Airbus 380 has successful maiden flight
Some of you know I have some aviation background so stories about new planes always attract my interest. Today’s regards the new Airbus 380 jumbo jet, now the largest passenger-carrying aircraft in the skies. (In terms of passengers, that is.) The A380 survived its maiden flight today in France:
|::::::::||The world’s largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, completed a maiden flight Wednesday that took it over the Pyrenees mountains, a milestone for aviation and for the European aircraft-maker’s battle with American rival Boeing Co. (BA)
The double-decked, 308-ton plane landed successfully to applause at 2:22 p.m (8:22 a.m. EDT) after a flight of nearly four hours. About 30,000 spectators watched the white plane with blue tail take off and touch down, 101 years after the Wright brothers achieved the first controlled, sustained flight.
Before it landed, its front lights shining, the A380 did a slow flyover above the airport in Blagnac, southwest France, where it had taken off at 10:29 a.m. (4:29 a.m. EDT).
The plane carried a crew of six and 22 tons of on-board test instruments. It can carry as many as 840 passengers on commercial flights.
Now, that’s a big bird. Airbus and Boeing have gone head-to-head now for years and there was a bit of a race going on to see who was going to come out with an “upgrade” aircraft to the venerable Boeing 747. Boeing’s design team had started running with 2 ideas. One was to simply extend the 747′s “hump” upper deck all the way back to the tail for a 2nd level of seats. The other was an all-new design where the aircraft used a blended-wing arrangement to house 2 passenger levels in a sort-of “flying wing”. The design was, frankly, cool as anything flying and I was really looking forward to seeing someone change the face of commercial aviation. Boeing, however, decided that there wasn’t enough of a market for an aircraft that seated 800+ passengers and also cited concerns about the lack of ground facilities capable of handling the plane. They decided to place their efforts in the updates to their workhorse 737 design and into launching the 787 Dreamliner, a long-range sleeper cabin aircraft. I note that Air Canada will be deploying Dreamliners, so they’re definitely coming to an airport near you.
While Boeing decided to bow out of that particular market, Airbus pressed ahead and came up with the A380. There are some practical issues with a plane that size. Fueling, catering, and cleaning such a large aircraft will clearly take a lot of time. Boarding a plane with 150 passengers seems to take 20-25 minutes. This one will have 6 times that many people, raising concerns about the amount of time a gate is going to be occupied at an airport as opposed to cycling aircraft in and out quickly. This says nothing of the situation where an emergency evacuation is called for. 800 people struggling to get out of an enclosed space can generate all kinds of chaos.
Still, one imagines that the engineers at Airbus have thought about all this. The airlines are not, I know, shy about expressing themselves regarding aircraft design. I look foward to seeing one of these critters myself. Living as close to Dulles Airport as I do, I can’t help but think we’ll see them here among the first operational flights. Should be interesting.
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