In my recent post about the major renovation of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, I mentioned that included will be new gates to accommodate the generation of Airbus and Boeing superjumbos once touted as the aircraft of the future. Two Airbus 380s landed in the US yesterday, a Lufthansa plane at New York’s JFK International Airport and a Qantas plane at LAX. Today, one or both are flying around to call at Washington-Dulles and Chicago’s O’Hare.
The A380 stands eight stories tall with a wingspan approaching the length of a football field. An Associated Press illustration showed the 617.3-ton and Charles Lindbergh’s ‘Spirit of St. Louis” next to each other. The fuselage of Lindbergh’s plane doesn’t look much larger than one of the A380’s four engines. Lindbergh’s little plane had a 46-foot wingspan; the A380’s is 261 feet, 8 inches.
Lindbergh’s landing in Paris caused a stir, and the superjumbo certainly is a gee-whiz aircraft. Then again, so was the supersonic Concorde that promised a lot and delivered a lot less. British Airways and Air France flew it, but it was retired in 2004 after 27 years of service. By contrast, Boeing 747, introduced in 1970, is still the dominant large jet on many long-haul routes.
Will we all be flying on the double-decker superjumbos soon? Will they have such longevity? Unless we fly overseas, we won’t, because no US carrier has committed to the $300 million plane. Some airlines simply don’t want to deal with an aircraft that holds more than 500 passengers, preferring to add more flights using smaller 200- to 300-passenger planes if traffic on a particular route demands more seats.
In October, however, the first of 14 international flag carriers that ordered a total of 156 aircraft the A380 are expected to put one into service. Look for them in the liveries of Emirates (shown above right), Singapore, Lufthansa and Qantas. I never got to fly in a Concorde before they were retired. I hope I’m more fortunate with the A380. At least I know some of my express shipments will, for Federal Express has ordered some.