PARIS (TheStreet) -- Four years ago, when the Airbus A380 first flew, the skepticism was overwhelming because the plane was big, the delays were long and the demand seemed limited.Today, the A380 story is a far different story, one of new service to popular routes. This month, Air France began Paris-Washington Dulles service, and Lufthansa began Frankfurt-Miami service.
Airbus' Jumbo vs. Boeing's DreamlinerIt is interesting to compare the development of the A380 and Boeing's ( BA) 787. Boeing looked at developing a larger aircraft, competitive with the A380, before deciding on the 787 because its customers indicated they preferred something smaller. Now, both airplanes have suffered long delays and face years of sales before breaking even on all the development cost. The principal problems in development of the A380 were that the airplane is so big -- "one A380 is the equivalent of eight A320s, in production terms," said consultant Scott Hamilton -- and that Airbus found incompatibilities between French-developed software and German-development software. As a result, early delivery aircraft had to be hand-wired. This is fine when you are fixing an electric light, but tougher in an airplane that contains 330 miles of wiring. "Over time, the A380 will break even or be profitable," Hamilton said. "The question is how much time? It will easily be ten or 15 years." Hamilton offered a similar estimate for the 787, saying that