Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I don’t know about you. . .

. . .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.

11 comments:

Ben and Leah said...

Isn't it weird how we obtain these weird fears? Your blog was very interesting and now I feel even better about flying. Hopefully I'll have those "good" feelings about bridges soon. That Airbus sounds incredibly huge! I can't imagine how big it must be in person.

Pam said...

I don't believe that bigger is always better. It's a whole new set of problems and it seems to me that the airlines have had more than their share of late.

And if something should go wrong, that's a lot of souls on board. Said by a white knuckle flyer.

Climenheise said...

Why couldn't you get to Europe without flying? You've crossed the North and South Atlantic three times without flying. Maybe your flying reluctance (a softer word than fear) goes back to that flight from Newfoundalnd on to get to Africa the very first time. But wouldn't you like to sail across the ocean again? "My bonnie lies over the ocean ..."

KGMom said...

Thanks for the teasing, Daryl.
Do you know that the song "my bonnie lies over the ocean. . ." refers to Bonnie Prince Charlie, when he went to France to flee British pursuit. At least, I think that is true.

Climenheise said...

I think you are right. I didn't check it out, but I recently re-read my history of the Revolution and Restoration, and remember some such reference to Bonnie Prince Charlie, in France in exile and then again abortively in England.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on you two. You know, KGMOM, that you flew to Africa the fitst time we went, in a Pan American Lockheed Constellatio. The latest! State of the art! Four turbo prop propeler driven jet motors! And you weren't scared then. When we walked down that long hallway to climb the steps up into that mammoth of a plane, I didn't know if we would ever see our parents again. I didn't know if we would get across the ocean or not. But we did (1)see our parents again & (2)get across the ocean. Memories! Memories! Father "C"C

Mary said...

I saw that monster on Good Morning American today and I thought the same as you. 555 people on one plane? It would take an hour to board the plane and an hour to get off. Like you, I don't have time wait in line after arriving at an airport two hours before departure. I hear there are only about three of them ordered so the popularity won't take off, more than likely. I'd rather drive to Maryland than fly any ady.

Body Soul Spirit said...

When I heard this item on the news, the first thing I thought was "no way will you get me to fly on that"! But then, I don't like little airplanes either. I landed on a lake in a float plane once and was terrified by the loud rattles and roars.
Ruth

Laurie said...

I love to fly, but I am not a big fan of waiting around, so I'm with you on this. Though it might be fun to try once...

Cathy said...

You and I have had a similar trajectory regarding our feelings about flying. I had a very similiar ka-thunk! experience on a flight over the Atlantic. My sister and I thought we were goners.

But I'll tell you what about those new behemoths: Yeah, Yeah - we tell ourselves it's about the long wait to load and unload, but here's the true thing - I don't think our rational minds can truly believe that that amount of people and that ponderous amount of metal can leave the ground. It's like trying to think and believe in the concept of infinity. I just can't wrap my mind around it.

LauraO said...

Ummm, I think I'll wait until they perfect the flying saucer. I dunno, they just look safer than this thing.

And another thing! How can they get something like this off the ground, and we're still driving gasoline-powered cars?