A Retrospective on the A380: The Naysaying Internet


02/12/12 by Robbin Laird

An interesting aspect of the Internet age is how many folks from various backgrounds and various levels of competence can weigh in on issues.  With regard to technical issues it is even more amazing to watch how assertional pile ons create realities of fundamental problems and challenges which have more to the individual proclivities than to underlying realities.

When I grew up in the 1950s, America was in a period of greatness, dreaming great dreams and driving towards impossible goals.  If we had the internet at that time we would have heard about the constant problems with Air Force, Navy and Army programs and the fundamental failures of the Space programs.  Tests constantly failed, pilots died and companies failed in the quest for greatness.  In the internet naysayer world, I am not sure this would have been possible.

Credit: Airbus

For modern American aerospace programs like the 787 or the F-35 have been targets of the internet naysayers.  And the A380 program as the first new Aircraft now flying in the 21st century succeeded in spite of Internet naysayism.

The designers of the program from the beginning designed a large plane to land at major global airports with a 747 footprint in mind.  Obviously, the double decker plane would require modifications at those airports associated with the weight of the aircraft and in the terminal accommodating a double deck aircraft.

But throughout the period prior to flying the aircraft we heard many shouts about the problems with the plane.

  • We heard that the size of the plane meant it would need special runways.
  • We heard that the size of the plane would make it impossible to fly other planes without a 20-minute gap prior to takeoff for the next plane on the runway.
  • We heard about significant wing problems.
  • We heard about how this plane might even overturn small Embraer and Bombardier or private jets as it took off.

There are many more.  The problem with the Internet is these claims NEVER go away.  They are there with the same validity of any credible answers to these claims.

Again, this is the same for the 787 and the F-35.  It is part of the common scourge of the naysaying Internet.

The reality according to an FAA source about the A380 at Dulles (the plane which I flew) is simple.  The plane uses the same runway as the 777.  There is a three minute separation between takeoff and the next plane taking off.  There is a need because of the size of the plane a 10-mile separation as the aircraft moves into landing cycle, as opposed to a 5 mile separation for a smaller plane.

The smaller planes can work effectively with the A380.  Of course, the plane only lands at larger aircraft, which, of course, was planned at the outset.  Modifications terminal side were made to accommodate the double decker, and the airports have re-shaped terminal operations to accommodate the plane and the higher passenger load for the plane.

The hidden benefit to Airbus is that they developed an excellent working relationship with the major airports in shaping the proper operational environment for the aircraft.

In short, the naysaying Internet lives on, but reality moves on.  The product is there and is working and will be in the sky for 30 years or more.  But in 2050, you will still find the naysaying Internet postings.

Perhaps Theodore Roosevelt said it best at a Speech at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910:

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Credit for Featured Image: http://www.airplane-pictures.net/photo/182445/a6-edr-emirates-airlines-airbus-a380/

And by the way a significant part of the A380 as with all Airbus aircraft is American, reaching 50% dependent on the configuration.