Steve Trimble reveals that the Airbus A380 is a potential candidate to replace not only Air Force One, but also US Air Force Lockheed C-5 outsize airlifters. While it is hard to imagine the President of the United States flying around in the flagship of European aerospace, it makes sense they would want competition when it comes to replacing the Boeing 747s now used.
But while the USAF may only have requested information from Airbus as part of its review of the potentially overbudget C-5 re-engining programme, the prospect of the A380 Freighter replacing the C-5s is much more intriguing.
Boeing lost the C-5 competition to Lockheed in 1965, but used the acquired knowledge of large-aircraft design and high-bypass turbofans to launch development of the civil 747. The result was a monopoly of the "jumbo" market that lasted 37 years and officially ended only this month with the entry into airline service of the first A380.
Winning the C-5 competition almost bankrupted Lockheed. Losing the competition led Boeing to "bet the company" on developing the 747. The 747's market monopoly led Airbus to develop the A380, which plunged the European airframer into financial and operational turmoil.
If the A380F really is in the frame to replace the C-5s, can Boeing respond by offering the 748-8F? Or does it have to protect and prolong the C-17 production line, and in doing so risk the C-5 competition all over again?