LA Phil Blog

Flying the Airbus A380 to Singapore

Flying the Airbus A380 to Singapore

"Despite being extremely hoarse from two consecutive nights of boisterous karaoke in Tokyo, I awake on Friday morning filled with excitement & anticipation. Our concerts so far in Seoul and Tokyo have been exhilarating, but this is the day we get to fly in the new Airbus A380 ! My mind is filled with facts & figures I’ve collected on this remarkable aircraft, the world’s largest passenger plane - $350 million dollars, a tail which stretches up to 7 stories in the air, double deck seating for the entire length of the fuselage, 12 First Class suites with double beds & flat screen TVs, room for as many as 853 passengers(!), and a completely computerized “fly-by-wire” system.

As we arrive at the boarding area, I see people gathered around the seat plan of the Airbus, which is prominently displayed on an easel. Many of my colleagues do not know that we are going to be riding in the big whale, and there is a definite buzz of excitement building. Even people who normally wouldn’t care which vehicle was transporting them from point A to point B are intrigued. Passengers (myself included) are pressing against the terminal windows, twisting bodies and cameras to try & get the perfect souvenir shot, which isn’t easy because the jet-way is pulled up against the plane for boarding.

We’re flying with Singapore Airlines today – they were the first to put the Airbus A380 into commercial use, exactly one year ago. To date they have made over 1600 flights in this model. I also recently read that Singapore Airlines currently has six A380s in their fleet, the most recent one having just been acquired LAST MONTH.

Once we get onboard, one of the first announcements informs us that this is indeed the newest of the fleet! This is no surprise to hear, because everything around us looks and feels as if it has barely been touched. I’m a window-seat person, and never in all my travels have I been able to get such a beautiful scratch-free view though an airplane window. Each roomy Economy seat has a personal video system, a foot rest, and a very well-designed fold-out table & separate “cupholder”.

There is an absolutely seamless transition from the long take-off roll to the lift-off (the most magical moment in any flight) Even if one clearly understands that there is an enormous amount of power thrusting this huge bird into the air, it still seems like a miracle that it can actually get off the ground! During the climb, I gaze in awe at the right wing, with its sparkling fluorescent orange and grey paint, flexing gently as it slices through the relative wind. I become obsessed with the thousands of rivets on this giant wing, and think of a recent “riveting” discussion I had with my husband Gavin, who dreams of building his own airplane someday. My mind then wanders further and I realize that the single-engine plane Gavin & I fly has a wingspan of 26-ft. – the Airbus’ is 261 ft – I could stretch TEN of those little planes across the width of this monster!

The flight from Tokyo’s Narita Airport to Singapore is approximately 7 hours, and the time just breezes by before I know it. I pass the time by watching movies, reading, listening to music, using the “seat-to-seat” call feature, and stretching my legs by walking up & down the spiral staircase in the back. I keep up with the progress of the flight periodically, and take note that we’re cruising at 40,000 ft and averaging a ground speed of approximately 570 mph. The charming flight attendants are very friendly, polite, and enthusiastic, and I find myself with an armful of A380 mementos – cute little post cards and playing cards.

The best was saved for last, however - just before leaving the plane after a flawless landing, my colleague Mick Wetzel managed to talk a couple of us into the cockpit! There we met the entire flight crew, including the captain, a very personable young Indian gentleman. I had seen pictures of these cockpits on the Internet, but it truly was awe-inspiring to actually be up there amid all of that cutting-edge aviation technology. Thanks, Mick!

Riding in the Airbus A380 was literally a blast – and yet another fond memory we will cherish of this last tour with Esa-Pekka."