Buy a bit of an A380?

Neil Martin wonders if you’d like a bit of an A380 – the super ‘jumbo’ of Toulouse.

This week you have the chance to buy a bit of an Airbus A380, the famous and mostly French-built leviathan which was designed to take on the famous Boeing 747.

The wide-body, two deck A380 was conceived in the days when the hub theory was going strong – the future of flying would be huge aircraft delivering people to major City airports, with smaller planes delivering them further onto regional airports. That sounded great, until along came fuel efficient twin-engined aircraft which could fly the same distance as the jumbos and go directly to the regional airports. The rules of the game have changed the super liners of the sky are a redundant idea.

They are not without their fans of course, even though the 747 is not built any more (although many are still airborne, particularly as cargo planes) and the last A380 came off the Toulouse production line some time ago. Asian airlines were particularly fond of the A380. And once we started flying again after Covid, they have proved to be a great workhorse for the legacy airlines. Some 230 A380s are still earning their crust.

This might be only a stay of execution though and a number of A380s have been retired, with some meeting an ignominious end at the hands of the scrappers. They are now deemed dinosaurs, costing too much and not great for emissions. Airbus never goes into a great deal of detail about this aircraft’s financial performance, but the general view is that it has barely washed its faced – that sales did not cover the $25bn development cost. This was after nearly 300 aircraft had been built and sold.

The Airbus super jumbo was there to compete with the extremely successful Boeing jumbo, which has been around since 1970. In a show of one-upmanship, Airbus trumped the 747 with a plane that was larger still, the only full-length double-deck jet airliner. And its big. Over 72 metres long, with a wingspan of nearly 80 metres and 24 metres tall. It usually carries around 500 passengers, but can seat over 800. Airports had to expand their facilities to take its vast bulk.

Safe aircraft

It has also been a very safe aircraft, completing nearly one million flights with no fatalities, or hull loses.

I’ve never flown in one – much to my regret. Mind you, I was never a great fan of the 747, unless I was flying business class, which was a joy. Being upstairs in the upper deck was like being in a smaller aircraft and had a cosy feeling. I also once flew in the nose, in the first class seats, but with none of the embellishments, as the 747 was doing a hop from London to Paris and the luxury additions were missing. The 747 was a drudge in cattle class mind you. The worse place of all being in the middle of the centre row of five seats. Going to toilet on that one was a job in itself.

My favourite aircraft, if you can even admit to such a thing, is the Boeing 777 – a wide-bodied twin engined beast which feels safe and took me across the pond on many occasions. However, the 787 Dreamliner is competing for my affections. This is a very accomplished aircraft.

But back to A380 and your chance to own a slice of aviation history.

A380 auction

The A380 auction is in support of the Airbus Foundation with the aim “…to continue to make the world a beautiful place.” It takes place on 13, 14 and 15 October 2022 in Toulouse and online. Held both in-person and remotely, the event will be managed by the auctioneer Marc Labarbe.

Airbus said: “The proceeds from this auction will help the Airbus Foundation continue to facilitate charitable initiatives worldwide leveraging an international network of employees, associations and other organisations, supporting general interest projects. Some of those proceeds will also be donated to the AIRitage association, which preserves the aerospace heritage.”

So what can you buy? Lamps, bars, stairs, handrails, trolleys, seats and even the cockpit escape rope. There’s almost 500 items, the vast majority of which are from the cabin.

A380 MSN13

And in case you are wondering, almost all the parts headed for auction come from the A380 MSN13 which entered service on 23 October 2008. It carried up to 489 passengers in a three-class configuration. Other parts, such as the business class seats, have been taken from different A380 aircraft.

The MSN13 was decommissioned in 2021 by Tarmac Aerosave, a world leader in sustainable end-of-life aircraft management, which, say Airbus, offers advanced dismantling and recycling techniques that allow a recovery rate of over 90%.

And in another cool twist, Airbus invited artists to claim one or more of the A380 parts that will be auctioned. It said: “An industrial part can sometimes resemble a work of art: design, materials, complexity often make them elements with unique characteristics. But industrial objects can also meet artistic creation in more surprising ways. Airbus has decided to entrust certain A380 parts selected for the auction to artists specialising in street art.”

So, take a look at the catalogue and see what takes your fancy:

And here are the links to the auction itself.

Day one:

Day two:

Day three:

Good luck.