all the airline air cargo executives that you have ever met or for that
matter have ever heard of, no one was closer to A380 and its possible
uses for air cargo than Ram Menen who was present at the creation of SkyCargo
and top executive of Emirates Cargo until 2013.
We reached out to Ram, who today is retired,
and living with his wife Malou in Luxembourg, and this is what he said
“Having been involved with the A380
project from Day 2 whilst it was still designated as A3XX, it is really
sad to see the production line coming to end in the next few years.
“I have had the opportunity to work
with the Airbus team quite closely.
“Emirates were instrumental in getting
Airbus to reconfigure/modify the lower deck cargo hold for maximizing
loading efficiencies, and are able to load up to 14-16 tons of cargo on
normal operations with a full load of passengers.
In Air Cargo
“We accomplished this by getting Airbus
to install a turn table, which allowed us to load 3 standard 96”x125”
pallets in the tunnel area instead of 6 LD3 containers.
“Not many airlines have taken this
option and today are unable to load more cargo.”
A Great Cargo Aircraft
“Although I have not been a great
fan of the A380 from a cargo point of view, it is a great passenger aircraft
and I have always enjoyed travelling on one.
“Emirates have been very successful
in operating A380s as they feed into and feed off of large wide body aircraft.
“Other operators tend to have narrow
body smaller aircraft feeding A380.
“The result of that action is that
the benefit from the contribution cargo can make to the A380 operation
(and bottom line) is lost.”
“Fact is,” Ram said, “that
the A380 has better cargo capability than B777-300ER on sector lengths
of up to 14-15 hours.
“The B777-300ER is a freighter in
disguise up to sector lengths of about 11 hours (based on pax configuration
and full load) and then the degradation on payload was quite steep whilst
the A380 flies further with full payload.”
Happened To EK A380 Freighters?
“As for the freighters, Emirates were
the first to order two of them which later on were converted to our passenger
order. “When the order was placed, there was no successor in sight
for the B747-400ERF and we needed a larger freighter to handle our future
“We worked quite closely with the
Airbus team to define the freighter and realized that it had a few challenges
that needed to be resolved.
“As example, we discovered that A380
tended to make a better freighter for integrator type of traffic than
the traditional heavyweight consignments.
“This is why there was more excitement
amongst the integrators, and FedEx and UPS placed larger orders.”
(Editors Note: Eventually because of some A380 delivery delays and
other market forces, the integrators moved their freighter business to
Boeing. Whether they might revisit the possibility of A380 in a conversion
to cargo is, at this point, an open question).
Cargo Loaders Needed
“The challenge was also loading the
upper deck that required hi-loaders reaching up to 8 meters high.
“This also would have limited the
airports, this aircraft could serve.
“Boeing’s redesign of the B747
to the -8 version provided a better solution to our industry and with
all the other challenges the aircraft was having at the entry into service
(EIS), the freighter program was shelved.”
Continue To Enjoy The Ride
“It is sad that A380’s life
has been cut short.
“Although the production line is being
shut down, I am sure we will see A380 up in the sky for another couple
of decades, so let us continue to enjoy riding on them as long as they
are up in the air,” Ram Menen said.