Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Take The Bus

Europe has thrown down the gauntlet. EADS, a company comprised of German, French, Spanish and British partners, has really done it this time. The new Airbus A-380 has been unveiled. Actually it was not unveiled as there aren’t enough veils in Saudi Arabia to cover this airplane. Consider the size. The length of the A-380 is just under 240 feet. The wingspan is just over 260 feet. Maximum takeoff weight is 560 tons, it can carry 81,890 gallons of fuel and it has a range of 9,000 miles. This thing is so big that it comes with its own 215 page ‘Airport Planning Manual’. That’s like buying a new car and getting a 6 volume owners’ manual entitled ‘About Your Garage’. It’s good to know that there is a rosy future for the global construction industry in rebuilding airports. Oh, and the A-380 can carry anywhere from 500 to 800 people, depending on the ‘cabin configuration’.

In the up-to-500 person model a lot of the upper deck is given over to first and business class passengers. The lower deck is designed for coach class customers and, in the really nifty configurations, there will be beauty parlours, perhaps a library (take a right at the grand piano), shops, bistros, and maybe even a bowling alley. Passengers will be able to take a stroll down the wide aisle ways, slip downstairs for a massage, and push a shopping cart through the duty free mall. This version of the A-380 is the one that will be flown by airlines that most of us never get to travel on: Thai, Singapore, Emirates, Air Brunei and the other boutique carriers. These are the Louis Vuittons and Guccis of the industry. These flights will be like travelling on a trans-Atlantic luxury liner minus the icebergs.

The 800 passenger cabin configuration is a bit different. This model will be operated by the airlines that most of us fly on – the ones that are going broke: Al Italia, USAir, United, Olympic, ATA and Iberia. There will be more cattle on these things than there are at the Omaha Beef Auction. Luckily, the 9,000 mile range will allow enough time for everyone to get one of those little bags of stale pretzels and for the motorised food lorry to deliver the head chef’s version of boiled chicken and uncooked linguine with huile du moteur sauce. Luckily also, Bovine Air will be able to accommodate the entire membership of the Des Moines, Iowa World Travellers Club on one plane – the one we don’t have to be on.

The A-380 will certainly revolutionise air travel. Consider just a couple of memorable moments. No longer will the jauntily dressed captain take his or her reassuring walk on the tarmac, checking the engines, kicking the tires, pointing at the rudder and giving the thumbs-up sign to the ground crew. Wing Commander Throckmorton would have to arrive at the terminal two days before take off to walk around this thing. Instead, retired pilots will have to permanently wander around the world’s tarmacs and tell the crew that everything looks pretty good from the ground – of course, they are staying on the ground.

And how about hijackings? Bovine Air flight 86, carrying the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir and every member of the Welsh National Assembly on a fact finding mission to Bondi Beach is forced to land at the capital of Upper Volta. Osama bin Zarboughti al Qudsu (also known as Abu Babu because it is easier for evening news presenters to pronounce) screams from the cockpit: ‘We will release 700 hostages if we are provided with fresh pretzels and 80,000 gallons of fuel!’ Not only are there not 80,000 gallons of fuel in all of Upper Volta, there aren’t enough busses in Sub-Saharan Africa to transport 700 people to the main terminal, which is about the size of a 7-11. Time to settle for the pretzels and come up with a new plan, Abu.

We are all in for a new world of flying. The excitement will build each day as the first flight of the Airbus A-380 comes nearer to taking off. It will be a proud day for the French, the Germans, the Spanish and the British. However, since these four countries have been at war for 90% of the past 500 years and have yet to agree on the definition of beer, sausage and marmalade, it might be prudent to fly on day two – or squeeze yourself into one of those little 747’s.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction: The A380 has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,300,000 pounds which equals 650 tons

1:22 AM  
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