When I first heard about the introduction of a 900-passenger airliner I thought: If it crashes it will kill three times as many people as a normal plane would.
Two issues come to mind about the new double-decker Airbus A380: Safety, and getting on the damned thing.
The plane was just tested for emergency evacuation with volunteers, and emptied out in 80 seconds with a few injuries. Impressive.
But during a recent flight (on a much smaller plane) I considered the realities of a true air emergency. The flight attendants tell us to follow the aisle, which will be illuminated by tiny Christmas lights in an emergency, to the nearest exit.
Aisles on planes are tiny. If the flight attendants start serving a meal while you’re in the toilet, you’re screwed; you have to wait until the cart passes before you can get back to your seat.
I realized that it takes a hell of a long time to get off a plane even under the best of circumstances. In the dark, afraid for your life, and possibly with bodies and wreckage blocking your way, that narrow aisle will be slow-going.
So, consider that, then multiply those conditions by at least three for the Airbus A380. (No, my math equation isn’t scientific.)
I’m not trying to scare anyone, I’m just putting this new giant airborne tube in perspective.
As for boarding, you already have to arrive at the airport hours before a flight; how much earlier will you have to arrive to get on this flying colossus?
For security purposes, boarding of commercial planes typically takes place through a single door. How long will it take to board an A380? Will unaccompanied children and people with special needs have to board a day early?
And when you arrive at your destination, how long will it take to deplane?
I know, I offer a lot of questions but few answers. One solution would be to have multiple boarding gates with beefed-up security, but the physical layout of some terminals may not allow for this. And retrofitting is expensive.
As for safety, I have scant few suggestions. Ships have little boats on them for use in case of an emergency - why can’t big planes have little planes? Yeah, that’s stupid.
Or, as someone once suggested, why not make the entire plane out of the same material as the black box?
I do wish the best for this new aircraft and her passengers. And hey, the chances of hearing, “Sorry, this flight is booked,” are practically nil.