I’ve flown across the Atlantic for decades in a variety of 747s, and occasionally a 777 or two, but mainly 747s. Thinking that they’d be retired sometime in the not too distant future, we’ve been looking for chances to ride upstairs whenever we could, while we still could.
On our most recent return trip from LHR to ORD we had our first chance to sample to A380, the Airbus Industries answer to the 747. We flew on the upper deck partly because the slightly lower seating density made me think it might be a little quieter.
The overall feel is of a 777 or similar, with no sense at all that’s there’s what amounts to another plane load of people underneath you. The fuselage is pudgy, bulging, and a little bloated looking, but inside it’s all very familiar. The first clue that things were different came on takeoff, which was as quiet, or quieter, as any commercial aircraft I can think of. There’s very little wind noise, and almost no engine noise, it’s almost eerie. Looking out the window across the wing, I suspect that the composite manufacture is responsible for some of this – there are no seams or rivets, gaps, or openings. I have the feeling that A.I. also invested heavily in sound insulation behind the trim panels, but however they achieved it, the level of quiet is impressive.
Our flight was uneventful, and our descent into O’Hare felt steep and fast – perhaps it was? Landing was buttery smooth, with none of the bone jarring drama that I’ve experienced more than once on a 747, including one occasion where the luggage bins flew open and oxygen masks fell from their cubby holes, so great was the impact.
The 747 will always be a more iconic aircraft, in part because it was so bold when introduced over 50 years ago, but as a passenger I’m inclined to take the A380 given the choice.