Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Emirates A380 pilots complain about 'too quiet' crew rest area

Emirates A380Pilots at Emirates Airline who fly the Dubai-based carrier's Airbus A380 are complaining that the aircraft's crew-rest area is too quiet to afford them proper rest. The crew-rest area is located in the aft section of the aircraft's all-economy main deck, and the pilots claim that noises from the passenger cabin -- ranging from crying babies to flushing vacuum toilets -- can be heard very clearly, interrupting their sleep.

One of the features about the A380 touted by Airbus is that engine noise is barely perceptible inside the aircraft cabin. Ironically, this is exactly what the problem is. Usually, engine noise works like 'white noise' to muffle more intermittent sounds. With no engine thrum to mask other sounds, every noise inside the cabin is heard rather clearly and acutely. Even though they wear earplugs, the pilots' sleep is repeatedly interrupted.

According to Flight International, which broke this story, the problem extends beyond noise, per se. Due to the location of the crew-rest area, passengers also mistake the rest area for a lavatory, and pull the door handle.

The Flight International article says:
Emirates is the only A380 operator so far to have situated the crew-rest areas at the rear of the main deck. It did not opt for Airbus' standard option of locating the pilots' compartment behind the cockpit as it would have compromised the design of the airline's upper deck first-class cabin, while the alternative location of the cargo hold was rejected as it thought crew would find it "claustrophobic".
I am wondering if, in addition, there may be safety implications for locating the crew-rest area in the aft section of the main deck, so far away from the flight deck. One can imagine an emergency arising that would urgently require the presence of a crew member who was on rest break. Imagine the poor pilot who has to make his or her way as quickly as possible from the crew-rest in the aft of the main deck, through the length of the 'super-jumbo' aircraft (possibly having to navigate around passengers, cabin crew, serving carts, and what have you), then  (eventually!) into the flight deck. Now add the not inconceivable dimension of an aircraft that, in said emergency, might not be flying along smoothly in level cruise. Good luck!

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