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Flying the Airbus A380 281

Posted by Zonk
from the everything-should-come-with-a-bar dept.
FloatsomNJetsom writes "So the largest passenger airplane in the world actually is pretty large inside — Popular Mechanics has a great article and video from their test flight on the brand new double-decker Airbus A380. This includes footage of takeoff, interviews with the pilot and test engineer, a rundown on the bar, the two staircases, and an attempt to walk down a crowded aisle from one end of the plane to the other without having to say 'excuse me.'"
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Flying the Airbus A380

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 24, 2007 @05:06AM (#18469099)
    "It took a mere 16 seconds for the largest airplane in the world to lift off runway 4L at JFK International Airport."

    Well, no duh. 62% of available seating empty, less-than-average hand luggage, next-to-no checked luggage, no freight, and only enough fuel for a two hour flight plus margins.

    Of course, it makes it sound great in the press, but it's hardly an indicator of the performance of the aircraft out here in the real world.
    • by rew (6140)
      The machine has a takeoff weight of 560 tons. 300 passengers less-than-max, means at 100kg/passenger (person plus luggage) 30 tons. Nah, that doesn't make the machine much lighter than normal. (maybe 350 passengers at 120kg, 50 tons?)

      What DOES make it lighter than normal is that the flight only took 2 hours. So they possibly had only for about 3.5 hours of fuel on board. For a longer flight they may need for 12 or 14 hours worth of fuel. That's going to make a difference of about two hundred tons.

      And to kee
    • by flappinbooger (574405) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:36AM (#18470351) Homepage
      From my traveling experience, the time it takes from hitting the gas at the start of the runway to "wheels up" is meaningless. It could take 16 seconds or 160 seconds.

      What really matters to travelers are the 45 minute "air traffic control" delays into O'Hare, or the 9+ hours stuck on the runway in a JetBlue, or the hour it takes to check in and the 2nd hour to get through security. It's the hours waiting at the beginning of the trip followed by the sprint across the airport because your 45 minute layover was consumed by delays, followed by the wait to (hopefully) get your luggage at the end.

      It's not a powerful airframe that would impress me or any other frequent flyer, it would be a quick and smooth trip.

      I wonder what kind of review this new jet would get if they had to park it and wait for 30 minutes after pushing back, or had to pay $2 for a bag of nuts on a 3 hour flight, or arrived at your connecting airport and found out their next flight was cancelled for no reason, their luggage nowhere to be found.

      I'm an engineer so I certainly appreciate any new piece of shiny kit like this, but even a posh jet can suck if the airline that buys it makes your trip miserable.
    • by xmas2003 (739875) *
      Ditto what parent and others have said. In fact, engine/thrust requirements are sized by the need to continue take-off with an engine failure after V1. So all else being equal, for a four-engine plane, there is 33% "extra" thrust ... whereas in a twin-engine plane, there is 100% "extra" power. So put the Popular Mechanics dude on a light twin, make sure the takeoff-thrust is NOT de-rated, and you'll really see a fast liftoff.

      A more interesting parameter that relates to all of this is the balanced field l
  • I was expecting it to fly itself!
  • by phayes (202222) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @05:50AM (#18469205) Homepage

    walk down a crowded aisle from one end of the plane to the other without having to say 'excuse me.'

    As it was on the first 747... The spacing on these showroom models is setup to show them off. Once the airlines start buying the real models, the spacing will be set back to the "stack em in like cordwood" norm to make as much money as possible off each airframe.
    • by Bios_Hakr (68586)
      I would think that too much compression would increase the weight of the plane. You figure an average 200lbs/person and then another 100lbs for luggage.

      At what point does the plane get too heavy to fly?
      • The total weight will naturally not go above the total capacity of the plane. So there will be as much row and aisle as they can pack them in, and still set off.

        But what about imbalance ? You could end with one side moreheavier than the other (latterally or longitudinally).

        This is where most good check in programs are linked to a little application called "Weight and balance". The seat repartition does not follow random rule. If the system see that this would put the plane out of balance it force the
        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 24, 2007 @07:01AM (#18469423)
          But what about imbalance ? You could end with one side moreheavier than the other (latterally or longitudinally).

          Well... I guess they just have to make sure Americans are evenly distributed inside the plane.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by PPH (736903)
            Nah. You just need to make sure there are no Poles in the right half of the plane (Engineering inside joke. Sorry.).
        • by samkass (174571)
          People are such a small part of the total takeoff weight of this aircraft that I can't imagine, barring a hugely improbable distribution, that the A380 will ever select a seat based on W&B.
      • by Rich0 (548339) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @06:52AM (#18469389) Homepage
        If you've ever flown a long-haul international flight you may have noticed that the plane always struggles to get off the ground. That is because for every pound of luggage somebody doesn't pack, they go ahead and load freight. And if you look at a freight aircraft variation you don't get much more compressed than that...

        The planes have a certified max takeoff weight, and they takeoff with almost exactly that weight on many if not most flights.

        More passengers just means a little less freight - and the passengers certainly make more money.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The planes have a certified max takeoff weight, and they takeoff with almost exactly that weight on many if not most flights.

          It is a bit more complicated, in that the max takeoff weight depends on runway length, temperature, wind speed and direction, and possibly other factors as well. (I suspect you knew that, and were deliberately simplifying.)
      • by rew (6140)
        I was going to type a couple of numbers for you, but they are all there:

        http://www.airbus.com/en/aircraftfamilies/a380/a38 0/specifications.html [airbus.com]
    • people are willing to sit more cramped in order to save a few bucks.
  • With the aviation industry the way it is are planes like this even necessary? Wouldn't speed be the most important factor when designing airplanes?
    What percent of the time could plane companies actually fill an entire plane this big?
    Wouldn't the fact that its a bigger plane mean that there are more things that can go wrong with it?
    What kinda damage would this make if you crash it into a building?

    It seems to me that building planes like this would be like buying new hardware to make your applications r
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by slart42 (694765)
      What percent of the time could plane companies actually fill an entire plane this big?

      Well, look at the takeoff schedule for Heathrow for example. I see 22 departures listed to New York today. Some of those might be dupes, as single flights are often listed with multiple flight numbers, but still it would be more then 10 flights a day. Grouping some of those using larger Airplanes would probably be more fuel and cost efficient.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      With the aviation industry the way it is are planes like this even necessary? Wouldn't speed be the most important factor when designing airplanes?

      No. See the demise of Concorde, modern aircraft as a general rule all travel as close to the sound barrier as is feasible with a safety margin (typically 0.8 - 0.9 of the speed of sound), faster is just vastly more inefficient.

      Wouldn't the fact that its a bigger plane mean that there are more things that can go wrong with it?

      Not really, the two (onboard) critical failure paths are still there and not significantly more complex - most likely cause of failure pilot error and secondly failure of the engine / engine assembly.

      Though it would be interesting to see if they have managed to solve the problem tha

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by vivtho (834049)
        Actually Mach 0.8 or thereabouts is about the fastest you can fly while still being fuel efficient. Beyond that and the aircraft starts experiencing trans-sonic drag which persists until the aircraft crosses Mach 1-1.1 IIRC. To go faster than Mach 0.8, you either need more powerful engines or a more aerodynamic airframe. Bigger engines are available, but are much more expensive and fuel hogs at sub-sonic speeds, while the nature of civil aircraft means that building a faster airliner while still carrying
    • by rew (6140)
      Wouldn't speed be the most important factor when designing airplanes?
      Yes. Except that when you pass the sound barrier (or come too close) aerodynamic effects cause fuel costs to skyrocket (pardon the pun). So, Mach .89 is close to the best you can achieve.

      What kinda damage would this make if you crash it into a building?
      I'd think: "Total destruction".

      History shows that if you crash a big plane into a skyscraper, the building is destroyed. If you crash a big plane into a large, horizontally layed out buildi
  • NIH and patriotism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 24, 2007 @06:05AM (#18469247)
    For a country that prides itself on making everything bigger, there sure is a lot of not-invented-here antipathy and patriotic vitriol against the first major upsizing of passenger airplanes in a long time.
    • Bullshit!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Where is the "patriotic vitriol" here? So far, the comments I've seen rightly point out the logistical difficulties with this aircraft, not any vitriol because it is an European airplane.

      Unless you magically figured out the commenters' nationalities, I think you are way too uptight and sensitive about this. You are seeing something that isn't there.

    • Your incorrectly modded comment was the first hint of nationalism I saw in this discussion. The negative comments had nothing to do with where it was made and would apply just as equally to Boeing or Lockheed given the same data.

      Who is being vitriolic now?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amabbi (570009)

      For a country that prides itself on making everything bigger, there sure is a lot of not-invented-here antipathy and patriotic vitriol against the first major upsizing of passenger airplanes in a long time.

      What fresh nonsense is this? Let's face it, by any standard, the A380 in the last 2 years or so has been a disappointment. Something on the order of $8-10B in 2000 valuations were originally invested in this program. The result is a plane that is late, overweight, and not selling great. Airbus has lost

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rimmon (608966)
        So, just because Boeing has conceded that the aircraft is minimal it has to be the truth? There is no chance they are only saying this because they don't have one?
        Do you actually realize that everything you say about the A380 was said about the 747 in it's early day? Everybody said too big, too much hassle at the airports, the danger when two collide, Boeing will never get it's money back, much less get a return on invest etc. etc.
        And look how far the 747 came. How on earth can you, most likely not in the b
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by amabbi (570009)

          So, just because Boeing has conceded that the aircraft is minimal it has to be the truth? There is no chance they are only saying this because they don't have one?

          The sales figures for the A380 say all that needs to be said about the market demand for VLAs.

          Do you actually realize that everything you say about the A380 was said about the 747 in it's early day? Everybody said too big, too much hassle at the airports, the danger when two collide, Boeing will never get it's money back, much less get a return

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:29AM (#18469719)
    when filled with Americans!

    Try the super-sized veal burgers. I'm here all week.
  • by hey! (33014) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:07AM (#18470549) Homepage Journal
    It's the itinerary. The worst thing about travel are complex itineraries with delays and missed connections. A six or eight hour transoceanic flight is nothing if you don't have a immense fat guy next to you and you have a couple of books to read. It's the transcontinental itineraries that can get brutally long, if you are going to or from a second or third tier city and are flying cheap.

    The longest itinerary I ever had was from Boston to a small town in northen Chile. The last leg of that itinerary was on a fish spotting plane that landed in a remote desert airstrip. Overall it was just over 24 hours, not counting the 70km drive over rutted dirt roads bouncing around in the bed of a pickup truck with my luggage. It wasn't a bad trip at all. On the other hand I once had my boss book me on an itinerary where I had to drive 100 miles to board at Manchester NH, then change in Newark and St Pault to arrive at Sacramento. The air travel part was over nineteen hourse but it was really, really cheap (I tendered my resignation after that). That was immeasurably worse than taking 24 hours to go half way arond the world.

    The greatest problem of the business traveller is not cramped planes. It's connections. What we should worry about is the impact of a plane like this on the availability of absurdly crappy but absurdly cheap itineraries. In an era of intense price competition and financially shaky airlines, it might open up new possibilities for cutting costs.

    You don't build a complete mesh of point to point flights between cities with a plane like this. You carry people on major backbone routes between hub cities, and shuffle them onto smaller planes at either end. So maybe if you are flying from Boston to San Francisco, it becomes much cheaper to fly to NYC take the super plane to Denver or Salt Lake, and then take a third plane to San Francisco. The class of second tier cities becomes a lot broader, and if you are flying from a smallish city to a smallish city, you may get sucked into flying between a pair of hubs nowhere near your home or destination.

    If you are making connections off of a flight on one of these you are going to be dumped into an immensely crowded terminal with almost a thousand other passengers. True, they can have to get people off of these within a certain time to meet FAA regulations. But then you are on your own. Better use the toilet before you land.

    No, I'm not excited about massive planes like this. I am much more excited about the Boeing 787 which promises to be comfortable, quiet and efficent. Heck, a plane that is a bit more mechanically reliable would be a godsend all around.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      I've always found flying in the US strange. I've never really had to make a connection in Canada, but you can't get anywhere in the US without doing it.
  • In some flight deck photos, there appears to be what looks like a normal PC running (gah!) Microsoft Windows built into the flight deck, complete with a full AT-style keyboard that can be pulled out. It's to the left of the captain, and the first officer has one also, to his right.

    Now I wonder if anyone has run MS Flight Simulator yet on the flight deck PC of the A380? Or in an attempt at recursion, I wonder if anyone has run MS Flight Simulator on the flight deck PC of the Airbus A380 flight simulator :-)
  • by caseih (160668) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:28AM (#18470709)
    If you read the forums on airliners.net, you find a *lot* of anti-airbus sentiment and blind pro-boeing supporters. There are a lot of legitimate grievances against the A380 and airbus. But I still think the A380 is a marvelous airplane. There's nothing wrong with a group of countries deciding they want to build a new airplane and deciding it is worth tax dollars. Even Boeing benefits from the US government's support.

    One of the most common complaints about the Airbus seems be that it's an ugly bird. Everyone has their own sense of beauty. The A380 has grace and style of its own. Besides, although passengers might say to themselves as they board, "that's ungly bird," they are still going to get on and fly. I'm looking forward to flying the A380 because of the increased interior comfort (I hope -- we'll see) in cattle class, the increased cabin pressure, and the much reduced interior noise. Boeing's next planes will also follow suit. It's all good.
  • by alien-alien (471416) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:54AM (#18470913)
    Did anyone else notice the CNN video that showed the US LAX arrival earlier this week. The mains touched down and the plane aircraft slewed to the right requiring immediate (and large) correction - watch the rudder deflection. Looked like a problem with uneven braking. Both mains touched down twice, the second touch was followed by the slew. On final touchdown the left main touched fractionally first followed by the right main followed by the nosewheel. The correction was needed between the right-main touch and the nosewheel. It did not seem to be crosswind related, though that's a little difficult to tell (have to use wheel smoke etc. which is tough to gauge).

    Don't know if the automated systems or the pilot made the correction but with that large an aircraft there's very little room for error.

    http://www.cnn.com/video/player/player.html?url=/v ideo/business/2007/03/19/vo.ca.airbus.landing.cnn [cnn.com]
  • I'm not American (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theolein (316044) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @02:45PM (#18472249) Journal
    But if I was I know that my air-penis envy would be enormous because the Euros would have such a big one, and I would be forced to make all sorts of ridiculous claims that my 787 air-penis's size was not important, and that I didn't feel emasculated because of it.

    Giggle.

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