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A350XWB, the Plane Airbus Did Not Want To Build, Makes Maiden Flight

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the tell-me-about-the-wifi dept.

Transportation 135

McGruber writes "The BBC reports that the Airbus A350XWB (extra wide body) has made its first flight. Like the Boeing 787, the A350 offers airlines the chance to combine long-range services with improved fuel efficiency. The A350's fuselage is made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic, while many other parts of the aircraft use titanium and advanced alloys to save weight. It also has state-of-the-art aerodynamics, and engine manufacturer Rolls Royce has produced a new custom-designed power unit. Airbus claims that all of this means the A350 will use 25% less fuel than the current generation of equivalent aircraft. It also points out that noise and emissions will be well below current limits."

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At that price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44010957)

These planes will still be flying in the 2030s.

Re: At that price (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44010987)

I would hope so! Aircraft last a long time due to the careful maintenance.

Re:At that price (1)

reub2000 (705806) | about a year ago | (#44011553)

Since these planes won't suffer from metal fatigue like planes made out of aluminum, that means that they'll last longer?

Re:At that price (4, Informative)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44011589)

Theoretically, yes. In practice, airliners can easily make into into their 20s before reaching their practical end of life, longer if they're not cycled a lot. Many don't survive that long in 1st tier airlines, though.

Re:At that price (2, Insightful)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about a year ago | (#44012925)

Theoretical life vs commercial life. There are plenty of A340-500/600s that have no remaining commercial value beyond parts, with less than 6-7 years of service.

And as for the /. summary, it is a carbon skin on Al-Li frame for the fuselage, not a carbon fuselage.

Re:At that price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011623)

They'll suffer from composite material snap, which is what happens when it fails.

Re:At that price (5, Informative)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about a year ago | (#44012121)

These planes will still be flying in the 2030s.

Since these planes won't suffer from metal fatigue like planes made out of aluminum, that means that they'll last longer?

Metal aircraft don't necessarily have to suffer so badly from metal fatigue that they have to be replaced inside of 15-20 years. Fatigue depends on usage patterns and there are 747 still flying after 30 years of regular use and with good maintenance should be able to last at least the better part of another decade. USAF engineering studies project that their B-52 fleet would not reach the fatigue limits of it's wing structure until the 2040s but keep in mind these B-52s do not get flow as hard as the 747. The B-52s that are now in service left the factory in the mid 1960s. An American airforce veteran I met a few years ago told me that there are actually cases of the third generation of soldiers from a military family flying B-52s. Dunno if that's true but theoretically it sure could be. Just about the only criticism you can throw at the B-52 is that it could do with an upgrade to more modern fuel efficient engines which Boeing estimated would increase it's already impressive loiter capability by 46%.

The B-52 is not magic, it lasts longer because... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44012429)

it was originally designed to fly very long flights at high altitudes (one pressurization/depressurization cycle per large number of flight hours) which would allow a long airframe life. They're not tactical aircraft.... they are intercontinental bombers. Even after Soviet anti-aircraft missiles improved in their ability vs high-fliers and B-52 plans were re-aligned for low-altitude strikes... they still involved very long flights and few pressure cycles. 20 years of B-52 operations probably inflate/deflate the fuselage as much as 3 or 4 years of airliner activity. Most machines that are lightly-used and well-maintained will last a long time. The B-52 is is a brilliant design for its day... but it's obsolete and while it would not fare well penetrating Russian defenses in 2013, it's still fine for bombing bronze-age targets into the stone-age; it's therefore still useful given the targets that are being bombed these days.

Re:At that price (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44012963)

metal fatigue is not so much a function age, it's more a function of usage. if a plane has a design life of 20,000 takeoff cycles, it will last 30 years of being flown twice a day 300 days a year. if it's only being flown a couple of times a month, you can do the math. and with the b52 largely obsolete and usage therefore declining, lifetime limitation caused by metal fatigue becomes more and more remote as other factors like corrosion take precedence.

Re:At that price (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44013083)

One other problem is our knowledge of Metal Fatigue has increased greatly since the B-52 as have alloy advancements but most importantly our ability to mathematically assess stress and its affects are beyond the imagination of the B-52 designers thanks to the computer age. Anyway, when people designed the B-52 they really didn't know how much aluminum would be needed in a certain stress/flex area to prevent metal fatigue failure which had hunted some previous airframe designs and even some later ones. Why is the extra knowledge bad for the life span of newer A/Cs? because they know when they need more metals to prevent fatigue to get the desired design life span but also when to use less metal while knowing that it will last 30,000 cycles but might not last 40,000 cycles. This knowledge leads to better fuel economy and performance trough sacrificing A/C life span. The fuel economy probably is probably a net financial gain for the operators and even this can be counted out. So today's designed are more likely to make their intended service life without any problems but not very likely to go well beyond it.

Composites are not magic (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44012345)

Metal fatigue in airliners is driven by several factors: humidity of the air in which they are operated (for example planes the spend their lives in Hawaii suffer more than planes that operate mostly in the southwest of the US) the number of pressurization cycles (the fuselage acts like a balloon.... the structure inflates a bit when pressurized and relaxes when below approx 8000 ft... therefore planes that spend most of their hours on long flights last longer than those that have fewer flight hours but made many short flights) plus the usual mechanical (bending)stresses any plane would experience.

Composites are not immune to stress and failure... they are just different. Composites are less sensitive to moisture (which means dreamliners can have more comfortable moister cabin air without contributing to structural wear) they handle the pressurization cycles better (so planes like the dreamliner can pressurize their cabins more to make passengers more comfortable at altitude) and so on. Composites also have an interesting thermal reaction: they soften a bit in heat (making them slightly less-suited to hot weather ... a possible issue on the ground in hot places, but not at altitude where it's cold even over the equator) but they actually get stronger as they get colder (so composite planes are actually stronger and safer at high altitudes). Composites are made of various fibers embedded in various types of plastics (resins) and their strength comes from the fibers as long as the plastic holds those fibers together properly... but the resins are much more sensitive to heat and particularly sunlight than metal. How the resins will hold-up after 20+ years of high-altitude exposure to the sun (higher UV etc) is a bit of a question... materials science people can simulate this stuff, but nothing beats real-world exposure and real-world operating conditions. If those resins age poorly and become crumbly (and less sticky, therefore less able to hold the fibers in place) then these airframes will have shorter service lives.... but they will still probably win-out because of all the monetary savings that their increased efficiencies provide during those service lives

Re:At that price (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44013207)

Fatigue still happens in these materials but it's not as bad as with Aluminium - needs higher stresses to start cracks and there's a few ways the materials halt crack growth. Finding cracks is a bit less trivial but there are still ways to find them and see if they are big enough to be a problem.

Re:At that price (1)

beelsebob (529313) | about a year ago | (#44013657)

On the other hand, carbon composites often suffer slow degradation and eventual delamination through simple sun exposure.

Wow (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011007)

What a bunch of niggers

Even as an avgeek, I haven't been following this. (2)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44011045)

It's hard to get excited about a plane that exists only in response to another, and was then a victim of design by committee.

Re:Even as an avgeek, I haven't been following thi (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011747)

That's nothing! The whole damn software industry works like this.
Because it's made up of spineless attention whores with zero leadership potential.
And the only leaders are certified madmen, who are still loved just because they stand out and their shit, which is still a failure of epic proportions, is still better than the rest. Mostly because the rest is imitating those madmen. Badly.
Windows always copied the old MacOS, OS X was designed for morons. iOS was designed for the new generation of morons created by this, which made the original morons look like total computer geniuses. Gnome is just a OS X clone. KDE is a Windows clone. Compiz was brilliant, but obviously also crazy and chaotic. Then KDE spiced it up by copying Compiz and OS X a bit. MS followed suit and cloned Compiz and KDE features too with Vista / 7. And now the Apple madmen have infiltrated MS too; ergo Win8.
As for office suites: They are so similar, that even if you can even distinguish them, it's because they went utterly insane and copied an old great feature (like the Lotus WordPro InfoBox) in the worst possible way. Otherwise, they all are 1:1 StarWriter and 1-2-3 clones. With an extra shovel of shitty misunderstanding of the original ideas.
Browsers mas you even sadder. Firefox now looks EXACTLY like Chrome, the by far most dumbed-down and option-limited browser of all. Opera threw away its engine, and went Webkit too. And IE, apart from always having been a horrible bloody nightmare (hence the code name Trident) based on a bad interpretation of the Mosaic code base.
And all games are prequels, sequels, and *fifth* fuckin' installments of the *same damn game over and over again* (e.g. "generic shooter"), with the same damn engine and the same damn shaders that make everything look the same! (Mostly like shiny/wet plastic.)

In software, EVERYTHING is a damn response. And the only design source who's not a committee is because he's too crazy to be accepted into a committee.
Welcome to the world of shit!

Re:Even as an avgeek, I haven't been following thi (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#44012143)

If you are talking about the 787 the A350 is not really in the same weight category. The A350 airplane is a lot larger and competes with the 777.

Re:Even as an avgeek, I haven't been following thi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44013615)

You are not excited about Microsoft, then.

"Plane Airbus Did Not Want To Build" (5, Insightful)

pittance (78536) | about a year ago | (#44011059)

Does any manufacturer really want to design new planes? The engineers do, it's their job & mostly their passion but the shareholders won't want to if they don't have to. Every time you design a new aircraft you commit to billions of investment and lots of risk, both financial and technical.

The saying I was most often quoted in my aerospace degree "How do you make a small fortune? Start with a large fortune and invest in aerospace".

The best that you'll probably get is that once it becomes clear that a planned development needs to start that the shareholders decide to go all-out for it, and the rest of the company commit to it 100%.

Re:"Plane Airbus Did Not Want To Build" (4, Interesting)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | about a year ago | (#44012069)

My understanding of why they didn't want to do the A350 was because between the A320, A330, and A340, all the service areas covered by this A350 were already covered, and now they have a whole new production line which will only pull sales away from their already-established production lines.

Re:"Plane Airbus Did Not Want To Build" (5, Informative)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#44012981)

My understanding of why they didn't want to do the A350 was because between the A320, A330, and A340, all the service areas covered by this A350 were already covered, and now they have a whole new production line which will only pull sales away from their already-established production lines.

Right. And the reason they went ahead is that its better to have your own product cannibalizing sales of your already-established products than it is for your competitor to be doing it while you are standing still.

Re:"Plane Airbus Did Not Want To Build" (3, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | about a year ago | (#44013735)

My understanding of why they didn't want to do the A350 was because between the A320, A330, and A340, all the service areas covered by this A350 were already covered

They needed the A350. The 777 [wikipedia.org] has been beating the A340 [wikipedia.org] into a bloody pulp in the market. 1452 orders since 1995 vs 377 orders since 1993. The A340 is a 4-engine plane vs. the 777's 2-engines, and fewer engines is more efficient.

It's not that Airbus didn't want to do the A350. The original A350 they proposed would've been a slightly upgraded A330 and straight competitor to the 787 (low- to high-200s seating in 3-class arrangement). The airlines didn't want that. They wanted something which could compete with the 777 (low- to high-300s seating in 3-class arrangement), and used the 787's launch as an opportunity to complain and get Airbus to build it for them. So Airbus scrapped their original A350 plans and designed something a little larger like the airlines wanted. The A350 will have high-200s to mid-300s seating, competing with the larger-sized 787 models, and the smaller 777 models.

Re:"Plane Airbus Did Not Want To Build" (1)

DaveGod (703167) | about a year ago | (#44013937)

Yes. Even if plane design and manufacture was a 100% monopoly they would still do it.

- improved "flying experience" for consumers (passengers) may result in more flying and hence more demand for planes.
- reduced operating costs can result in increased margins for carriers / decreased prices for end consumers and hence increased demand for planes.
- reduced operating costs can make customers (carriers) willing to pay more per plane as they will recoup that cost over time.
- releasing a new product may encourage some carriers to abandon older planes that still have useful life left, basically a one-off reduction in the replacement cycle and hence more demand for planes.
- organisations can get some sense of identity of what they are about, and just march on doing it even if it doesn't actually make financial sense. The organisation just "wants" to do it and any attempt to stop can make it very unhappy.

But anyway, it is not 100% monopoly so if they don't do it the other guy will.

First Post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011061)

Why does this thing not have a terrorist shooting laser robotic arm mounted on the inside pointed at the passengers at all times? Will somebody PLEASE think of the children!!!

First takeoff! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011099)

And I don't have an XWB, by the way.

Re:First takeoff! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44012155)

Meanwhile Anonymous Coward, by taking an XWB, got the first post FIFTEEN MINUTES AHEAD OF YOU.

So.. (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year ago | (#44011151)

Accidental airplane? What happened? Airbus couldn't find a plane sized condom?

Re:So.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011807)

Boeing asked for one of mine but I refused. Hence the birth of the Dreamliner.

Re:So.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011923)

I've always thought it would be amusing to do a little alteration of the name on one of these aircraft;
http://jetphotos.net/viewphoto.php?id=7618229&nseq=1

Points at A350XWB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011155)

Hideki!

Great! (2)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about a year ago | (#44011179)

Who wants to fly in a plane the manufacturer didn't want to build? Way to announce a new product!

Re:Great! (3, Informative)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44011607)

Title is very misleading. The A350 XWB was designed after the original A350 (modernized A330, basically) drew lukewarm support, at best. Now it's pretty popular.

Why XWB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011207)

Why did they choose to designate this model as an "eXtra Wide Body" when its fuselage is no wider than any other typical wide-body aircraft, and indeed narrower than their A380 or the 747 jumbos?

Do I smell marketing gimmickry?

Re:Why XWB? (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44011621)

Yes, you're right. It's meant to differentiate it from the original A350 concept (A330 with new engines, basically), which would've been narrower.

Hmm... (2)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#44011209)

- The A350 offers airlines the chance to combine long-range services with improved fuel efficiency.
- The A350's fuselage is made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic, while many other parts of the aircraft use titanium and advanced alloys to save weight.
- It also has state-of-the-art aerodynamics
- Engine manufacturer Rolls Royce has produced a new custom-designed power unit.
- The A350 will use 25% less fuel than the current generation of equivalent aircraft, and noise and emissions will be well below current limits.

Hmm... So, with all those benefits, why didn't Airbus want to build it?

Re: Hmm... (0)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44011381)

Look at the problems Boeing had
Just because you build it, doesn't mean it's going to work

Re: Hmm... (2)

puppetman (131489) | about a year ago | (#44011699)

Boeing decided to farm out the manufacturing of parts of the plane to various companies around the world. The fuselage was built in Italy, and there were small issues with wrinkles on the surface. The wings were made by Mitsubishi, in Japan, and there were issues with the stringers.

Who knows if they would have had the same issues with in-house development, but there were lots of quality and logistical issues with building a "global" plane.

Re: Hmm... (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about a year ago | (#44011741)

Just to round off your post, there was also issues with the fuselage sections that came from US suppliers as well, and Boeing had to re-acquire an entire US company that it had previously sold, just so it could resolve the technical and manufacturing issues in that company.

Re: Hmm... (1)

beelsebob (529313) | about a year ago | (#44013681)

You realise that that's exactly how airbus has been building planes for years, and exactly how the A350 XWB will be built too.

Re:Hmm... (3, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year ago | (#44011577)

Because it cost billions of dollars to develop. You proceed cautiously when there are billions of dollars that could potentially vanish if the design doesn't sell or doesn't work.

Re: Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011827)

'You proceed cautiously when there are billions of dollars that could potentially vanish'

Tell that to the bankers.....

Re: Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44012875)

Bankers don't build anything, they just skim off the top as the money flows. And invent fairy investments that are doomed to fall apart, but they collect the interest off of it while it lives.

Re:Hmm... (5, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about a year ago | (#44011597)

Boeing announced the Boeing 787 right after Airbus committed to the A380 - Airbus was going for the VLA market, which Boeing had dominated since they launched the Boeing 747 in the 70s as they had no effective competition in that particular market segment.

Once Airbus committed themselves to the VLA segment, Boeing committed itself to the smaller 250 seat segment, in which it already had an aging product in the Boeing 767 - sales of which were rapidly tailing off, and customers were demanding something more efficient.

Airbus responded by announcing a package of updates to their A330 airliner, but customer demand was poor - a lot of large customers wanted an all new fuselage design (the Airbus A330 and A340, both circa 1990 in vintage, used the same fuselage as the A300, which preceded them by 20 years), and carbon fiber as a primary structural component, so Airbus went back to the drawing board and came up with the A350XWB.

Its an aircraft that "Airbus didnt want to build" in the same vein as Boeing "didnt want to build" the Boeing 787, as that program only came about after customers outright rejected Boeings Sonic Cruiser concept in the years leading up to the 787s program launch - the 787 uses many of the same technologies (the carbon fiber barrels for the fuselage), and is a direct follow on from a prior program that was rejected by customers.

Interestingly enough, the Airbus A330, which customers didn't want an updated model of, has sold well over 500 aircraft since that "rejection". You never can tell....

Footnote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44012487)

The "Sonic Cruiser" did not die in a vacuum (and it was not killed because potential customers disliked it). It was killed post-9/11. It's hard to sell a supersonic airliner at a time when [a] fuel prices have skyrocketed over fears of mid-east wars [b] airlines are in severe financial distress and filing for bankruptcy and [c] everybody is concerned about airliners being hijacked and used as missiles (making supersonic airliners even "better" missiles with more speed and more kinetic punch). At that time, even a huge subsonic plane like the A380 or some new Boeing super jumbo was a big gamble (financially and in a regulatory, anti-terror sense). In the middle of that much uncertainty, Boeing management was very smart to re-align their plans to a smaller, slower, more-fuel-efficient, lower operating costs airframe. Hopefully we will see a future highly efficient capable supersonic airliner.... but that will probably not arise until after the militant muslim jihadists have been eliminated or pushed back into their caves.... an exercise that seemingly must be repeated every couple hundred years.

Re:Hmm... (2)

puppetman (131489) | about a year ago | (#44011649)

Way back when Boeing was going for a smaller, more efficient jet. Airbus wanted to build a big plane, aka an Ultra High Capacity Airliner to challenge Boeing's dominance of the large-jet market.

Boeing built the 787, and Airbus built the A380. I guess the market is now forcing Airbus to compete with Boeing's 787, and thus the a350.

Re:Hmm... (3, Interesting)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about a year ago | (#44011701)

Because they got blindsided by Boeing. Boeing was publicly showing off their "SST" designs and hinting at a new supersized 747. Meanwhile someone at Boeing was doing their market research and saw the need for a new generation of planes with lower cost per mile for medium/long haul to replace aging fleets of 757, 767, and 777's.

Airbus was more interested in proving they could "build the biggest plane" more as an ego measure than a design that addressed a real need to their customers (airlines).

When Boeing announced the 787 they completely caught Airbus off guard as they had just spent billions and a decade on the A380.

Re:Hmm... (2)

reub2000 (705806) | about a year ago | (#44011777)

Since there are way more orders for the A380 than there are for the 747-8, building the biggest plane seems to be more than just about ego.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about a year ago | (#44013459)

But when you compare the A380 to the 787, the A380 has 262 firm orders at US$403.9 million for a total of ~US$106 billion, while the 787 has 890 orders at a unit cost of US$206.8 or US$243.6 million (depends on which model) for a total of ~US$197 billion (based on specific model orders). It's hard to call the A380 a failure with that sort of revenue, but clearly the demand for something like the 787 was much higher, both in terms of units and revenue.

Re:Hmm... (4, Insightful)

Chuckstar (799005) | about a year ago | (#44013573)

Except that Airbus needs to sell way more A380s to pay back development cost than Boeing needs to sell of 747-8s.

Twelve years after starting sales, Airbus still hasn't broken even on the A380. According to estimates, they need to sell 420 planes to break even. They have orders for 262. Based on recent order history, they are 5-10 years away from hitting that number of orders. But they are 10 years away from delivering that many planes. Basically, it will have taken them well over 20 years just to break even on the plane.

(Note that Airbus talks about reaching break-even in 2015/2016. But that just represents when they will stop losing money on a current basis on the program. After that point, they still need to pay back all the R&D and negative cash flow incurred to that point.)

If you read any of the industry news, you'll see that pretty much no one expects Airbus to ever end up with a positive total return on the investment. By the time the design is 20 years old, they'll have to start thinking about investing in modernized upgrades. It won't cost anywhere near as much as the new airframe did, but it'll further push back when they could possibly end up positive on a total return basis.

Boeing hasn't talked about how many units they need to sell of 747-8 to break even. But that airframe's sales have only been 30% lower per year than A380s. And it was an upgrade, not a completely new design, so development costs were significantly cheaper. No one at Boeing is jumping up and down over those sales. But 747-8 probably has a pretty good chance of providing a positive total return over its lifetime (although maybe only modestly), especially considering its popularity as a freighter. There is no freighter version of the A380.

Re:Hmm... (4, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about a year ago | (#44011823)

Airbus wasn't caught off guard, and the A380 was not an ego measure - Boeings new 747 proposals were being rejected by customers at the time as they wanted an all new airframe design which would encompass modern aerodynamic efficiency increases over the 747s 1960s vintage. Go and google the 747-500, -600 and -700 concepts as they all existed on paper. Airbus responded to the market demands by supplying a design for an all new VLA airframe.

Airbus basically have the VLA market now, as Boeings response, the 747-800, has seen lukewarm reception at best. Airbus thought they could hold their own in the 200 - 350 passenger market segments with the A330 and A340 models, and nterestingy enough the A330 has infact held its own, and continues to sell even as the 787 becomes available.

Where Airbus did falter was in the top end of the 200 - 350 market, covered by the A340. This was being beaten resoundedly by the Boeing 777, which was launched a decade earlier than the Boeing 787. Airbus are countering the top end of the market with the A350XWB, which will cover the larger 787 variants (-9 and -10) while also covering most of the 777 range as well.

Airbus is confident enough in the A330 that it doesn't see the need to immediately replace it like for like.

Re:Hmm... (4, Informative)

MtViewGuy (197597) | about a year ago | (#44012979)

Also, Airbus has been continually improving the A330-200 model, which has proved to be VERY popular with many airlines (in fact, Airbus was actually reluctant to build the A330-200 because it feared it would affect A340 sales). The original state range was 6,400 nautical miles, and thanks to the availability of increased mean takeoff weight (MTOW) variants, the A330-200 can now fly nearly 7,200 nautical miles, which means flights as far as San Francisco to Hong Kong non-stop becomes possible.

The A350XWB-900 carries the same payload as the 777-200ER, but has over 20% lower fuel cost and can fly 8,100 nautical miles, 400 more than the 777-200ER. Small wonder why there's a long list of orders--a list that could grow even longer at the Paris Air Show.

Re:Hmm... (2)

Solandri (704621) | about a year ago | (#44013839)

Airbus wasn't caught off guard, and the A380 was not an ego measure - Boeings new 747 proposals were being rejected by customers at the time as they wanted an all new airframe design which would encompass modern aerodynamic efficiency increases over the 747s 1960s vintage. Go and google the 747-500, -600 and -700 concepts as they all existed on paper. Airbus responded to the market demands by supplying a design for an all new VLA airframe.

Airbus basically have the VLA market now, as Boeings response, the 747-800, has seen lukewarm reception at best.

There was no market demand for a VLA airframe. Boeing has been trying to sell a stretch version of the 747 since its inception in the 1960s. The 747 was originally supposed to be a full double-decker like the A380, but Boeing decided to go with a partial second deck to get it to market quicker. Since 1966, they've tried every few years to sell a full double-deck 747 to the airlines, and never found enough demand to green-light the project. Airbus ignored these same market signals and built the A380 anyway. They gambled that increased air travel in Asia as China modernized would drive demand for such a large-capacity aircraft. They may still end up right, and the A380 could go on to commercial success.

Right now though, its sales are pretty anemic. If you take the 1528 747s ordered since 1966 and divide by the 47 years it's been for sale, you get an average of 32.5 per year. During its heyday from 1966-1990, Boeing managed 42 orders per year on average. Airbus has managed just 262 A380 sales in 13 years, or 20 per year.

The lukewarm reception of the 747-8 (106 orders since 2005) isn't because the A380 displaced it. It's because smaller 2-engine widebodies like the 777 (789 orders since the A380 went on sale) and A350 (616 orders before it even flew) have cannibalized most of the market which used to be owned exclusively by the 747. As I said, the A380 very well may still go on to commercial success. But it's not where the meat of the market is at. By the time the market is there for the A380, technological improvements may make a larger 2-engine plane feasible which renders the 747 and A380 obsolete. That's the risk you take when you try to build for tomorrow's market using today's technology.

Re:Hmm... (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#44012185)

Tech which they managed to reuse in the A350 like composite construction. If all goes according to plan the A350 is going to launch two years after the 787. So not that bad IMO.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44013621)

Unless the A350 launches in the next 4 months, they're gonna miss that target. Anyone interested in the A350 probably isn't expecting delivery sooner than 2015 or 2016, especially after the A380 and 787 fiascos.

Re:Hmm... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44013995)

If all goes according to plan the A350 is going to launch two years after the 787. So not that bad IMO.

You can't compare actual delivery dates with projected delivery dates. The 787 was delayed by years, but it's out there now. There's even more reason to believe Airbus is vastly over-promising on it's A350 timeline, like Boeing did before it. In particular, to fool clueless people like yourself so they don't look like they're playing catch-up quite so much.

Re:Hmm... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44014003)

Because they got blindsided by Boeing. Boeing was publicly showing off their "SST" designs and hinting at a new supersized 747.

If Airbus' market strategy is to just copy what Boeing is doing (rather than doing actual market research themselves), then they deserve to lose, badly.

It's one thing to have CHEAP knock-offs come along later, but Airbus can't manage that, so you're just talking about equally expensive imitations.

Re:Hmm... (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44011711)

They wanted a low-cost derivative of the A330. The market wanted a new plane. Simple as that.

Re:Hmm... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44011733)

They were planning to do an upgrade of an older model, but an influential customer panned the idea and Boeing announced the 787. They decided, reluctantly, to start from scratch with a new deign.

The headline is really just to grab attention, once they committed to it they pushed hard and their work has paid off in sales.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about a year ago | (#44011859)

Your order of events is wrong :) Boeing announced the 787, customers demanded a response from Airbus and so they launched the A350 as an updated A330, which customers rejected and so they launched the A350XWB.

Re:Hmm... (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | about a year ago | (#44012985)

The original A350 proposal sounded too much like a "rehashed" 777-200ER and it's not surprising that the airlines eventually rejected the idea. But Airbus decided to start over with a "clean sheet" airliner with the newest aerodynamic design and a lot of lightweight structural parts--the result is the A350XWB that flew for the first time today.

What's happening (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44011235)

Main page says there's 11 comments, but on the page there isn't any.

No Comments? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011257)

Anyone else not see any comments for this story even though the front page says 11?

Where are the comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011267)

I tried with Safari, now with Firefox... comments aren't showing up.

First Flight (0)

James McGuigan (852772) | about a year ago | (#44011277)

First Flight

Good news (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#44011281)

25% less fuel is sure to be passed on as a cost savings to the customer, amiright?

Re:Good news (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#44012197)

Eventually I guess but the airlines need to pay off the airplanes first.

Re:Good news (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#44012923)

Yes [aei-ideas.org] . Although fossil fuel will probably get more expensive over time, so the savings may simply result in less price increase than would otherwise have occurred.

Still nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011285)

Safari, Firefox, Opera... no comments shown.

Who fucked up ./ again?

Maiden flight (1)

kimvette (919543) | about a year ago | (#44011287)

First flight?

If it ain't Boeing... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011297)

...then at least the batteries won't catch fire...

Airbus did not want to build it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011323)

They were hoping that if they lay out all the parts at night, then the gnomes could build it for them.

Write only mode? (0)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year ago | (#44011331)

Are article comments in write-only mode again? I can't seriously be the first one here.

frrristy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011337)

drrrrrrrrrr peper first?

Interesting (2)

asm2750 (1124425) | about a year ago | (#44011365)

Its great to see aircraft builders embrace composites. Although I am curious about how long lived these aircraft bodies will be compared to metal ones.

It would be cool is rocket builders were the next to use composites for bodies like the high powered rocketry hobby has with carbon fiber but that might be asking for too much since the stresses on large rockets are large.

Re:Interesting (2)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44011645)

Current understanding suggests they should last longer than AL structures, mostly due to the lack of metal fatigue.

Re:Interesting (3, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#44012191)

Yes, there won't be metal fatigue because there isn't any metal to fatigue. However, how well do the glues and resins that hold the plane together handle the vibrational stresses after 5-10 years of service? Plastics tend to get brittle in the cold and when exposed to UV radiation. Well, guess what there's a lot of where the planes fly?

Re:Interesting (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44013519)

These things aren't certified lightly, so I'm confident they're at least as good as previous materials. UV exposure is a non-issue, since the whole plane is covered in several layers of paint. As for vitrifcation of the plastics involved, testing that is relatively easy, so again, no cause for concern.

The fact that both Boeing and Airbus allow higher cabin pressures in the 787 and A350 also shows how confident they are that composites will work perfectly.

Re:Interesting (2)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about a year ago | (#44012515)

Fatigue is not a phenomena found exclusively in metals. Plastics and composities experience fatigue as well. Take a small piece of plastic like a toothpick and bend it back and forth many times and see what happens. In addition, fatigue is not the only way that a material can fail.

Unless you have some case studies indicating longer life, you're just guessing.

Re:Interesting (2)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44013527)

Yes, of course. However, the particular composites used are said not to suffer from fatigue at the stress levels we're talking about. Considering aircraft longevity is mostly tied to metal fatigue due to pressurization (ignoring economic and regulatory issues), the lack of fatigue is a major improvement on paper. It's doubtful that planes will suddenly be used for longer, though.

Re:Interesting (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | about a year ago | (#44013591)

The materials they are using are not new. They just haven't been used heavily in civilian aviation before. There are other concerns with such composites (aluminum doesn't delaminate, for instance) but those concerns are generally well-understood.

Batteries (1)

JavaBear (9872) | about a year ago | (#44011383)

Here's to hoping they picked a slightly less volatile set of batteries.

Re:Batteries (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44011653)

Prototypes will use Li-Ion batteries, as was originally planned before the 787 incidents, but the final version will use traditional Ni-Cd, at least at first. Later versions may revert to Li-Ion.

Re:Batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44012173)

The article states that Airbus was planning to use Li-Ion but revert to Ni-Cad after the 787 fiasco.

"carbon fibre reinforced plastic"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011403)

Isn't that stuff completely flammable?

Re:"carbon fibre reinforced plastic"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011821)

Absolutely, however the thousands of lbs of jet fuel that fill the wings and body are much more flammable. Any fire that would risk burning the composite structure of the aircraft would already be equally deadly in an aluminum aircraft.

Comments Borked..? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011407)

Comments only appearing on the crappy mobile site for me. Nothing in Chrome (desktop and Android), Firefox and Dolphin (Android)

Can we talk about something more important for ner (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011483)

ds?

It's Saturday evening, there's not a single post here, I'm sitting at home, alone, in the dark, and have nowhere to go and nobody to call.

Every contact I make ends up in a giant disappointment. We have nothing to talk. I get ridiculed for even attempting to talk about something actually interesting, like quantum physics, astronomy, neurology... As if it was something *bad*. (The insanity!) And while I enjoy the usual topic suspect (sex, cooking, travel), it feels like running around in a tiny box when there's UNIVERSES out there.

Meanwhile, complete and utter stupidity rears its unbearably ugly head at every moment. I. can't. stand. it. anymore.

It's like I'm from a different planet. I just want to find somebody who is like me! Not just a geek, but also extroverted and fun at parties... (at least when there still were parties to go to). I'm a computer expert who can party like a legend, got compliments for my dancing... it just wasn't me...

*I* cut the connections.
I told people to GTFO.
Because I can't stand the stupid anymore.
Because I'm smart enough to know how much it hurts me, and that it's simply not worth it.

Yet without it... there's nothing left.

Is that it?

Re:Can we talk about something more important for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44012065)

It's Saturday evening,

Are you going for first post of Saturday?

oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011491)

seen

why no build it? (1)

deathlyslow (514135) | about a year ago | (#44011501)

Why would they not want to build it? With the troubles Boeing is having, it may their best chance at making their name as THE provider of fully functional aircraft.

Re:why no build it? (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44011675)

Call it piss poor journalism. It's Airbus' answer to the lukewarm response their originally planned A350 got. They wanted a simple derivative, new engines, refined aerodynamics, maybe greater use of composites, like the A320 NEO or 737MAX. Most airlines bought into Boeing's hype (time will tell if it's more than that) and weren't impressed. So they designed a new one from scratch.

Re:why no build it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44012217)

You talking about the company that foisted the A380 on the flying public. According to TFA, the many travails Airbus had with the A380, along with the fact that the A330 was still selling really well, were deterring them from a clean-sheet redesign.

If it ain't Boeing..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011513)

....then at least the batteries won't catch fire...

lets hope that batteries work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44011565)

lets hope that batteries work

better summary (1)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#44011567)

the plane airbus did not want to build at the time, as they were busy with the A380

Re:better summary (1)

slew (2918) | about a year ago | (#44012533)

the plane airbus did not want to build at the time, as they just blew up their budget on the A380 delay

FTFY...

Basically, Airbus's parent company (EADS) simply didn't want to invest that much of their own money on a new development and wanted to pressure the european governments into some sort of financing trick***. That didn't happen, so EADS reluctantly spent their own money on A350XWB development (and basically they have been mostly cash-flow negative since then which really puts a crimp on the value of the executive's stock options).

*** it's a bit complicated, but because of the WTO dispute with Boeing, the government can't really just give or loan the money to EADS for new development w/o triggering potentially expensive trade retaliation, but governments can loan money for something called "launch-aid" (temporary funding *after* development to finance inventory and supply chain buildup). It's always a bit suspicious when "launch-aid" loans happen before the development even starts (which seems to frequently happen with Airbus as they use the uncertaintly of location of jobs as enticements)...

"Maiden Flight"? Go Bruce! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44012623)

I didn't know Bruce Dickinson was a test pilot too!

Great headline, mediocre summary (1)

Art3x (973401) | about a year ago | (#44013429)

Great headline, mediocre summary. Typical Slashdot.

Follow the journalistic practice of the inverted pyramid [wikipedia.org] . It's a widespread tradition among news reporters for a reason.

The headline should tell the whole story. If I wanted, I could read all the headlines in a newspaper and know all the stories. Just not the details.
The first sentence, the lead [wikipedia.org] , should tell the story, a little bit more, perhaps, than the headline, or at least in fully grammatical instead of clipped English. If I wanted, I could read all the headlines and leads in a newspaper and know all the stories. Just not the details.
The first paragraph should tell the whole story, beginning, middle, and end. If I wanted, I could read all the first paragraphs in a newspaper and know all the stories. Just not every detail.
The following paragraphs should present details, the most important first, the smallest, least meaningful details in the last sentence of the last paragraph, so that at any moment I could stop reading and still have the complete story. Just not every tedious last detail.

Again, the poster did it beautifully in the headline, but the summary paragraph left out the juiciest part. Why did Airbus not want to build this plane? It didn't have to go into all the details. That's the job of the linked article. But one sentence, or even half a sentence, would suffice. For example:

The BBC reports that the Airbus A350XWB (extra wide body) has made its first flight [bbc.co.uk] . Like the Boeing 787, the A350 offers airlines the chance to combine long-range services with improved fuel efficiency. But at first Airbus did not want to build it, because it was already overbudget and late on another airplane, the A380. But Airbus needed an answer to Boeing's new Dreamliner. The A350's fuselage is made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic, while many other parts of the aircraft use titanium and advanced alloys to save weight. It also has state-of-the-art aerodynamics, and engine manufacturer Rolls Royce has produced a new custom-designed power unit.

Something like that.

Maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44013719)

... But will it blend?

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