I read news here that an A380 previously owned by Singapore Airlines has been decommissioned and scrapped. Another A380 from Air France was also retired. Others are nearing retirement as well. But it is not clear for me whether the retirement is due to the aircraft reaching the end of their design life or due to some other reason. If it is due to the design life, why are they still able to sell the scrapped parts (as done by the TARMAC)? Most comments I read are negative, which is sad.

Then my question, how many flight hours do these aircraft have? Is the retirement purely due to its design life being used up? Or for other reasons?


No they are nowhere near being worn out. These aircraft are normally designed for anywhere from 40-60,000 cycle lifespans, and more on shorter haul a/c (depending on how long each cycle is), perhaps 30-40 years. They are being retired and scrapped because they make no economic sense to run, and there is literally no used market for them, so the residual value of the airframes is the scrap value (the metal and the potential used spares value of all the bits attached to the metal, to the extent there is a spares market for them).

It's just an informed opinion, but I don't think Singapore (or its lessor) is in much pain over this. An OEM trying to get market acceptance of a new type will often include residual value guarantees over some period of time. I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that owner is getting compensated by Airbus for the difference between the scrap value and some contractually guaranteed residual value of a 10 year old airframe, so they won't be the ones taking the hit; it'll be Airbus.

The problem was always one of adding a significantly larger type into a world designed for many many years around the 747 and all of its offspring. Just too big.

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    $\begingroup$ The 747 has also hit the dustbin, along with airlines changing orders to the smaller a350-900 from the -1000 and the b77x selling poorly. 400 seats in these aircraft are too many, so 600 seats in the a380 are way too many. $\endgroup$ – Pilothead Nov 26 '19 at 3:04
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah it looks like 300+/- seats with two engines has settled in as the economic sweet spot for long haul. $\endgroup$ – John K Nov 26 '19 at 3:55
  • $\begingroup$ SIA wont feel the pain as the lease of the aircraft has ended... the one feeling the pain would be the owner.. in this case I believe the Dr Peters group. $\endgroup$ – Anilv Nov 26 '19 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ @AirCraftLover no, he is saying that the initial sale contract likely included a guarantee from Airbus about the residual value of the airframe after x years, so if they can only be sold as scrap that is worth less than the guaranteed value, Airbus would make up the difference. $\endgroup$ – AEhere supports Monica Nov 26 '19 at 10:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Pilothead 747s aren't selling well, but I think it's a bit much to say it "hit the dustbin" in the same vein as the A380. 10-year-old 747s aren't being scrapped for parts. They're still selling 747-8Fs. The 777X already has more orders than the A380 ever had and it's still over a year from entering service. The 777-8 is smaller than the 777-300ER and the latter is one of the best-selling wide-body airplanes ever made, if not the single best. $\endgroup$ – reirab Nov 26 '19 at 19:17

The A380 that was being scrapped was the 3rd aircraft on the production line. After being used for a short time in the test fleet of Airbus, it became the first line number that was delivered to a customer. (Line No. 1 and 2 are still owned by Airbus).

The first few aircraft leaving a new production line are usually heavier and have different wiring than later builds, because the production process has not yet been optimised. For example, the wiring in early A380 fuselage sections was too short, so that after assembling the fuselage they couldn't connect the electronic cables. This led to rework that added weight and complexity.

Therefore, the first few aircraft from the production line have higher fuel burn (due to extra weight) and higher maintenance cost (due to the one-off quirks that are not found on later aircraft). This makes such aircraft uneconomic to operate and difficult to sell. If it is hard to make money with such an aircraft anyway (the long-range market clearly prefers twin engine aircraft with approx 300-350 passengers), scrapping it will bring the most value.

The aircraft was not at the end of its technical design life. The design life of long range aircraft is in the order of 30-40 thousand cycles (flights). With two flights per day it would take approx 45 years to reach that limit. See also What is the lifespan of commercial airframes (in general)?

I wouldn't be surprised if a few other A380s with low production line numbers will be scrapped in the next few years. However, in general I expect that the A380 will be operated for another 20+ years, especially on high volume routes to airports with limited capacity.

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    $\begingroup$ I fail to see how you answer the first question ("Then my question, how long is its serving hours? "). I expected to see some estimate of flight hours or cycle numbers. $\endgroup$ – Manu H Nov 26 '19 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Manu H design life of long range aircraft is in the order of 30-40 thousand cycles. With two flights per day it would take approx 45 years to reach that limit. See also What is the lifespan of commercial airframes (in general)? $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Nov 26 '19 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ the question is not about lifetime in general but about this few early retired A380 specifically. $\endgroup$ – Manu H Nov 26 '19 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ Air France's A380s aren't all that low on the production line - their newest one was delivered in 2014 - but they've already announced that they'll be retiring their entire A380 fleet within the next 3 years. So far, the secondary market for A380s has been exceptionally dry, so I'd be kind of surprised if they can find buyers who want to fly all 10 of them, unless maybe Emirates decides to buy them. Even that seems unlikely at this point, though. $\endgroup$ – reirab Nov 26 '19 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ @AirCraftLover the scrapped ex-SIA was the third A380 on the production line. Being an early build, it was heavy and non-standard, which makes it expensive / uneconomical to operate. For that reason it was scrapped. No other production models have been scrapped. $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Nov 26 '19 at 22:17

Many of the A380s due to be scrapped in the next few years are coming up on their first D-check (very heavy) maintenance, which is very expensive. They will also need their interiors updated, also quite expensive. Most airlines decided it just wasn't worth it to keep flying these things with these costly operations coming up, for an already economically marginal aircraft.


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