Friday, April 29, 2005

Good-bye Boeing 757 -- Hello Airbus A380

Two major events in airliner history occurred this week.

The Boeing Corporation delivered to Shanghai Airlines the last of its popular B757 aircraft to be manufactured.

A few days earlier, the world watched as the newest airliner from Airbus, the enormous A380, took to the skies on its maiden flight.

Of course, each of these events was largely symbolic. With more than 1,000 commercial, military and privately owned B757s still in service across the globe, crews can expect to be working on these aircraft for many years to come. Conversely the A380, which still needs to be certified by the various airworthiness authorities around the world, will not be ready for delivery until mid-2006, at the earliest.

Introduction of the A380 into successful commercial service will require more than mere airworthiness certification. Potentially costly modifications to airports -- including the reinforcing of runways and taxiways, and the retrofitting of gates -- will be necessary before the A380 can begin service.

Flight crews around the world are anxious to have a look at the A380's technologically advanced flight deck, which is situated halfway between the aircraft's two main passenger decks.

Flight attendants are talking about what it might take for them to safely evacuate such a large aircraft in an emergency. As a part of the certification process, cabin crews will need to demonstrate that they can carry out an emergency evacuation of the A380's potential complement of more than 800 passengers, within 90 seconds. The evacuation procedures for the A380 actually will entail two separate and independent evacuations, one for each deck!

Nevertheless, the A380 "super-jumbo" is here, and the management and engineers of Airbus are to be congratulated for their achievement.

Note: The BBC website is featuring a very nice slide show about the A380 flight trials, including a photo of the test crew.