So Airbus has debuted the A380 and everyone is all excited about a giant plane. The images and pictures look pretty cool, but personally I think Boeing is on a better path with its smaller 7E7, but I suppose that's up to the market to ultimately decide... except for the fact that the Europeans have never been too fond of the free market.

The ceremony also provides a great deal of political currency for Europe's four most powerful leaders.

Prime Minister Tony Blair will be there, as will President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will also attend.

The first prototype of the Airbus A380 observed by plane spotters
Will the A380 provide luxury for the few, or be a coach for families on holiday?

In fact, the presence of the politicians is far from spurious. Without government assistance, the A380 would probably never have been built.

Billions of euros have been handed over in "launch aid loans" in recent years - under generous repayment terms - to assist Airbus's development of the A380.

This has angered the US, which is home to rival aerospace giant Boeing.

It's a fact that America's reluctance to assist Boeing makes it much more difficult for the company to compete on the world stage, and the same goes for America's aircraft operators. I still doubt that the post-9/11 aline bailout was a good idea, but if American companies had gone out of business they may have been replaced by subsidized foreign companies. Subsidies can only go so far and so long, however, because they naturally weaken the country doing the subsidizing. In a sense, if American air travel had been taken over by foreigners we could have free-riden on the European desire for nationalized airlines -- thus transferring money from the Eurpoean taxpayers to ourselves.

Anyway, the main reason I like the Boeing 7E7 better than the Airbus A380 is that I think hubs are a thing of the past. People don't want to fly from where they live to a hub and then on to their destination. Humans aren't packages, and human airlines shouldn't operate like FedEx. People want to fly directly to their destination, which means longer flights with smaller, more efficient planes, and that's what the 7E7 is all about. There will always be a place for giant planes, and for intercontinental travel they certainly make sense, but I expect most people will prefer direct flights when they can get them.

The other factor is safety. Although the measurement methods are somewhat controversial, Airbus tends to have a worse safety record than Boeing. Airplane accidents are measured by flights rather than by distance or hours flown because most accidents happen during take-off and landing. Although there are more accidents with Boeing planes than with Airbus planes, Boeing planes also fly far more than Airbus planes, so the Boeing accident rate is lower. However, this isn't true for all comparable plane models; the Airbus A320 has a lower accident rate than the Boeing 737, for example. In most other classes the Boeing planes are superior. Why? Perhaps they're built better, but it's also likely that the countries who buy Airbus planes don't maintain their fleets as well as countries that buy Boeing planes. It's complicated, as you can see.

Update:
Brian Micklethwait explains how the EU is screwing Thailand by forcing them to buy six A380s, and Dustin Choe elaborates on why the A380 is impractical.

so anyways, i guess i will start off with simple logistics. very few airports in the US can even support the weight of the a380. this will force many airports to upgrade and remodel to accomodate the plane. i am unsure about the condition of foreign airports, some may be able to handle this plane already. there will also be some minor changes made to terminals because it will take 2 to 4 jetways to load and unload the passengers. i have a feeling that if any US airline can even afford the $240 million plane, they will likely be the economized 800+ seats version to decrease the cost per passenger. and as per FAA rules, the plane must be able to be evacuated within 90 seconds and this is something i would like to see.

There's more.

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