Tag Archives: A380

A380 transport convoy (Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit)

One of the most recognizable features of the Airbus industrial system, with factories in different countries, mainly in Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and France, where the main components and the aircraft are assembled, is the transportation of those components by the iconic A300-600ST Beluga aircraft.

Arriving TLS

Image credit to Brian Bukowski.

However, as most of the A380 components are too big to be carried onboard of the Beluga, a special transportation system was required to be put in place. It included transportation of the bigger components from the plants in Hamburg, Broughton, Saint-Nazaire and Cadiz by ship to the port of Paulliac, close to Bordeaux. From there, they travel by barge up the river Garonne to Langon. Then they are mounted on special purpose trucks to travel the road from Langon to the final assembly plant near Toulouse.

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Ever since I came to work to Toulouse nine years ago, I had wanted to go and see one night the A380 transport convoy on the road. I kept postponing it, until last month. Airbus announced in early 2019 that the A380 programme would come to a close with the last aircraft to be delivered somewhere in 2021. Therefore, not many such transports were left to be seen.

Fortunately there is a public website with all the information required to prepare the visit: Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit. It includes: maps of the route that is followed, a yearly calendar with the days in which the transport will take place, a detailed schedule with the time slot in which the transport will pass by the different villages along the route and support documentation.

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With that information I set out to see the convoy last December on the night between the 18th and 19th. Firstly, I went to see the convoy at their stop at L’Isle Jourdan.

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I then followed part of the route with the convoy, seeing how the team removed sign posts along the way and marked some points as reference for the truck drivers.

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Then I drove to Lévignac, a village where the pass is rather tight and slow. At Lévignac I found a group of about a dozen enthusiasts dressed in yellow vests who come to see every single convoy since years ago out of pure pleasure of watching such a magnificent sight.

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The convoy arrives at Lévignac at 2:23am and normally takes 12 minutes to pass by (see the detailed schedule above), but this time there were many cars parked in the streets which needed to be displaced: either by the tow truck or pushed by hand. Careful measurements were taken by the operators to ensure the convoy would pass.

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With all the checks properly done and cars removed, we enjoyed the slow pass of the 6 trucks:

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I got to see the convoy of MSN (manufacturer serial number) 270, an Emirates aircraft. There will be just two more aircraft to be built after that one, MSNs 271 and 272, with their respective convoys, which dates remain to be announced in the above-mentioned website at the time of writing this post. If you have the chance, do not miss it!

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Cumulative wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per model, 1969-2018

Last week, both Airbus and Boeing have released the figures of aircraft deliveries for the complete 2018: 800 and 806 airplanes, respectively, in what is a new industry record. In a previous post I showed the evolution commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year since 1969 (year of the introduction of the 747) till 2018. In this article, I wanted to show this other graphic with the evolution of the cumulative wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per model since 1969 until 2018.

cumulative wide-body airplanes' deliveries per model per year, 1969-2018

For the first time since 1969, the Boeing 747 is not the most built wide-body airplane in history, as in 2018 it was surpassed by the Boeing 777. At the end of the year cumulative deliveries stood at 1,548 and 1,582, respectively.

Diving into Boeing Commercial Airplanes site, we can see when that happened:

  • On March 20th, with the delivery of a 777-300ER (MSN 64989; LN 1548) to United Airlines (registration N2645U), the 777 programme matched the 1,543 cumulative deliveries that the 747 had achieved until then.
  • On March 22nd, with the delivery of another 777-300ER (MSN 64085; LN 1538) this time to Qatar Airways (registration A7-BEQ), the 777 programme surpassed the 747 programme deliveries, and established a new record with 1,544 cumulative deliveries. Since then, it has taken the lead until year end (1,582) and for the foreseeable near future.

boeing 777 surpasses 747 in cumulative deliveries

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Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2018

This week, both Airbus and Boeing have released the figures of aircraft deliveries for the complete 2018: 800 and 806 airplanes, respectively, in what is a new industry record. This is just a quick post to update a graphic with the commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year since 1969 (year of the introduction of the 747) till 2018 (1).

commercial wide-body airplanes' deliveries per year, 1969-2018

Some reflections:

For the first time ever, in 2015 over 400 twin-aisle aircraft were delivered in a year (412), the same feat was achieved in 2016 (402). In 2017 and 2018 production descended below 400, down to 380 twin-aisles last year, still the fourth best year in the wide-body history.

The average number of deliveries for the previous 20-year period (1998-2017) was 249 airplanes per year. Up to now, in the 50 years of twin-aisle market (2), in only 7 years more than 300 airplanes were delivered in a single year, the seven last years, and only in other 9 years more than 200 airplanes had been delivered.

The combined steep production ramp-up during last years has enabled to reach a production rate of about the double of what was produced in 2010 (195). In particular, the combined compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the rate of deliveries for the last 10 years has been 7.6%. These rates are above the yearly growth of traffic (measured in RPKs).

With the figures up to the end of 2018, above 9,100 wide-body airplanes had been delivered. Thus, around the end of 2020 we will reach reach the 10,000th. However, we won’t know whether the 10,000th twin aisle will be a Boeing or an Airbus.

The share of wide-body deliveries in 2018: 59% Boeing and 41% Airbus.

There were 145 787s delivered in 2018, the largest amount of twin-aisle deliveries of a single model in a single year ever. A remarkable feat and new industry record for the wide body segment, beating its mark of 2016 (137). Only the 787 and the A330 have ever been delivered in excess of 100 aircraft in any given year; 4 times for the A330 (between 2012 and 2015) and the last 5 years in the case of the 787.

The deliveries of the 777 have been decreased by half in the past two years: from 99 in 2016 to 48 in 2018. This is similar output valley than what happened with the A330 when reaching the mark of ~ 2 years before targeted entry into service (EIS) of the new version, the A330neo: delivery decrease in 2016 for an 2018 EIS for the A330neo, and delivery decrease in 2018 for a 2020 Q2 target EIS for the 777X.

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(1) See here a previous post with the figures up to 2017.

(2) On February 9th, it will be the mark of the 50th anniversary of the 747 first flight.

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Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2017

In the last weeks, both Airbus and Boeing have released the figures of aircraft deliveries for the complete 2017. This is just a quick post to update a graphic with the commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year since 1969 (year of the introduction of the 747) till 2017 (1).

Commercial wide-body airplanes' deliveries per year, 1969-2017

Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2017.

Some reflections:

For the first time ever, in 2015 over 400 twin-aisle aircraft were delivered in a year (412), the same feat was achieved in 2016 (402). In 2017 production descended to 394 twin-aisles, still the third best year in wide-body history.

The average number of deliveries for the previous 20-year period (1997-2016) was 239 airplanes per year. Up to now, in the 49 years of twin-aisle market, in only 6 years more than 300 airplanes were delivered in a single year, the six last years, and only in other 9 years more than 200 airplanes had been delivered.

The combined steep production ramp-up during last years has enabled to reach a production rate of more than the double of what was produced in 2010. In particular, the combined compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the rate of deliveries for the last 10 years has been 7.1%. These rates are above the yearly growth of traffic (measured in RPKs).

With the figures up to the end of 2017, nearly 8,800 wide-body airplanes had been delivered. Thus, by mid-2018, we will certainly reach the 9,000th. However, we won’t know whether the 9,000th twin aisle will be a Boeing or an Airbus.

The share of wide-body deliveries in 2017: 59% Boeing and 41% Airbus.

There were 136 787s delivered in 2017. A remarkable feat: one aircraft short of its 2016 record of 137 deliveries, the largest amount of twin-aisle deliveries of a single model in a single year ever. Only the 787 and the A330 have ever been delivered in excess of 100 aircraft in any given year (4 times for each aircraft).


(1) See here a previous post with the figures up to 2015.

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A380 vs. 747: orders and production rates

After the recent announcement by Airbus and Emirates of the signature of an MoU for up to 36 A380 (press release), my friend and colleague Jose and I quickly wondered how would that leave a series of comparisons in which we set out years ago to compare how quickly or not sales of the 747 piled up back in its heyday.

See below the update of those couple of graphics.

First see in the graphic below A380 orders since the programme launch (2001) in comparison to those of the 747 (1966):

A380 vs 747 - Launch 2017

A380 and 747 orders referenced to the year of launch of each programme (up to 2017).

Both programmes show an initial sales rush at the time of programme launch. In both cases the rhythm of sales slowed down after the second year. In the first 18 years of program, each had managed:

  • 747: 615 orders.
  • A380: 337 orders (55% of 747’s). With a caveat being that we are now in January 2018 and through the end of the year the A380 could pile up some more orders.

Thus, we can see that the Boeing 747 was selling better already from the beginning of the programme.

I include again yet another comparison: aircraft orders taking as reference the year of first delivery, having heard so often the industry mantra that some potential customers would wait to see the aircraft in operation before placing orders. See below this second comparison:

A380 vs 747 - Delivery 2017

A380 and 747 orders referenced to the year the 1st aircraft delivery of each programme (up to 2017).

In this case, and due to the shorter time to develop the Boeing 747 since program launch (1966), the difference in sales is slightly narrowed:

  • 747: 554 orders.
  • A380: 337 orders.

You can see that, 11 years after the 1st delivery of each aircraft (2007 for the A380 and 1969 for the 747) the 747 had sold about 50% more aircraft and that is due to the pick up of sales it went through from its 8th year of operation.

Finally, I include below an update of yet another graphic in which we compared the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 production rates throughout history. The bars show Boeing 747 yearly deliveries. The lines the monthly production rate for both aircraft and its 3-year rolling average. I took this average to smooth the curve even if it is very similar to the year-by-year data.

A380 vs 747 - rate 2017

Some comments on the 747 production rates (taken from its yearly deliveries):

  • The average monthly production rate since its first delivery back in 1969 has been: 2.6 airplanes per month (1.7 for A380).
  • During the first about 30-35 years (till ~2002-3) the rate fluctuated between 2 and 5 deliveries per month.
  • Since 2003 the rate has averaged 1.2.
  • For the first 11 years of the 747 programme (as the A380 just completed those first eleven years of deliveries), its production rate averaged 3.1 aircraft per month.

Time will tell if the market for the A380 picks up.

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A380: 747 production rate throughout history

Back in 2013, I wrote a post comparing the orders of the Airbus A380 compared to those of the Boeing 747 Jumbo taking different references for the comparison. As I explained then, the idea for the post was triggered by a conversation with my friend Jose. A year later, in 2014 I wrote an update of that comparison (here).

This post is yet again triggered by another point raised by Jose (1) in another conversation a few months ago, when Airbus announced that it has reached the unit break even point for the A380 programme in 2015 with 27 deliveries. In that news it was already mentioned that the company sought to lower the number of aircraft for breaking even on any given year. The point became more relevant since Airbus confirmed, this week at Farnborough air show, that it would slow down its production pace to a monthly rate of 1 aircraft per month from 2018.

In our conversation, Jose looked at how the Boeing 747 production rate had evolved throughout history. Taking the figures from the 747 article in the Wikipedia (here), you can see the results in the graphic below. The bars show yearly deliveries. The lines the monthly production rate and its 3-year rolling average. I took this average to smooth the curve even if it is very similar to the year-by-year data (1).

747 rate

Some comments on the 747 production rates (taken from its yearly deliveries):

  • The average monthly production rate since its first delivery back in 1969 has been: 2.7 airplanes per month (above 2.25 for A380 in 2015).
  • During the first about 30-35 years (till ~2002-3) the rate fluctuated between 2 and 5 deliveries per month.
  • Since 2003 the rate has averaged 1.3.
  • For the first 10 years of the 747 programme (as the A380 is just about to complete that first decade of deliveries), its production rate averaged 2.9 aircraft per month.
  • Even if not reflected in the graphic, for information, Boeing has announced that it would decrease production rate down to 0.5 airplanes per month (6 a year) from September 2016.

Time will tell if the rate for the A380 is sustainable and whether its market rebounds.

(1) I took 3 years to make the rolling average as the fact of confirming in 2016 a delivery rate decrease to be effective from 2018 may give an idea of lead times.

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Airbus, the biggest factory of France

Last Sunday, March 27th, the French TV channel M6 played, within its programme 66 minutes, the documentary “Airbus, la plus grande usine de France” (Airbus, the biggest factory of France). It can be watched in the website of the programme here (it lasts about 47′, in French).

A380The documentary opened with amazing scenes of the transportation of A380 components by road to Toulouse, it then covered different scenes of life at Airbus in Toulouse: the A380 final assembly line, the preparation and execution of flight tests (with again the A380 as flight test bed to test the Trent XWB 97k engine), inspections by the airlines of the finished product at the delivery centre, the factory and the Airbus lycée at Saint Eloi for apprentices, the cabin mock-up centre, last-minute negotiations and payment process at Airbus headquarters in Blagnac (“le quartier chic”)… It provides a good view of the life in Toulouse around aviation, including details down to traffic jams, lunch at the canteen, checks at the security gates, etc.

It was good to see the documentary with the family as it let us show where we wander around along the year.

In this post, apart from sharing the documentary I wanted to reflect on its title, “Airbus, the biggest factory of France“.

Airbus Group (1) employs over 130,000 workers world-wide. Over half of those work for Airbus, the division which builds commercial airliners such as the A380. This was the subject of the documentary. Airbus employs about 30,000 workers in France, over 15,000 in the Toulouse area (2).

To put this into perspective I will refer to and wanted to share the following sources:

MapThe reports and listings published by the French business weekly magazine “L’Usine nouvelle“. You can see here the latest listing of the top 100 factories in France. Be sure of it, Airbus Toulouse is the biggest one, followed by Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand and PSA-Peugeot Citroën in Montbéliard (Airbus Helicopters in Marignane comes 5th).

Even better, they published a handy map downloadable here [PDF, 5.5 MB] with those top 100 factories. If you want to study geography of France, you’d better start with this map.

 

An old post I wrote about the “Impact of Airbus in Toulouse employment” making some numbers using the concepts of direct, indirect and induced employment to gauge the impact of Airbus in a mid-size city like Toulouse.

(1) Formerly EADS, which encompasses Airbus commercial airplanes, Airbus Defence and Space (including military transport aircraft (e.g. A400M), fighters (Eurofighter) and former Astrium) and Airbus Helicopters (former Eurocopter).

(2) Between Airbus Operations and Airbus SAS (the headquarters or “le quartier chic” as labelled in the documentary).

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