Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, April 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
O N T O U R: Airbus Toulouse
If you have not been to Toulouse in the last six months you will hardly recognise the place. Where once there were farmers fields sitting back away from the airfield there are now huge structures under construction, some of the largest single span buildings in the world, the test shed and production facilities for the Airbus A380. Roads that you may have used as a shortcut along the edge of the airport perimeter fence from Blagnac to Cornebarrieu no longer exist. The French do things differently to the British. If the site of the new hangars were not actually on the airport that just was just a minor inconvenience. They are now!
And you may ask why build the A380 in Toulouse in any event?. With many of the critical components designed and built elsewhere, why the complex transport operation involving ships, barges and road haulage to get the parts to the factory. And all the work and cost involved with new roads, bridges and transfer facilities. Surely the Hamburg Airbus plant actually sitting by a major river, would make for a more likely site? But then Airbus is a manifestation of European industry and politics. Typically the A320 itself is assembled in Toulouse whilst the rest of the A320 family come together in Hamburg. If you decide to upgrade your A319 order to an A320 you change the place where it is built.
The current order commitment for the A380 stands at 103 (Air France 10, Emirates 22, Federal Express 10, ILFC 10, Lufthansa 15, Qantas 12, Singapore 10, Virgin Atlantic 6) with Malaysia Airlines the latest customer, an order for six signed in January of this year and first deliveries in 2007. Qatar says to wants two. Singapore Airlines is the lead customer and its initial aircraft, Rolls-Royce powered, should see service in 2006. Final assembly of the first A380 is due to begin in Toulouse in early October of this year with the maiden flight scheduled for early 2005. If all goes well the first public appearance of the Airbus A380 will be at the Paris Air Show of June 2005. It is a very tight schedule for the most complex commercial aircraft project undertaken in terms of sheer size.
The A380 Family starts from a baseline passenger aircraft, the A380-800 with a capacity of 555 passengers in three classes, and a range of up to 14,800km/8,000nm. The freighter version, the A380-800F will carry a payload of 150 tonnes (330,000lbs) over 10,400km/5,600nm. Stretch, shrink and extended range variants of the baseline version will become available as and when the market requires them. The A380 can be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines or GP7200 engines from The Engine Alliance (a General Electric and Pratt & Whitney joint venture).
The design and build operation is simply staggering. Currently Airbus alone employs 5,000 engineers on the project and this figure does not include vendors and suppliers. In the UK the Broughton (Chester) wing plant is almost complete and final assembly is due to begin in October. The first wing/stringer attachment was completed earlier this month. Filton also contributes. At the Hamburg plant work is in preparation for the forward and aft subassemblies construction, due to start in August. In fact the first work in Germany on the A380 took place in March 2002 at the Bremen plant, the second largest Airbus site in Germany after Hamburg, As well as housing one of Airbus” five main design offices, it focuses on wing equipping and the manufacture of high lift components and sheet metal parts. The honour of starting the first metal cutting for the A380 fell to the Nantes factory in January 2002, where the initial centre wing boxes have now been completed. Saab is another supplier first contributing the mid and outer fixed leading edge. In Japan Yokogawa Electric Corporation, Casio Computers Co Ltd, and Makino Milling Machines Co Ltd have agreed to supply equipment for the aircraft, which brings up to 12 the number of Japanese companies in the programme.
Airbus stress the commonality of the Airbus family and quote a 9-11 day conversion from A320 to A340, and from the twin-engined A330 to its four-engined A340 sister of just three days. A340 to A380 is yet to be confirmed but should prove quick. They make a claim that the A380 will be 15% cheaper per seat on direct operating costs, 12% on fuel, 27% on maintenance and 8% on capital outlay, with perhaps 20% saving overall. Whilst the A380 is shorter than the A340-600, 72.7m as against 75.3m the wingspan has been kept to 79.6m, making sure that it fits into the standard 80m box. However it will tower over the Boeing Jumbo, 24m high against 19.41. Those privileged to view the current full size A380 mock-up at Toulouse do get an idea of the size of aircraft. It makes the A320 look tiny! The big question is whether the airports will be able to handle up to 555 passengers at one go (and more if the airline specs the A380 differently. On the high capacity Narita”Osaka operation ANA currently fit 528 passengers into a specially kitted out one class 747. They can load the aircraft in just 20 minutes. Heathrow T5 has planned for the A380 from day one whilst T3 was recently partly reconfigured for the arrival of the first Singapore Airlines A380 in three years” time.
In its first long term market forecast for two years Airbus predicts a requirement for 320 very large aircraft by 2010 and 1,150 by 2020. top