Civil Aviation

Three tycoons once tried to convert three Airbus A380 airliners into business jets but their projects were scrapped. Here’s why.

A mid-eastern royal, a Russian oligarch and a broker tried to convert three Airbus A380 airliners into business jets, but their projects were scrapped.

The Airbus A380 was developed to challenge the dominance of the Boeing 747. Studies for what was to become the A3XX project were started by Airbus in 1988. The A3XX was announced in 1990 and presented in 1994. They would invest a staggering €9.5 billion in the project, which was launched on Dec. 19, 2000.

The first prototype was unveiled in Toulouse on Jan. 18, 2005 and performed the maiden flight on Apr. 27 of that year. Delivery to launch customer Singapore Airlines took place on Oct. 15, 2007, and it entered service ten days later.

Featuring two full-length decks with wide-body dimensions, the A380 has a maximum takeoff weight of 575 tonnes (about five blue whales!), it has 40% more usable space than the Boeing 747 and can provide seating from 525 to 853 passengers.

All these features made of the A380 the largest passenger airliner in the world.

Did anyone use the A380 as a business jet?

‘No,’ Howard Freidman, Managing Director at BluechipJets.com, says on Quora.

‘A mid-eastern royal ordered one; the position was subsequently sold to a Russian oligarch. Airbus later cancelled the contract, because (I hear) the engineering was too extensive, which makes sense because everything would be one-off. I can’t adequately describe how eye-wateringly expensive one-off aircraft alterations are. For example, on a heavy business jet, replacing two club seats like the ones below:

‘With a divan like this:

‘Will cost around $250,000.

‘That’s for a relatively simple configuration change that’s done all the time, involving less than a quarter of a 350 square foot cabin. Imagine custom engineering every aspect of a 6,500 square foot cabin.

‘In 2019 a broker we know well brought two A380s to market for VIP conversion. A buyer placed a LOI to purchase one, provisional on the engineering study for conversion and completion. The deal never closed, and eventually those two aircraft were parted out.’

Why so expensive?

‘Low volume, insane regulatory requirements including certification of materials and process, and one-off tasks. Weight distribution for center of gravity, structural integrity, oxygen, custom fabrication, replacing expensive things like $500/yard carpeting, and nature of the market.’

Freidman concludes;

‘For example, this Safran (best known for jet engines) aircraft espresso maker costs $30,000.’

Photo credit: Private Jet Charter and User:Keta via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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