A kid in a mega candy store! Yep, that’s what I felt like when I recently visited the Airbus A380 assembly facility in Hamburg. I was invited by Airbus to attend the unveiling of Etihad Airways new livery on their first Airbus A380. Aside from the ceremony, I would also get an exclusive peek inside the assembly lines and paint shop. I started to drool the second I read the invitation, being the aviation geek I am. “Erm… yes please!”.
Inside the Airbus A380 hangar
The Airbus A380 is the largest commercial liner in service, capable of carrying almost 800 people on two decks. Despite its enormous size, it’s incredibly quiet and quite literally takes off like a feather. This was a unique opportunity for me to get up close to an Airbus A380 and see how they’re assembled.
The sun was setting as we drove into A380-land inside the Airbus grounds. I jumped off as soon as the bus stopped and followed the guide into the hangar. I gasped the second I stepped into this massive building. The forward and rear fuselage sections of the A380 are produced here and they were HUGE!
I walked around with great excitement, admiring the machinery and the enormous fuselages. One thing I immediately noticed was how squeaky clean the hangar was. Despite the presence of heavy machinery, it felt almost like a lab! I had the same feeling minutes later when we visited the paint shop – another massive hangar where the A380’s receive their paint job. The whole place looked pristine. Four coats of paint are applied to each plane – it takes 24 painters 60 minutes to apply a single coat. Eight movable telescopic platforms allow the painters to access all areas of the fuselage. It looked like a scene out of a science fiction movie!
Unveiling the new livery of Etihad Airways
We were guided to a grandstand opposite another hangar and when everyone was seated, the unveiling ceremony began with speeches by the CEO’s of Airbus and Etihad Airways. Right after the speeches, the lights were dimmed and we were treated to a spectacular light-and-sound show as the doors of the hangar slowly slid open. The new Etihad Airways A380 was rolled out of the hangar and swung around for everyone to see the new colours and logo.
I’d never been this close to an A380! The plane’s massive wing and bulky fuselage loomed large and you could feel the excitement of the crowd grow as the plane neared the grandstand.
It finally came to a standstill and we were invited to get up close to the Airbus A380. We could walk around and under it – it’s not until you’re this close to the aircraft that you get a sense of its gargantuan proportions.
The new livery was striking and I loved the gold/brown colours that are reminiscent of the colours of the desert in Abu Dhabi. The geometric designs on the tail were especially attractive. Named ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’, the pattern is inspired by traditional Emirati designs, the landscapes of the desert and the geometric shapes found in the architecture of Abu Dhabi.
I watched in awe as the plane was later towed back into the hangar. It was an incredible experience and I couldn’t stop smiling (and laughing at my geekiness!).
Now I’ll have to save up to fly in Etihad Airways’ brand new A380 (which will be introduced in December 2014 on the Abu Dhabi – London Heathrow route), preferably in Business Class or First Class of course! The Etihad Airways A380 will introduce a new level of luxury in the sky – The Residence by Etihad, which features a living room, separate double bedroom and ensuite shower room, making it the first three-room luxury suite in commercial aviation history!
I’ll keep you posted on my efforts to fly in this suite. Hehe! 🙂