I had been planning on live blogging the Goldschmidt conference. It was up there on my to-do list with world peace, ending hunger, and saving the whales. And then I started a war over whale burgers, everything blurred, and here I am on the plane home. So forget live blogging- we’re geologists! Here is a paleoblog instead, to be unearthed over the next few days…
On the flight from Australia to America, I experienced life on the new European super jumbo, the A380.
We were flying QANTAS, so until I fly the same plane on other carriers, I can’t distinguish between the effects of the plane and the carrier’s use of it.
The A380 experience began in the Sydney international terminal, where we were informed of a two hour delay due to the necessity of replacing some parts. Presumably this sort of experience will occur with all new planes, but after the first two years of operation, it seems clear that this superjumbo still harbors several bugs. I’m told that the plane is nicknamed the A180, because it has a habit of taxiing out, doing a 180, and coming back to the gate for repairs. Luckily, we were still in the terminal when they chose to fix the plane, so we didn’t spend the time on the tarmac. Two and a half hours later we were in the air, and despite their promise to make up the time, we got to LA three hours late. The plane was noticeably slower than a 747: I think that the in-air time between LA and Sydney was scheduled to be 20-30 minutes longer than the old planes, and we actually lost time in the air despite trying to catch up.
Our late arrival meant that we had missed the last flight east for the day, so we had to wait around LAX until the redeye left that evening. Luckily, QANTAS provided us with a hotel room, so we could at least get a few hours of sleep in the afternoon before connecting to Knoxville via Charlotte on normal-sized aircraft.
On the plane itself, the seats had the least legroom of any of the planes we took on the journey, with the possible exception of the turboprops that service Canberra and Sydney. To make matters worse, the new seat design means that having the person in front of you lean back reduces kneecap room that is not regained by reclining one’s own seat. I am taller than most (193 cm, or 6’4”), but I had to turn sideways or spill out into the aisle to fit in the A380 seat. They are stacked 10 abreast, but the plane may be slightly wider than the 747.
Friends of mine on the plane complained that the meal service was dreadfully slow, but I was not perturbed by any such lack of service. The food was airplane food. Nothing more, nothing less.
The experience was not all negative, however. The entertainment system was excellent, though I can’t help but wonder if I missed something by watching Avatar on the back of a seat. Even if I did, I can’t blame that on the air plane. However, I think that this was the only area in which the plane excelled.
So in summation, the big new French planes are just as shoddy as their big new mass spectrometers.