The Airbus A380 Fleet Cabin and Operations Part II: Qantas, Emirates And Singapore Airlines

This entry is the final installment of our 2-parts A380 fleet review. After Korean Air, Lufthansa and Air France, we are turning our attention to Qantas. Emirates and Singapore Airlines. Since our first article, Singapore Airlines took delivery of its Airbus A380 aircraft number 12 on June 17th 2011, bringing the entire worldwide deliveries to 50 aircraft. The Paris Air Show opening on June 20th 2011 provided some unwanted attention to the A380 after Airbus own test aircraft suffered damages when one of its wing-tip scrapped a building while taxiing. Nevertheless, a A380 flight demonstration was orchestrated using Korean Air ‘s soon-to-be-delivered second A380 registered HL-7612.

4. Qantas Airways: the only 4-Class configuration

Qantas was the third carrier to receive the Airbus A380 and began operating the type December 15th 2008. One aircraft has remained in repair since undergoing a well published uncontained failure of engine number 2 while climbing out of Singapore Changi airport on November 4th 2010. Fallout from the incident prompted Rolls Royce, the manufacturer of the Trent 970 that powers Qantas A380s to introduce some engineering changes on its engines design. In the meantime the carrier has been left with only 9 aircraft operating out of the 10 delivered to date. With an additional 10 aircraft still on order with Airbus, Qantas holds the second largest A380 firm order of any airline after Emirates. By adding a Premium Economy Cabin, Qantas is the only A380 operator that currently showcases a 4-cabin product aboard an A380 aircraft. For now the carrier Is using the type on the Los Angeles, London and Singapore routes originating in Sydney and Melbourne as well as on the very important Singapore-London leg.

With 450 seats available on board, these aircraft offer 14 First Class Suites, 72 Business Class seats, 32 Premium Economy seats and 332 Economy Class seats.

The Upper Deck

The Business Class: 72 Skybed seats

The Premium Economy class: 32 seats

The Main Deck

The First Class: 14 Suites

The Economy Class: 332 seats

The individual Suites on Qantas Airbus A380 provide a partitioned personal space in which a 29-in wide seat transforms into a 83.5-in long flat bed thanks to an electronically controlled swiveling sequence. While the seat is facing forward, the bed deploys at an angle relative to the aisle. The electronic seat control mounted on a side panel interfaces with the seat position settings and its 5-zone massaging system. A 17-in LCD widescreen video monitor is also deployed via electronic control along with the light dimming, the dual layer window shades adjustment and the in-flight entertainment system. The seat enclosures reveal wooden-finished drawers and table top and are positioned in rows of 1-1-1 providing convenient direct access to the aisle.

Qantas First Class Suite

The Skybed seats present in the A380 Business Class use the protruding seatback assembly for storing personal items such as a laptops. Qantas offers First-Class grade pitch of 80-in on the 21.5-in wide seats. Both the 12.1-in wide individual LCD screen and table top are housed inside the arm rest dividing partition. They are electrically operated from extraction-unfolding-folding-retraction. More than one thousand in-flight entertainment programs including game, music, video and TV are available. A private business lounge is available complementing on board premium offerings with a sofa and a 23-in LCD screen.

Qantas Business Sky Bed

Premium Economy seats provide as much as 10-in extra pitch in comparison to the Economy class seat. The 19.5-in width is not spectacular, however by offering seats in 2-3-2 rows, along with a more generous seat recline, and a selective upper deck positioning for 32 can help negate the monotony of plain Economy Class where 332 main deck passengers are aligned in rows of 3-4-3.

The Economy class Recaro seats, designed by Marc Newson have in fact been the object of much thought, effort and pride. The 18.1-in wide seat offers enhanced reclining comfort by sliding forward gently as the back support tilts backwards. A foot rest net is deployed from the seat in front in order to complement the 31-in pitch. Each seat’s armrest provides USB 110V power supply connection for portable devices and laptops. Clearly Qantas has invested in all the small amenities contributing to making its A380 Economy Class product stand out. More than one thousand channels of entertainment are delivered through the 10.6-in backseat-mounted LCD screen.

The A380 remains Qantas flagship by incorporating a unique First Class Suite product. The fleet of about 26 Boeing 747-400 entrusted with most of the carrier long haul operation operates with individual First class flat bed seats using smaller 10.4-in LCD screens. The Business Class SkyBeds are also found on the 747 as well as on A330 aircraft.

5. Emirates: will operate up to 90 A380

Emirates was the second carrier to operate the Airbus A380 after Singapore Airline with first service taking place on the New York JFK destination on August 1st 2008. The Dubai-based carrier with an active fleet of 15 aircraft has very ambitious plans for the giant aircraft which it currently operates to London, Manchester, Sydney-Auckland, Bangkok, Toronto, Paris, Seoul, Jeddah, Beijing, Hong Kong, New York and Shanghai. With a massive current order totaling 90 aircraft, the A380 would displace the Boeing 777-300 as the mainstay of the fleet within the next few years. Emirates actually operates two slightly different configurations of the A380, both powered by the Engine Alliance GP7200 family of engine. The fleet currently has 7 Long Range A380 aircraft operating on a 3-Class configuration accommodating 517 passengers in addition to 8 Ultra Long Range A380 aircraft capable of carrying 489 passengers. Both variants retain a 3-Class configuration except for an entire section of 28 Economy Class seats that has been removed from the main deck aft section on the Ultra Long Range aircraft. A third version had been considered by the carrier for medium range service with a 2-class ultra high density configuration accommodating 604 passengers.

The Upper Deck

Both Long Range and Ultra Long Range version have similar Upper Deck seating arrangement

First Class: 14 suites

Business Class: 76 flat-bed seats

The Main Deck

All Economy Class: 427 seats for the Long Range version (517 seats total), 399 seats for the Ultra Long Range version (489 seats total)

Emirates A380 First Class Suite (Emirates)

With its First Class Suites, Emirates has elevated the scope and quality of product refinement on a category only with Singapore Airline while also featuring on board exclusive lounge and spa. The fully enclosed Suite is, as in Singapore A380 a personal cabin actually using a double sliding door for complete privacy. A refined wood finish theme is used to integrate a personal refrigerated mini bar, wireless control center, dine on demand menu, a wall-mounted 23-in widescreen with a 1,200 channels selection. The 23-in wide seat offers 86-in of pitch and converts into a comfortable bed. On board passenger experience is enhanced by access to a executive lounge and shower spa featuring the Timeless Spa product line with a choice of two shower kits.

The Business class seat as expected extends from a 48-in pitch seating position to form a 79-in long fully flat bed. Each passenger benefits from a semi-enclosed suite-like personal space comprising storage, a built-in mini-bar and independent access to the aisle. the business seats are not aligned in traditional rows of 2; you could think of it as rows of 1-1-1-1 alternating with rows of 1-2-1. the net result is a seemingly more spacious utilization of already abundant floor space.

Emirates Economy seating showcases the Ice in-flight entertainment system integrating 1200 channels of entertainment programs with sms and email capabilities delivered via a 10.6-in LCD screen. On the A380 pitch allows 32-in and width 18-in.

Emirates Economy Class

Emirates has achieved a remarkable level of product consistency throughout its fleet, sustaining the First Class and Business Class seats not only on the flagship A380 but across its Airbus 340-500 and Boeing 777-200LR fleet as well while other older aircraft like the A340-300 and early 777-200 include deeply-reclining sleeper seats and sleeperette seats for premium passengers.

Fleet and Network

Emirates has built its network around the Boeing 777, currently operating as many as 87 of the type. However the massive order of 90 Airbus A380 indicates the giant airliner will fly most of the carrier’s destination in years to come, complemented by the 70 Airbus A350 XWB on order.

6. Singapore Airlines: the Innovator

Singapore Airlines was the “first to fly” the Airbus A380-800 in on October 15th 2007. Having selected the Rolls Royce Trent 970 engines and defined a 3-Class 471 seating capacity, the airline currently operates 11 aircraft out of the 19 it has  ordered. The A380 destination network includes London, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, Sydney Melbourne, and Zurich and soon Los Angeles.

Upper Deck

Business Class: 60 Flat Bed seats

Economy Class: 88 seats

Main Deck

First Class: 12 Suites

Economy Class: 311 seats

Inside SIA A380 First Class Suite
Outside SIA A380 First Class Suite

Singapore Airlines First Class applies the Suite concept to the fullest by offering a fully enclosed personal cabin with two sliding doors and window blinds. The fine leather and abundant wood finish provide for a luxurious experience. The 23-in wide LCD screen blends in finely with the wall opposite the passenger seat. It is positioned for convenient viewing from a seating or a sleeping position. The A380 made possible the Introduction of a 78-inx28-in bed on a regular passenger transport airplane. Amenities include a with full size pillow, the state-of-the-art KrisWorld Audio Video On Demand entertainment system and the Givenchy’s designed beddings, sleeper suit and bedroom slippers. The Singapore Airlines Business Class seat also referred to as its “latest long haul business class” is in our opinion a bona fide First Class Cabin product due to the imposing frame that surrounds the 34-in wide, 55-in pitch seat. This product compares favorably with First Class Suite encountered on other operators’ A380. When transformed, the bed betrays little of its true origin as a seat. The flight experience is enhanced by a 15.4-in wide LCD screen neatly fitted onto the preceding seat back-support frame. The Economy Class offers a 19-in wide seat with 32-in of pitch with seatback-mounted handset, personal and non-intrusive reading light and in-seat power supply with the 10.6-inch personal screen providing 1,000 channels of KrisWorld entertainment.

SIA 34-in wide Fully Reclining Business Class Seat

The Singapore Airline brand, known for delivering the highest quality of standards offers Suites uniquely on the A380. This proposition surpasses the 35-in wide First Class seat product currently flying on its newest 777-300ER and refitted on some older 777-300. Older747-400 have their own leather and wood finish flat bed First Class product seat while the 777-200ER have a 60-in pitch seat and some selected 777-300 have the 64-in pitch seat accompanying the 10.4-in LCD screen. The solid Long Haul Business Class product found on the A380 is the mainstay of the long haul fleet of 777-300ER aircraft and the all-business class A340-500 aircraft flying the 17 hours long Singapore-LA route. Older Business Class products are found on 777-200ER and 747-400 offering a seat pitch of 58-inches and a bed width of 27-inches.


The A380 has allowed the Suite concept to take a firm foothold enhancing carriers branding strategies. Although we noted a variety of approaches being applied specifically to each carrier. Singapore Airline and Emirates have delivered small individual rooms, Korean Air and Qantas have retained the emphasis on privacy albeit with some limits. In our view Lufthansa new First Class seems  to espouse the Suite concept without the application of partitioning devices nor walls. After having withdrawn its First Class seats from its entire long haul fleet, Air France’s A380 have remained the exception. The measure alone has consolidated the aircraft flagship status. This move is also a vote of confidence for the rest of the long haul fleet (particularly the 777-300ER0 where the Business Class is now being propelled to the forefront of premium passenger travel. Qantas 4-Class cabin may actually suggest that an expanded Premium Economy class may enable the A380 ‘game changer’ attribute. Already by establishing the A380 as its fleet workhorse in the years to come, Emirates will be in a position to positively disrupt standards of on-board services and products throughout the entire industry.


The Airbus A380 Fleet Cabin and Operations Part I: Korean Air, Lufthansa And Air France

This entry is the first installment of a two-part  review of the Airbus A380 fleet operation highlighting the various cabin configurations selected by current operators. The aircraft first entered service with Singapore Airlines in October of 2007. According to Airbus, by May 31st 2011, 49 aircraft had been delivered to 6 of the 18 customer airlines covering the 234-aircraft order book. Because our review gives priority to newest operators, part I will deal with Korean Air, Air France and Lufthansa, while part II will analyze Qantas, Emirates and Singapore Airlines. Korean Air first A380 test-registered F-WWAT was ferried June 1st 2011 to its new Seoul home base from where it will operate registered as HL-7611. In May 2011, A380 deliveries also included Air France’s F-HPJE and Lufthansa’s D-AIMG. The innovative double-deck wide body design is marketed in a class by itself where 525 passengers can be transported comfortably in a standard 3 Class configuration on 8,300 nm-long trips. The standard set by the Boeing 747-400ER previously allowed 416 passengers to be carried a distance of 7,670 nm. Configured in a single ultra high density class, the A380 is capable of airlifting up to 853 passengers. Benefiting from flight deck commonality with other Airbus widebody jets of the A330/A340 family has provided a strong incentive for replacing A340-200/-300. Newer advanced features such as the Brake-to-Vacate auto brake system have been selected by Air France and Lufthansa. This feature is used by pilots while still on approach to program the necessary amount of breaking power needed to slow down the aircraft upon landing. As a result the aircraft spends a very short time on the runway as the exit taxiway is known in advance. The choice of an engine by operators has so far been split evenly with 3 carriers each operating the Engine Alliance GP7200 or the Rolls-Royce Trent 900. With its enormous fuselage dotted by 220 cabin windows, the aircraft Latecoere Taxi Air Camera System (TACS) provides additional eyes to the pilot during delicate ground maneuver. The aircraft main landing gear units seat on 20 wheels in addition to the 2 forward. Inside, comfort does not solely rely on plentiful real estate, the ambient air is re-cycled every 3 minutes . With airlines having heavily invested in what Airbus presents as a game changer, we are now reviewing the innovative products and services packaged around the new plane.

The manufacturer standard layout

The configuration baseline proposed by Airbus assigns 555-passengers in 3 classes of service. The upper deck offers comfortable seating for up to 199 passengers divided into 96 Business Class seats in 2-2-2 rows and 103 Economy Class seats in a 2-4-2 configuration along with a flight attendants requirement of 8 personnel. Lavatories distribution is 4 in  Business Class and 3 in Economy. The crew resting quarter in the rear is furnished with 5 bunks with  as many as 6 coat storage closets nearby. The main deck absorbs 356 seats with 22 seats for First Class using 2-2-2 rows plus 2 lavatories and 334 seats in Economy Class with 8 lavatories. On the main deck Economy seats are arranged in rows of 10 passengers abreast using the standard 3-4-3 layout. Attendants on the main deck would number 12.

The aircraft has a total of 16 passenger doors, 10 on the main deck and 6 on the upper deck opposing one another on either side of the fuselage. A simple designation system identifies door M1L, M2L or M1R and M2R as the first and second doors respectively on the left and right of the main deck. Similarly the upper deck would use U1L/U1R, U2L/U2R, U3L/U3R designating 1st, 2nd and 3rd doors respectively on the left and right side of the fuselage. Boarding procedures optimally use three bridges including 2 connected to the main deck’s 2 forward doors, and one to the upper deck. However depending on the airport and airline procedure, a pair combination of a single main deck and upper deck bridge, or 2 main deck bridges remain most practical. Doors giving access to the lower cargo holds are located forward and aft of the aircraft wing on the right side of the fuselage. A smaller door is available for access to the rear bulk cargo hold.

1. Korean Air

Korean Airlines, the newest of the A380 operators since May 24th 2011 has a total order for 10 aircraft. It expects delivery of another 4 aircraft during this year 2011 alone with the remaining 5 aircraft joining the fleet by 2014. The ferry flight of the first aircraft from Toulouse to Seoul actually took place June 1st after final acceptance tests were completed. This aircraft will begin operating on shorter haul flights between Seoul and Tokyo, and between Seoul and Hong Kong initially. The carrier does not plan to introduce the type on the North American routes it is most intended for until more aircraft are available in the rotation. Flights to New York will initially operate at a 3 times per week frequency starting August 2nd. Daily service will take place from September 1st while the daily service to Los Angeles is set to begin October 1st 2011. By specifying a 407 passengers configuration in 3 classes, Korean Air has selected the lowest passenger seating capacity, and possibly most spacious cabin of all 6 current A380 operators. The engine selected by the carrier is the Engine Alliance GP7200.

Seating Capacity: 407

Upper Deck

Business Class: 94 Prestige Flat Bed seats

Main Deck

First Class: 12 Kosmo Suiteseats

Economy Class: 301 seats

For privacy, the First Class Kosmo Suite is surrounded by partitioning side walls whose height still partially exposes a passenger upper body. This enclosed area comprises the actual 26.5-in wide seat and a separate foot-rest panel. This set-up offers 83-in of pitch. The 23-in wide Liquid Crystal Display blends into the partition wall facing the passenger seat. Located on the main deck, the First Class Kosmo Suites are available for 12 passengers. The Suites only occupy 3 rows in 1-2-1 abreast. Passengers can enjoy such amenities as individual reading lamp for work and reading or relax with entertainment delivered from the wide selection of Audio Video On Demand (AVOD) programming. The seat position and angle can be actioned into a fully flat bed for sleep via a side-mounted electronic control button. The combination of fine wood and leather finish provide a superior experience.

The Kosmo First Class Suite (Korean Air)

Korean Air has made available its entire A380 upper deck to Business class travelers in a very comfortable 2-2-2 row layout providing easy access to aisle. The 94 Prestige Sleeper Seats have a pitch of 74-inch and also transform to a fully flat horizontal bed.The 21.6-in wide seats are paired with 15.4-in large LCD monitors mounted on the seatback assembly of the preceding seat. An electronic control system permits to adjust foot and back support position. Individually adjustable reading lamps are conducive of work while the huge ergonomically designed seatback assembly provides a cocoon-like feeling of safety. Once reclined, the seat seems completely absorbed into the seatback frame ensuring some feeling of privacy and safety.

The New Prestige Business seat (Korean Air)

The New 18-in wide Economy Class seat pitch varies between 33 and 34-in on the main deck. The 121-degree of reclining angle is very generous in that class of service maintaining above standard comfort for passengers, enhanced by the 10.6-inch seatback-mounted high resolution Liquid Crystal Displays wide screen and their AVOD content.

Value to the fleet

The Kosmo Suite available on Korean Air A380 is an enhanced version of the First Class Kosmo Sleeper Seat flown on Korean Air Boeing 747-400 and 777-200ER. In comparison the A380 Kosmo Suite has retained the semi-private enclosed seat/bed/desk (also known as Sky Office) approach but only with larger LCD (23-in vs 17-in). And again the more elegant wood-leather finish appeals more than the composite-plastics panel surface experienced on the 747-400 and 777-200ER. Aboard the Boeing 777-300, a similar set up is available but only with smaller 10.4-in LCD screens. Older aircraft still fly the First Class Sleeper seat with armrest-mounted individual 10.4-in LCD. These still permit a fully flat sleep experience using adjustable foot support. The airline also maintains a First Class seat that uses a smaller individual 6.5-in wide LCD screen but does not offer a fully flat sleeping position (the back support remains at a 158 degree angle with the elevated foot support). Although similar in appearance, the pod-like Prestige Sleeper Business Seat improves on the older Prestige Plus Seat by offering a fully flat sleeping experience and a larger AVOD LCD screen of 15.4-in vs 10.4-in. Korean Air also maintain more regular Prestige Business class seat that use 6.5-in wide armrest mounted LCD. According to the carrier, every A380 aircraft will showcase its own on-board duty free shopping displays of cosmetics, perfumes, liquors and various products along with a bar-lounge area. In the near future Korean Air will be able to deliver and sustain products that are competitive to the utmost as the carrier prepares fly the 10 Airbus A380 alongside 5 brand new Boeing 747-8I supported by 10 Boeing 787-9.

2. Lufthansa: the smallest First Class

Lufthansa officially became the fifth Airbus 380-800 operator on May 19th, 2010 and currently flies 7 aircraft out of its total order of 15 aircraft. The aircraft is now operating on routes linking Lufthansa’s Frankfurt global hub to Johannesburg, New York, Miami (as of June 10th 2011), Beijing and Tokyo while a service to Singapore is set to begin October 30th 2011. The carrier has opted for a standard 3-Class configuration relying on the Rolls Royce Trent 900 family of engines. With 526 seats on board, Lufthansa’s A380 comes second in passenger capacity right behind Air France’s 538-seater. This 526-seat configuration makes possible 8 Flat Bed seats in First Class, 98 seats in Business Class and 420 seats in Economy Class.

Seating Capacity: 526

Upper Deck

First Class: 8 Flat Bed seats

Business Class: 98 seats

Main Deck

Economy Class: 420 seats

Lufthansa First Class product has not crossed into the Suite paradigm through which many carriers will attempt to cement their brand product differentiation. Lufthansa more traditional approach has put a strong emphasis on quality. For the 8 passengers flying on Lufthansa A380’s First Class, the concept of privacy, although not enforced with actual partitions seem reinvigorated through a feeling of exclusivity. All feelings aside, the carrier is pushing a 23-in wide LCD screen mounted on an elegantly furnished vertical pylon opposite the seated passenger. The 92-in pitch separating passenger and LCD screen reinforces the impression of spaciousness. When reclined, the 31.5-in wide First Class seat simply offers a real bed, but again the lack of partition may leave some feeling exposed while sleeping. Sober comfort, vast leg space and a feeling of efficiency pervade this very small First Class cabin whose seat layout is 1-2-1 (only 2 rows). Positioning this small cabin in the aircraft upper deck adds an exclusive character to the overall experience. The quality of furnishings, the selection of colors, the absence of clutter, the judicious use of straight lines in the design, the very generous 92-in pitch and overall spaciousness makes this product stand very high.


Lufthansa First Class Flat Bed Seat

Lufthansa First Class Flat Bed


The Business class cabin on Lufthansa A380 occupies the portion of the upper deck located aft of the small First Class cabin. Thus Lufthansa reserves the entire upper deck for its premium paying customers. Ergonomically tucked within seatback assembly covers, these seats unfortunately do not offer a fully horizontal sleeping position. Primarily designed to protect a passenger personal space whenever the seat in front reclines, the seatback assembly can also adversely limit the leg-support elevation. With Lufthansa this means a Business seat that will recline neither fully flat nor horizontally despite the generous 60 inches of pitch helping counter balance the other space constraints. With 19.6-in width and personal LCD, business travelers can still enjoy their stay relying on world-class Lufthansa Media World AVOD system. Lufthansa A380s accommodate 420 Economy Class passengers in 3-4-3 rows all on the main deck (bearing in mind that a 3-Class 747-400 can only handle at most 416 passengers). This very high density can only be achieved at the expense of pitch (31-in) and seat recline (113 degrees). With Air France, Lufthansa seems to have established a pattern for high passenger density A380. This is seemingly the by-product of the business model for highly competitive Global European carriers generating massive traffic at their global hub: the pattern provides for a very limited number of First Class seats (8 to 9 seats), a large Business Class (98 to 106 seats) and a very ‘dense’ Economy Class cabin (420 to 449 seats).

Lufthansa products have achieved durability and consistency in line with its reputation and maturity. The carrier has sustained very robust operation relying on 30 relatively older Boeing 747-400 while the backbone of its long haul fleet has been the long established Airbus A340-300 and the more recently added A340-600 (with a few A330 also). At a time when few carriers could afford to ignore the immensely popular Boeing 777-300ER, Lufthansa waited apparently for a more suitable 747-400 replacement (20 Boeing 747-8I were ordered December 6th 2006). The logical selection of the A380 for absorbing traffic growth was perfectly timed to respond to competitive pressure from Air France. However company plans for a new Business Class Flat bed solution are unlikely to materialize without reducing the overall number of seats available aboard the A380. It is then likely that Lufthansa will have a formidable long haul main fleet of 15 A380 and 20 Boeing 747-8I offering both capacity and innovative comfort.

3. Air France: largest seating capacity

Air France currently operates 5 Airbus A380-800 first deployed on October 30th 2009 and was the first European carrier to operate the type. The French carrier, part of the Air France-KLM Group has an order for 12 aircraft and is expecting to take delivery of more aircraft this year. The carrier has a long experience operating General Electric CF-6 family of engines on its Boeing 747-200/-300/-400 series aircraft as well as the GE-90 family in all its Boeing 777s has naturally settled for the General Alliance GP7200 model for its A380-800. The A380 operates scheduled flights between Paris Charles De Gaulle and Johannesburg daily, to Montreal daily, to New York City 6 times a week, Tokyo three times a week, Washington DC, San Francisco (daily between June 6th and September 4th 2011). The 3-Class configuration selected by Air France consists of 9 seats in ‘La Premiere’ First Class, 80 seats in the ‘Espace Affaire’ Business class and 449 seats in the ‘Voyageur’ Economy class. With 538 seats available on board, Air France’s A380 have the largest capacity of all the A380 currently in service.

Seating Capacity: 538

The Upper Deck

Espace Affaire (Business); 80 seats

Voyageur (Economy): 106 seats

The Main Deck

La Premier: 9 seats

Voyageur (Economy): 343 seats

Air France First Class cabin selection of fine interior furnishing reminisces the comfort and luxury of a well designed home living room. In a 1-2-1, each seat points at a slight arched angling away from the aisle. Directly opposite each seat is the individual storage cabinet whose padded upper surface also serves as foot rest. The 81-in seat pitch is very competitive, with the 35-in width measurement making for the most comfortable sleeping experience in this category. An individual LCD deploys from a storage position in the seat lateral panel, so does the individual table.

Air France picture of La Premiere First Class seating

After a new fully flat Business seat was introduced aboard the carrier’s newest Boeing 777-300ER December 2010, customer review convinced management to retrofit at least 63 of its long haul aircraft with the new product by 2012. We anticipate that Air France will showcase these seats on their A380 flagship product. Providing 55-in of pitch, the new Business Class seats are 24-in wide and improve on the older seats by now offering an actual flat bed and horizontal sleeping experience along with a 15-in wide LCD In-Flight Entertainment system. Current Business Class seats reside on the upper deck in 2-2-2. We are not sure yet to what extent a retrofit with bigger seats would entail a reduction in overall seating capacity.

Air France new Business Class seat (Air France)

Air France currently maintains the largest economy class cabin of all A380 operators. However this approach has not impacted customer comfort as the Voyageur seats retain 19-in of width and 32-in of pitch. In the A380 upper deck rear section, they are arrayed in rows of 2-4-2. On the main deck where the Economy Class begins right past the small First Class, the voluminous interior of the A380 is fully taken advantage of using the 3-4-3 row scheme.

Air France new Voyageur (Economy) seat (Air France)

Value to the fleet

The carrier operates about 100 aircraft in its long haul fleet including at least 55 Boeing 777-200ER/300ER, 10 Boeing 747-400, 18 A340 and 15 A330. The carrier claims that at its Paris Charles De Gaulle global hub, 60% of long haul passengers are connecting. Thus making clear the need for bigger planes -with the highest acceptable passenger configuration- in order to relieve escalating traffic growth. In fact the carrier has recognized that the A380 brings “equivalent capacity to that of a Boeing 777-200 combined to an Airbus A340-300, while offering a 20% reduction in operating costs”

So far we have seen how A380 operators have varied their cabin configuration away from the manufacturer baseline, in better accordance with their specific strategic requirements. However we notice how each carrier avoided the 2-2-2 first class main deck  in favor of a more comfortable option. Korean Air Kosmo Suites are deployed still on the main deck, but in 1-2-1 rows along with Air France’s La Premiere. Lufthansa altogether took its 1-2-1 First Class cabin ‘upstairs’. Air France has noticeably dispersed its Economy cabin in two different locations. In terms of operational benefits, Air France statement best captures the ‘Game Changing’ character: “The size and performance of the A380, particularly well-suited to the Air France network, will save the Company from 12 to 15 million euros per aircraft per year. In today’s depressed economic climate, the giant airliner provides the Company with the means to withstand the crisis…With the A380, Air France can continue to offer its customers improved service while at the same time improving economic efficiency. On board, three bars divided between the two decks, additional space and comfort ensure that traveling on board this super jumbo is a moment of well-being, in a particularly quiet cabin.”


Airways Magazine October 2010  A380-Lufthansa Style

SAS To Fly Copenhagen-Shanghai Beginning March 1st, 2012

An 11-th Airbus A340-300 will join SAS fleet for the Copenhagen-Shanghai route

Scandinavian Air System announced today it will begin operating non stop flights from Copenhagen to Shanghai starting March 1st 2012. The route will be flown five times a week with a leased 245 passengers Airbus 340-300 configured in a 3-class layout comprising Business, Economy Extra and Economy. The flight will operate as SK997 departing Copenhagen Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 6:25 pm and SK998 leaving Shanghai at 1:25 pm on Mondays, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The group is pursuing sustained growth after a very promising first quarter which saw an overall income rise from SEK -844,000 (-$133,922) last year to SEK -505,000 (-$80,140) (+40%). The period was also marked by a 6.2% surge in scheduled passenger traffic, underscoring the benefits of adding a new route to the growing Chinese market. The SAS Group management is also credited with decreasing overall operational expenses by 7.24% despite jet fuel costs escalating 21% to SEK 1.55 million ($245,900) for the same quarter.

Newly appointed CEO Rickard Gustafson since February 1st ,2011 is now overseeing the completion of a 5-point turn around plan initiated in February 2009. Under the plan, strong cost control measures and a rejuvenated fleet will also take anchor. With $150 million already set side for additional fuel expenses this year, the carrier is attempting to return to profitability by gaining market share on key segments. A new Oslo-New York route has been opened this year. Deeper codeshare agreements with other carrier such as ANA and Singapore Airlines will also allow permit the carrier to grow Asian market share by adding numerous, more convenient connections for travelers.

The new flight to Shanghai will leverage on SAS already existing flight connections to Europe, not only to Scandinavian countries but also to London, Munich, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Vienna and the Baltic capitals. As well SAS relies on its Chinese partners Air China and Shanghai Airlines to offer additional connections from Shanghai to the rest domestic China and Asia.

DHL Antonov-26 Cargo Plane Crashes In Gabon, 4 On Board Injured

The partly submerged An-26 that crashed in Libreville yesterday

An Antonov 26 cargo plane operating on behalf of DHL crashed Tuesday morning in Libreville , Gabon. According to witness accounts, the aircraft visibly flying without its propeller engines operating reportedly ditched in the sea only a few feet away from the beach alongside Libreville’s main seaside boulevard. The four occupants aboard the aircraft including two pilots were taken to nearby hospitals. The aircraft registered TR-LII belonging to Solenta Aviation operated as DHL flight 122 on its 40 minutes return flight from the town of the oil industry Port Gentil. The crash immediately prompted the Gabonese government to altogether ban operation of all Antonov model 12, 24 and 26 aircraft pending an investigation.

The Soviet era aircraft

Older Soviet era aircraft that have found a second life in the African continent sometimes far away from the stringent requirements for safety of flight rigorously enforced in other regions of the world have acquired a sinister reputation. A prior Antonov crash occurring last March in the Congo town of Pointe Noire had led to 23 fatalities. On October 4th 2007 an An-26 belonging to Africa One crashed shortly after taking off from Kinshasa N’djili international airport in the other Congo Republic. That aircraft came down in a heavily populated area causing up to 50 people to lose their life on the ground in addition to 20 occupants reportedly killed aboard the aircraft. Already in 1996 an An-32 that had overshot the runway while attempting to land in Kinshasa had killed an estimated 300 people after plowing through a crowded market place nearby.

For Gabon, the demise of its national airline Air Gabon in 2006 has opened the way for a deregulated but dysfunctional airline industry. Gabon Airlines; the privatised entity that acquired Air Gabon rights on all the foreign destinations has struggled to support its Boeing 767 Libreville-Paris rotation. The nascent rivalry between Air France and Lufthansa on that segment probably spells the end for the Gabon Airlines private experiment as the government is unlikely to reverse its privatization policy only four years after the much regretted national carrier was allowed to collapse. The domestic market seems to have been taken over by smaller operators able to grow market share alongside operating flights on behalf of the oil extracting industry on the Libreville-Port Gentil route. Safety has been impacted by the general appearance of older aircraft. While it was perfectly acceptable to have Air Gabon Boeing 737-200/-300, Fokker F-28, F-100 and ATR-72 operate on the domestic market from the late 70’s to late 90’s, much older aircraft began to proliferate in the last decade. On June 8th 2004 a Gabon Express BAe/HS-748 crashed on the same stretch of sea front in Libreville. The aircraft which had also encountered mechanical problems ditched in the ocean, leading to the death of 19 people aboard. That airline had been somewhat of an attraction as it was the only carrier to operate a Sud Aviation Caravelle well into the 21st century.

Wisconsin National Guard F-16 Crashes, Pilot Ejects Safely

A Wisconsin Air National Guard F-16 from the 115th fighter wing based in Madison crashed Tuesday around 1:20 pm. The pilot who ejected and was reported safe nonetheless received proper medical evaluation. The crash took place as the aircraft was conducting routine flight training mission near the town of New Chester in Adams County. A limited area near the crash site had residents briefly evacuated as recovery assessed the crash site for environmental hazards.

Air France New A380 Service To San Francisco, Delta New Direct Flight From Atlanta To Shanghai

Air France new Airbus A380 service from Paris to San Francisco

As part of its 2011 summer schedule Air France has now began offering 10 weekly flights from Paris Charles De Gaulle to San Francisco. The new schedule has permitted the carrier to introduce a new daily service on the route featuring its new Airbus A380. The A380 flights began today with the Air France Flight 84 that arrived in San Francisco at 12h45 local PDT after a 10h35min flight originating in Paris. The return flight from San Francisco operating as Air France flight 83 is departs San Francisco at 4:10pm and arrives in Paris the next day at 11:35am. The remaining part of the 10 weekly services is conducted with an Airbus A340 aircraft.

Joint Transatlantic Venture

The Joint Transatlantic venture comprising Air France-KLM, Delta Airlines and Alitalia is proceeding along with its revamped summer schedule mainly by introducing 14 new weekly non-stop flights linking Florida to Europe. With the venture plans to scale back year-to-year capacity on its Europe to North America routes by at least 7% this coming fall, increasing this summer seasonal travel opportunities is critical to improving revenues.

Thus Air France will begin its new 3 times weekly flights from Paris to Orlando tomorrow using a Boeing 777-200. The Paris Charles de Gaulle-Orlando leg will be conducted as Air France flight 694 in approximately 9h20min. The return flight under Air France flight number 693 lasts about 8h25min.

As part of the same joint initiative, Delta already began daily non-stop service between Miami and London Heathrow since March 26 soon after KLM began a 3 times weekly service from Miami to Amsterdam on March 21st2011.

Delta Airlines new China services

Yesterday, Delta Airlines re-instated its Shanghai flight from Atlanta to Shanghai Pudong which had been interrupted at the height of the 2008 financial crisis. Delta flight 229 leaves Atlanta at 9:55 am on Sunday and Tuesday arriving the following day after a 15hr30min flight. The return flight designated Delta 228 operates on Monday and Wednesday departing Shanghai at 3:45pm and arriving in Atlanta at 6:45pm the same day after a 14h30min flight. The airline will use a Boeing 777-200LR configured with the Business travelers-friendly BusinessElite flat bed seat. This Business class seat was introduced into the Delta fleet in 2008 and uses a staggered positioning in the aircraft forward cabin. Designed by Contour Premium Aircraft Seating, the seat offers a private/partitioned passenger quarter experience as well as sleeping comfort after transforming into a fully flat 23.5in (60 cm) wide and 76in (193 cm) long bed. The carrier operates 8 older retrofitted extended range Boeing 77-200ER along with 10 newer ultra long range Boeing 777-200LR including the Boeing 777-232(LR) registration number N705DN which conducted yesterday’s re-instatement flight to Shanghai. The 45 BusinessElite seats available on these aircraft are complemented by 233 new 18.2in (46cm)-wide Economy Comfort seats offering a pitch of 32in (81cm).

On the Chinese market delta has been able to secure a codeshare agreement with China Eastern airline made effective on June 1st. The agreement would offer 20 domestic China connections in Shanghai to passengers arriving from the US. Delta is attempting to capitalize on growth opportunities to China and increase its market share by adding new flights. A new non-stop flight from Detroit to Beijing is set to begin July 1st. The airline indicates that it will operate 47 weekly flight from China this summer, noticeably from Beijing to Seattle, Hong Kong to Detroit and also Shanghai to Detroit. However these flights are conducting intermediate stop in Tokyo-Narita International airport.


US Congress Mandated Corrosion Prevention Programs For The F-22 And F-35 Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft.

F-22 being painted

The US government will increasingly look into ways to preserve high value assets critical to national defense such as the F-22 and F-35 fifth generation fighter aircraft from the pervading effects of corrosion. The House of Representatives bill 1540 passed May 28th 2011 when becoming National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 will mandate the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics with implementing a 4-point program for preventing and controlling corrosion affecting military equipment. The new measures have been previously articulated in General Accounting Office audit report 11-171R released to the public December 16th 2010. The audit provides follow up analysis of a Department of Defense corrosion study report #111-166 that accompanied HR bill 2647 prior to it becoming the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.

The degradation of military equipment through the effects of corrosion, while detrimental to overall military readiness also adds a $21 billion yearly cost to the taxpayers according to a July 2010 DOD study. Also influencing Congress decision to confront the issue is the unique case of both of America’s fifth generation fighters aircraft, the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. Although the scope of Corrosion Protection and Control (CPC) programs to appear in the near future will not be limited to these operationally critical weapons systems,  the F-22 and the F-35 are receiving attention commensurate with their cost and function within US defense strategy. The F-22 Raptor already somewhat operationally constrained due to the limited number of aircraft that will be acquired (187) is America’s Air Superiority fifth generation stealth combat aircraft. The F-35 Lightning II/JSF, a stealth multirole fifth generation combat aircraft will form the basis of US Air Force, US Navy aircraft carrier and US Marines Expeditionary forces for the foreseeable future as well as that of at least 8 allied nations. With both program having suffered near prohibitive cost growth, the unchecked effects of corrosion can potentially inhibit operational capabilities while also being very costly. These considerations have already resulted in Corrosion Prevention and Control programs oversight and planning being assigned to a newly established Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight whose Director answers directly to the Under secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.


With 137 aircraft produced at the time of the GAO audit report publishing, the F-22 is nearing the end of its production target run of 187 aircraft. Having entered service in 2007, it has provided uniquely valuable insight into corrosion prevention particularly with regard to the treatment of the advanced ‘stealth’ attributes applied throughout its airframe. The F-35 JSF/Lightning II program having already suffered widely published cost overruns and schedule delays is now only emerging into the Low Rate Initial Production phase.

Corrosion: the experience of the F-22 Raptor

The Government Accounting Office 11-171R report titled “Defense Management: DOD Needs to Monitor and Assess Corrective Actions resulting from Its Corrosion Study of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter” has provided factual basis for incorporating corrosion prevention and control solutions already tested with the F-22 into the F-35 JSF program. The report has provided critical information regarding corrosion being encountered on the F-22. It is reported that “severe environment corrosion of the F-22 aluminum skin panels” had already been observed less than 6 months after the aircraft service entry in the Spring of 2007. The report describes how by October 2007, corrosion of the airframe substructure seemed systemic with at least 534 documented occurrences. The resulting cost to the government repair work and retrofit will reach $228 million once completed in the year 2016.

Practical lessons were drawn from observing the program.

1. The F-22 program had failed to guard against galvanic corrosion in at least two areas; the paint used on the aircraft skin panel and the gap filler used to maintain contact between different surfaces. In each one of these instances, the aluminum skin panels appear to have been in contact with metals or materials with differing electrochemical properties. As a result a conductive path for electricity to flow between both materials led to oxidization and corrosion.

2. Another case of corrosion was encountered as a nonchromated primer was initially used for the F-22 prior to painting the aircraft. The selection of a nonchromated primer was made out of concerns for workers health. It transpired that this new primer resistance to corrosion had never significantly been tested prior to its debut on the F-22. Experience had proven that coating aluminum surfaces with hexavalent Chromium VI (Cr+6) generally provide materials such as aluminum with additional resistance to abrasion and corrosion by anodizing it into a pure oxide.

Additionally the F-22 design which requires the presence of small drainage holes on its fuselage seams has led to water accumulating and eventually contributing to corrosion.

In response to the observations realized on the F-22 program, the GAO describes some of the F-35 program’s approach regarding corrosion, systematically responding to each point of concern highlighted in the F-22 Raptor:

-the F-35 program is neither using a conductive gap filler nor paint in an effort to limit corrosion. Materials that have near similar galvanic properties to aluminum are employed instead.

-Another design approach for the F-35 has been to employ fewer seams lowering the requirements in gap filler.

-The water drainage problem, one of the corrosion-sensitive area on the F-22 has been circumvented on the F-35 thanks to adequately sized drain holes.

The report however finds that the F-35 has also selected a non chromated primer that has never been tested on an aircraft in a corrosive operating environment, apparently compromising the additional protection offered by chromated paint applied to aluminum panels.

The measures mandated by Congress

HR1540 section 327 directly orders the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to take 4 recommended (corrective) actions described in GAO-11-171R and report to Congress on progress made consequently no later than January 31st 2012.

These actions comprise documenting the anti-corrosion measures specified in the corrosion study as applicable not only to the F-22 and F-35 programs, but also to the CH-53K Helicopter, the joint High Speed Vessel, the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle weapons programs. The full scope of work involves establishing processes for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of such corrective actions.

The Under secretary has also been tasked with documenting both Air Force and US Navy specific recommendations with respect to their applicability as formulated in the corrosion study. Finally DOD would articulate specific actions as part of fully documented policies and processes in order to ensure that effective corrosion prevention practices become fully integrated throughout DOD weapons systems program.

Shortcomings Observed in Program Management

Adequate Testing

The report did recognize the inherently stronger F-35 airframe in comparison to the F-22 due to its longer service life requirement of 30 years (the F-22 service life is limited to 20 years). Because it will field a naval variant, the F-35 program factored-in stronger corrosion protection and increased strength in anticipation of aircraft carrier’s more rigorous environmental and operational demands. In fact the US Navy requires more stringent corrosion qualification tests along with appropriate technical performance metrics.

These strong points however have been negatively counter-balanced by the fact that adequate testing has not been fully conducted at an earlier stage of the program. This leaves open the possibility that shortcomings will not be discovered in a timely manner further contributing to costly re engineering at a later stage. The F-22 program is now suffering from the some of those effects: no operational level tests for corrosion were conducted on the F-22 prior to initial operating capability while the length of full scale climatic tests was cut in half. The F-35 program appears headed in the same direction as its program office is currently considering reducing full scale tests as well.

Overall Project Planning

The report suggests that for a program to implement a fully satisfactory Corrosion Prevention and Control outcome, requirements must become an integral part of the program plans at a higher level in order for corrosion risks to be fully managed throughout the system life cycle. A thorough documentation of CPC must become part of the systems requirements. In the F-35 case, the report insists that program requirements emphasized corrosion resistance whereas it should have been introduced as a complete corrosion prevention user requirement. The report has also suggested that corrosion prevention advisory teams should be established, in support of integrating newly engineered processes. Another proposal is for developing cost accounting models for corrosion throughout an entire system life cycle in order to help program executives make cost-based cognizant decisions on corrosion prevention and control.

Russia Delivers Additional MIG-29K For Aircraft Carrier Operation To India

The Indian navy is accepting the delivery of five new MIG-29K (NATO designation Fulcrum D) from Russia’s MIG Aircraft Corporation. The new aircraft will join the newly formed “Black Panthers” Squadron already equipped with 4 previously delivered MIG-29K. The squadron is set to operate in the Indian’s navy latest aircraft carrier also acquired from Russia in a 2004 deal. The delivery by Russia of the Kiev-class Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier rechristened INS Vikramaditya with the Indian navy, would allow the new carrier still currently undergoing refurbishing and modification work scheduled until 2012 to handle 12 single seat MIG-29K and 4 two-seat MIG-29UBK aircraft. India along with Russia would at this point be the only two operators of the MIG-29 naval variant.


The MIG-29K provides undercarriage structural reinforcements to the basic MIG-29 airframe satisfying the rigorous demands of carrier and sea-based operation. This includes stronger landing gear units, arrestor hook, corrosion prevention/protection, reinforced wings leading edge root extensions now also carrying additional fuel along with the folding wings necessary to squeeze more planes on deck. The aircraft which already benefits from outstanding aerodynamic features has also received a larger and stronger wing also contributing to the increase in fuel and payload capacity. The overall structural reinforcements account for most of the airframe now claiming a 6,000 hours flying life operating thoughout a 30-40 years period.

The MIG-29K and its two-seat MIG-29UBK have retained the high agility and extreme maneuverability signature of the basic MIG-29, thanks in part to the wings leading edge root extensions/blended wing body design. Pilots can now exploit the new 4-channel digital fly by wire system as well as the much improved Klimov RD33MK engines, each providing thrust in the 19,900 lbs (9,000 kg) class improving by 700 lbs the thrust performance of the RD-33 series 3 found on the MIG-29SMT. Russian weapon export agency Rosoboronexport claims the new engines are now equipped with improved combustion chamber that eliminates the emission of the smoke trail that previously gave away the aircraft position from afar. The aircraft now weighs in at a maximum take off weight of 54,000 lbs (24,500 kg) offering 30% additional payload to 14,350 lbs (6,500 kg) and can operate out to a range of 3,700 miles (6,000 km) with 3 external fuel tanks and in-flight refueling typically from Il-78 Midas Tanker or with another MIG-29 equipped with the UPAZ hose-drogue ‘buddy’ kit.

The Zhuk-ME Scanned Array multifunction look up/down radar provides algorithm processing and identification of target detected at ranges of up to 74 miles (120km) and 31 miles (50km) respectively in the frontal and rear hemispherical regions of the aircraft in air-to-air mode. The radar is designed to simultaneously track up to 10 threats and engage 4 targets. In air-to-ground role a tank can be detected at 15 miles (25km) while a destroyer can be detected at up to 186 miles (300km) thanks to a ground mapping resolution of 10ftx10ft.

Weapons are now attached to 8 external stations instead of 7 and include a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons for day/night and all weather delivery. The Indian navy would extract high value in air-to-air combat capabilities from the Zhuk-ME radar guiding the R-73E and RW-AE missiles. The air-to-surface precision mission capabilities revolve around the KAB-500Kr guided bomb as well as the Kh-35E and Kh-31A anti-ship missiles along with the Kh-31P anti-radiation missile. The GSh301 gun remains to provide universal tactical flexibility.

Pilots can benefit from Hands On Throttle And Sticks (HOTAS) control operation. The aircraft open architecture avionics can be integrated to using the MIL-STD-1553B databus which allows India to operate western built avionics subsystems such as the french Sagem Sigma95N GPS/Glonass triple gyro INS navigation suite found on Rafale and Samtel Thales Avionics built Topsight E Helmet Mounted Display HMD found on Mirage 2000 (also one of India proven aircraft for all weather precision strike and air superiority). The Helmet Mounted Display are known to offer high off-boresight-angle Infra Red missile targeting capability in concert with the aircraft Infra Red Search and Track (IRST) sensor during dog fights. The avionics and mission system integration is presented to the pilot via three Liquid Crystal Multi Function Displays plus another two in the back seat on the MIG29-SUB two-seat version.

In March 2010, Russia and India signed another $1.5 billion contract for the purchase of 29 additional MiG-29K Fulcrum-D carrier-based fighter jets.