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.
I’ve been traveling quite a bit this week, from Seattle to LA to Heathrow to Bradford, most recently flying from Bradford to Amsterdam.
As a kid flying was always at least a bit glamorous, but that’s vanished in many places – certainly absent from Leeds/Bradford airport. I have been in bus stations with better decor than than this airport which caters primarily to package tours, as evidenced by the fact that there’s nowhere to sit other than bars once you get air-side. What an armpit of an airport!
A fitting launch pad then for Jet2 flight, with its plastic bucket seats and filthy floors.
Unsurprisingly, airport lounges are better than general seating at the gate. There’s complimentary drinks and snacks, and free wi-fi.
We travel internationally every year, and have done so for the last 15 years or more. I’ve always taken my photographic gear with me.
I’ve checked video and film equipment into the hold as luggage with only minor incident. I use Pelican cases because they are rigid and have good foam protection for the contents. Here are a few tips based on my own experiences:
- When traveling from, or within, the USA you should expect your luggage to be opened and searched. Secure checked baggage with plastic zip ties that can be easily cut for security inspection, and include a couple of spares inside the case on top of everything – I usually leave a note asking that the case be secured again and have never been disappointed.
- If your case has a very good seal, as the Pelican cases do, it will often have a pressure relief valve to admit/exhaust air. Leave this open why checking the bags as otherwise air will escape past the seals, but not leak back in again. You’ll land with “sucked in” cases as a result of the lower pressure at altitude.
Carry on luggage
Make a point of reading your airlines restrictions carefully before traveling; learning something for the first time at check-in doesn’t give you many options. It’s not the gate agents fault that you didn’t read their rules regarding carry on luggage.
I’ve been caught out by weight restrictions once on BA. On a flight from the US to the UK there was no mention of a weight restriction for carry on, but the leg from the UK to the US they weighed my carry ons. At that time the limit was around 6kg or 13 lbs per bag.
Things I pack
I use a camera back-pack as my carry on, a Canon 200EG. It’s cheap, provides good protection, and the one I have at the moment has been going strong for over 5 years. In it I have:
- Camera body, lenses, battery charger, spare battery
- GPS data logger
- Kindle; much less weight and space than a bunch of books to pass the time
- Tom Tom GPS/SatNav preloaded with maps for where ever I’m going. Also packed is the windshield mount and in car power cord. Getting where you’re going from the rental counter is never difficult again
- iGo charger. This one charger covers our phones, kindle, the GPS data logger and other sundry devices
- Travel papers/documents
Upon arrival I usually take out the chargers and stuff I don’t need for daily outings to make a lighter pack.