The A380 jetliner is AIRBUS'S HUGE BET on the future. Imagine 13 SUVs stacked on top of each other—that's how tall the plane is. But it was bundles of wires, each the size of a fist, that punched a hole in the company's ambitions, causing production delays. What happened? Turn the page to see story.
By FORTUNE graphic by John Tomanio

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Missed Connections

THE AIRBUS A380 WILL RULE THE SKY … maybe. As the 555-passenger double-decker jets are assembled in France, Airbus will install fancy features for its customers, including beds, bars, and boutiques. But to focus on the luxurious aspects alone is to miss the bigger picture. Production delays have cost CEOs their jobs, parent company EADS billions of dollars, and Airbus the lead in its dogfight with Boeing. Here, FORTUNE lays out the story.


While Airbus has taken the passenger jet to new heights, Boeing's next hot plane is the smaller, more fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner. Airlines have been queuing up to buy both planes, while airports around the world are scrambling to widen their taxiways to accommodate the A380.

ORDERS, DELAYS, AND A PARADE OF CEOs As delays were announced, orders of the A380 slowed to a trickle.

Aerospatiale Matra, DASA, and CASA announce merger to create EADS.

*International Lease Finance Corp. 1999 EADS's initial public offering Airbus announces production of A380.

2000 Qantas: 12 Virgin Atlantic: 6 Air France: 10 ILFC*: 10 Singapore Airlines: 10 Emirates: 22 Lufthansa: 15

2002 First day of production FedEx: 10

2003 Emirates: 21 Korean Air: 5 Qatar: 2 Malaysia Airlines: 6

2004 Etihad: 4 Thai Airways: 6

2005 China Southern: 5 First successful flight Kingfisher Airlines: 5 UPS: 10

2006 Second delay announced An extra six to seven months because of wiring problems Third delay announced Cancellation FedEx 10 Singapore Airlines: 9 Qantas: 8 2007 Net number of A380s ordered : 166 Estimated minimumnumber to break even: 400

October 2007 First delivery slated One A380 to Singapore Airlines




Sixty-two years ago, airlines and aircraft manufacturers were dreaming large.

FORTUNE has a rich history of visual presentation by some of the most innovative artists and mapmakers of their times. That great tradition of information graphics is the inspiration for our new series of gatefold graphics, beginning this issue. The diagram above of a prototype double-decker 200-passenger plane called the Clipper, designed by Consolidated Vultee for Pan American Airways, ran in the June 1945 issue. The six-engine plane, one of several featured in a story titled "The New Transport Planes: I," was ten times larger than any aircraft ever built. But the engines, built by Pratt & Whitney, were not fuel-efficient, and the plane never ferried passengers across the Atlantic. Instead, a variation of the Clipper was built for military transport and put into service in 1949. Consolidated Vultee, also known as Convair, became part of General Dynamics in the 1950s and stopped producing aircraft in 1964.

Research by Doris Burke contributed to this article.