Airbus A380 Makes First Flight (2005)

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Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier recently said something very honest about the Airbus A380. In his opinion the aircraft was “almost certainly introduced ten years too early.” If Airbus had progressed with Brégier-defined pace, the aircraft would have flown for the first time this year, but in reality it did ten years ago on April 27.

The story since has been full of ups and downs. Airbus was in deep turmoil when soon after the first flight massive cabin integration issues came up that delayed entry into service by around two years. Airbus launched its Power 8 program (and later Power 8 plus) to restructure and did one thing right: in spite of all the issues it launched the A350. Then, when the A380 did enter service with Singapore Airlines in 2007, passengers could discover the true comfort benefits of the giant aircraft: an enormously quiet cabin and an aircraft that seemingly offers a more comfortable ride during turbulence thanks to the added automation for flight controls.

Those airlines that operate the aircraft are generally happy with its performance and have managed to bring dispatch reliability up to where it was expected from the outset. Most importantly, the huge aircraft has not been involved in an accident, albeit it did come close to one on flight QF32 which suffered an uncontained engine failure on take-off in Singapore in November 2010, leading to a dramatic sequence of events and serious damage to the airframe, which was later repaired.

But the challenge remains the relatively few orders. Since launching in 2000 only 317 A380s have been ordered by airlines and almost half of them by one single airline – Emirates. 156 had been delivered by the end of March. Many carriers, even established large legacy airlines, have only ordered relatively small fleets and many others no A380s at all.

While Brégier last year said that Airbus will launch an A380neo sooner or later as demanded by Emirates, his statements have become more cautious of late. Airbus will not be able to recoup the initial development spending for several decades and needs to figure out whether it wants to spend even more money on what turned out to be a much smaller part of the market than anticipated.

► Read the article from the May 2, 2005 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology:

A Titan Takes Flight

► Aviation Week is approaching its 100th anniversary in 2016. In a series of blogs, our editors highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history, including viewpoints from the industry's most iconic names and stories that have helped change the shape of the industry.

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Aviation Week & Space Technology marked its centennial in 2016. Here, we highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history.

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