We've tested out the flight experience on an A380 and compared the offerings from different airlines. But we've never seen how an A380 is maintained — until now. Here's what happens inside Qantas' Sydney Jetbase, and why cushion maintenance is disturbingly important.
At the time of our visit, the bulk of the sprawling installation was filled up by a single Airbus A380. Standing over 24 metres high and boasting a wingspan of nearly 80 metres, it truly is a monster of a machine. Here are the photos.
A A380 turbofan engine ready for service and installation.
The aircraft comes with four engines in all which provide 1800 horsepower. They are also surprisingly quiet with a 50 per cent noise reduction compared to the smaller 747-400 during takeoff.
We were a bit leery of getting too close to the engine's fan blades. Partly because of that famous death scene in Lost, but mainly because they cost a cool $80,000 each. The entire plane, meanwhile, costs somewhere in the region of $375 million. (You break, you buy!)
Here's one of the engines attached to the wing.
Parking this thing must have been a nightmare for the pilot — the tail barely cleared the top of the hangar. Indeed, some airports have been forced to modify their runways to accommodate the new class of superjumbo.
Seriously though, look at the size of this thing! It shouldn't be in the air. Black magic has to be involved somewhere.
When you take the A380's size into account, its wheels are curiously petite things. They're barely any bigger than the tyres on a monster truck.
The A380's wings are constructed from a range of reinfroced plastics including carbon-fibre, glass-fibre and quartz-fibre. They are sized for a maximum take-off weight of over 650 tonnes. The wings also house additional fuel, which can make them look a bit bent during long flights due to the extra weight they are carrying.
The cockpit is pretty industrial looking when you consider the aircraft's astronomical price tag. We're not sure what we were expecting, mind. A martini shaker perhaps?
The pilots' sleeping quarters are also pretty Spartan.
The A380 control stick has a distinct PC joystick circa-1980's vibe. We like to think that the designers were trying to appeal to pilots' childhoods — which were doubtless spent playing Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Strategically placed cameras keep the pilots abreast of what's happening below and behind their aircraft.
...And here's what the pilot sees from their cockpit displays.
Pilots can access a foldout keyboard from their chairs with which to communicate with crew. Text messages are generally preferred to radio commands, which have the potential to be misheard.
A less glamorous part of the job is replacing the passenger cushions that have accumulated icky stains. Ew.