Its too bad that there are no online archives going back to the dawn of the widebody era in 1969. There is a useful historical perspective on the 747’s development here. Parallels with the news on the A380 are amazing.The A380, as the world’s largest airliner, attracts attention – every issue attracts the media spotlight. The latest can be seen here. Reading the news you would think the sky is about to start falling. As much as Airbus dislikes these news stories, they keep coming. The ever circumspect Rolls-Royce advised us as follows regarding the latest Singapore A380 flight return: “We are aware of the incident and working with our customer to provide support and technical assistance.”
The 747 program was very complex and experienced a number of interruptions. Engine problems early on plagued the program causing delays – sound familiar? But Boeing persevered as one would expect them to. (Pan Am at one stage had 11 of its 747s parked at JFK due to maintenance problems shortly after introduction) Aerospace people don’t give up – every problem was solved. The program has been challenged time and again. There were questions about developing newer versions of the 747 once the program was running smoothly. Problems occurred throughout the program – Boeing experienced problems with the -400 and even the -8.
So as we read of engine problems and other issues with the A380, keep some perspective. These airplanes are incredibly complex machines. Airlines want to ensure absolute safety. Fortunately the A380 (and other new airplanes) generate tremendous amounts of data from sensors. Pilots are able to make precautionary decisions because they have access to levels of operational data older airplanes did not provide.This means the newer airplanes are much safer.
A380 flight disruptions should not be big news. Big news would be if one crashes. The A380 has already carried millions of people in its short operational history – and there are only 71 flying. It is an airplane much beloved by passengers – ask anyone who has flown it. The headlines are somewhat excitable.