Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Far be it from me to criticize other people (ho ho ho!), but last night I was watching a documentary on the STILL uncompleted Airbus 380, and it seems to me the Airbus guys have the single least efficient assembly process, ever.


Some parts are built in England. Some France. Some in Timbuktu. All need to be shipped to the Northern ports of France, and then TRUCKED all the way to Toulouse, France, half-way across the country. During this transit process, the parts need to travel down English canals and under bridges giving them about 1.5 feet of clearance. These aren't just any bridges. Several of them are historical, monumental types of bridges which actually happen to connect one side of town to the other. So if the water rises, I guess the people who live in these towns are just SOL.

Once in France, the parts need to travel on trucks the size of a small airplane, themself, just to make it to the factory where all the parts are assembled. These trucks take up the entire width of the road (both lanes), drive incredibly slowly, and are going to be stacked several trucks deep. Which means that, once in full production, these plane parts will routinely (weekly) jack up the French highways. This is not to mention that the route takes the trucks directly through a small village where clearance on either side of the trucks is about 20 inches. Not a lot of room for error. Also, that's 20 inches from people's bedroom windows. These trucks are big, loud, and mounted with huge "look out I'm a truck" lights. And this is going to happen once a week.

What was not mentioned in the TLC program I watched, but was mentioned on NPR, is that in order to routinely move these boats down the canals in England, they're going to want to dredge these canals. Which the environmentalists are having a fit over (I can't remember why), and the tax payers will have to foot the bill for. Further, they're not really sure that too many airports actually have runways long enough to accomodate this flying monstrosity, and at least one of the airports they're targeting using would need to extend it's runway into protected wetlands or something at the end of the runway. Brilliant!

Now the Airbus 380 is an amazing piece of engineering. It makes the double decker 747s look like tinkertoys. It's a fully realized double decker jumbo jet seating around 600 people (someone check these numbers for me...), and with a wingspan of 261 feet. That's in the nieghborhood of 85 yards. That's longer than virtually any quarterback can throw, and longer than any field goal kick I can think of. And it's actually pretty damn fuel efficient for it's size.

There are definitely going to be some growing pains as this thing gets off the ground. I'm just wondering what the hell was going thru the minds at Airbus when they decided THIS was how they were going to build and assemble the damn thing.

They clearly have not taken any Six Sigma training.

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