. . .but I am not excited about the news that the first Airbus landed in the U.S. yesterday at JFK Airport. As someone who makes about three trips a year that require me to fly to my destination, I am not a seasoned traveler, but then I am also not a novice.
I am neither an enthusiastic flyer nor a terrified flyer. I guess I am somewhere in the middle—maybe an indifferent flyer. Several years ago, when I worked for a health insurance company, a colleague and I flew from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. About 5 minutes into the flight, my colleague—who I would describe as a veteran flyer—responded to a sort of thunking sound we heard with “WHAT WAS THAT?’ Well, I figured, I don’t fly much, but Karen flies all the time. If she is non-plussed by the noise, I am petrified. I couldn’t wait for that plane to get to Pittsburgh (which is only a ½ hour flight from Harrisburg.) Of course, we got there safely, and because an ice-storm cancelled our return flight, we ended up driving back. At the time, I thought I would rather be on the Pennsylvania Turnpike driving through a sleet storm with slush building up on the road at a fast rate than ever fly again.
And for a long time afterwards, I did everything I could to avoid flying. Then our family decided to go to Europe for our summer vacation. Well, you can’t there from here unless you fly. So, I started reasoning with myself. I guess I am mostly a fairly logical person, so I began to read about the physics of flying. By no means, would I consider myself an expert now, but I eventually came to understand that flying is akin to floating on water. The physics of aerodynamics make the way the plane is supported in the air much like the way a boat is supported in the water. And I began to relax. Now I am back to flying without the pervasive dread I had once experienced.
Back to the Airbus. Today’s New York Times has an article about this signature event. (I hope the link works without the reader’s having to sign in—as a subscriber to the Times, I can read the articles online without signing in.)
Here are some of the particulars about this behemoth of a plane. The Airbus, or the A380-800 has a wingspan that is almost as long as a football field. It stands 8 stories tall. Because of the weight of the plane, runways need to be reinforced to handle the additional weight—at heaviest plane flying. Its take-off weight is 421 tons!
To accommodate the size of the plane, airports would need to add double decker gates so passengers can enter / exit on two levels. The passenger capacity of the plane is 555 if the plane were divided in the usual first class, business class, and economy class. If all were economy class it could handle 853 people.
Understandably waiting areas would need to be expanded, and new baggage carousels would need to be added to handle 1,000 bags expected.
Now, here’s where my flying tastes come in. I am usually a less than patient person. OK, OK (said to my family) I am IMPATIENT. Can you imagine how long it would take to load and unload this monster? If every passenger takes 15 seconds (and that is a way optimistic time frame) to get on the plane, that is 4 passengers every minute. Now, you do the rest of the math and figure out how long it would take to load. Now, when you reach your destination, the time to unload (or de-plane in plane-speak) now becomes 30 seconds. Oh my! We will be standing back in the economy section for hours before get off.
Well, the Times sub-headline got it right: Tour by Airbus A380 Generates Excitement; Sales are Another Matter. Thank goodness for that. U.S. airlines aren’t rushing to buy up these monster planes. My patience won’t be tried. . .well, I do have to drive to work.