Airbus A380 superjumbo could be even larger, with bigger wings

By Bloomberg News, June 10 2017
Airbus A380 superjumbo could be even larger, with bigger wings

The Airbus A380 superjumbo may sprout extended wings as the European manufacturer intensifies studies into the addition of curved extensions aimed at reducing drag and boosting efficiency.

The so-called winglets, which on the A380 would each measure as much as 5 meters, could reduce fuel burn by up to 4 percent by dissipating the vortexes of rapidly spinning air created by the plane’s wings.

Airbus’s commercial aircraft chief Fabrice Bregier said Friday there’s a good chance that the company will opt to upgrade the smaller wingtip fences currently fitted on the A380.

The switch, together with improved engine efficiencies, could help win orders while avoiding the greater expense of a Neo upgrade featuring new turbines and changes to the double-decker’s airframe.

Airbus says 'bo' to the A380neo

“We will not launch an A380neo, there’s no business case now to do that, this is absolutely clear,” Bregier said.

“But it doesn’t prevent us from looking at what could be done to improve the performance of the aircraft. So having a little bit more efficiency from the engines is clearly an option, and looking at whether we could bring new winglets is also probably a good possibility.”

Adding the extensions would require only minor modifications to the A380’s wings, with no need to strengthen the center box where they join to the plane’s fuselage, Bregier said in an interview at Airbus’s headquarters in Toulouse, France. That was a cost the company sustained when adding winglets to its A320-series single-aisle planes.

Emirates interest

Enhancements to the A380 could help lure buyers after the world’s biggest passenger plane drew an order blank last year, and Airbus will only go ahead with the winglets upgrade if there is commercial interest, Bregier said.

Emirates, the biggest superjumbo customer, is in early talks over a deal for 20 more A380s, people familiar with the discussions said this week.

The Dubai carrier told Bloomberg that while it has no plans for a purchase right now, it regularly engages with manufacturers on “product updates and enhancement.”

Didier Evrard, Airbus’s commercial programs chief, said studies into the winglets are progressing and stem from technological advancements as well as the need to make the A380 more efficient.

“Ten or 15 years ago we were not able to design winglets with the right balance or drag,” he said, adding that the existing wingtips “are not the most optimal part of the A380.”

The model was formally launched in December 2000, had its first flight in 2005, and entered commercial service with Singapore Airlines in 2007.

Even a 1 percent fuel saving would be significant for the superjumbo, which carries 200 metric tons of kerosene for a typical long-haul flight, according to Evrard, who on Monday said Airbus would need to consider slowing the A380 build rate to less than one jet a month without new contracts this year.

Rolls-Royce, which is supplying engines for the outstanding A380s from existing Emirates orders, could provide range and fuel-burn improvements for the Trent 900 turbine that it makes for the model. It referred questions about potential upgrades to Airbus.

As part of its push to make the superjumbo more attractive to airlines Airbus has also devised half a dozen cabin modifications in order to accommodate more than 80 additional seats.

The changes include removing an upper-deck stowage area, re-positioning the main staircase and moving to an 11-abreast layout on the main deck.


12 Jun 2014

Total posts 22

 Making the A380 more efficient is critical. It may be a great plane to fly in but to fly it profitably you need to be able to sustain high loads.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 261

How much more efficient would the A380 need to be to do Perth London? Or is it a bridge too far no matter what they do? Being able to offer A380 services, including first, on that route would be better than 787.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 233

With the new MTOW A380's and a premium-heavy seat count, it would be doable.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1377

I'm not sure if a premium heavy seat count would work however.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 621


The 380 has nearly 2x the usable cabin floor area as a 789.   Assuming QF is unlikely to drop codesharing/Rev$-sharing with EK via DXB hub(QF has said that it won't ever since PER-LHR was announced) nor its own SYD-DXB-LHR on 380, it's gonna be a mammoth task to fill those additional seats on a 380 for PER-LHR on a daily yr-round basis....all these b4 we even touch on the topics of:
a) Whether a mildly enhanced 380(i.e. Trent900 with reduced fuel burn+new sharklets) can do PER->LHR westbound nonstop.  Given the actual performance of the current 380 and PER->LHR is only 5% further than today's DFW->SYD, technically I think a '380Enhanced' likely can.
b) Assuming a) is positive, will QF invest in a hypothetical 380Enhanced as opposed to more 787 or bet on 359ULR/778?
c) Assuming b) is positive, realistically how many will QF order and will that quantity help convince Airbus to commit R&D+cert effort in 380Enhanced?(Note: No convincing needed re 787, 359ULR or 778 as all hv production slots available for QF to buy  anytime).

Frankly, I foresee QF longhaul investment @ its new PER intercon gateway will revolve more around increasing route/frequency choices by 789 than up-gauging to the hypothetical 380Enhanced on a single route.....

In a nutshell, the debate for QF will be:
X) More pax will fly PER-LHR mostly because some pax perceive 380 is better than 789 for that route.
Y) More pax will fly PER-Europe because more route/frequency  choices by 789 are added and/or SYD-LHR by 359ULR/778 will draw even more pax.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2014

Total posts 20

I agree FLX1, also much prefer EK A380 experience in business than QF A380 and A330 or anything else, especially when EK is also less expensive and has return limo pickup at both ends.  No brainer really.

Having larger capacity aircraft forces down fares for the public

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 193

Getting fuel efficiencies from fine tuning of the wings and engines plus redesigning cabin interiors and using the technology that is being used by the A350 for cabin pressure and air flow, could be a winner for the A380 especially for airlines who want direct long haul  'Point 2 'Point' routes like EK's DBX/AKL/DBX.

Customer feed back of EK's A380 DBX/AKL/DBX service in economy is very positive as oppose to QR 773LR DOH/AKL/DOH direct service.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2016

Total posts 106

You mean DXB? not DBX?

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 621


"... using the technology that is being used by the A350 for cabin pressure and air flow, could be a winner for the A380"
Adopting tech used by 350 for cabin pressurization+airflow could be a non-starter for any 380 enhancement project.

Such cabin environmental performance on the 350 is due largely to CFRP materials(i.e. non-metallic) being used in the construction of nearly all of its fuselage sections.  Just imagine how much it'll cost to recalculate all loading forces across the entire 380 fuselage due to change of materials fm metal to CFRP and then redesign all structures accordingly and re-optimizing their weights....for the $+time involved, Airbus might as well develop a clean-sheet design 390 fm scratch.


03 May 2013

Total posts 673

Kirsdude I agree...I also hope they go overboard and "over soundproof" the A350, as they did with A38, which all up would make the A350 superior to 777 or 787.

15 Sep 2012

Total posts 93

If the wing is extended by 5m on each wing, thats 10 more metres required width at airport gates. Many airports have just been modified to fit current A380s. Many would not be able to take a wider wingspan. Runway widths also need to be considered- several airports already have to apply special procedures for A380s.  Going to be hard for airbus to sell aircaft without the facilities  in place to support it

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 621


U are absolutely correct re the op issues fm an even wider 380 wingspan which I hv not thought about earlier.

Current 380 wingspan is 79.75m and rated ICAO Cat F(or FAA Cat VI) dimension for all rwy, taxiway and parking gate size planning purposes. Any wingspan below 80m is Cat F compatible.

Adding just another 25cm to its wingspan, let alone 10m as described in this story, will immediately bump such 380 off airports built to Cat F standard and there're already not that many Cat F airports in the world.  Most critically, category beyond F /VI is not yet defined by ICAO nor one really anticipated airliner wingspan beyond 80m will be in regular commercial service.

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 177

The wing extension will vertically positioned as with the A320, 763 and 738's. It is not viable for horizontal positioning.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1422

Aniljak, it all depends in which direction the 5m extension is heading. If it is upwards less of a big deal. I suspect it is a curve like the A350 so not another 10 metres. Maybe 1or 2 horizontally and 2 or 3 metrupward.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 621


"If it is upwards less of a big deal."
If such 380 is to fit into existing ICAO cat F wingspan op regime, practically all that 5m extension has to go upward vertically as current 380 wingspan is already @ 79.75m.

Such winglet won't appear as a curve but visually resembling far  more like the 380's current wingtip fence.  Also, such geometry will yield far less gain in aero drag reduction to boost fuel efficiency.

"...a curve like the A350 so not another 10 metres. Maybe 1or 2 horizontally and 2 or 3 metrupward."
It's the other way around re geometry of the latest breed of winglet designs on widebodies.

Take a closer look of many photos for wingtips on 350 and 330Neo, U'll see the horizontal dimension 'out-run' the vertical dimension by a wide margin....more like 3 or 4:1.

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