A STRETCH VERSION OF THE A380? IT'S IN THE PLANS SOME CUSTOMERS INTERESTED IN JET THAT COULD CARRY 1,000

If you think the A380 is big now, just wait. Airbus has always planned for a stretched version that could carry about 100 more passengers - perhaps as many as 1,000 in a one-class configuration. Airbus has not yet launched the...


If you think the A380 is big now, just wait.

Airbus has always planned for a stretched version that could carry about 100 more passengers - perhaps as many as 1,000 in a one-class configuration.

Airbus has not yet launched the bigger A380-900, but several current A380 customers, notably Emirates and International Lease Finance Corp., are very interested.

Steve Udvar-Hazy, founder and chief executive of ILFC, the world's largest aircraft leasing company, has said he believes the bigger A380-900 will ultimately be the best-selling variant. Hazy is one of the industry's most respected executives.

Adam Pilarski, lead analyst for the Avitas aviation consulting firm, said the A380 is a plane that is "itching to be stretched."

The huge wing of the A380, nearly as long as a football field, was designed to support a much bigger fuselage than the current model.

"The wing is so huge that the plane looks weird," Pilarski said.

He went so far as to predict that the A380 will "be a flop" if it is not stretched.

If Airbus builds the bigger jet, however, sales could eventually reach about 1,000 units, he said. "The A380 will become much bigger. I guarantee it."

Stretched versions of the same plane are more efficient. It's why Boeing is developing bigger variants of its 787 Dreamliner, just as it did with the 777, 767 and 757. Likewise, Airbus will stretch its planned A350, just as it did with the A330 and A340.

And eventually the A380.

Singapore Airlines has configured its two-deck A380 that enters service Thursday with seats for 471 passengers. But the plane can carry many more than that. It was certified to carry 871 passengers and crew - the number of people that Airbus evacuated from the jet in 90 seconds during a certification test.

Emirates, the biggest customer for the A380, plans a 650-seat, two-class configuration in some of its planes.

But no airline that has ordered the A380 has said it will pack the plane with a high-density configuration.

Currently, All Nippon Airways of Japan operates 747s on domestic routes with a high-density configuration of 570 seats - the most of any 747 flying today.

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