A380 must benefit from emerging engine technology: Clark

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Emirates boss Tim Clark is urging Engine Alliance partner GE to integrate new powerplant technology currently in development into the A380’s GP7200, as he looks to fleet needs beyond 2020.

And if Dubai’s future airport infrastructure constraints can be eased, Clark believes Emirates could potentially take 180 A380s

“I’d like to see some propulsion [technology] crossover into the A380, in terms of what they’re doing on the 777X, the A320neo and the 737 Max,” says Clark.

“If I’m looking at 2020 [deliveries] and for the next 20 years to 2040, we’ve still got GP7200s when one of the Engine Alliance partners is busy producing wonders in propulsion technology – why can’t we have a bit of that on the A380? So my question to them would be: 'What are your plans for improving propulsion technology on the GP7200?’”

Deliveries of the airline’s current A380 orderbook of 90 aircraft are due complete in November 2017 and, growth requirements aside, Emirates will need replacements from 2020 for its early aircraft as they reach its stipulated retirement age of 12 years.

“There’s an automatic replacement of 90 aircraft, in my view,” says Clark. “And if I could find ways and means to get more space [at the Dubai hub] to get them in, we’d like some more.”

Emirates holds orders for 70 Airbus A350s – a mix of -900s and -1000s – but Clark hints that he may review this order as he evaluates future A380 requirements: “Quite honestly, I’m more interested in more A380s than the A350, because of the way our route network is growing.”

The expansion of Emirates’ hub at Dubai International airport, and the pace at which the all-new Dubai World Central airport develops, will drive the airline’s ability to grow its A380 fleet. But Clark says that if the emirate’s airport capacity growth achieves the rate he desires, then ultimately Emirates could double its A380 fleet from the 90 it has already ordered: “Without constraints, we would be able to take many more – I’m assuming that Airbus doesn’t bottle out on the A380.”

Since the type's launch in December 2000, Airbus has secured 262 firm A380 orders, of which Emirates’ purchases account for a third. Sales have been particularly sluggish in recent years, but Clark attributes this to an accident of timing, as the aircraft arrived into service just as the global financial crisis hit.

“I firmly believe the A380 is the future for long-haul mass transit and there’ll be a lot of that coming up as the global economy picks up, and demand for it will increase,” he says. “Airbus has just got to tough it out, because I’m sure others will buy it.”