Re: A3XX vs B747-600 (was: Airbus lawsuit coming?)

From:         faurecm@halcyon.com (C. Marin Faure)
Organization: Northwest Nexus Inc.
Date:         08 Aug 96 12:11:54 
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In article <airliners.1996.1591@ohare.Chicago.COM>, Chuanga@cris.com (H
Andrew Chuang) wrote:

> In article <airliners.1996.1562@ohare.Chicago.COM>,
> C. Marin Faure <faurecm@halcyon.com> wrote:
> >In article <airliners.1996.1506@ohare.Chicago.COM>, Chuanga@cris.com (H
> >Andrew Chuang) wrote:
> >
> >> Then, my question is will Boeing feel comfortable leaving the
> >> over-600-seat market to Airbus?
> >
> >
> >If there IS a 600-plus-seat market.  The costs of not only the airplane
> >but the modifications needed to terminal, ramp, boarding,
> >customs/immigration, and baggage handling systems to accomodate such
> >airplanes are staggering.  The concept of using LARGER airplanes to
> >accomodate the growing demand for air transportation because most airports
> >are hindered from expanding their facilities to accomodate MORE airplanes
> >is sound, but the practicality and cost-effectiveness of actually
> >developing the airplanes and making the necessary modifications to the
> >terminal systems is still very much in question.
>
> These arguments have been mentioned many times, and they are certainly
> very valid arguments.  Nevertheless, aren't these arguments similar to
> the ones that was raised when the B747 was first designed nearly thirty
> years ago?

Yes, they are.  However, the cost of new equipment was not as critical an
item back then as it is now.  The airlines were regulated, which more or
less guaranteed that they would make a profit of some sort unless they
totally mismanaged their company, or if other economic factors seriously
eroded the demand for air travel.  Today, reducing the cost of an airplane
is the number one priority in the airframe manufacturing industry.  So the
purchase price of new equipment seems to play a much larger role in the
buying decision than it used to.

It also is much more difficult to get approval for airport improvement
projects today than it was back in the pre-747 days.  While the concept of
flying larger airplanes and therefor fewer airplanes is a good one, the
reality is that the increasing demand for air transportation will not see
any reduction in flights as a result of the introduction of larger
airplanes.  There will just be that many more people flying, which in turn
will lead to the need to improve or expand airports, something that's
getting harder and harder to do.

On the other hand, the limited number of slots available to airlines and
that same difficulty of enlarging airports make the concept of a larger
airplane quite desirable with SOME airlines.  The big question is, are
there ENOUGH airlines willing to sign up for the A-3XX or the 747-X to
make going ahead with the program(s) worthwhile?  Neither manufacturer is
going to build anything if the total number of orders is only a handful of
airplanes.  This is what killed off the Very Large Airplane project.  The
machine itself made sense, assuming the airports could be modified to
accomodate the plane, but there would never have been more than ten or
twenty airplanes required.  No one would have made any money making it.
The same question exists at this point about the A-3XX and 747-X.

I'm not saying these airplanes, or at least one of them, won't be built.
I'm just saying the jury is still out.

C. Marin Faure
   author, Flying a Floatplane