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A party onboard as Singapore Airlines introduces A380

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A party onboard as Singapore Airlines introduces A380


By Wayne Arnold

Thursday, October 25, 2007


SINGAPORE: Thomas Lee on Thursday became one of the first passengers aboard the world's largest commercial aircraft - again.


In 1970, at the age of 17, Lee rode with his family on the inaugural flight of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet from New York to London aboard Pan Am's "Clipper Victor." This week he traveled with his wife and daughter to Singapore to be part of history a second time, joining the maiden flight of the new superjumbo Airbus A380 operated by Singapore Airlines to Sydney.


"The flight was spectacular, just truly awesome," said Lee, reached by cellphone as the plane pulled into the gate at Sydney Airport. "I'm thrilled beyond words actually. Just extremely excited. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd put it at 12."


Lee had plenty of equally enthusiastic company, not least the management of Singapore Airlines. After almost two years of technical glitches and delivery delays that crimped capacity at a time of burgeoning demand for air travel, the airline was finally able to savor the hard-won distinction of being the first to fly the double-decker behemoth with paying passengers aboard.


Any rancor about the long wait seemed forgotten Thursday as the chief executive of Singapore Airlines, Chew Choon Seng, stood before passengers to cut the ribbon and open the jetway to Flight 380. "This is indeed a new milestone in the history of aviation," he proclaimed.


It was a milestone not lost on those 455 passengers, who had to buy their seats in a fiercely contested online auction, proceeds from which the airline donated to charity. Hard-core aviation buffs like Lee flew from all over the world for an experience that to many seemed to revolve not only around the A380's unique stature but also to find out what Singapore Airlines, an airline famous for pampering passengers, would do with it.


By all accounts, the airline didn't disappoint. After a breakfast buffet at the departure lounge serenaded by a string quartet and a punctual 8 a.m. departure, passengers enjoyed a sumptuous in-flight brunch hosted by not one, but two, chefs. Fueled by their excitement and 1996 Dom Perignon Rose, a festive atmosphere prevailed, passengers said, and flight attendants had their hands full navigating aisles clogged with regular passengers touring the new plane along with the journalists on board to chronicle the event.


"It was like a rocking party at 40,000 feet," said Julian Hayward, a British entrepreneur who placed the record bid for a seat on the flight - $100,380 for two first-class seats. "We gave it top marks, and I'll definitely be flying it again."


Lee said the scene Thursday was in many ways reminiscent of his ride 37 years ago on the first 747: the lavish treatment, the reporters, the thrill among the mingling passengers exploring a brand-new aircraft.


"The most exciting thing then was a staircase to the upper deck. They had a piano bar up there," he recalled. "That was where I fell in love with aviation." Lee went on to a career in aviation.


The A380 also has a spiral staircase, connecting the upper and lower decks at the rear of the aircraft. As tall as a seven-story building and almost as wide as a football field, the A380 is a jaw-dropping piece of machinery, even on the ground. It can carry up to 853 passengers, with a maximum takeoff load of 560 tons. It can fly without refueling from New York to Hong Kong, yet burns about as much fuel per passenger as an economy-sized car and has lower emissions than any other plane in the sky.


Less well-known is that the A380 has 19 toilets all connected by a single vacuum system that sucks waste from the bowls to tanks in the rear of the aircraft at speeds of up to 130 miles per hour, according to Lee. He should know: It was Lee's California-based company, Monogram Systems, that designed the A380's toilets. He and other passengers also confirmed the claim by Airbus that the plane is quieter and more maneuverable than the Boeing 747, taking off effortlessly and landing just as smoothly.


What Singapore Airlines' A380 doesn't have are any of the space-consuming innovations many imagined for the plane - gyms or bars and the like. Instead, the airline opted for a 471-seat plane divided into three classes, including 399 economy-class seats spread over both decks, 60 business-class seats on the upper deck, and 12 first-class suites tucked into the lower deck.


Singapore Airlines, which has ordered 18 more A380s, will enjoy its exclusive ownership of the plane for at least 10 more months, when Emirates is scheduled to take delivery of the aircraft. After launching its Sydney service aboard the A380, Singapore Airlines plans to start flying to London next year, followed by flights to Tokyo, Hong Kong and San Francisco.


The airline raised $1.3 million for three charities, including Médecins Sans Frontières. Australians, perhaps not surprisingly considering the plane's destination, made up the biggest group of buyers, followed by Singaporeans and Britons. Most one-way economy-class tickets appeared to sell for roughly $1,000, though the cheapest sold for $560, according to the airline.


Some justified the expense as gifts. Raziff Bakar, a construction executive from Perth, bought four tickets to take his son, daughter and father, a retired Singapore Airlines manager, to celebrate his father's 73rd birthday this week.


Others were simply die-hard aviation enthusiasts. "My friends thought I was crazy," said Nathan Fruchter, a scrap metal dealer from Long Island, New York, who settled for a $1,000 economy-class ticket when bids for the business-class seats climbed above $5,000.


The amateur pilots Richard Maxwell and James O'Neill flew to Singapore from London for the flight. "This is truly once-in-a-lifetime," said Maxwell. Comparing the A380 to the original Wright Brothers flight in 1903, he said, "The first flight was just over 100 years ago and didn't fly as far as this plane is long."


Some passengers wore their enthusiasm on their sleeves, literally. Tilo Kruger of Germany and his father Eberhard wore matching gingham shirts emblazoned with Singapore Airlines' A380 "First to Fly" logo. Chris Boxer had his "First to Fly" polo shirts made back home in Perth after using his lucky number to win two economy-class tickets in the auction for $2,727.27.


Hayward, who after making a fortune during the dot-com boom turned to traveling to unusual destinations such as Greenland and the Amazon and is now moving to Sydney, said he made his record-setting bid for the benefit of the charities involved.


But perhaps the most fortunate recipient was Hayward's Australian friend and spa executive Adam McLeod, to whom he gave his second first-class ticket.


Singapore Airlines certainly raised eyebrows with its first-class suite design: in addition to a fold-out bed, a partition between the two center suites can be pulled down to yield a double bed in a sort of high-altitude couchette.


Being stuck in economy on the A380 was no hardship, however. With leather seats 48 centimeters, or 18.9 inches, wide, and 81.5 centimeters between rows, passengers said they didn't lack for room.


"I dreaded flying economy class, but it was spacious and wide," said Fruchter.


Singapore Airlines' in-flight entertainment system also offers 100 movies and 180 TV shows on a 10.6-inch screen. But given the hubbub on Thursday's flight, such diversions were unnecessary. "I never even switched on the in-flight entertainment system," he said.


He is already looking forward to the delivery of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in late 2011. "If they do a similar thing with the 787, I'll be there."






What was it like to fly on the A380?

By Laurence Watts


On board the first commercial A380 flight


As my taxi pulled up at Changi airport, I knew this was going to be a special day - the day of the first A380 commercial flight was finally here.


The airport had long been adorned with banners and posters declaring Singapore "A380 ready" and anticipating the flight.


With some passengers paying tens of thousands of dollars for their tickets, some extra frills were expected and Singapore Airlines did not disappoint.


At check-in, passengers were given red-carpet treatment, with photographers on hand to provide them with souvenir photos.


Movie premiere


Once past customs and at the gate, the real party began.


The departure gate looked more like a movie premiere, with a buffet for guests and photographers and cameramen as far as the eye could see.


Although a stage was set up for various dignitaries to recount the importance of the occasion, the real star of the show was sitting outside.


The A380 is not a pretty plane, but I dare say people said that about the Boeing 747 when it was introduced back in 1970.


The A380 does not look as sleek as other aircraft, but it's as impressive a sight as you're likely to see.


Two rows of cabin windows stretch all the way along the fuselage in true double-decker style and that aspect of the plane captured the imagination of everyone on the flight.


There was a presentation of US$1.3m - raised through auctioning off the seats on the first flight - to various recipient charities.


Then, after some wise words from Singapore Airlines' chief executive and some other sponsors, it was time to board.


Natural light


So what's it like inside?


The new suites for First Class passengers with their double beds and the Business Class seats have been well publicised.


My view of the A380 was from Economy Class, which is where most people will experience the new aircraft.


There was a huge round of applause and a burst of camera flashes as everyone sought to capture the moment


The seats are bigger and spaced further apart, the in-seat entertainment screens are larger with more features, and the lower deck that I was on felt positively cavernous.


The windows are huge - allowing lots of natural light to stream into the cabin.


I was lucky enough to get a seat by the window overlooking the right wing. The wings of the A380 look bigger than some planes.


Engine surge


Shortly after 0800, the giant plane began to move. After we'd moved back from the stand, it was clear that the entire ground staff of Changi Airport had stopped whatever else they might have been doing to see us off.


They waved. We waved back.


The taxi to the runway was short and it was time for take-off.


Some premature clapping started as soon as the engines began to surge. We moved forward, gathering speed, further and further down the runway.


There was a part of me that wondered if we were perhaps driving to Sydney rather than flying.


This plane could fly, right? After what seemed an age, we left the ground as smooth as silk.


There was a huge round of applause and a burst of camera flashes as everyone sought to capture the moment.


Stairway to heaven


As soon as the seat-belt signs were switched off, we were free to move around, with most of us heading for the spiral staircase at the back of the plane that links the two economy decks.


Stairs on planes are a wonder. I remember the first time I flew business class on the top deck of a Boeing 747. It felt like heaven.


I don't think anyone will be disappointed with the A380 and as a seasoned traveller, today's flight has put the excitement back into air travel for me


Like when I used to rush to the upper deck of a London bus as a child.


The feeling on board the A380 is just as sweet.


For people like my mother, who feel the need to stretch their legs on long flights, passengers now have a veritable running-track spread over two floors, with the option of throwing in some step aerobics if your legs are still twitchy.


The A380's top deck is a little narrower and as such, there are fewer seats on each row, but as with downstairs, the sheer comfort offered to passengers is a breakthrough.


Flight memorabilia


On this first flight, the stewardesses served champagne in every class, often fighting with the posse of journalists and TV crews to make their way down the aisles, but of course on the A380, the aisles are wider too.


The star chefs who had created the menus for the flight were on hand to sign menus, and we were all given certificates and limited-edition goody bags.


In spite of all the free memorabilia, if there is a single flight safety card or sick bag left on the plane when the last passenger got off, I would be very surprised.


The day has been great.


More than that, though, the A380 now offers passengers more to do and greater comfort than ever before.


The biggest annoyance for most travellers on a flight is having the passenger in front of you recline their seat into your face or lap.


Such is the space on this aircraft that as I looked around the plane, very few people had even bothered.


I don't think anyone will be disappointed with the A380 and as a seasoned traveller, today's flight has put the excitement back into air travel for me.


Laurence Watts is a frequent flyer and a director with ING.


Published: 2007/10/25 10:13:17 GMT

Edited by Naim

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Airbus A380 Completes First Commercial Flight


October 25, 2007

An Airbus A380, the world's biggest jumbo jet, landed safely in Sydney on Thursday, ending its first commercial flight from Singapore.


The Singapore Airlines' Airbus A380 superjumbo emerged from low-lying cloud to touch down on time on a damp Sydney afternoon, completing its flight from Singapore's Changi Airport.


Watched by hundreds of airport staff and aviation enthusiasts lining fences outside the airport, passengers on the inaugural Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight disembarked without a hitch.


The wet Sydney afternoon did nothing to dampen passengers' enthusiasm.


"It was great being a part of history," Michael Sim, who said he had paid about 30 percent more for his ticket than he would have on other flights, said.


Passengers paid between USD$560 and USD$100,380 for seats on the inaugural flight, after bidding for the tickets as part of a charity auction.


"It was a very smooth rise, and much quieter than the 747," Rainer Silhavy said.


During the flight, first-class passengers reclined in suites modeled on luxury yacht interiors and slumbered in proper beds which the airline said can be converted into doubles.


French design house Givenchy designed the bedding, while passengers ate off fine bone chinaware and drank from crystal glasses bought in by the same designer.


"Of course it was the first flight, so you get most of the first class treatment, I hope they keep that up," said Sim.


The A380 can seat more than 800 passengers although Singapore Airlines, the first airline to take delivery of the plane, has configured the aircraft to seat 470 over two decks, hoping to attract more top-paying passengers.


The superjumbo replaces the Boeing 747 as the world's largest airliner in service.


Hundreds of airport staff and passengers armed with camera phones earlier watched the take-off from Singapore.


"I'm a big airplane freak and I love everything about planes," said Ernest Graaff, an A380 passenger as he waited to board the jet among beaming SIA flight attendants.


Graaff paid USD$40,000 for two business-class tickets on the jet. "I'm excited about being a part of history."


The aircraft will return to Singapore on Friday.


"Flying the aircraft itself is like flying any other big jet," said pilot Robert Ting, who was one of four pilots and a crew of 30 aboard the flight.


"This aircraft comes with the latest technology... for example this is an aircraft where we come with an electronic flight plan whereby we will have electronic manuals on board, we no longer carry paper copies," he told local television.


SIA is to take delivery of another five A380s in 2008. The airline plans to introduce the A380 on long-haul flights to London, Tokyo and San Francisco from early 2008.




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"This aircraft comes with the latest technology... for example this is an aircraft where we come with an electronic flight plan whereby we will have electronic manuals on board, we no longer carry paper copies," he told local television.


I don't know about you guys...but isn't that the least bit worrying?

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Sounds like it is part of Airbus' philosophy of relying on the computers to control the aircraft rather than the other way around?

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TR and pics of the inaugural service are up at SQTalk:


(scroll to post 3 if you just want to look at pics)


Also, a cross-forum group of inaugural A380 pax (from SQTalk/FlyerTalk/Aust Frequent Flyer/a.net) have set up a website where more TRs and pics will be posted in due course : www.sq380.net


Enjoy. :)

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I don't know about you guys...but isn't that the least bit worrying?
Nope. :good:
Sounds like it is part of Airbus' philosophy of relying on the computers to control the aircraft rather than the other way around?
Only if you let it and to say relying on computers as Airbus policy is not entirely correct.

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