Skymark will operate its A380s on major international long-haul routes from Tokyo. Skymark Airlines is the first Japanese airline to commit to purchasing A380s.

Japanese carrier Skymark Airlines has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for the purchase of four A380s, the largest and most eco-efficient airliner in service today.

Fast-growing Skymark Airlines is Japan’s third-largest carrier. Skymark will operate its A380s on major international long-haul routes from Tokyo.

Airbus says Skymark’s engine choice and cabin details will be revealed at a later stage. Skymark Airlines is the first Japanese airline to commit to purchasing A380s.

At list prices (which Skymark Airlines is unlikely to be paying), the Japanese carrier’s prospective firm order would be valued at just under $1.4 billion in 2010 dollars. The current list price of the A380 is slightly over $346 million.

Airbus says the aircraft’s excellent take-off and landing performance enables the Airbus A380 to operate on the shorter 2,500m-runways at Japan’s Narita and Tokyo Haneda airports carrying a full passenger payload and cargo to destinations in Europe, North America and Australia.

“By introducing the world’s most cost-efficient, modern and environmentally friendly aircraft in our fleet, we will offer the travelling public the best comfort in the sky and a new way of flying. With the A380’s spacious and extremely quiet cabin, we’ll enter a new era in terms of economic air travel,” says Shinichi Nishikubo, president of Skymark Airlines.

Fast-growing low-cost carrier Skymark Airlines is the first Japanese airline to commit to purchase the Airbus A380 super-jumbo, in signing a memorandum of understanding for four A380s in November 2010

“We are extremely happy and proud that Japan’s growing and ambitious airline Skymark Airlines has become the first Japanese airline to order the A380 and a new customer for us. This is a historic milestone for Airbus and a breakthrough in this important market. We are delighted to see Skymark Airlines sharing our vision of the A380 as the key aircraft for meeting Japan’s air transport needs,” says John Leahy, Airbus’ chief operating officer customers.

More than 7.5 million passengers have already flown on the 39 A380s already delivered. At present A380s operate to 20 major international destinations worldwide.

The five airlines operating the famously quiet A380 have all spoken of a persisting “A380 effect”, with passengers actively seeking to fly on the aircraft and repeat-booking on A380s in preference to other aircraft types operating on the same routes. As a result, some airlines not operating the A380 (Japan’s All Nippon Airways being one) have said that they may need to order A380s to remain competitive.

Today, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and Air France operate the aircraft on daily services to Narita Airport. Emirates and Qantas also operate the A380.

At the moment Qantas has grounded its in-service fleet of six A380s for at least two weeks to inspect and replace some of their Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines after one of the airline’s A380s suffered an uncontained intermediate-pressure turbine failure in one of its Trent 900s shortly after take-off from Singapore’s Changi International Airport last week on a flight to Sydney.

The A380 was substantially damaged by flying debris from the uncontained engine failure, which reportedly penetrated into the A380’s wing, landing gear and hydraulic systems. However, its pilots managed to bring the back aircraft to Changi safely and with0ut any serious injuries to passengers, though they reportedly had to wind the A380’s landing gear down manually in order for the aircraft to land.

Reports state Rolls-Royce found the failure was caused by an oil leak and oil fire in the engine and Qantas subsequently found similar indications of oil leaks in three other Trent 900s, which it has replaced while these engines are repaired.

The Qantas uncontained failure caused the European Aviation Safety Agency to require immediate inspections of  each Trent 900 in all A380s with the Rolls-Royce engines installed and then subsequent inspections of each engine every 20 flights. The inspections have led Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, the two other current operators of A380s powered by Trent 900s, to replace several engines.

Air France’s and Emirates’ fleets of A380s are unaffected by the Qantas incident and subsequent mandatory inspections of Trent 900 engines because their aircraft are powered by Engine Alliance GP7200 engines. (The Engine Alliance is a joint venture between General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.)

Orders for the A380 stand at 234 from 17 customers.

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