Aerospace Students Tour the World's Largest Passenger Plane
On January 27th, a group of aerospace undergraduates toured the
world's largest passenger plane, the A380. The A380 airplane is
manufactured by the Airbus corporation in Europe. As of January 2012,
there are only 68 A380s presently flying in the world for seven
airlines. The plane is so large that only a few airports can
accommodate it. Several airports, such as Los Angeles International
Airport, have now undergone extensive renovations to handle its huge
size and the large number of people it transports. Only two airlines,
Qantas and Singapore Airlines, presently fly this large aircraft into
Los Angeles International Airport. The A380 has two passenger
decks that extend almost the entire 230 foot length of the
fuselage. The decks are connected by fore and aft stairways. If the
plane were configured with only coach seating, the A380 could carry
835 passengers! Fortunately, most of the A380s flying today carry only
about half that many people.
Last Friday, Tony Vula, the head of the LAX maintenance department at
Qantas, invited Professor Blackwelder and a group of Aerospace
Engineering students to tour this behemoth aircraft. The students
first explored the exterior. They were allowed to examine the A380's
twenty-two tires that are inflated to 210 pounds per square inch of
pressure. Each tire is rated to carry 75,000 pounds of weight which
seems like a lot until you realize that the plane fully loaded can
weigh over 1.2 million pounds at take-off! Tony opened some of the
external panels on the belly of the plane to expose the massive
hydraulic systems and other mechanical equipment in the areas where
the wing meets the fuselage.
The students inspect the tires, brakes and
bogies of the A380.
An external panel is opened to view the
internal hydraulics and mechanical equipment.
The engines of the A380 are equally impressive. They have an inlet
diameter of approximately 10 feet placing them amongst the largest jet
engines produced. Each of the four engines produce over 70,000 pounds
of thrust. That is roughly 38,000 horse power each after take off when
flying at 200 miles per hour! During a typical 9000 mile flight, the
engines will consume over 50,000 gallons of fuel. But because they are
so efficient, that equates to only one gallon for each passenger
flying 80 miles! Can your automobile take you 80 miles on one gallon
||Each engine on the A380 is over 10 feet in
diameter and generates 70,000 pounds of thrust.
The interior of the A380 was equally impressive. Qantas Airlines has
designed their A380s to seat 455 passengers on the two levels of the
aircraft. The lower level accommodates the first class passengers with
each passenger having a cubical with a large flat panel TV, a
reclining seat that makes into a single bed, an extra seat for a guest
in the cubical, dining trays large enough for the passenger and his
guest, and myriads of buttons that raise and lower the window shades,
lower darkening screens over the windows for sleeping, raise and lower
privacy panels, etc. As part of the cabin crew of about 23, there are
two chefs on board devoted to cooking for the first class and business
|The students inspect the first class cabin.
The coach section is also on the lower level and is designed to seat
over 300 passengers. Each passenger has his own flat panel TV screen,
more leg room than on domestic airliners and many other amenities. The
students were impressed with how many passengers the A380 accommodates
without feeling like it is simply a tube crammed full of
seats. Instead, it is relatively spacious.
The upper deck contains primarily the business class. The seats are
extremely wide and enclosed by a large wrap-around back that provides
plenty of privacy. At the push of a button, the seats recline to a
flat single bed position and the passenger is off to sleep in his own
little corner of the plane. The rear section of the upper deck has
over 30 seats for a 'premier' coach section that offers wider seats
than the regular coach section downstairs and has more leg
Everyone was impressed by the lengths to which Airbus had gone
to in order to reduce the weight of the A380(even going so far as to
use carbon fiber seat backs in the coach section), while still
maintaining many amenities for passengers, such as a small lounge
|The coach cabin is quite spacious. Note the
stairs to the upper deck at the rear of the cabin.
The students were invited to sit in the cockpit and view all the
switches, gages and video panels that inform the pilot and co-pilot of
the operating conditions of the plane. The cockpit sits so far above
the runway that the plane has a special TV camera enclosed in its
belly used by the pilot for a better view of the runway as the plane
descends. Another TV camera is enclosed in the top of the 80 foot high
vertical tail to provide a general view of the upper surface of the
plane. Electronic signals for entertainment, guidance, etc. are
transmitted throughout the interior of the plane over 330 miles of
conductor. To save weight, these signals are transmitted over aluminum
wires and fiber optic cables.
The plane has
wifi for its passengers to enjoy as well as multiple channels of
||Kolleen Lee tries out her piloting skills in
the cockpit of the A380.
Since the plane was designed to transport a large number of passengers
over great distances, it is usually in the air for 12 to 14 hours. The
A380 carries extra crew members thus allowing each crew member some
time off during the long flights. The pilots have a small room behind
the cockpit where they can relax with a hot cup of coffee, a bed for a
nap and other luxuries. The cabin crew also have their own private
areas for rest and relaxation. The students were invited to explore
these areas including a 'bunk room' with twelve bunks for naps that is
below the lower deck!
The tour was a great success and inspired the students to pursue some
lofty goals including the desire to help design the next generation of
passenger aircraft. When asked what their design would look like, they
responded, "It will be a large flying wing!"
|From left to right (back row) : Prof. Ron
Blackwelder, Ben Title, Jacob Ichikawa, Stuart Armstrong, Haili
Sun, Zachary Barahal, Terry Brown, Christoph Efstathiou, Warren
Tichenor, Dr. Charles Radovich, Awadi Rathugamage; (front row):
Grace Wang, Josh Villbrandt, Alison Kennedy, Kolleen Lee,
Natasha Shukla, Claire Heatherly, Caitlin Sarian, Danielle
Mitrak, Dr. Jerry Chen and kneeling is David Matinyan.