Airbus is crediting the A380 with providing the design and production experience necessary to ensure the success of the A350.
Chief executive Tom Enders, speaking in Toulouse as the airframer confirmed it would stop producing the double-deck jet, said the company had been “pretty close” to axing the A380 a year ago.
“We fought hard to have another go at the programme,” he says, but acknowledges that the efforts to generate interest in the aircraft proved futile.
“You can trust that we haven’t been giving up easily on the A380. We did various analyses in recent years, what else we could do with [it].
“It turned out that, with measures like re-engining or stretching the aircraft, we wouldn’t find customers, or not enough customers.”
The airframer had briefly shown off a revamped model, the A380plus, featuring large modified wing-tips and a reconfigured interior.
But Enders says the company has been left with “no choice” but to terminate the programme.
“I think were not wasting resources here,” he says. “To the contrary, we’re avoiding to waste additional resources because we need to be realistic about it.
“After everything we tried on the sales front, our engineers with new proposals, the response from the market was – to put it mildly – very weak.”
But he points out that Airbus “learned a lot” from A380 production “and also from its early production problems”, he says.
Enders says the airframer gained experience with carbonfibre and composites, enabling the expansion of their use on the A350. “We couldn’t have done that without the experience of the A380,” he adds.
The A380 cockpit has also driven improvements on the A350 flightdeck.
Enders’ upcoming successor, commercial aircraft president Guillaume Faury, says the design and production of the A350 has been “impressive” and owes much to the difficulties overcome during A380 assembly.
“Without the crisis that was encountered in the industrial phase of the A380, I believe the A350 would not have been such a fantastic success,” he adds.