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Singapore Airlines Airbus A380  (Source: Associated Press)

Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy  (Source: Air Mobility Command)

Air Force One
Boeing may have some competition when it comes to the replacement for Air Force One

Things are finally starting to look up for Airbus' troubled A380 superjumbo program. The first production A380 was delivered to Singapore Airlines on Monday in Toulouse, France. The plane was then flown from France to Changi Airport in Singapore where it will await final preparations for its first scheduled flight on October 25.

The A380, however, is making an even bigger splash in the news world for a completely different reason. Flight Global reports that the U.S. Air Force (USAF) is looking at the A380 as a replacement for two aircraft programs: a replacement for the Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy and as a replacement for the Boeing 747-200B (VC-25A) used as Air Force One.

The C-5 Galaxy made its maiden flight on June 30, 1968 and first entered service in June of 1970. The USAF Air Mobility Command (AMC) requested information on the A380F freighter last year as a possible replacement for use as a heavy military airlifter.

Plans to upgrade the existing C-5 Galaxy fleet are estimated to run 50 to 100 percent over budget according to the USAF and Airbus' new A380F would make an ideal, modern and cost-efficient platform.

In addition, the USAF is looking at the A380 as a replacement for the current Air Force One which was introduced in 1990. Boeing isn't giving up the fight, however. The company is well aware of the competitive efforts involved in finding a replacement for the VC-25A and is offering up a 747-8 which uses new wings and engines for increased fuel efficiency.

Boeing has provided jet-powered transportation for the President dating back to the Boeing 707 first used by John F. Kennedy.

Airbus' A380 superjumbo has been the subject of more than a few articles on DailyTech. The A380 was delayed in September of last year due to wiring problems -- a month later; Airbus announced that deliveries of the aircraft would be delayed by an entire year.

In November 2006, FedEx dumped the A380 and instead decided to go with Boeing's 777. A few months later in March 2007, UPS announced that it too would cancel its orders for the A380F. The UPS cancellation meant that Airbus had lost its last A380F customer.

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RE: I really doubt this will happen
By DestruyaUR on 10/20/2007 2:54:40 AM , Rating: 2
It'll never happen for four reasons:

1) The 747-200 was chosen over the 747-400 because the 200 is more structurally sound. The A380 was built for profit on long-haul long-distance routes, not necessarily safety. The -200 airframe was also chosen for the E-4B. The reason for this was the dramatic altering of the airframe to incorporate extra weight (the 'tumor' on the E-4B) and also the addition of in-flight refueling architecture. They wanted the most "solid" plane they could get their hands on before modifying it.

2) Paranoia. China accused us of bugging a few 777s they bought from Boeing for diplomatic use. Secondly the prospect of having to use European sub-contractors to assist the Air Force in complex maintenance will be a nonstarter.

3) The plane's size will actually further limit the amount of airfields serviceable by Air Force One, which is already a problem with the 747 airframe. Some airfields flat out won't permit A380s because they fear they'll damage or crack the runways.

4) The airframe and avionics have been dogged by delay and skepticism.

Look for the venerable VC-25A 747 Air Force One to be "augmented" in the near future by a 787 Dreamliner fleet to enable senior staff, dignitaries, and the President to visit places that normally couldn't be accessed by a 747 due to airfield limitations.

RE: I really doubt this will happen
By Plasmoid on 10/20/2007 10:17:21 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with you on some sub points. im not so sure about the others.

Firstly, at the end of the day a 747 is a 747, its not very structurally sound by any standard, its a damn passenger airliner. Its not going to take a lot to blow the it up. Its best defences are the rest of the Air Force and its contermeasures. As regards landing and that, a 70's design with some retrofitted 80's improvements really cant stand up to a 00's design with 00's materials, as seen by the 787's wings being ridiculously strong.

2) Maybe, maybe... but at the end of the day if your paranoid enough to not trust your European allies your paranoid enough not to trust one of your bigger defence contractors. And the air force will just train up a crew of mechanics to do the maintenance... you dont see the navy calling in british engineers to patch up harriers now do you?

3) Not being able to use certain air fields for fear of cracking the runways is a bit of FUD. The A380 is designed as a drop in replacement for the 747, if it was breaking runways it would not have been ordered. The wheels distribute the weight out so its not a whole lot worse then a 747. Its dimensions are marginally wider then a 747, one of the big design challenges. And at the end of the day, cracking a runway in an emergency (which is when you would use some crappy runway that cant handle a 747 and taking Marine one isnt an option) isnt the end of the world.

4) The Skepticism mostly from Boeing, and the delays due to wiring. The Airframe is sound... but the passengers want entertainment systems. The Freight model is ready to go. I do accept that the Air Force is not going to a take a plane that hasent proven itself with a few years of air service under its belt... but then thats the kind of thing they did with the orignal 747.

By weskurtz0081 on 10/20/2007 3:50:14 PM , Rating: 2
Just wanted to make a point. You made the comment that the 747 is not very structurally sound because it was a passenger airliner. Well, they also use a good number of them for freight, they turned one into the Super Tanker, the 747 was also competing for the spot that the C-5 won. The 747 is probably overall a better jet than the C-5, just couldn't get on its knees and take it from both ends. A 747 could take a hit from a SAM, they will generally take out an engine, and a good pilot could still land it. They are tough planes and I disagree that they are not structurally sound.

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