The end clap is approaching for the Airbus A380 program. Airbus completed this week the assembly of the very last super-jumbo in the Jean-Luc Lagardère factory, dedicated to the largest commercial aircraft of all time. The aircraft (MSN 272) left station 40 on the site assembly line.
It still has several steps to go through before delivery: the installation of the electrical and hydraulic systems as well as the on-board computers, the moving parts (slats and flaps) and the assembly of the engine. Operations carried out on station 30 of the assembly line. The aircraft will then undergo a series of ground tests before making its first flight and then depart for Hamburg, Germany, where the passenger cabin will be fitted out and its fuselage will be adorned with the colors of Emirates, the most important client of the program, with 115 Airbus A380 already received.
The last A380 should be delivered in spring 2021. But the Covid-19 crisis has passed that way, bringing air transport to a sudden halt, in particular to the activity of international links. Unlike domestic routes, long-haul traffic is not recovering: it is still down by 90% compared to 2019. A hard blow for Emirates, which based its development model from the Dubai hub, with a fleet wide-body aircraft of more than 400 passengers (A380 and Boeing 777).
Still, 9 devices awaiting delivery
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Airbus has therefore entered into negotiations with Emirates on the conditions and schedule for the reception of its last 8 A380s, including the MSN272. The other 7 devices are at more advanced stages of manufacture. Will the company take its planes or cancel their delivery? Everything is possible, we admit half-heartedly in Toulouse, Airbus industrial HQ. Another A380, that of All Nippon Airways, is also awaiting delivery to Toulouse. This brings the number of devices to be delivered to 9.
Emirates has been studying for months a restructuring of its fleet which could result in the withdrawal of 50 European super-jumbos. Since this summer, the Gulf company has certainly gradually put planes back into service to Asia, Africa, and Europe. In France, it plans to relaunch its routes to Lyon and Nice from October 25, while continuing to operate two routes with Paris, with … Boeing 777s while last year this line had 3 flights per week aboard Airbus A380.
With this last A380 assembled, the program is approaching its end, just fourteen years after the first delivery, in October 2007, to Singapore Airlines. In total, the super-jumbo will have accumulated 251 orders and transported more than 300 million passengers worldwide via fifteen airlines. The end of production does not mean the cessation of operation, it is stressed at the headquarters of Airbus. Even if « the future of the plane depends on the resumption of long-haul traffic », we add. The Covid-19 crisis has indeed precipitated the end of large planes with the withdrawal of the A380 fleets but also of the Boeing 747, whose production will stop in 2022.
As for the 3,500 employees who worked on the production of the A380 in Europe, Airbus began to redeploy them on other programs since 2019. The aircraft manufacturer had announced that it would install instead of the assembly line of the A380 in Toulouse a line dedicated to the A321 because, at the time, Airbus was engaged in a strong ramp-up. This project has been suspended due to Covid-19 and the crisis in the aeronautics market. “The project is not buried but suspended,” says one at Airbus