Airbus SAS is a European aircraft manufacturer based in France that produces small and large commercial airliners. Founded in the 1970s, Airbus has grown to become the largest commercial aircraft manufacturer in the world with its large and popular family of aircraft. For operators, there are pros and cons to flying Airbus aircraft, but the pros generally outweigh the cons.
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Complete Line of Products
Airbus offers a full range of commercial airliners, from the small 100-seat Airbus A318 to the colossal Airbus A380 (currently the world's largest production passenger aircraft, capable of carrying 800 people). As such, Airbus products can satisfy the needs of almost any airline. Airbus' experience building aircraft has produced good, reliable and cost-efficient aeroplanes that have been extremely popular with its customers. Its use of lightweight composite materials, fly-by-wire flight controls and advanced cockpit technologies have made it one of the leaders in commercial airline manufacturing.
Operators benefit greatly from buying more than one type of Airbus. This is due to Airbus' design philosophy that focuses heavily on standardised parts, cockpit layouts and common procedures across the entire aircraft family. This commonality results in lower maintenance and inventory costs, as well as more efficient (and therefore less expensive) training programs. Airbuses also offer numerous benefits to pilots. Crews qualified to fly one type of Airbus can easily transition to another type using Airbus' differential training instead of having to take a full course.
Acquisition and Cost
Airbus parts are manufactured by suppliers around Europe, and then assembled in France and Germany before delivery. Airbus has also started performing final assembly of its A320 family in China, which lowers overall cost. Airbus receives considerable subsidies from the European Union, which lowers final cost for the buyer. However, the World Trade Organization has ruled these subsidies unfair. For buyers, the lower cost of acquisition is a pro but Airbus' main competition, Boeing, has suffered because of it. Airbus aircraft can be acquired for a slightly lower cost than its competitors' aircraft, while providing a high value.
Some of Airbus' design policies have been controversial among pilots and operators. Airbus aircraft are highly computerised and automated, which takes some of the authority away from pilots and puts the computers in control. Airbus planes can be programmed to fly themselves almost independent of pilot input. This has resulted in a degradation of skill for pilots who over-rely on automation, giving them a false sense of security due to the Airbus' protection envelopes that may not always work as intended. The crash of Air France 447 has highlighted some of these problems, including the use of faulty instrument probes. Another trend sometimes highlighted by Airbus' opponents is an issue where under certain circumstances, the tail may snap off resulting in a crash. Overall, however, the Airbus has had an outstanding safety record.
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- The Wall Street Journal; WTO Condemns Airbus Subsidies; John W. Miller & Daniel Micheals; July 1, 2010
- Business Insider; Airbus Tail Breaks Off Again; Henry Blodget
- Flightglobal.com; Airbus Automation - Is Enough Enough?; David Learmount, Aug 16, 2009