Shifting fortunes at Airbus over the A380


The Airbus A380 will be the largest-capacity commercial passenger plane, once they get around to making them. Now two years behind schedule, the A380 is not making life any easier for their parent company EADS. And in this two-player world, bad news for Airbus means good news for Boeing.

As a Seattleite, I naturally root for Boeing over Airbus. After all, Boeing started here (even if they did move to Chicago a few years ago), and many people forget that they are easily the largest single technology company in the Seattle area, with twice as many local employees as Microsoft.

Comments (20)
  1. davidacoder says:

    What a pitty that there is no equal competitor to Microsoft that would benefit from such a multi year delay with, lets say Windows :)

  2. Matt says:

    Having recently moved to Seattle, it annoys me greatly how the local news is so completely biased toward Boeing, only ever reporting bad things that are happening at Airbus.

    I saw one of the A380s on a test flight in Europe – amazing feat of engineering!

  3. Well, wait until you see the 787, it is also an amazing feat of engineering, and it makes less noise, and uses less fuel!  :)

    <— Biased Boeing intern.

  4. Steve Loughran says:

    the A380 is slick; when they did the UK flyby overhead it looked just like one of those soviet transporters that would deploy and unload the troops needed to help the recipient  country to join the socalist fraternity. Very quiet engines, given its incredible size.

    However, you do have to question whether it is, well, relevant?

    Steve

    (down the road from BAe in filton, where a lot of the work is done)

  5. Ficke says:

    It’s going to be a pretty dark and sad day the first time one of those A380’s goes down and 800 people all die at once.  Nobody is going to want to go near one after that.

  6. James Risto says:

    Must be hard to do such a thing. You have to have sales contracts to build it; but when there are delays, as there are in such major projects as this, then everyone suffers, including the airlines. Maybe they should only order a few to start, with 747’s filling the gap. But would then there be enough justification to build it at all?

  7. Jim Howard says:

    The primary problem for the A-380 is poor software management, especially the software used to design the wiring harness.

    It’s so bad that this week the Airbus CEO quit after only three months on the job!

    Please let me do a shameless plug for my blog article on the A380:

    http://grayraven.com/JimNtexas/?p=287

    I provide links to details on the software problems.

  8. Eli says:

    It doesn’t matter, Airbus is under a government that will just bail them out as usual.

  9. Daniel says:

    Boeing is going to run into a lot of similar problems with the schedule of the 787 …

    BTW: putting over 500 kilometers of wiring (approx 350 Miles) into this plane is clearly a nontrivial thing to plan.

    But regarding the "looks good, flies good" law, there is a clear advantage towards Boeing’s 787, which looks really sexy (whereas the A380 just looks ugly).

  10. Scott says:

    I saw a documentary on the making of the A380 a while back, and it ended after the first test flight where they were only a month or two behind on the interiors.  Going to production seemed like it would be quick.

    Hard to believe how badly it went at that point.  Or maybe it was just good propaganda to sell planes.

  11. a) Boeing *barely* moved to Chicago.  Something like 500 jobs out of 150,000 in Boeing total.

    http://www.boeing.com/employment/employment_table.html

    b) @Matt: what bad news has there been for Boeing lately that the local news should have picked up, but didn’t?  Is Boeing paying fines better or worse news than the world’s largest commercial airliner being delayed for 2 years?

    c) @Eli: Even governments know that at some point, they have to quit funding free enterprise.  And… at this level of money… Airbus could just bankrupt the government.  These problems are costing billions of dollars.

    d) @Finke: Its a dark day when any airplane goes down.  Current A380 configurations seemed to be maxed at about 550 people (the wing is designed for 800 though, from what I recall).

    e) You want to talk about an… um…interesting looking plane?  Check out the 747-400LCF

    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=216970

    Video: http://video.boeing.com:8080/asx_external/events/747LCF_90906_300.asx

    (yes, I work for Boeing)

  12. JenK says:

    Meanwhile the local paper has a columnist asking "how would you fix Airbus?"

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/virgin/288375_virgin12.html

  13. koehli says:

    @Ficke:

    It’s going to be a pretty dark and sad day the first time one of those big skyscrapers goes down and 10000 people all die at once. Nobody is going to want to go near one after that.

    Or a big ocean-cruiser sinks. Or a stadium burns out. Or a city gets devastated in an earthquake.

    I’m killing myself now, life is just too dangerous.

  14. Stephen Jones says:

    —–"Even governments know that at some point, they have to quit funding free enterprise.  And… at this level of money… Airbus could just bankrupt the government.  These problems are costing billions of dollars."—–

    The only competitive industries in the States are agriculture, high-tech including aeronautics, pharmaceuticals and IP. None would be competitive without massive government support: subsidies in the case of agriculture, Pentagon contracts and the fruits of military research in the case of hi-tech, public funded university research in the case of big pharma, and coercive international treaties on IP.

  15. kip says:

    Here is another article on this, that goes into the reasons for Airbus being delayed, pointing a large finger at their use of widely different versions of CAD software at different business locations (like, versions over a decade apart).

    http://yahoo.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/oct2006/gb20061005_846432.htm

    Disclaimer: I work for Dassault Systèmes, we make the CAD software both Boeing and Airbus use (but Boeing also buys our Enovia software, that helps them keep up with all their CAD files, and helps them create digital mock-ups).

  16. contest says:

    Mine A380 is bigger than yours 747.

  17. Airbus decided to build the A380 more out of a spirit of corporate (and perhaps national) pride and one-upsmanship than as a good business decision. Even on their original schedule, there was a big question whether they could ever sell enough to make back the money that they spent on R&D, given the airport modifications required to use them. It may be that Boeing astutely talked about their own big plane to try to get Airbus to focus on it rather than a competitor with the upcoming 787.

    Both a friend and I used to work at the Lazy B. We’re not sure if we buy the "wiring problems" story – for it to be true it would be a sign of true incomptence on Airbus’ part, as getting the wiring right is largely a solved problem.

    Our theory is that the A380 is drastically overweight (not an uncommon state for new jets), and that they’re using the wiring problem as cover. If you had specific wiring problems, it would be straightforward to figure out how long it would take to address them, while fixing weight problems is hard to do and really hard to schedule.

    Emirates has made a fair amount of noise about being "concerned" about the delays, which is code for them wanting additional concessions. Airbus only has 168 orders (143 passenger and 25 freight), and they’re unlikely to get any more in the current climate. If Emirates jumps ship, that takes away over 25% of their orders, and Airbus would rather take a big loss on those planes than lose that chunk of their oders.

  18. kiwiblue says:

    "Our theory is that the A380 is drastically overweight (not an uncommon state for new jets), and that they’re using the wiring problem as cover."

    Ha! If only we could make A380 land on an aircraft carrier, it would be trivial to determine the weight! :D

  19. Michiel says:

    "The government will bail out Airbus".

    This is not the USA – there is no single national government. Airbus is a European company, but Europe is not a country with a government. Sure the French aren’t happy with the mess, but is the French gov’t going to pay to save German jobs?

    The EU may not be in a position to bail out Airbus, but it can prohibit national states from subsidizing companies. All Boeing would have to do is have one European subcontractor challenge subsidies to Airbus. Another reason why you’d have problems.

  20. B787 says:

    It’s funny how biased the Seattle Gang is. Yes the A380 is overweight (usually all aircraft are about 10%) and no that’s not the problem. The problem is the hugh amount of cable needed to statisfy the PAX entertainment  needs. Imagine 550 PAX all with internet, … , that’s why the cables have become so critical. The bull about different CATIA versions is just French coverup politics because the screwed up with the cable specs before they handed them over to the people in Hamburg. Internally the problem has been known for quite some time even at other parts of EADS. Cheers,

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