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Airbus A380 Airbus
Long-Range Jetliner

The Airbus A380 was developed in response to the growing problems of airport congestion and air traffic control systems struggling to cope with the number of aircraft in operation. Originally known as the A3XX, the enormous design was re-christened as the A380 following the official launch of the program in late 2000. Upon entering service, the A380 will become the first full triple-decked super jumbo-jet as well as the first true competitor to the Boeing 747. Though many argue that the aviation industry is not ready for such a giant, Airbus believes that by commiting to the A380 now, the company will be in excellent position to take advantage of such a need by 2020. By then, Airbus estimates a potential need for 1,200 passenger and 300 freighter models.

Despite its large size, the A380 adopts a conventional airliner design with a cylindrical fuselage slightly wider than that of the 747. The A380 also features a standard low-mounted swept-wing configuration with four podded engines along its span. The landing gear include 22 wheels so that the load per wheel is comparable to that of the Boeing 747 and 777. This design makes the A380 compatible with most existing runways at major airports. However, the large wingspan requires most airports to widen taxiways so that two A380 aircraft can pass each other. Many airports must also build additional jetway bridges to accomodate the large number of passengers, and baggage handling systems also need upgrading.

The internal layout of the A380 is of typical configuration with passengers seated on the two upper decks and cargo located on the lower deck. Airbus has also proposed configuring some cargo compartments as shops, lounges, or even casinos, although economy-minded airlines are unlikely to adopt such gimics. The flight deck is very similar to that of the A330/A340 family to ease A380 pilot training and promote commonality across the Airbus production line. Furthermore, the cockpit is located in between the upper and main decks at a height comparable to that of smaller airliners for easier pilot familiarity.

Two basic models are currently being marketed, the A380-800 passenger model seating up to 555 in three classes and the A380-800F freighter version. Additional extended range, passenger/cargo, and stretched models are also under consideration. A total of 16 airlines and leasing companies had placed orders for 234 aircraft by June 2010, and a Saudi prince has also ordered a VIP model.

Unfortunately, difficulties in manufacturing pushed service entry back by two years and continue to plague delivery schedules. The majority of these delays have been blamed on problems installing over 300 miles (500 km) of wiring throughout the aircraft. Initial A380 structural testing also uncovered a rupture in the wing that required minor redesign. Customers like Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Virgin Airways, Emirates, Malaysian Airlines, and Thai Airways expressed frustration over the program's slow pace and rising costs forcing Airbus to pay millions of dollars in compensation to the airlines. Some customers have also threatened to reduce or cancel their A380 orders.

The only cancellations so far were from cargo operators FedEx and UPS when both companies cancelled their orders for up to 20 A380-800F frieghters apiece. The move left no customers for the freighter model and further development of this variant has been postponed indefinitely.

Production delays have created a significant cost overrun of over $3 billion driving up A380 unit cost by at least 25%. These delays and cost increases may deter future orders, and it was estimated in 2008 that Airbus must sell a total of at least 420 aircraft to break even on the program.

Despite these troubles, A380 production continues and 30 had been delivered to airlines by mid-2010. Airbus only delivered 14 A380 airliners in 2009 out of 14 planned is unlikely to meet the original goal of 20 deliveries in 2010. These goals may continue to suffer due to the currently poor economy and reductions in air travel that have caused nine airlines to defer upcoming orders by an average of two to three years. Industry analysts estimate the A380 production rate may have to be cut to 12 planes per year until demand improves.

Data below for A380-800 and A380-800F
Last modified 14 November 2010

First Flight (A380-800) 27 April 2005
Service Entry

(A380-800) 25 October 2007 (with Singapore Airlines)

CREW: two flight crew: pilot, co-pilot

PASSENGERS: (A380-800) 555 in three classes, 840 in one class


$327.4 million [2008$]

Wing Root unknown
Wing Tip


Length (A380-800) 238.67 ft (72.75 m)
Wingspan 261.83 ft (79.80 m)
Height 79.00 ft (24.08 m)
Wing Area 9,095.5 ft (845.0 m)
Canard Area

not applicable

Empty (A380-800) 610,680 lb (277,000 kg)
(A380-800F) 555,565 lb (252,000 kg)
Normal Takeoff unknown
Max Takeoff (A380-800) 1,234,590 lb (560,000 kg)
(A380-800F) 1,300,725 lb (590,000 kg)
Fuel Capacity internal:
(A380-800) 575,185 lb (260,900 kg)
(A380-800F) 575,185 lb (260,900 kg)
external: not applicable
Max Payload

(A380-800) 185,190 lb (84,000 kg)
(A380-800F) 330,695 lb (150,000 kg)

Powerplant (A380-800) four Rolls-Royce Trent RB-967 turbofans
or four Engine Alliance GP-7267 turbofans
(A380-800F) four Rolls-Royce Trent RB-975 turbofans
or four Engine Alliance GP-7275 turbofans
Thrust (A380-800 RB-967) 272,000 lb (1,210 kN)
(A380-800 GP-7267) 326,000 lb (1,450 kN)
(A380-800F RB-975) 299,435 lb (1,332 kN)

Max Level Speed at altitude: 595 mph (955 km/h) at 35,000 ft (10,675 m), Mach 0.89
at sea level: 390 mph (630 km/h)
cruise speed: 560 mph (900 km/h) at 35,000 ft (10,675 m), Mach 0.85
Initial Climb Rate unknown
Service Ceiling 42,980 ft (13,100 m)
Range (A380-800) 8,000 nm (14,815 km)
(A380-800F) 5,600 nm (10,370 km)
g-Limits unknown

A380-700 Originally known as the A3XX-50 or A3XX-50R, proposed extended range model with a shortened fuselage for 481 passengers
A380-800 Originally known as the A3XX-100, first production model seating 555 passengers
A380-800C7 Proposed combination passenger/cargo model based on the A380-800 with space for 7 cargo pallets
A380-800C11 Proposed combination passenger/cargo model with space for 11 cargo pallets
A380-800F Originally known as the A3XX-100F, dedicated freighter based on the A380-800 model with a capacity of 25 pallets on the upper deck, 33 pallets on the main deck, and 13 pallets on the lower deck; development had been underway but was postponed in March 2006 after both launch customers cancelled their orders
A380-800R Proposed extended range model based on the A380-800 for 555 passengers
A380-800S Proposed reduced range version of the A380-800
A380-900 Originally known as the A3XX-200, proposed stretch model with a longer fuselage for 656 passengers
A380-900S Proposed reduced range version of the A380-900

Air France
British Airways
China Southern Airlines
Emirates Airlines
Etihad Airways
International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC)
Kingfisher Airlines
Korean Air Lines
Malaysian Airline System (MAS)
Qatar Airways
Singapore Airlines
Skymark Airlines
Thai Airways
Virgin Atlantic Airways


Airbus A380

  • Airbus A380 site
  • Taylor, Michael. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1996/1997. London: Brassey's, 1996, p. 291, Airbus A3XX.
  • Taylor, Michael J. H. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1999/2000. London: Brassey's, 1999, p. 275-276, Airbus A3XX.

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