The Airbus A380 is the first “superjumbo” jet in the world. It has two full decks and carries 555 passengers in its nominal configuration. Other aircraft have had a second deck but no other airplane in the world has two complete decks. The A380’s top deck carries 200 passengers. In an economy-class only seating configuration, the A380 will carry almost 900 passengers. The wingspan of the A380 is almost the length of a football field.
Many airports are not big enough to handle the new airliner. At Los Angeles International Airport, if two A380’s were parked side by side, they would hit each other. Also the incredible weight of the airliner requires the longest runways in the world to take off and land. Each plane sells for $280 million.
The Airbus strategy is to build bigger planes to move more people. They believe the market needs this type of aircraft to shuttle passengers from various locations to centralized hubs. Rather than create another superjumbo-class airliner, Boeing has taken the opposite approach. Boeing’s 7E7 Dreamliner holds approximately 250 people in a three class configuration. However, it is ultra-efficient, using 20% less fuel than comparable planes. It has a higher cabin pressure and more humidity giving passengers a much more comfortable ride. But the real feature in the 7E7 is the range - almost 9,000 nautical miles. This range is essentially long enough to take passengers between any two points on earth without stopping to refuel. Boeing is betting that people want longer, more comfortable flights.
The A380 has had numerous problems in the development efforts prior to its test flights this last month. Only six months out from test flights, the plane was still overweight by 4 metric tons, despite 25% of the airframe being constructed from exotic lightweight composite materials. Air Safety Week reported in June, 2004 that the emergency evacuation plan for the A380 was “unrealistic and unacceptable.”
Personally, I want nothing to do with the Airbus idea. Who wants to fly in a huge aerial cattle car? Nothing more fun, I say, than getting packed into a plane with 900 other people! Whooo hooo!!! And then only to sweat it out on every take-off and landing, wondering how this huge bucket ‘o flesh is going to get off the ground or land safely without running off the end of the runway. Oh, and don’t forget the fun in waiting for 900 people to board the thing. It takes about 30-45 minutes to board 200 people these days. Try boarding 900 people. They better be serving refreshments before take-off. Oh, wait, sorry - there is no possible way to feed 900 people without serious preparations.
I much prefer Boeing’s option. It’s the layovers that people hate. The worst part about flights to, say, Melbourne, Australia from Chicago, United States is the darn layover in California. It takes at least two hours to get on a plane at O’Hare. There’s no fun in going through a landing in LA, getting off the plane, standing around for 2 hours, reboarding, and then another take-off. Whoops, there’s another layover in New Zealand, too. That’s at least 4-5 hours just because the stupid plane needs to refuel. Not so with Boeing’s new Dreamliner. Get on the plane, pop a sleeping pill, and wake up with the Aussies!!!