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Airbus cargo headache: weight Versus Space

How Is A Cargo Airbus A380 Loaded?

This is how the A380F would have received cargo even though it was destroyed.

It’s possible that the Airbus A380 might make a great cargo plane. It is large, has a long range, and has a lot of pallet capacity on board. In fact, Airbus was prepared to construct the A380F (freighter) and had received orders from certain major carriers. But how exactly would it be loaded?

How to transport cargo on the A380

A380F, which would feature some intriguing modifications over the passenger variant, was considered by Airbus. These included an increased takeoff weight (MTOW – an additional 32,000 lbs.) but a range reduction of about 2,400 NM to roughly 5,800 NM. At the time, Airbus suggested a variant with an extra-long range that would feature a central fuel tank, arguing that these two factors could be traded off, with less weight equaling longer range. However, the inclusion of cargo doors was the most intriguing.

A main deck cargo door with a dimension of 11 feet 3 inches by 8 feet 3 inches was originally planned for the A380F. This would be placed in the rear fuselage, making it simple to carry cargo into the lower floor from the back. Given its location, current infrastructure may easily change to accommodate the new type.

It was suggested that a second cargo door for the top deck be installed on the forward fuselage. In order to avoid having to lift the flight deck above the top deck, Airbus contemplated installing a nose-loading door like the one on the 747. The weight and drag penalties of this design—imagine an A380 with a 747-style “hump” on top—would have been significant.

The A380F nevertheless appeared promising on paper. The dual cargo doors allowed for simultaneous loading, which in simulations allowed for a turnaround time that was at least 15 minutes quicker than that of the 747.

Although the A380F looked promising on paper, it was never built. In addition to the 33,000 lb of cargo in the belly, Airbus did patent a “combi” version of the A380 that could accommodate 380 people on its deck and up to 11 pallets (77,000 lb) of cargo. This wasn’t built either. The drawbacks of using an A380 for P2F conversion

Could the A380 find a market as a passenger-to-freighter (P2F) aircraft with several airlines retiring their A380s and planning to switch to more fuel-efficient models?

The A380 includes a second passenger deck that runs the length of the plane, setting it apart from all previous passenger airplanes in one important way. Even though this is great for passengers and increases in ticket sales on routes, the second level is not intended for dense freight.

The floor was only intended to support the number of people and chairs for which it was built, not much more.

Due to this fault, if the A380 were fully loaded, the weight limit would be reached before the space limit. The A380 is not ideal unless the load is very light. This puts the A380 at a severe disadvantage because the sector depends on pallets for effective shipment.

Furthermore, how is freight loaded into the second passenger level? The passenger Airbus A380 lacks a cargo door on the upper level and a cargo door that swings open on the nose like the Boeing 747 freighter. Even worse, few airports have a scissor lift for freight that can lift containers above the lower passenger deck. A second door could be built, but due to weight limits, it would not significantly increase capacity.

Last but not least, loading the A380 with cargo will take a long time, and it’s possible that it won’t be able to carry much more than a Boeing 777-300ER or 747. There isn’t much of a rationale to bring the A380 back for cargo runs for some airlines, even though both are still in operation (like Singapore Airlines).

Therefore, using a passenger-configured A380 for cargo shipments is probably not the best option, even though a specially intended cargo A380 (or a passenger variation that has undergone extensive modification) would work.

In 2020, an A380 was being adapted for freight in the hangar of Lufthansa Technik, however this was merely a temporary modification and not a complete overhaul.

Why do airlines care about cargo?

Recently, airlines have begun concentrating on cargo. Because passenger planes were grounded as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, there was a global scarcity of freight capacity. The belly of passenger aircraft carry over 50% of the world’s airfreight, therefore during the height of the pandemic there was a significant capacity deficit. Airlines, on the other hand, soon stepped in to meet this demand by sending their own parked jets on fresh missions.

Airlines anticipate the cargo boom to last and not fade away in combination with an increase in freight supply from companies like eCommerce giants. The creation of “preighters,” which were ordinary passenger planes with seats removed to attach goods to the floor, may be remembered by readers.

Orders for new cargo aircraft and conversions have skyrocketed while those freighters are once again performing their primary function of transporting passengers. Unfortunately, the A380 is not among the planes being examined for a P2F program (despite running some missions in 2020).

The four-engined A380 is not a good option for airlines because to its high operating expenses and absence of a distinctive loading design (like the 747F, which can carry greater cargo as well). The A380 has all the makings of a prospective top-notch freight plane. While the A380 would make a great cargo airplane for those who fly it, there is one significant problem: how do you put freight onboard?

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