Monday, March 13, 2006

Desperately Seeking Shamu: Lufthansa Goes Shopping

It is reported that the CEO of Lufthansa, one of the larger customers for the Airbus A380, is in Seattle taking a gander at the proposed Boeing 747-8.

For the three guys from Greenland who've been up on the polar icecap for the last couple years and have not been watching the news lately, the 747-8 is a product improved and stretched version of the sixties design that is intended to take what little wind remains in the sails of the A380 by presenting a credible alternative to the Airbus offering in the lower end of the configuration spectrum.

I haven't yet run the weight/payload numbers for the 747-8 but you can be sure that's what is at the heart of this odd journey. The numbers for the A380 simply do not add up to anything more than a payload and fuel limited aircraft even when you use the Airbus numbers, as I discussed on 28 February.

I am informed by a usually reliable source-a DER who has worked in the aircraft certification and weight engineering fields for many years-that the figures that I extracted for the weight of the A380 interior from published data may well be unduly optimistic. I'm not prepared to say more than that, even though having worked under his tutelage for a couple of years I've found his weight estimate work to be very accurate. As I recall, we cooperated on one 731 Jetstar weight estimate that was exactly to-the-pound correct, and within .1 % calculated MAC in the CG department.

If that situation remains unchanged, this trip by Mr. Mayrhuber to Seattle may not be the last one that we see.

As a postscript, if I worked in the A380 marketing department I'd have some serious heartburn about this development. It's one thing for someone in south Asia to be kvetching about this stuff, but Germany is a core country in the Airbus empire. That's got to be a real concern to those fine folks in Toulouse.

In a lot of ways, the coming shakeout this year may well be more interesting than the orders parade was last year. I think we can declare the 2005 aerospace post-coital afterglow officially ended.


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