Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Wright Brothers Would be Proud!

The new Airbus 380 stopped by the Minneapolis/St Paul Int'l Airport this week. It arrived on Monday evening. On Tuesday, it did a demonstration flight with several local media personnel and a lot of Northwest Airlines uppity ups. I'm sure Airbus had hopes that Northwest would order a few of these new airplanes. Today it left MSP at around 10 AM and headed out to Los Angeles, CA to continue it's tour.

I decided to drive out to the MSP airport today to watch it take-off. I showed up with my handheld scanner in hand and my camera around my neck. I stood out in the frigid cold with all the other aviation nerds waiting for this huge airplane to take-off. There were about 45 people standing up on a hill near the end of the runway, a lot of them brought their cameras, a few others brought scanners as well to listen to the pilots receive their take off clearance.

Although we couldn't see the body of the airplane where it was parked, at nearly 80 feet tall, we could see the tail protruding over other buildings. As the A380 taxied out to runway 30L, it finally came into full view and I have to say, it is very impressive. As you may know, it is a "double decker" airplane, much like those "double decker" tour buses you might see in Europe. Unlike the double deck tour buses though, the A380 has a roof over the second level. It weighs over 1.2 million pounds at it's maximum take-off weight and will carry about 525 people over 8,000 nautical miles.

After it taxied on to the runway we heard the tower controller on the scanner say "Airbus 380 Super, runway 30L, fly runway heading, cleared for take-off." We could see the dust start to fly behind the A380 as it started it's take-off roll. With a very light load, it lifted off about half-way down the 10,000 foot long runway. Because of it's size, it looked like it was going very slow when it was actually accelerating through over 200 MPH as it flew overhead. It turned to the west and left a cool vortex in the clouds as it was climbing out.

It's been just over 100 years since Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the first airplane and I have to say, we've come a long way since then. Although I may never get the chance to fly an Airbus 380, it sure was fun to see one of the biggest passenger planes in the world right here in my hometown.

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