A380 History is Made

Image

An Emirates Airbus A380 landing during the types first regular service through Brsibane.

An Emirates Airbus A380 landing during the types first regular service through Brsibane.

“It’s A380 day!”, I suddenly remember, as my sleep is shattered by a 0330 alarm on my mobile phone. An important visitor’s coming to town and I plan to be there when they arrive.

It’s wet and it’s dark but that doesn’t damped the excitement I feel about going to witness a long standing record being broken.

In 1971, the world’s largest passenger jet came to Brisbane.

And it was that type of Jumbo Jet that brought me and my favourite dinosaur undies to Australia from England a couple of years later. I only mention my dinosaur undies because in those days, kids were allowed to visit the cockpit and show the pilot their favourite undies if they felt the need to.

In 2013, the giant A380 takes the title of world’s largest passenger jet and coincidentally, my 5 year old nephew, Harry, has already had his first flight in one, beating me to the punch!

Harry is actually the same age I was when I first flew in a 747. I wonder what his memories will be of that flight? These days kids can’t visit the cockpit and show the pilots their undies, but they still know how to brag about how they beat their avgeek Uncle to flying in A380 first.

The excitement builds builds as we (Rhi and I) find a good spot to watch the first regular A380 flight to Brisbane arrive. We’re over an hour early but we’re not the first there, not by a long way. There’s already about twenty or thirty people around. All with ladders and large lenses for their cameras. Suddenly I feel small and suffer acute lens envy. This often happens at airshows too.

As I watch the aircraft tracking app on my phone, I can see the aircraft approaching Brisbane. I look up from the phone and look in the direction it tells me it is. Off in the far distance I can see a small dot of light. It seems to hang there for an age before growing wings. I zoom in on it.

Yup. That’s it.

A ripple of “there it is” and pointing erupts from the crowd before it settles into relative silence. It’s getting larger now. All you can hear are excited kids and the shutters of a hundred or so cameras.

It’s getting closer… It’s magnificent. A marvel of flight, a feat of engineering. I can hardly imagine how these things get into the air, let alone stay there and fly half way around the world.

The A380 kisses the runway. Up this close, you can really tell how large this thing is. It’s truly enormous! A 737 in front of it looks like a toy. At 72.75m long, the A380 is almost exactly twice the length of what the first flight by the Wright Brothers was.

With the action over for the time being, most people start to leave. I guess to go to work. Some of the more dedicated avgeeks stay around to watch the take off.

It’s a short turn around, only an hour and a half to wait. We run into a mate of ours, another Dave. Another avgeek. He’s got a ladder. He knows all the flight numbers and what types of aircraft fly the routes. This is great because while I’m on the ladder testing it out, a 747 taxis past headed for Dallas. How small the 747 now looks even thought it’s still pretty big

Sorry 747, there’s a bigger boy in town.

What are your memories of your first flight in a large aircraft? I’d love to know.

Dave

My flight in an RAAF KC-30A

Image

I’ve seen them fly over my house plenty of times.

It’s so often that I can now tell them by the sound of their engines.

But never did I think I’d be in one or see what I did!

An RAAF KC-30A MRTT flying over my house

An RAAF KC-30A MRTT flying over my house

One of the Royal Australian Airforce’s newest assets and one of its most important is the KC-30A MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport). Based on the successful airliner, the Airbus A330, the tanker is most obviously different by the refuelling points on its wings and under its tail. While the boom (the tail mounted one) isn’t yet operational, the wing mounted pods are and have been refuelling F/A-18A Hornets for around a year. Oh and it’s also painted grey.

As part of the Australian International Airshow, the RAAF decided to introduce this aircraft to the general public and I was fortunate enough to be included as part of the roughly 30 media on the flight. This flight was the first flight in the world to have no defence industry or military personnel on board.

We were shown through the aircraft before the flight and invited into the cockpit as well. It’s just like a standard A330 glass cockpit only it has an extra console behind the pilots where the refuelling is done. The main cabin of the KC-30A is just like a civilian aircraft with the only notable difference the safety instructions which have “RAAF” branding all over them.

We were due to board around midday with the flight departing Avalon around 1:30pm. We headed out over Victoria and at about 15,000ft, the baskets popped out the pods. The Captain told us what was about to happen. Two Hornets would close on us on the left hand side. The KC-30A crew would give them permission to fuel and one would slide to the right hand side while the other remained on the left. I was on the right side.

A few minutes later I could see the nose of a hornet starting to move up to the basket. I had always dreamt of seeing a fighter jet in its element and now at last here it was.

The Hornet plugged in and there was a general media scramble for great pictures. The fighter transferred its fuel and was joined by the second one a few minutes later. We continued along like this for a few minutes before they finished refuelling and flew in formation on the tanker. Wow, what a sight!

The Hornets then broke away and were waiting for us when we finally re-landed.

Refuelling isn’t all this versatile aircraft can do.

It can carry 270 passengers and serve as an airborne medical centre. It carries 139,000 litres of fuel just like a standard A330.

It was an amazing flight and I feel ver privileged to have been invited on this special event to welcome the KC-30A.

A huge thank you to the RAAF, the crew and Eamon Hamilton – Public Affairs for the RAAF  Air Lift Group.