Difference between Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747

The Boeing 747 Jumbo was the first wide body jet, and when it first went into service in 1970 the Jumbo Jet really did revolutionise air travel by making it more affordable for passengers.

Today we are used to seeing 747’s, and it is hard to realise that the Jumbo has been in common use for 40 years.  Called the `Queen of the skies’, the Jumbo is still prevalent, but now there is a bigger aircraft on the market.

The 500+ seat Airbus A380 was conceived in the 1990s by the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus Industries to challenge Boeing’s dominance of the passenger aircraft market.  Airbus could have gone for an extra wide fuselage in order to accommodate the extra seats, but instead chose to add a full extra deck as it requires a much lighter structure, and weight is a significant problem for aviators as we haven’t yet developed any efficient anti-gravity devices.

The double deck configuration also meant that whilst many extra seats could be added to the aircraft, each passenger could still enjoy more space, and the added comfort that came with it, and additional facilities such as bars, gymnasiums and shops could be added if required.

So just how much bigger than a 747 is the A380?

The length of the A380 is 73.0 m (239 ft 6 in), which is not all that greater than the 747’s  70.7 m (231 ft 10 in).  The 747 has an upper deck, but it doesn’t run the full length of the aircraft as does that of the A380, so there is a significant height difference, with the 747 reaching a height of 19.4 m (63 ft 8 in) to the A380’s 24.1 m (79 ft), which is about equal to putting another storey on a building.

The wingspan of the Airbus at 79.8 m (261 ft 10 in) is also much bigger than the Boeing’s 64.4 m (211 ft 5 in).  And to give you an idea of just how far aviation has come in just over a century, the Wright Brother’s first flight at Kittyhawk was shorter than a Jumbo jet’s wingspan.     

The Airbus can fly higher than the Boeing, but, at top speed, the 747 will get you there quicker.  However, this depends on how far you are flying, as the A380 has a range of 8,000 nm (14,800 km), whilst that of the 747 is 7, 260 nm (13,450 km).  Is Boeing worried about that? No! Boeing’s latest aircraft, the Dreamliner 787, which is the first aircraft to be made out of composite materials, will be able to fly up to 8,500 nm, or 15,700 km.

Although the A380 is bigger, more modern and has better passenger facilities that the Boeing 747, it doesn’t really matter, because the bits that we really care about – the queue at check-in and the queue for Customs, will probably just get longer, so we’ll be even more tired when we do eventually reach our final destination.

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