Damn, that plane is big. Huge. Just plain (plane??) enormous. And going to the facility where they assemble such planes means several of them around in all their enormity. As one of the main events of the Star Alliance Mega Do event last week we visited the assembly facility in Toulouse and got to see the planes up close. And I was part of the press crew working the event which meant that I got to bring my cameras in. Yeah, I’m still experiencing a bit of a high from that.
We walked through the facility with representatives of Lufthansa and Airbus, with access that most don’t have. They were quite happy to speak with us about the planes and some of the plans that are in place. Things like how long it takes them to perform final assembly once all the parts come in to Toulouse (about 95 business days) and how they are seeing demand for travel on the A380 (very high).
We wandered among the planes for about an hour and it was truly an amazing experience.
Getting a sense for just how huge everything is on the A380 can be difficult from the photographs. Getting a person in the picture was hard enough because there were not too many folks actually working on the floor while we were there. And then to get it so that you can realize that the speck is actually a person in the photo AND that you can see just how small they are against the backdrop of the plane was just amazingly hard. Here’s one shot of a couple engineers up in the wheel well of the nose gear. There is plenty of room for both of them (and probably a few more) up in there. It is really a big plane.
Or check out how big the tires are compared to the normal sized forklift. Yeah. Big.
After the factory tour we headed over to their cabin demonstration facility. This is a building filled with fuselages of each Airbus series (A318/219/320/321, A330/340, A380 and a mock-up of the A350). Each model is configured with a variety of seat types from different manufacturers. This allows the airlines (and special guests on tours) to walk through and see how the plane would look with various seating arrangements. Sadly, no photographs permitted on this tour, but the variety of cabin layouts was quite impressive. While a typical airplane has three or four seating types in it those in the tour had as many as twelve (in the A380) to show off just how varied the options are. The first class lounge demonstrated on the A380 at the facility was ridiculously nice. I’m pretty sure that the space was larger and better appointed than my apartment. The “living room” space in the middle had a wrap-around couch that could seat six.
If you happen to find yourself anywhere near Toulouse, France and a fan of airplanes, I highly recommend that you try to get a tour of the assembly line. I’m pretty sure that they are generally open to the public. It is an amazing experience.
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