Airbus has presented an updated version of the A380 featuring new fuel saving winglets in what is the latest initiative to help improve the aircraft’s operating economics and perhaps attract new orders for the program.
The winglets were on display on one of Airbus’s A380 test fleet present at the Paris Airshow, which got underway on Monday (European time).
They are part of improvements to the aircraft that Airbus has packaged together and called A380plus, including extending maintenance intervals, aerodynamic changes to the wing and previously announced “cabin enablers” to add more seats.
Airbus Commercial Aircraft head of A380 marketing Frank Vermeire said the A380 market was “constantly moving”.
“We’ve spoken to our existing customers and have received positive feedback on the improvements envisioned for the A380plus,” Vermeire said in a statement.
“We see the improvements in the A380plus as a great step to make the A380 even more efficient, ensuring it stays well ahead of the competition, while still offering passengers a unique flying experience in the best cabin in the sky.”
Airbus said the new winglets, measuring 4.7 metres in height (an uplet of 3.5m and a downlet of 1.2m), would help improve aerodynamics and reduce drag. The A380 wings’ overall dimensions would remain within an 80m x 80m envelope, maintaining the aircraft’s compatibility with airport infrastructure.
Further, Airbus said the A380plus would have longer maintenance check intervals, including a reduced six-year check downtime, to help cut maintenance costs and increase the available flying hours of the aircraft.
The A380plus would also comprise system improvements derived from the company’s A350 program, with the latest inflight entertainment system, new fuel pumps with high-slip induction motors and a new flight management system to be offered.
This comes on top of previously announced measures to add up to 80 more seats in the cabin, such as an 11-abreast economy and nine-abreast premium economy on the lower deck, new stairs, the removal of sidewall stowage bins on the upper deck and a combined crew rest compartment.
Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy said the A380plus was a “new step for our iconic aircraft to best serve worldwide fast-growing traffic and the evolving needs of the A380 customers”.
“The A380plus is an efficient way to offer even better economics and improved operational performance at the same time,” Leahy said.
“The A380 is well-proven as the solution to increasing congestion at large airports, and in offering a unique, passenger-preferred experience.”
Airbus has previously outlined a reduction of the A380’s production rate to one aircraft a month by 2018. There were 317 orders for the A380 at May 31 2017, according to the Airbus website, with 213 aircraft delivered and a backlog of 104.
The rate may need to be further reduced if no new orders emerge, Airbus executive vice president and head of programs Didier Evrard told media on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Cancun on June 5.
“It needs orders this year to maintain one a month,” Evrard said.
Airbus published a video about A380plus on its YouTube channel:
Meanwhile, the company said it would extend its Airspace by Airbus cabin concept featured on its A330neo and A350 programs to the A320 family of aircraft.
This will include redesigned overhead stowage bins that are 40 per cent bigger compared with A320s flying today, as well as new lighting and updated lavatories.
Airbus Commercial Aircraft head of design and brand management Paul Edwards said the width of the A320 Airspace cabin had been increased by “approximately an inch in the important head and shoulder areas”.
“The designers worked very closely with engineers, and found every millimetre we could to give back to the passenger,” Edwards said.