An Airbus A380 hits 2 Light Poles at LAX while carrying Fewer Passengers than a Smaller Boeing 777 can Carry

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 17th, 2014

Week in Review

The Boeing 747 ruled the long-haul routes for decades.  Because of its range.  And its size.  With it being able to carry so many passengers the cost per passenger fell.  Allowing it to offer ticket prices at prices people could afford while still making airlines a decent profit.  Airbus took on the Boeing 747.  And produced the mammoth A380.  A double-decker aircraft that can carry around 555 in three classes.  But this plane is big.  With a wingspan greater than the 747.  Not to mention special boarding requirements to load and unload its two decks.  But this extra large size couldn’t board at any run-of-the-mill 747 gate.  It needed a wider parking place.  Double-decker boarding gates.  As well as wider taxiways (see Korean Air A380 Hits 2 Light Poles At LA Airport by Tami Abdollah, AP, posted 4/17/2014 on Time).

A Korean Air A380 superjumbo jet hit two light poles while taxiing to its gate at a remote end of Los Angeles International Airport with hundreds of passengers aboard.

Airline spokeswoman Penny Pfaelzer says the flight arrived from Seoul Wednesday afternoon with 384 people aboard. She says an airport operations vehicle guided the jet onto a taxiway that wasn’t wide enough…

The A380 is the world’s largest commercial airliner, carrying passengers in a double-deck configuration. It has a wingspan of nearly 262 feet.

The search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is important.  Because Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was a Boeing 777.  One of the most popular long-range, wide-body aircraft flying today.  So if there is a mechanical defect every airline flying that plane would want to know.

Because of the cost of fuel airlines prefer 2-engine jets over 4-engine jets.  Which is why they like the 777 so much.  The 777-300ER can take 386 passengers in three classes 9,128 miles.  On only 2 engines.  Whereas the Airbus A380 can take 555 passengers in three classes 9,755 miles.  But on 4 engines.  Burning close to twice the fuel a 777 burns.  So the A380 can out fly the 777.  But at much higher fuel costs.  And with greater restrictions.  As the 777 can fit most any gate and taxiway at any airport.  Unlike the A380.  So is that extra passenger capacity worth it?  It is.  As long as you can fill the seats.  In this case, though, the A380 flew the approximately 6,000 miles from South Korea to Los Angeles with only 384 people aboard.  Something the Boeing 777-300ER could have done on half the engines.  And about half the fuel cost.

This is why the Boeing 777 is one of the most popular long-range, wide-body aircraft flying today.  Because it allows airlines to offer tickets at prices the people can afford while allowing the airlines a handsome profit.  And it has an incredible safety record.  Unless Malaysian Flight 370 changes that.  Which is why it is so important to find that plane and determine what happen.  As there are so many of these flying today.

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Airbus spends €263 Million to Keep the A380 Safe because Capitalism makes Safe Airplanes

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 19th, 2012

Week in Review

Free market capitalism is a beautiful thing.  It’s like a dog having puppies.  You don’t have to do anything but stand back and let it happen (see Airbus Earnings Hit By A380 Wing Cracks by Robert Wall posted 5/15/2012 on Aviation Week).

Airbus is taking another €158 million charge linked to the costs associated with wing component cracking on its A380s.

 That comes on top of a €105 million charge taken in March against 2011 results because of the same problem. “This final retrofit fix is more complex than initially anticipated in March; therefore, the group updated the cost for the retrofit solution leading to an additional charge of € 158 million in the first quarter,” Airbus parent EADS says in releasing its latest results…

Qatar Airways, for instance, has said it will only take A380s once the final fix is installed on its aircraft — the first handover to the Middle East carrier is due next year.

The fix also has hit A380 delivery plans. Airbus has temporarily slowed A380 production, but the impact of that move is not expected to be seen until 2013.

Airbus has a vested interest to make sure their planes are safe.  For an unsafe airplane is very difficult to sell.  Earlier reports stated that these cracks did not affect the safety of these aircraft.  But they have still hurt sales.  And slowed their production. 

Airbus has spent to date some €263 million ($335.85 million) to fix this problem.  Which is quite a sum considering one A380 has reportedly sold for $234 million.  So their spending the money to do what’s necessary to fix this problem.  Spending more than the cost of one A380 so far.  And the reason why they’re doing this is in part to the airworthiness directive issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency grounding A380s.   For you can’t sell an airplane that’s not allowed to fly.  But a customer not taking any more deliveries until the final fix is installed on its aircraft is also a very big incentive.  Because Boeing is out there with their 747.  And Airbus will do whatever necessary to make sure their customers don’t cancel those A380 orders and replace them with 747 orders.

It’s been said before.  Competition makes everything better.  It’s what makes free market capitalism the best system in the world.  And why aircraft built in capitalistic countries are the safest aircrafts in the world.  Because safe airplanes are easier to sell than unsafe airplanes.  And selling airplanes drive profits.  So when your system is based on profits it’s also based on safety.  Because safety drivess profits.  Unlike in the old Soviet Union. 

When they suffered the loss of a state-manufactured aircraft their greatest concern was embarrassment.  Looking inferior to the West.  Their people had no choice but to get on those same airplanes.  Because their state airline had no choice but to use the state-manufactured airplanes.  And the only incentive the state-manufacturer had to spend money on fixing problems was when the costs of those fixes proved to be less than the cost of lost airplanes.  And they would never spend more than the cost of one aircraft to fix a problem that hasn’t caused the loss of a single aircraft.

Airbus has a lot riding on the A380.  It was a very expensive airplane to bring to market.  It has to be a safe airplane to cover their investment costs.  So they will choose to spend what it takes to ensure its safety.  Because that’s what corporations do under capitalism.

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All Airbus A380s to be inspected for Cracks in Wing Brackets

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 11th, 2012

Week in Review

All Airbus A380s to be inspected for cracks in wing brackets.  They’re not load-bearing but they’re important nonetheless.  These brackets attach the skin of the wing to the wing structural support.  A failure of one of these brackets is not likely to cause a wing to fall off.  But if the surface of the wing peels off it could cause some trouble from severe buffeting to a stall of the wing.  Apparently something Airbus does not believe is likely to happen.  It may be nothing as Airbus sent out a repair kit but didn’t ground the plane.  This may be just ‘erring on the side of caution’.  If one can really say that in aviation (see Safety check ordered for all Airbus A380 jets by The Associated Press posted 2/8/2012 on CBS News).

Europe’s air safety authority [EASA] ordered checks Wednesday on the entire global fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbo jets for cracks on parts inside the wings — extending a previous order for nearly a third of the planes to be inspected…

“These brackets are located on wing ribs which are not main load bearing structure, and, thus, the safe operation of the aircraft is not affected,” Airbus said in a statement. “Nearly 4,000 such brackets are used on the A380 to join the wing-skin to the ribs. Only a handful of brackets per aircraft have been found to have been affected.”

Still, EASA in its directive said that “this condition, if not detected and corrected, could potentially affect the structural integrity of the airplane.”

And here’s why Airbus is probably being honest and doing the right thing.  And probably would have even without the EASA stepping in.

Shares in Airbus parent company EADS were down 1.3 percent at euro26.61 ($35.00) in Wednesday afternoon trading.

If there is a problem and Airbus tries to hide it they have bigger problems on their hands.  For if a plane falls out of the sky because they tried to hide something they’ll be more than a 1.3% drop in the stock price.  For nothing will destroy the profitability of an aircraft manufacturer than an unsafe aircraft.  A state-owned company has no such pressure.  Because they don’t answer to stockholders.  Or have to make a profit.  Airbus does.  So hopefully this is a minor issue to resolve.  And the A380 will continue to fly safely.

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Airbus says Cracks found on A380 are not Serious

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 21st, 2012

Week in Review

There are few things more dangerous to an airplane than cracks.  Whether in the fuselage.  Or on a wing.  Some horrific accidents were caused by small hairline stress fractures that grew under the stresses and loads of flying.  The greatest loss of life in a single aircraft accident was a 747 flying out of Haneda.  Japan Airlines Flight 123.

On a previous landing the pilot stuck the tail on the runway, requiring repairs on the rear pressure bulkhead.  But they did these repairs incorrectly.  They used a single row of rivets instead of a double row.  As the plane took off and landed the plane pressurized and depressurized putting great stress on that repaired bulkhead.  The metal fatigue produced hairline cracks.  And then on August 12, 1985 after the plane gained altitude and pressurized the rear pressure bulkhead failed and blew out causing an explosive decompression.  The force was so great it tore the tailfin from the plane and took out all four hydraulic control systems.  The plane was uncontrollable.  And crashed killing 520 of the 524 aboard.

So cracks on an airplane are very serious.  And now they found some cracks on the largest commercial jet in service today.  The Airbus A380 (see More cracks found in Airbus A380 wings by Tim Hepher posted 1/19/2012 on Reuters).

Airbus said the cracks were found on a number of “non-critical” brackets inside the wings of two aircraft during routine two-year inspections, after similar flaws showed up in five aircraft in early January.

It said the cracks did not prevent the A380 flying safely, but the Australian engineering body which handles routine servicing and engine checks on the superjumbos operated by Qantas Airways (QAN.AX) said Airbus’s reaction was concerning.

“They (Airbus) have described these as tiny cracks, but every crack starts off as a tiny crack and they can grow very quickly ,” said Stephen Purvinas, Federal Secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association.

“I would be worried that Airbus aren’t taking seriously the ever increasing number of cracks being found in the wings of their A380 aircraft .

Now nothing will hurt the sales of an airplane more than a reputation for not being safe.  So if the aircraft was unsafe the manufacturer would normally not try to hide that.  They would instead try to fix the problem as quickly as possible.  This is the miracle of capitalism.  If you produce an inferior product you won’t sell it.  If Boeing had a problem on their 747 they would do everything within their power to fix the problem before something bad could happen.  As would Airbus.  However, Airbus isn’t your run of the mill capitalistic manufacturer.  They are heavily subsidized by their governments.  In what is more state capitalism than free market capitalism.  So Airbus will do the right thing.  Unless pressured by their governments not to.  For political reasons.  Such as maintaining A380 sales to boost their collective ailing economies.

Let’s hope that the governments involved are letting Airbus manage this issue.  They will do the right thing.  For no one in the aircraft community wants any plane to be unsafe.

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The Space Shuttle versus the Airbus A380, an Economics Lesson

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 29th, 2011

The Space Shuttle, a Public Sector Failure

People like to point to the Apollo Program as the ultimate example of the American ‘can do’ attitude.  Apollo put men on the moon and retuned them safely.  If we can do that we should be able to do anything.  Even cure the common cold.  If only we attacked our greatest problems today the same way we solved the moon problem.  With a great big government program.  That marshaled a vast network of private contractors.  Where cost was no object.

But that was the problem with Apollo.  Cost.  It cost in excess of $20 billion dollars in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Today that would exceed $130 billion.  At the peak of the program spending consumed nearly 5% of all federal spending.  We’ve come close to shutting down government over lesser amounts in budget disputes.  The numbers are huge.  In comparison, the big three of federal outlays are Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and Defense, each consuming about 20% of all federal spending.  Imagine the fireworks if any of these were reduced to 15% (a 25% reduction in spending) to pay for another Apollo Program.  Suffice it to say it’s not going to happen.

This is why we don’t have more ‘Apollo’ programs to solve our problems.  We simply can’t afford to.  And in case you hadn’t noticed, NASA discontinued the Apollo Program, cancelling three moon landings.  Because of costs.  These cost savings help fund Skylab and the next big project.  The Space Shuttle.  Which was going to fix the cost problem.  By paying for itself.  Based on the private sector model.  The reusable vehicle was going to shuttle payload to space for paying customers and earn a profit.  The program, then, would pay for itself once launched.  And consume no tax dollars.  That was the plan, at least. 

But the Space Shuttle had its problems.  For one it was very dangerous.  And it turns out that the first manned mission was likely to be a disaster (see Shuttle Debuted Amid Unknown Dangers by Irene Klotz posted 6/29/2011 on Discovery News).

What NASA didn’t know at the time was that there was only a 1-in-9 chance the astronauts would make it back alive. Managers put the odds of losing the shuttle and its crew at 1-in-100,000.

Safety upgrades, including those initiated after two fatal accidents, have made the shuttle 10 times safer than it was in its early years, but the odds of a catastrophic accident are still high — about 1 in 90.

That is the largely unspoken part about why NASA is retiring its shuttle fleet after a final cargo run to the space station next month.

The Space Shuttle was just too complex a machine to meet any of its original goals.  Two shuttles were lost.  And the Space Shuttle Program never turned a profit.  The program that was going to pay for itself along the private sector model didn’t.  It required tax dollars.  A lot of them.

… preparing the shuttles for flight is extremely labor-intensive, which drives its $4 billion-a-year operating expense.

This is why we shouldn’t ask for any more great big government programs.  Because they’re typically abject failures.  Few companies in the private sector can fail as grandly.  Missing their profitability goal in excess of $4 billion dollars?  Year after year?  Only government can do this.  For only in government can a failed business model survive.  Because only government can tax, borrow and print money.

The Airbus A380, a Private Sector Success Story

This doesn’t happen in the private sector.  Where such gross mismanagement would put companies out of business.  Because they can’t tax, borrow or print.  Well, they can borrow.  But not at the low rates the government can.  Such failure would force them into junk territory.  And with a proven track record of losing billions year after year, even that wouldn’t be an option.  No, the private sector has to do it the old fashioned way.  They have to earn it.  You don’t have to be perfect.  You just have to be profitable (see Damaged Qantas A380 Refurbishment Underway by Guy Norris posted 6/29/2011 on Aviation Week).

Work to return to service the Qantas Airbus A380 damaged in last November’s uncontained engine failure is underway in Singapore.

The aircraft, which was substantially damaged when the number two Rolls-Royce Trent 900 shed a turbine disc, is about to be placed on stress jacks for major repairs to the wing and fuselage. Work will likely include replacement or repairs to the number one engine nacelle adjacent to the number two engine which was destroyed. The number two engine and nacelle is also being replaced…

The start of repair work, covered under an Aus $135 million insurance claim, puts a final end to speculation that the A380 would be written off. Airbus meanwhile declines to comment on the implications for possible longer term redesign as a result of lessons learned from the incident.

The Airbus A380 is a complex machine.  It’s expensive to build.  And to operate.  But it packs in a lot of people.  So the airlines can recover their costs through normal passenger service.  By offering passengers tickets at affordable prices.  With a little left over.  So Airbus can afford to sell these expensive airplanes at affordable prices, covering their costs with a little left over.  So their suppliers can sell components at affordable prices, covering their costs with a little left over.  Companies make profits everywhere in the process.  To return to their investors.  To reinvest in their operations.  Or to cover large, unexpected cost hits.  Like Airbus and Rolls Royce did to keep Qantas a satisfied customer.

A380 product marketing director Richard Carcaillet says “the two preliminary reports so far have focused on the engine event. However if there are any lessons for systems and procedures then we will take action. But with the co-operation of Rolls-Royce we have put a line of defense into the Fadec (full authority digital engine control), so that in the event of detecting a similar condition it will shut down quickly,” he adds.

Rolls has “now inspected and modified the whole fleet,” says Carcallet. For the moment the fix is the revised Fadec software, though longer term design changes are also underway to the engine, he adds.

The updated software commands an engine shut down if it detects the threat of an intermediate high pressure turbine overspeed occurring. Rolls is meanwhile working on a longer-term redesign of the Trent 900 oil system, a fire in which triggered the event.

Rolls-Royce has also agreed to pay (US) $100.5 million compensation to Qantas.

This is how the private sector works.  The profit incentive makes everyone do what is necessary to please and retain customers.  And improve safety.  Because airplanes falling apart in flight do not encourage anyone to buy a ticket.

Bigger Programs only mean Bigger Failures

There’s a reason that the Shuttle Program is no more but there are A380s flying and making money.  The difference between the Shuttle Program and the A380 is that one was in the public sector and the other is in the private sector.  And guess which one is the success story?  The one in the private sector.  Of course.  This despite the A380 having far more competition in Boeing (in particular the Boeing 747-400 and 747-8) than the Space Shuttle ever had.

Moral of the story?  Keep government programs small.  Because bigger programs only mean bigger failures.  And more tax dollars pulled from the private sector to pay for these failures.

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