Airbus abandons iconic A380 superjumbo, lacking clients
By ANGELA CHARLTON and JON GAMBRELL
Thursday, February 14
TOULOUSE, France (AP) — European plane maker Airbus said Thursday it will stop making its superjumbo A380 in 2021 for lack of customers, abandoning the world’s biggest passenger jet and one of the aviation industry’s most ambitious and most troubled endeavors.
Barely a decade after the double-deck, 500-plus-seat plane started carrying passengers, Airbus said that key client Emirates is cutting back its orders, and as a result, “we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production.”
The decision could affect up to 3,500 jobs and already cost plane maker 463 million euros (about $523 million) in losses in 2018, Airbus said.
The company, a European economic powerhouse, is also girding for serious disruption to its cross-continental manufacturing from a likely chaotic British exit from the EU next month. CEO Tom Enders, however, said Thursday that “We are getting signals that make me a little more optimistic that we’ll see a more orderly Brexit.” He wouldn’t elaborate.
The end of the young yet iconic jet is a boon for rival Boeing and an embarrassing symbolic blow for Airbus. A pall of mourning hung in the atmosphere Thursday at its headquarters in the southern French city of Toulouse — but there was also a hint of relief after years of straining to keep the A380 alive.
“It’s a painful decision for us,” Enders said. “We’ve invested a lot of effort, a lot of resources, a lot of sweat … but we need to be realistic.”
It’s also sad news for Emirates, which has the A380 as the backbone of its fleet, based out of Dubai, the world’s busiest airport for international travel.
When it started taking on passengers in 2008, the A380 was hailed for its roominess, large windows, high ceilings and quieter engines. Some carriers put in showers, lounges, duty free shops and bars on both decks.
Airbus had hoped the A380 would squeeze out Boeing’s 747 and revolutionize air travel as more people take to the skies.
Instead, airlines have been cautious about committing to the costly plane, so huge that airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate it. The double-decker planes started flying in 2008.
The A380 had troubles from the start, including tensions between Airbus’ French and German management and protracted production delays and cost overruns. Those prompted a company restructuring that cost thousands of jobs.
Among early detractors of the A380 was analyst Richard Aboulafia of Washington-based Teal Group, who said its demise “was inevitable.”
“But thanks to the strength of the market right now, and the strength of Airbus’s other products, the damage will not have a huge impact on the industry,” he told The Associated Press. “For Boeing, it has been a very long time since they needed to worry about the A380 as a competitive factor.”
Airbus reported net profit of 3.1 billion euros over last year, up from 2.4 billion euros in 2017.
But it also reported losses: In addition to the A380 hit, Airbus reported a charge of 436 million euros on the A400M, used by several European militaries — and another 123 million-euro charge for complying with ethics rules as the company faces fraud investigations in the U.S., Britain and France.
Airbus also acknowledged Thursday that a recent data breach apparently targeted intellectual property. Guillaume Faury, head of Airbus commercial aircraft and future CEO of the overall group, said the company is taking technical and legal measures in response.
Airbus said it forecasts similar profits in 2019, in line with growth in the world economy and air traffic.
It promised airlines that it would still maintain the more than 230 A380s currently in flight, with Faury calling it a “benchmark” for the company even as its death is being programmed.
Emirates said Thursday it had struck a deal valued at $21.4 billion with Airbus to replace some A380s with A350 wide-bodies and smaller A330 planes.
Emirates has long been the largest operator of the A380. Before Thursday’s announcement, it had 162 of the jets on order.
“While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the program could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and CEO of Emirates, said in a statement. “For us, the A380 is a wonderful aircraft loved by our customers and our crew. It is a differentiator for Emirates. We have shown how people can truly fly better on the A380.”
Industry experts initially expected A380s to long outlast the Boeing 747, which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year.
But airlines seem to increasingly favor more mid-size planes for regional routes, notably in Asia, instead of the hulking A380s or even 747s, increasingly used as a cargo plane.
Jon Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Researchers, set an example: fly less
February 13, 2019
Xavier Anglaret, Directeur de l’équipe « Maladies infectieuses en pays à ressources limitées » du Centre Inserm 1219, Université de Bordeaux
Chris Wymant, Senior Researcher in Statistical Genetics and Pathogen Dynamics, University of Oxford
Kévin Jean, Maître de conférences en épidémiologie, Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (CNAM)
Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine provides funding as a strategic partner of The Conversation FR. University of Oxford provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK. Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (CNAM) provides funding as a member of The Conversation FR.
The world is warming and ecosystems are dying. To avoid disastrous climatic change, massive reductions in CO2 emissions are required in all sectors, reaching net-zero globally no later than 2050. This requires an unprecedented and rapid change in our ways of life.
In this, the world of research is challenged for two reasons. First, researchers are the source of the increasing number of warnings about the state of our climate and biodiversity, and their credibility would be damaged by not setting an example. Second, because researchers have the training and tools to critically appraise their colleagues’ conclusions, they’re well placed to understand the seriousness and urgency of the situation, and act accordingly, by reducing their own CO2 emissions.
The carbon footprint of aviation
Air traffic currently accounts for about 3% of global emissions, which is three times more than the total emissions of a country like France. Traffic is growing by 4% per year and is projected to double by 2030. This is in complete contradiction with the objectives of the Paris agreement, which will require halving current greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030. With the growth projected, by 2050 the aviation sector alone could consume a quarter of the carbon budget for the 1.5°C target, i.e., the cumulative emissions from all sources that cannot be exceeded to limit global warming to this target.
Technical progress toward more efficient planes and better organised airports will have only marginal impact at best. Real change can only be achieved by a massive transition toward biofuels or a dramatic reduction in demand. The first solution would be to the detriment of food security and biodiversity, and providing better nutrition to a growing population while remaining within planetary boundaries already presents a huge challenge. We are left with the second option: flying significantly less.
Researchers on the move
For better and for worse, researchers have been flying for a long time. The benefits include scientific and human exchanges, and the creation of larger networks with broader scope, giving more robust results. The cost is the international “meeting mania”, which consumes time, energy and money, and whose carbon footprint is enormous.
“A researcher isolated is a researcher lost,” as the saying goes. Today, unless scientists are advanced in their careers, those who give up flying are marginalised. They transgress the rules of an environment that values frequent exchanges and hyperactivity. In doing so, they miss opportunities to make contacts for new collaborative projects, and run the risk of not being “in the loop”.
This observation is not specific to research: it concerns all competitive environments, which in our globalised world is a very large number of professions. To emit less CO2 is to reduce one’s activities; to reduce one’s activities, when one is alone in doing so, is to exclude oneself from the competition. If the first to act loses, it’s no surprise that governmental climate commitments are far from sufficient, and even unmet.
By reducing its emissions voluntarily, the scientific community would be exemplary for two reasons. First, it would show that the science – the severe warnings of climatologists and ecologists – must be taken seriously. Second, it would prove that a professional sector can overcome the fatal “first to act loses” attitude and collectively change its behaviour.
The first project to change the situation could be addressing scientific conferences. Historically, they allowed important results to be shared quickly, at a time when communication with journals took place by post. Publishing an article was necessarily a slow process, and once published, its circulation was limited by journals existing only on paper. Today it is possible to publish in record time, and articles are instantly available online.
Conferences have essentially become areas for collective brainstorming, where a mixture of the official programme and informal encounters produces fruitful exchanges. However, they can also be a source of significant carbon emissions.
There are three ways to limit the carbon footprint of conferences.
Go to fewer of them. Major world scientific meetings emit tens of thousands of tons of CO2. However, under the pretext of human contact but also of communication (even of “buzz”), they multiply without real justification. It is not rare to have three, four or even more conferences of global significance each year on the same theme, each with separate organisers.
Organise events that preserve social interaction while limiting travel, and therefore CO2 emissions. This is the concept of multiple-site conferences, where regional hub sites are linked together with videoconferencing. In this case the choice of central locations (relative to the expected audience), instead of pleasant but often remote places, would reduce the total distance travelled. Shorter distances also make trains increasingly practical, and in countries where trains operate on low-carbon electricity, they produce much less CO₂ per passenger and kilometre than planes.
Virtualise encounters: “no-fly conferences” to which everyone can connect from home. Pilot experiments have been encouraging, and technological developments should allow increasingly sophisticated formats including both official programs (easy to virtualise, including for questions and answers) and informal scheduled or improvised discussion sessions. The latter are less easy to organise, but they will need to be preserved because they contribute to the interest of these events.
While it might be hoped that teleconferences will gradually replace face-to-face meetings, the two are in fact growing in parallel. This is similar to what is happening with energy: production from renewable sources is rising rapidly, yet fossil-fuel consumption continues to grow.
The importance of making and maintaining good relationships through direct human contact, and also of efficiency – we work better when we know each other – are good reasons to travel. But not to the point of ignoring the reality of our environmental situation.
The carbon budget beyond which we risk falling into an uncontrollable climate situation is now estimated at about 800 billion tons of CO₂, a little more than 100 tons for each of the 7.5 billion inhabitants of the planet. Spread over 30 years, this gives an average of 3 tons per year per person. Two transatlantic round-trips in economy class are enough to consume this budget, which we drastically exceed already since the average European emits 9 tons of CO₂ per year.
The question is no longer just whether to travel less. It is to quantify the carbon footprint of travel, to set reduction targets (which should be transparent regardless of how ambitious they are), and to verify that these are met.
Better now than later
The net-zero world soon awaiting us requires carbon abstinence. Air travel is just one aspect; information and communication technology (ICT) is another. This should be organised and adopted without delay, at the risk of being forced upon us later on by worsening conditions. Meeting physically with colleagues who live thousands of miles away is not an inalienable right. Ignoring the science of greenhouse gases and the resulting threat posed to humanity would be irresponsible.
To continue to emit CO2 that future generations will then have to capture from the atmosphere to guarantee their own survival would be inexcusable. Many research institutions already have policies in place to encourage their members to adopt good practices for occupational risk prevention, data protection and ethical decision-making. Now is the time for institutions to also embrace policy for flight reduction or carbon abstinence. Our collective future depends on it.
This article was originally published in French
Opinion: When Students Are Confused About Freedom of Expression, Flip the Script
By Emily Chamlee-Wright and Sarah Skwire
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recently released the results of its survey about free speech on campus. The results are mixed in some troubling ways. In general, the survey found that “when students are asked more specific questions about the limits of free speech or the content of speech, their support for the protection of speech declines.”
Students seem to have only a “surface level” understanding of the First Amendment and its protections, and they display an “unwillingness to see them applied.”
For example, although a heartening 96 percent of students think that it is important that their civil rights be protected, and the largest proportion of the surveyed students thinks that free speech is the most important of those civil rights, as the survey digs a little deeper the picture becomes more confused. Seventy-five percent of the surveyed students felt that college students should have the right to free speech on campus, even if it is offensive. But 57 percent of that same group of surveyed students also felt that the university should be able to restrict student expression of political views if those views are offensive. And 70 percent thought that students with offensive views should be excluded from extra-curriculars.
Zooming in on the details of the survey, it is unclear what the students mean when they say they support free speech. So how can educators help students to clarify their stance and think deeply and clearly about the complexities of free speech on campus?
One obvious answer is a change in curricula that would focus on the First Amendment earlier and more often. Such change will require educational reforms in public education. If they happen at all, those reforms will progress slowly. Their effects will be slower still. What can we do now, when speech issues are so central on so many campuses? How can educators help today’s students — not just the children of today’s students?
As an immediate step, educators might try “flipping the script” for students, to help them imagine the unintended consequences of more restrictive speech environments on campus. If a set of posters, a campus speaker, or a work of art is so offensive to students that they feel it should not be allowed on campus, we can encourage students to flip the script and imagine what it might be like if the story were different — if something they believe or support were being barred from expression.
By flipping the script this way, we can all do a gut check on our own reactions and decisions, in hopes of avoiding the temptation to call for “free speech, except when it upsets me.”
There are a host of great literary models that could encourage this kind of imaginative study — from Orwell’s discussion of Newspeak to Mark Dunn’s novel “Ella Minnow Pea.” History provides examples such as Henry VIII’s Treasons Act (which made it a capital crime to merely imagine the king’s death) and the American Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (which, among other restrictions, prohibited public opposition to the government). Theology and science departments have the trial of Galileo and the Scopes Trial to draw upon.
When students say that the university is justified in restricting the expression of views that are offensive, they rarely imagine that their own views might offend. Flipping the script challenges students to question that assumption.
We can ask students, for example, to describe their favorite film and then assign them the task of finding something in that film that someone might find offensive. It doesn’t matter whether it’s “The Godfather” or “Harry Potter” or “Winnie the Pooh,” every film has something that someone might find offensive.
Should the prospect of that offense be grounds for censorship? When viewed from this vantage point students come to respect the default rule of permissibility. If expression is to be restricted, there has to be a compelling case for doing so, and the burden of making the argument falls on those who are calling for the restriction.
Flipping the script can happen across the curriculum and across the political spectrum and doesn’t even need a hot button campus issue for educators to challenge students to try it. In fact, flipping the script early and often lends significant advantage as it gives students — not to mention faculty, administrators and trustees — practice at extending their moral imagination to see how restrictive rules they may favor in one context can come back to haunt them in another.
Flipping the script isn’t a lesson in deep constitutional principles. Nor will it provide students with a complete understanding of the intricacies of First Amendment law and the complicated ways in which it intersects with public and private institutions of higher learning. But it is, at least, a method to encourage students to practice a kind of mindfulness about their fellow students and to learn to engage with them with some amount of understanding. It is a way of opening up conversations on campus rather than shutting them down.
ABOUT THE WRITERS
Emily Chamlee-Wright is the president of the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. Sarah Skwire is a senior fellow at Liberty Fund. They wrote this for InsideSources.com.