, plenty of time to sleep on top of that, and then the fact that once on Japanese soil, we were still something like 100 miles from the city, via bus. That was a long, long trip.
The statement: "What about emergency landings? Where would a giant like this find an airstrip long enough?" = "The A380's new Rolls-Royce engines and its large wings (its wing span of 79.8 metres is the largest in the world) allows it to take off and land in less distance than all other large aircraft flying today. The A380 does not require new runways."… is factually deceptive and overall, simply not truthful.

The A380's 261-foot wingspan is 50 feet wider than the 747, broader than many runways and taxiways were built to accommodate. The airplane also weighs in at a maximum of 1.2 million pounds, 30 percent more than the biggest 747.  Thus, the A-380 simply is currently incapable of emergency landings, immediately after takeoff, at many of the world’s airports. For instance, of the six runways at Denver’s International Airport, the world’s largest, only one runway is capable of handling the A-380, period, in either direction. Source: http://www.flydenver.com/guide/facility/airfield.asp
JFK Airport will need $120-million worth of renovations -- including widening the runways, moving a taxiway away from the terminal and strengthening bridges -- in order to safely accommodate the Airbus 380. Source: http://www.papba.org/media/nd/nd-050118-airbus.html
Melborne, Atlanta, London all face similar problems with the A-380. In short, billions will be needed to upgrade the major airports, some only three or four years old, such as Denver.
While the A-380 will use a shorter runway roll upon takeoff because of its huge engines, due to its huge fuel capacity, it will also require a huge amount of time to dump fuel if it’s necessary to come back to the airport for an emergency landing. It is to be so heavy as to be unsafe for a landing immediately after takeoff, due to weight constraints. Let’s look beyond the PR nonsense and wait and see how it turns out. I figure the A-380 to be a great benefit for limited markets. It will be a huge success in the Asia markets, and perhaps in a few of the major world markets perhaps between NY and Japan, London and India, the long hauls. But don’t look for it to be running around the US, from Dallas to Atlanta, on short hops, or up and down Europe from London to Rome.

RH:  I am incompetent to comment on these technical matters, but it would seem unlikely that Airbus would have gone ahead with its plans before getting the airports involved to agree to make the changes listed, which I doubt they would. Rangy's piece should be submitted to Airbus for its response. but I don't want WAIS to get caught in a pùblic relations battle between the two aviation companies.

Randy Black says: Cameron Sawyer’s comments about the promised amenities of the A-380 (souvenir shops and airborne bars) notwithstanding ring strangely familiar. When the B-747 was originally proposed decades ago, the same claims were made for that jumbo jet. I recall the artist renderings of a piano bar, souvenir shops and more. I have flown dozens of transatlantic and transpacific flights and have yet to witness an airborne piano bar.

NOT from the Boeing PR office but from the Vice President of Airbus: Mr. (Adam) Brown told the (Sidney) Herald there were 12 airports globally that could already accommodate the A380 and another 60 were taking steps to prepare for its arrival. Sydney Airport's assets planning and services general manager, Julieanne Alroe, told the paper about $100 million would be spent in the next four years to upgrade the airport in readiness for the new jet. Qantas has ordered 12 A380s that will fly into Sydney.
Source: http://www.tourism.australia.com/wnews.asp?al=706&lang=EN
An interesting Business Week article on the weight problems (and solutions) of the A380 can be found at: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_26/b3889155_mz054.htm
From the Airbus PR department: The A380's modern technology and economies of scale provide 15-20 per cent lower seat-mile costs and 10 per cent more range than today's largest aircraft. The A380 Family starts from a baseline passenger aircraft with a capacity of 555 passengers in three classes, and a range of up to 15,000 km./8,000 nm. The freighter version, the A380F, will carry a payload of 150 tonnes (330,000 lbs) over 10,400 km./5,600 nm.
Source: http://www.airbus.com/media/a380_family.asp
From the Boeing PR department: Walt Gillette, Vice President and Airplane Manager of the 7E7 programme, took the occasion of a visit by FLUG REVUE to his office to announce spectacular fuel consumption records for Boeing's latest twin-jet: “The 7E7 will use less fuel per passenger than an A380.” Boeing has set itself a target of reducing the 7E7's fuel consumption by 20 percent compared with comparable types around today, such as the 767. “
Source: http://www.flug-revue.rotor.com/FRheft/FRHeft04/FRH0408/FR0408c.htm
I suppose time with tell whether or not Cameron will be able to enjoy his gin and tonic while wandering through duty free shops enroute to NY or LA from Moscow on the A-380.

Harry Papasotiriou wrote:: I am not sure I understand the last sentence in Randy Black's posting: "Great Britain has promised to NOT buy the A380".  There are a host of private airlines operating from Britain.  Does this refer to British Airways?  In my opinion, let the world market decide.  Most likely, both Airbus and Boeing will win some and lose some, to the benefit overall of the consumers. From the UK, Richard Gutsell explains: British Airways has not signed a contract to purchase the A380. Some time ago, a previous Chairman of British Airways took the decision to purchase Boeing planes rather than British built planes due to the cost savings. I believe this was shortly after privatisation and was controversial at the time. Virgin Atlantic has signed a contract for a number of A380s.

Avionics is defined as : The application of electronics in aeronautics and astronautics; electronics as developed for these areas.    b. Const. as pl. Electrical and electronic equipment in an aircraft or spacecraft, or used in connection with their flight. Tim Brown says: The most expensive part is not the airplane but its avionics, especially over its useful lifetime.  To date, even when others have built the airframes, the US has made more selling avionics than the manufacturers have building the plane itself.  Does anyone know what the calculations are in the case of the A380 and who will do the avionics?
Tim Brown said: The most expensive part is not the airplane but its avionics, especially over its useful lifetime.  To date, even when others have built the airframes, the US has made more selling avionics than the manufacturers have building the plane itself.  Does anyone know what the calculations are in the case of the A380 and who will do the avionics? Randy Black replies: Paris-based Thales Avionique and its German subsidiary Diehl Avionik Systeme have won the contract for the avionics systems. They will supply the integrated modular avionics (IMA) and the new cockpit display system (CDS), the sole interface between pilots and aircraft, handling all display and dialogue functions.

The CDS comprises eight liquid-crystal displays (versus six for the previous generation), each with a large 6x8in screen that can display all required information. It also has two ‘mouse’ control devices, giving each pilot fast, user-friendly and reliable access to flight data.

As these spherical control devices make the screens effectively interactive for the first time on an Airbus jetliner, the pilot can reconfigure the flight path in seconds, Thales says.
Source: http://www.flightdailynews.com/farnborough2002/07_22/airtransport/built.shtm
Of course, the A380 engines, about 50 percent of them are US made. Other elements of the A380? It’s a global plethora of firms: Rockwell Collins was chosen to supply the A380’s ethernet avionics bus, which will manage data traffic on board the aircraft. The full-digital data bus will have a capacity of 100 Mbps – 10 times faster than that of the 767-400ER and 1,000 times more than the throughput of the ARINC 429 standard data bus on other Airbus aircraft. It was the first standard equipment award for Collins on an Airbus aircraft.

Thales is in charge of IMA advanced Integrated Modular Avionics, common modules, cockpit displays and controls. The French avionics manufacturer decided to tighten its relationship with Airbus by launching development of a Flight Management System (FMS) with Smiths Aerospace and acquiring US supplies of GPS receivers, inflight equipment and TCAS systems.

Thales also kicked off a European research effort aimed at studying advanced Integrated modular avionics (IMA) architecture, with a focus on the A380. Hamilton Sundstrand will supply the air-conditioning systems while Pratt & Whitney Canada will provide the auxiliary power unit (APU) and Aerolec Thales/TRW the electrical power generation.

Other European and American equipment makers include France’s Latecoere and Germany’s Dielh Avionik Systeme and Lirbherr/Parker.

Australia’s Hawker de Havilland is building the wing tips and South Korean Aerospace Industries the wing panels. Japan’s Sumitomo supplies metal titanium sheets and Malaysia’s CTR the leading edge access panels, while Toray and Toho Tenax provide composite (carbon fibre) parts, and JAMCO supplies the UD floor carbon cross beams, stuffeners and stringers for VTP.

Great Britain has promised to NOT buy the A380.

RH: Is this a concession to the US? It is very odd, since the UK is a member of the consortium which is building it.

Harry Papasotiriou says: I am not sure I understand the last sentence in Randy Black's posting on avionics: "Great Britain has promised to NOT buy the A380".  There are a host of private airlines operating from Britain.  Does this refer to British Airways?  In my opinion, let the world market decide.  Most likely, both Airbus and Boeing will win some and lose some, to the benefit overall of the consumers. 



Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 16, 2005