King Of The World

16 09 2008

The Airbus A380 Quasimodo                   (Singapore Airlines, Sydney, Australia)

I confess that I’m an aircraft geek. I know what range and livery mean, get abnormally excited by new things like wing-tip winglets and love listening to the air traffic control communications when flying on United Airlines. I remember the first time I boarded a Boeing 747, never missed an opportunity to ogle Concorde and I’m presently rather unhealthily obsessed with the new Airbus A380 Superjumbo.


The A380 is a marvel of modern technology. It is not only the largest airliner in the world, but required modifications be made to the factories that manufactured and assembled it and to the airports into which it flies. It has two floors and if configured entirely for economy class, could hold more than 800 people. Instead, the first airlines that ordered them have chosen to include bars, bedrooms, lounges and large flat screen televisions. Far removed from sitting with your knees in your nostrils and your elbows in someone else’s, these levels of luxury and opulence harken back to the early days of aviation with airships, Flying Boats or even actual cruise ships.


All of which has led some people to draw parallels between the A380 and Titanic. Not one to partake in such sensationalistic, overly dramatic tabloid-journalism hyperbole, I would never dream of stooping so low as to mention the similarities between the two. The thought of comparing a grand ship that was the cutting edge of maritime technology in 1912, was the largest ocean liner in the world, boasted the finest in luxury accommodation and complete segregation from the other classes for its first class passengers and attracted large crowds wherever it went with a grand aircraft that is the cutting edge of aviation technology in 2008, is the largest airliner in the world, boasts the finest in luxury accommodation and complete segregation from the other classes for its first class passengers and attracts large crowds wherever it flies, is something that would never cross my mind.


Several months ago I saw the A380 with my own eyes. It belonged to Singapore Airlines and was parked on the edge of Sydney airport. At risk of arousing the interest of vigilant security, I suspiciously traipsed around the entire terminal until I found the nearest vantage point, and then ogled it from afar with an obscene enthusiasm almost bordering on voyeurism. I’d seen the photographs, viewed the video and read all the information. I knew its length and its height, the thrust of its enormous engines and its staggering take-off weight, but when I actually saw it in person it still left me in awe.


The A380 is a beast. It is an absolute giant whose engines look the size of nuclear power plant cooling tower chimneys, whose wingspan is more than double the length of Orville Wright’s first flight and whose tail is the height of an 8-story building. This is one serious bit of awe-inspiring machinery and should be more than a match for even the biggest iceberg.


Singapore Airlines and Emirates are already flying the A380 on their longer routes and next month Qantas becomes the third to join that elite club. Although I dream of crossing the Pacific in one of its bedrooms with a fully-flat bed and all the luxuries of a compact 5-star hotel, I would be quite happy to fill an overhead storage bin with shredded newspaper, a bowl of water and a few healthy-teeth biscuits just to be amongst the first to travel in this magnificent new technological marvel and ship of the skies….even if it doesn’t have lifeboats strapped to its sides.


Photo and post by:  Simon Vaughan




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