Nothing really new for a.net... just that now it is publicly confirmed. As expected, SQ maintains its total A380 fleet size at 19, and returns the 5 early frames as they come off lease and new ones arrive.
Are these five, all early overweight birds?
Yes, those 5 are among the earliest frames. They are not overweight though, but within the weight spec of the time, which is a couple tons above A380s coming off the line today. They do not have the wing twist mod either, nor the new galley cooling system and others, and have lower reliability.
But that's not really the main issue. The main issue is that they are the "hand-built" re-wired frames, which should make cabin refurbishing costs even more prohibitive than usual.
Taking these factors into account, it is perfectly understandable that SQ will offload them when their leases expire. The problem for the lessor now is who will be willing to take these early, non-standard frames. They may in fact be worth more as parts.
The hand built wire adds millions to the overhaul costs. Mid to high single digits. Combined with everything else, I understand replacing these frames. It is sad. But I fully expect the hand wired frames to be early beer cans.
The A380 needs new engines, new wingtip treatments, and maybe a stretch. If more sold, the resale market would improve thanks to economy of scale discounts.
But nothing will save early frames unless the initial operator pays for the required rewiring. With the surplus of used 77Ws, only the best A380s will find second hand operators.
Can you elaborate on how the different wiring affects overhaul costs according to you?
During overhaul, none of the wiring comes off. At best, it's inspected as part of EWIS tasks.
The pain comes when you have to do modifications or troubleshooting, but it's not like it makes the tasks anymore complicated or costly.
Maintenance engineers have to follow wiring diagrams anyway, so whether they follow the standard production diagram, or one that is custom-tailored to that aircraft, it's the same amount of work. Every wire is marked anyway, so it doesn't make sense for me to return an aircraft based on electric configurations.
In addition, the A380 being a big aircraft, I'm hearing that access for maintenance is quite good.
SQ is probably returning these aircraft because they have aircraft on order that they have to take up and whatever the lessor is asking for the extension doesn't make sense at this point versus the increasing maintenance costs expectable for aircraft nearing their big overhaul, whenever that is for the A380.
However, if the lessors offer the aircraft for next to nothing, we might see SQ holding on to some of these frames at the last minute. Doubtful, but possible.