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   Vol. 18 No. 13
Tuesday February 19, 2019

     Of 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 about A380.
     “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.

Invested 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.”

Never 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.”

Beats Boeing 777-300ER

     “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.”

What 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 growth.
     “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).

Tall 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.

     “Listen kid,” the drill sergeant told me on my first day in basic training after being drafted into the U.S. Army, before being shipped off to Vietnam:
     “I have been in this Army, boy to man, for 22 years.
     “I was here when you arrived,” he growled, and “I’ll still be here when you are long gone.”
     I thought about that admonition this morning, reading about the end of production for the Airbus A380.
     What came to mind was the Boeing B747, which has been produced in one variant or another for 50 years now.
     In fact, right now as you read this, with a order from UPS earlier this month for 14 more 747Fs, and some other recent orders, the Boeing jumbo jet (first conceptualized and flown by Pan American World Airways in the late 1960s), will actually still be in production after the last A380 rolls off the line in France.
     Most industry observers knew that the order book for A380 was not too long, and way too thin. In truth, the aircraft only hung by those massive and oft repeated orders from Emirates, that today still operates 96 Airbus jumbos.
     But the alarm bells rang loud and clear when the third A380 built, which made its commercial debut at Singapore Airlines, landed at the airplane graveyard at Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees, stripped of its markings, a giant, ghostly superjumbo followed by three more A380s. This location is in the takeoff pattern, or about 75 miles from where the pioneering aircraft were built less than a mere decade ago.
     Today, with no takers, four ex-Singapore Airlines A380 aircraft sit grounded and mothballed in France, stripped of their engines during what should be (as compared, say to a B747) an airplane’s prime of life.

Too Big For Its Own Good?

     “The Airbus A380 is a fascinating and in many ways outstanding aircraft. A technical innovation and a masterpiece from Europe,” Carsten Sphor, a former pilot, who now heads up Lufthansa Group said in a statement on Twitter.
     “However,” Carsten said, “it has been shown that a profitable use of the A380 is only possible on the extremely popular routes. We are delighted that we can continue to use the Airbus A380. Our customers and crews love the aircraft.”
     While more passengers per plane usually means more revenue, size may no longer matter.
Less, we are learning, (as the darling of hub and spoke moves out of favor), is being replaced by efficient point-to-point service via smaller twin-engine aircraft.
     Add to changing marketing trend woes, the fact that the A380's giant wingspan and mass, still today in 2019, doesn’t work with many airport taxiways and gates, not to mention the ongoing challenges many airports face with boarding large crowds.

No A380 Freighter

     Maybe if Airbus had developed A380 into a freighter, the story here might have been different.
Boeing, we recall, created B747 as a freighter right from the get go, and sold multiples of the freighter variant to airlines all over the place, including Pan Am, JAL, Lufthansa and others.
     Boeing also bought and paid for massive public advertising for its air cargo freighters on U.S. national television networks.
     Today, it can be said, air cargo is keeping the lights on in the B747 factory.
     But all of it, including discussions of what has happened to A380, must leave some kind of hollow feeling in the pit of the stomach of all who love aviation.
     Sure, A380s will be around for some time to come but the fact that this magnificent machine never got into a true phase two of its build is unfortunate.
     Truly, for all who have flown it, A380 is the greatest cabin in the sky.

chuckles For February 14, 2014

Who Has The Next Big Idea  

Late News . . . IATA said that it is in the final round for a ULD Air Cargo Innovation Award scheme.
  “Out of the 56 innovative ideas submitted, an independent jury shortlisted three finalists,” IATA said.
  Unilode Aviation Solutions is a finalist for its Digital Transformation Program; Air New Zealand Cargo & Cargo Composites for the aeroTHERM ULD, and SITA, Safran & CHAMP for their Smart ULD.
  All three finalists will present their idea at the IATA World Cargo Symposium in Singapore that takes off March 12.
  Delegates will be tallied for the idea they like the most with winner announced at the closing event WCS March 14.

Delta Cargo & SkyTeam
  “By rebranding our international products to align with our SkyTeam Cargo partners, it is now easier for our customers to do business with all 12 member airlines,” said Shawn Cole, (right) Delta Cargo–Vice President.
  “The DL product rebrand, aligning with SkyTeam Cargo includes no changes to our product offering,” Mr. Cole said.

     The best airplane meal I’ve ever had was, conversely, on the ground in a place called Rocky’s, located downstairs in the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport New York, the place Air Cargo News FlyingTypers saved in 1980, and maintained an office for 30 years, turning the historic airline passenger facility into a landmark for all time.
     The food that day at Rocky’s was a reproduction of what people were served aboard the 100-ton Boeing B314 flying boats that once operated from the MAT after taking off from the waters behind the building in 1940, when service was opened between New York City and Europe.
     We had consommé soup with tiny pasta balls and cold cucumber and butter sandwiches, sans the crust.
     Thor Johnson, who ran Pan Am Clipper Cargo at the time, put up the lunch.
     I remember that Thor also gave everybody commemorative, first day 50th anniversary air mail covers and a reproduction of the event menu to take home.
     I’ll never forget that lunch.
     I still think of that simple soup with its tiny pasta balls to this day.
     Or should I say until the time we flew First Class aboard an A380-800 from Dubai all the way to New York City non-stop.

A380 Style of Travel

     They say, looking back at your memories is like looking at life through the bottom of a shot glass, and I can understand what they mean from being on that luxurious flight.
     The era of the legendary and romantic Clipper Flying Boats, when people got as dolled up to fly as they used to when going to the theater, is comparable to the experience offered today aboard any A380 first class cabin.

A380 Lifted The Bar

     To my mind, in addition to being a true masterpiece of an airplane, A380 changed the style and quality of modern flying.
     The A380, with its over the top onboard showers and private suites and even lounges and service bars with banquettes and other services, set a new bar for a style of flying, thought long gone.
     Today, most all-commercial aircraft feature enhanced cabins, comfort plus economy, better seats and more services.
     The question of whether A380 was too late to the skies or even too early (better, more efficient engines or should have had an all-cargo variant?) will be debated.
     One simple fact is that A380 continues to deliver a better passenger flight experience, that will endure up and down the line worldwide.

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If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
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Vol. 18 No. 10
Lunar Lightbox 2019
Chuckles for February 6, 2019
Turkish Cargo March Into SmartIST
Explaining Blockchain To A 10-Year Old
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Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
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