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Airbus A380: the future gets a little darker

Plunging the A380’s future into further doubt, Rolls Royce (RR) has said that it sees no business case for technological investment in the Trent 900. 

Jacqueline Sutton, Senior vice-president Civil Aerospace of RR, has said that RR is “working with Airbus to try to understand what the future is for the A380”. Given the current landscape for the A380, these seem to be damning words indeed. Airbus faced a major setback at the Dubai Airshow when the expected order from Emirates fell through and now, with RR seemingly reluctant to invest further in the Trent 900, one wonders if its a matter of time before the closure of the A380 programme is formally announced. According to a news article from flightglobal.com, Sutton said: “If we are going to invest in future technology on an existing engine then we will need to see a bit more of a sales opportunity… Given the uncertainty around the A380 I don’t think the platform is there right now. But we are working closely with Airbus and if that changes we will consider the opportunity.”

The same article mentions that although Airbus has declined to comment on reports of further cuts to A380 production, it still has high hopes for the aircraft’s future. Airbus is also still waiting to see if the Emirates order for 36 A380s can be revived, a possibility mentioned by an Airbus official after the Dubai Airshow.

Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders, says he remains confident in the programme. “We are absolutely sure that this aircraft will continue to be an outstanding success,” he says.

The market for smaller aircraft is growing rapidly, as aircraft become more fuel efficient and smaller routes become more viable for airlines. The three-digit orders for A320s and 737s at the Dubai Airshow are a testament to this. It appears, then, that there are only so many A380s that the aviation industry could absorb (and even fewer 747-8s) – so has Airbus produced (or sold) as many A380s as were required by the world? Or did the dynamics of the market change from the time the A380 programme was conceived to when it became a reality?

I had the opportunity to fly the A380 both in Economy and Business Class and I found the aircraft to be surprisingly quiet and very… gentle, for lack of a better word. Somehow, its size seems to be at odds with the gentle manner in which it takes off and lands.Dubbed the ‘whale jet’ by those who are fans of the comparatively sleeker lines of the Boeing 747, the A380 is an aircraft that commands a lot of respect in terms of its technology, its ease of flying and operations, etc. However, if Airbus was hoping that a larger jet would be able to capture the hearts of the aviation industry the way the 747 had, it must have been disappointed.

One thing is clear: whether you love it, respect it or hate it, you certainly can’t ignore an A380 – just like I can’t help but feel sad at the prospect of the death of the gentle giant.

By: Hassan Ansari, Chief Editor

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