Airbus A380 upgrade waits in the wings at Paris Airshow

A new fuel-efficient wingtip extension or winglet is seen on an Airbus A380 at Le Bourget, France June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
new fuel-efficient wingtip extension or winglet is seen on an
Airbus A380 at Le Bourget


PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus is preparing to roll out a novel A380
wingtip design to rally support for the world’s largest passenger
jet by improving its fuel efficiency, according to a prototype
seen on Saturday.

A Reuters photographer got up close to the roughly
three-meter-high split wingtip which has been installed on an
A380 belonging to the Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget airport,
where the Paris Airshow opens on Monday.

It confirms an upgrade reported by Reuters and Usine Nouvelle on
Friday. Airbus declined comment.

Drag-reducing ‘scimitar’ split wingtips have been used on
Boeing’s medium-haul Boeing 737 MAX, but never on a jetliner the
size of the A380, which has a 79.9-metre (262-foot) wingspan.

The aircraft sporting the prototype ‘winglet’ will be towed out
to join others on display at the June 19-25 air show, giving
airlines a glimpse of an improvement that Airbus hopes will turn
around weak sales of its flagship double-decker.

However, a new clash is looming with rival Boeing over the future
for such four-engined passenger aircraft, which have seen
production fall and which also include the Boeing 747-8.

Boeing looks set to revise down or even scrap its 20-year
forecast for such ‘very large aircraft’ in a survey next week.

“The very big airplane market for the last 10-15 years has been
moving downward and downward,” Marketing Vice President Randy
Tinseth told the Paris Air Forum on Friday.

“That very big end of the market, maybe one percent, is going to
be very, very small,” he said, adding that the 555-seat A380
would have to be made longer to become economic and that there
was little market for such a large plane.

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Eric Schulz, president of civil aerospace at Rolls-Royce , whose
engines are offered on the A380, told the same conference travel
congestion underpinned demand for big jumbos.

“I am convinced that without a massive and significant
improvement in airport installations and air traffic control
routes, there will be still a lot of congested routes and if
anything the city pairs will grow for bigger airplanes”.

But he said questions remain over to what extent that demand
would be met by four-engined jets like the A380 or big twinjets
closer to 400 seats, like the Boeing 777-9 and Airbus A350-1000.

Airbus last week revised down its forecast for the A380 category
by six percent to 1,184 aircraft, though at four percent of total
deliveries this remains more optimistic than Boeing.

(Reporting by Pascal Rossignol, Tim Hepher; Editing by Stephen

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