The term "jumbo jet" has been redefined.
When Airbus, a plane manufacturing company based in Toulouse, France, debuted its new A-380 airplane on Jan. 18, observers witnessed a never before seen creation in the world of aviation.
The A-380 passenger jet, along with its sister the A-380 Freight, will be the largest plane ever to leave the ground when it begins service in 2006.
According to the Airbus Web site, www.airbus.com, the A-380 has 50 percent more passenger space then the Boeing 747 airliner, currently the largest plane in commercial service.
The A-380 will be the first plane to feature two full-length passenger decks and transport 555 passengers for 8,000 nautical miles, about 14,800 kilometers. With the increased amount of space in the cabins, passengers will be able to experience new levels of comfort, including individual armrests for each passenger.
The A-380 and A-380F have been ordered by multiple airlines and transport companies such as: North American based companies, Fed Ex, UPS and the first passenger carrier to use the 380, Emirates Airlines based in the United Arab Emirates.
According to United Airlines' Media Relations Manager Jeff Green, there are no plans for any airlines based in the United States to purchase the A-380.
"As far as I know, no American airlines are planning to purchase the A-380," Green said. "In United's case, we just do not have the routes to justify that large of an aircraft. The distances we fly, along with the passenger loads we have, do not warrant the use of a plane as large as the A-380. Our 747's and 777's are doing the job for us."
Although the A-380 and A-380F will be able to land on any runway approved for a 747, other changes will be necessary to accommodate the planes once they are on the ground.
With a wingspan of 261-feet-8-inches, the airplane will require airports to adapt to its dimensions, which have never been seen before in the airports today.
Ed Coleman, spokesperson for Fed Ex, one of the companies that purchased the A-380F, said renovations have already begun at airports that will accommodate the A-380 and A-380F.
"The A-380F is so large that changes have to be made to accommodate it. Take for instance the wings: if you were to put the plane on a football field, its wings would touch both goalposts at the same time," Coleman said. "That is a big plane. Along with the wings, the turning radius of the plane is much larger than any other plane in service presently, so taxiways must be adjusted to accommodate the plane. There are just a lot of small adjustments that must be made, adjustments that are already in the works so airports can be ready for the plane in 2006, and for 2008, when Fed Ex begins to use the plane."
Some people have questioned why planes as large as the A-380 and the A-380F are necessary to have flying in the skies. One answer is purely economical, Coleman said.
"The A-380F will allow Fed Ex to increase our operational efficiency incredibly," Coleman said. "The A-380F can carry twice the amount of cargo, twice the distance then our current plane, the MD-11. The MD-11 can carry its cargo 4,200 nautical miles, where as the Airbus can take its cargo 6,000 nautical miles. Thus, we get twice the payload for half the cost."
In the future, Coleman feels the economic advantage the A-380F offers will be very beneficial to Fed Ex and other companies.
"Statistics show that by 2020, 80 percent of all goods in the world will be transported across international borders," Coleman said. "As product volumes continue to increase for us, the A-380F will truly prove its worth."
Airbus's most notable competitor, Boeing, disagrees with Airbus's view on the market and its stance that a plane as large as the A-380 is the next step in the transportation market. Jim Condelles, spokesperson for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, based in Seattle, Washington, thinks the market is in fact moving towards smaller more efficient planes.
"We disagree with the competition and its opinion that the market is large for that large of a plane. We feel that there is in fact a fairly small market for that large of a plane," Condelles said. "We feel the market is moving towards more non-stop flights, destination flights. We have a new plane in the works, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, that will be able to land at almost any airport, allowing passengers non-stop service into non-major hubs."
One individual in the travel industry, Kevin Kovacs travel advisor at STA Travel located in the Lory Student Center feels that Boeing may have the right idea.
"I feel that although the A-380 will transport a lot more people than planes presently do, the real innovation is the 787 Dreamliner," Kovacs said. "On the coasts the 380 may have more of an impact, but here locally, in Denver, I think the 787's effect will be felt more heavily. That is, of course, if it actually happens"
Boeing is in the beginning design stages of the 787, but plans are to have the plane in the air for its first flight in 2007, with its first commercial plane in circulation in 2008, two years after the A-380 and 380F are in the air.