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Old 03-26-2006, 01:09 PM   #1  
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Red face dozens injured in A380 evacuation
>>Some 31 had minor injuries and one broke a leg.
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Old 03-26-2006, 01:18 PM   #2  
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What kind of wonky english is that? You deflate something that is inflated.

And Reuters is supposed to be the pinnacle of news reporting...

EDIT: And they misspelt trial!
Old 03-26-2006, 06:21 PM   #3  
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I wonder what the boffins thought would happen? You jump out of a door sixty feet up in the air without a parachute into a steep slide. A broken leg- give me a break- no pun intended. They were lucky that's all that happend!
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Old 03-26-2006, 06:34 PM   #4  
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That A380 evacuation test from the inside

It's Sunday morning and as usual I'm wearing a numbered bib and doing agility tests in an aircraft hangar with 1,000 Germans I've never met before!

As you'll have guessed, the one thing we had in common is that we all thought it sounded interesting to be a volunteer in the first - and probably only - evacuation trial of the A380.

So here we are on a miserable, wet airfield in one of the biggest hangars in Europe at Airbus' Finkenwerder production facility next to the River Elbe.

I'm number 873, proud of it, and with a white bib numbered in black to prove it. We hand in everything in our possession which, though I don't realise it then, is going to make the next five hours pass very slowly indeed.

First the agility test. Line up, run along the wobbly board, bounce on the trampette, up on the vaulting horse, through the maze of cones without falling over and you're in. Immediately a tall, blonde chap who looks like a candidate for the German decathlon team vaults about a metre over the horse.

No, no, no says the supervisor sensing a long day ahead, you have to stand on it. We chuckle, the decathlete gives us a dark look, then grudgingly clambers onto the horse. He passes, we all pass.

We've handed in our watches and there then passes an interminable five hours or so while the 1,000 or so volunteers get whipped into whatever mysterious order Airbus, EASA and the FAA have decided. I don't speak any German - everyone else in the hall is speaking German. It's no fun at all.

We're all sitting at endless trestle tables, with neon lighting and a concrete floor, drinking soft drinks - the whole thing looks like a church-hall coffee morning on a gigantic scale.

An a capella group comes on and sings Lollipop, in English. It's cute. Then a sort-of comic comes in and talks in German. I laugh when everyone else does. The a capella group comes on again, with suits - I think the first performance was actually a sound-check.

We get fed two choices of near-indistinguishable creamy pasta that make us crave airline food, but presumably set us up with our slow carbohydrate fix for the afternoon's activity.

Finally we're on. We get an epic briefing of which I understand not a word. When the blonde with the number next to mine moves off, I follow her. We all warm up properly, now looking like a church-hall yoga session, and then it's through a sinister elevating steel connecting door to the other half of the hangar.

What we see is the nose section of an A380 in zinc-chromate green with one upper-deck door and one main-deck door exposed, and stairs leading to them. The rest of the aircraft is shielded by a huge black curtain so that we can't see which of the upper-deck slides has been pre-deployed, as agreed with EASA for safety reasons. The void under the aircraft is stacked with cardboard boxes so that we can't see through for the same reason.

We board the aircraft and are greeted by a Lufthansa cabin crew treating us as if we were all off across the Atlantic.

Boarding is painfully slow - the 853 seats are just numbered like our bibs from 1 to 1,200 and something with no indication of where they are across the aircraft. We're first on the top deck and have another interminable wait while all the other groups board. I'm in an aisle seat immediately ahead of what should be the lavs, the nearest door is immediately the other side of the lavs - no problem choosing the door anyway.

To get that many people in, the aircraft is of course in all-economy configuration with extremely basic seats and definitely no IFE. The window shades are down to stop us looking out at the slides again. The clocks came forward the previous night and I have the quick snooze I've needed for a couple of hours.

The cabin crew brief us with Airbus' first attempt at an A380 safety card, apparently showing the aircraft being strangled to death by 16 escape slides. The good news is that there is only one type of door on the aircraft - look, lift up the swing handle, hit the button, look again, jump onto the slide if there is one. I can do that I think.

We all sit in economy class for another half-hour or so. Where the lavs and/or galley should be there is actually a wooden cubicle with two letterbox shaped slots in it through which two pairs of eyes - one male and scary, the other female, sexy, and also scary - are blinklessly watching us. (I made the blink-bit up, but you get the idea.) I start to feel I know how lab rats feel.

A woman is led out of our cabin looking faint and doesn't return. Ironically she's got bib number 737 (for you conspiracy theorists.)

Two anonymous guys, presumably from the regulatory authorities, wander through throwing blankets and simulated baggage - lots of it - in the aisles. They also make notes about all of us on clipboards. I start to feel a hint of adrenalin. How we all behave in the next few minutes has very serious ramifications for the A380 programme one way or the other.

The lights are dimmed in a pre-take-off sort of way. We sit for a while and I start to lose focus. With no warning it goes totally dark, but there's no other indication of anything being amiss. I hear shouts in German, which as usual I don't understand, but I get the message.

I'm out of my seat like a snake and reach my favoured door just in time for the male flight attendant to turn round and tell me it's not working. I knew the regulators had disarmed half the doors, and now I know at least one of the ones they chose.

I know it's irrtiating, but I'm going to have to save what happens next for my feature piece in Flight International next week. But suffice it to say that a short while later I'm standing in the pitch black hangar looking back at the utterly surreal sight of the towering bulk of the A380 with slides hanging from it everywhere, bathed in a pale yellow light from the slides' LEDs, and literally hundreds of shadowy black figures plunging down them.

The simulated ground rescuers are screaming at them to run, the flight attendants are screaming at others to jump. Suddenly I realise the people coming down the slides are wearing uniform - it's the cabin crew and it's all over. I feel the adrenalin drain away and wonder why I also feel utterly exhausted after not really doing very much. I suspect I'm getting a tiny inkling of what the real thing must be like.

I'm certain it's been fast and, sure enough, already Airbus programme officials in their bright green tee-shirts are punching the air and hugging each other. One senior manager who I know mutters something about 75 seconds as he passes and we shake hands.

Finally it's all over, a German debrief that I don't understand, and off I go to hear Airbus and EASA give the rest of the media the official line.

Airbus CEO Gustav Humber, A380 programme chief Charles Champion, and a party of other Airbus execs have flown up from Toulouse this Sunday to see all this and I'm gently reminded that, had it gone wrong, they would all have been back in Hamburg to do it again next week. And if that went wrong then this multi-billion dollar programme would be in serious difficulties.

Journalistic objectivity aside, I'm pleased as Punch for them. And I forego the 60 that each volunteer gets. Sometimes it's worth it just to be there.

posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 8:21 PM by Kieran Daly
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