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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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