Aircraft Accidents and Decline of the Jumbos

I remember ten years ago being excited that my alma mater airline was purchasing several A380s and using them for cargo aircraft. The two major cargo carriers were to be the United States’ launch carriers for the super-jumbo and they promised to change the way cargo was shipped worldwide. However costly delays leading to even more costly reorganizing on part of both airlines led to both UPS and FedEx cancelling their orders. UPS made alternate plans in its fleet to meet its Far East stations and FedEx gave the 777 a go.
Now, ten years later, both the A380 and the 747-8 assembly lines are being drastically reduced, with an eye towards cancelling the future of the jets. In the world of commercial aviation, ten years is not a lot of time. The 737 has been on the assembly line since the sixties and shows no sign of relenting its crown.
The size of these two jumbo jets means that several 737s can be built in the same time one A380 or 747-8 can make its way to the end of the assembly line, thus the number of these aircraft will never catch the A320, A330, 737, 767 or even the numbers put out before shutting down the assembly lines of the 727 and 757. The 747 may not be as big a loss seeing as the 747-400 surrendered its assembly line to the -8, so no new buildings had to be built or extensive studies invested to create the next generation 747.
But the A380 was a large investment. It takes the sale of hundreds of A380s to pay back the original investment dollars, the rising costs of labor and the ability to churn out enough planes to put the aircraft in the black. It’s not certain, but in 2006, it was thought that seven years of regular production would put the A380 into the ‘making money’ envelope; the jury is still out to determine if enough planes were built to make it. Certainly there are no US customers; they never entered the A380 market.
The good news is that to date there are no major accidents with an A380 or 747-8 at the center. This will become less likely since not as many will be flying as compared to other models. It’s ironic, but these two will probably reign supreme as the safest aircraft aloft, simply because the odds of an accident decrease with the limited number around.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *