The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, made a personal visit to the Airbus manufacturing facility in Hamburg, Germany yesterday. Arriving in a top of the range Mercedes G-Wagon the sheikh was taken on a tour of the factory where Airbus has its final assembly line for A320 aircraft and the A380 superjumbo.
Sheikh Maktoum started off by observing the production of parts for A320 aircraft before moving on to an A380 destined for the Dubai-based airline, Emirates. The aircraft was in its final stages of being fitted out, complete with the refreshed, new look bar and lounge.
Emirates has a total of 142 A380’s on order with Airbus and is the largest operator of the model – responsible for 40% of all the A380’s operated in the world. In July, Emirates took delivery of its 96th A380, marking nine years since the first one was delivered to the airline.
According to WAM, the official UAE press agency, Emirates is expected to receive its 100th A380 in November with the backlog of orders set to be complete by 2025. So far, Emirates hasn’t announced whether it will order any more of the superjumbo’s but the very future of the A380 project rests on Emirates’ continuing support of the model.
In recent months, Airbus has been trying to woo potential customers of the A380 with a series of modifications to the aircraft. This includes ‘space optimizers’ to fit even more passenger seats within the current shell (around 80 in total) and the so called ‘A380plus’ – The Plus would feature new winglets to help reduce fuel burn by 4% and a greater range capability than the existing model.
However, Airbus has so far refused to consider an idea that Tim Clark, the president of Emirates has said his airline wants – the A380neo. Essentially, a redesign of the current aircraft with new, more fuel efficient engines. But such a project would add a significant amount of money to the already huge R&D costs of the A380.
With current orders, Airbus is currently producing about 14 A380’s per year – although, if Airbus doesn’t get a big new order soon, production is set to slow to a trickle. The manufacturing process takes nearly 12 months from start to finish and costs about $400 million USD.
In contrast with the boss of Qatar Airways (who hasn’t minced his words about the problems his airline has faced with its A350 aircraft), Sheikh Maktoum confirmed he was far happier with the performance of Airbus. During the tour, he “lauded the commitment” of Airbus and Emirates in providing “all means of comfort, luxury and safety for all passengers who prefer this unique type of plane.”
Several weeks ago the Airbus Hamburg plant had even more royal visitors when Prince William the Duke of Cambridge Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge paid a trip to the facility. For their visit, the Royal guests visited the vocational training facilities and learned about the German apprentice system.
As a helicopter pilot himself, Prince William also viewed the H135 and H145 Airbus helicopters.