Breakfast for Dinner
OK it was off from South Carolina to Dubai to meet a pro X-Plane customer for service, so time for a rather long airline flight. A 14-hour flight.
No economy-class seating for me for such a long flight… Should this be first-class?
First class was tempting, but the $20,000 ticket price… hmm… as I was trying to decide I got an email from one of the animal shelters I give to, asking for money so dogs could be in slightly-larger cages until they’re adopted. OK that puts a pretty clear spot-light on typical human greed and cluelessness, so I quickly backed down to biz-class: Just enough space to flatten out the seat to get some sleep enroute.
Arriving at the airplane from the JFK biz-class lounge:
JFK approaching midnight: The regular gate for the flight was DOWNSTAIRS.
The business-class lounge for the A380 was UPSTAIRS.
OK upstairs I go, and on arriving I got an interesting surprise: The attendant checking me in told me I could just board the airplane… from the upstair business-class lounge! Huh? That’s when it suddenly became clear that the lounge was built FOR the A380, with a second-story air-stair to serve the second story of the airplane: Each group boards the plane from the floor they’re on at the airport! The biz class people are boarding the upper level of the airplane, the economy passengers are boarding the lower level… the airplane body is 2 stories high, so we board from both levels of the airport at the same time!
Boarding two stories of airplane from two stories of airport is when this really first occurred to me: Calling the airbus A380 big compared to other airplanes a sort of light calling Chuck Norris big compared to field mice. It’s not just bigger. It’s a whole different type of thing.
In a rose gold nest:
Entering the upper cabin (the entire second floor of the cabin is first and business class), you immediately see what looks like a field of techno-birds-nests in a giant rose gold and glossy wood cocoon. Here’s how it’s laid out: Emirates is following an ancient Arabic culture in the way they fit the airplanes: The cabin is a LINEN color of white: A subtle off-white that gives a sensory feeling of ancient linen materials. The windows are surrounded by what looks like a polished teak wood, and the fittings are in pewter silver and rose gold. It’s a really interesting modern interpretation of ancient tradition and materials.
The cabin lighting as always changing depending on the time of day and phase of flight to try to control sleep patterns to minimize jet lag. Today, it was bright white gold during our boarding around midnight, and switched to a deep red sunset for the taxi out. Climbing away, the sunset faded and the light switched to evening blue and, somehow (I don’t know how they do this) the stars come out. The roof of the airliner ceiling… became covered in stars. Coming BACK from Dubai several days later, the flight started at 3:30 am, so the cabin was a deep evening blue while boarding, switching to red sunrise as we approached New York. Interestingly, when taking 14-hour flights between nations separated by half a planet, there just doesn’t seem to be anything at all inconvenient about a 3-am departure… I think we subconsciously understand the times and distance involved, and think nothing of a half-day here or there in our departure and arrival times. As well, what’s a 3-am departure time for a 14-hour, half-planet flight? The jet-lag and time-zones are going to have you completely confused no matter what, so what’s the harm in leaving at 3 am? Interesting. Very very interesting.
Established in our little nest with the carefully-controlled lighting, the next thing I noticed was that the windows were TINY, with outer panes separated from inner panes by what looked like the better part of a FOOT! The WALLS of the airplane were so thick! Suddenly it occurred to me why: The A380 is NOT a circular cross-section fuselage! It’s an ELLIPSE shape, which does NOT want to hold during pressurization, so the walls wind up being quite thick to give the fuselage the bending-resistance that it needs to resist pressurization loads. This being the case, the windows are NOT AT ALL LIKE the huge windows to right outside like the Boeing 787, but instead look like small little portals to a place far away, like catching a glimpse of the outside when you are in an igloo. As well, the window shades are internal and electric, and all closed at once, silently, by the flight crew, so you really are just not aware of a single thing going on outside… instead you are ensconced in a peaceful, muted, quite, carefully-colored room… the outside world does not really seem to exist at all… you really have no idea if it is day or night, or what is outside: All you can see is the carefully-managed interior and lighting. This is totally different than the Boeing 787, where the windows are huge, the walls thin, and the only window-shade is where the windows go deep blue sun-glassed.
Time to go:
Soon enough the engines started, and they were so quiet they were just about in-audible… the tiniest whisper of air far off in the distance is all you could hear.
The flight crew announced that 21 different nations and 21 different languages were represented by the cabin crew… and they weren’t kidding! Stewards and Stewardesses from Japan, the UK, and the MidEast were all apparent just in my little area of the airplane, and every uniform was consistent and perfect. The cooperation was just incredible. Somehow, seeing the cooperation of all 21 of these cultures, flying a European airplane from the United States to the MidEast, while Russia is invading Ukraine… makes Putins’ actions just seem more wretched than I could have imaged. If we still had Donald Trump, I wonder if this still would have happened. Would Donald have just be-friended Putin? Smacked him right back to Russia? Started WorldWar-III? Curious. All I know for sure is that Joe Biden is about as useful for our current problems as wart-covered frog with dementia. Which president is WORSE???? THAT’S the question we ask during elections now, thanks to the dogmatic partisans on each side that put them up there. Our leaders are people like Putin, invading nations and killing innocent people by the thousand with no justification at all, with the supposed opposition coming from a stumbling elder-care advertisement like Joe Biden, while we wonder if the apparently-retarded real-life Homer Simpson we had last time would be a better option. And thanks to the “news” media, there’s no coverage of any possible alternative candidate to this idiocy. I mean, crazy sells clicks, right?
Taxiing out was interesting: On the second deck you are so high up that any variation in pitch turns into a longitudinal acceleration! So as the aircraft pitched up or down a bit over the little bumps and undulations in the pavement, you literally feel it as a fore-and-aft acceleration! Everything is completely silent of course, other than the tiny little squeaks from some little bit of the interior or something as we taxi. The silence is just eerie, the engines just whispering through some air far, far, far down below and out to the side of you, hidden from you by the huge wing. While taxi is totally SILENT, it is NOT completely smooth! Resonances and oscillations run the length of the airplane as you taxi. Over a million pounds of force on the landing gear sends those oscillations through the airframe, causing vibrations to flow like waves all the way through the airplane, not always damping out instantly. The SOUND is basically zero, but the uneven terrain and huge lumbering airframe reacting to unimaginable gear forces DOES transmit delayed vibrations and oscillations to every bit of the airframe, much more so than my simple little Evolution, which has nothing to to vibrate or transmit or resonate, so simply tracks the pavement neatly, like a Tesla (though with much, much, much, much more noise from the screaming engine being bolted right to the other side of the instrument panel!)
The takeoff is so silent with those high bypass engines so far away from you down down down and far out on the wings that it pretty much feels like you’re in a glider, being towed aloft by another distant airplane. The take off for lasts a LONG time… Remember, with FOUR engines, and the need to only withstand the failure of ONE of them, the airplane has little surplus thrust… an engine failure would only take 25% of the available thrust off-line! So there’s no need to oversize the engines by much. So the takeoff roll takes quite a while, but is basically silent, the only noise being bits of interior clattering or squeaking as the plane lurches over imperfections in the pavement.
Even in climb the engines are for all intents and purposes completely silent: You hear the air around the airplane now and that’s it. Turning off runway-leading to on-course-heading, the million-plus pounds of inertia makes itself known: The bank is smooth you can’t feel the airplane turning. Even during climb, the entire upper deck of the plane is basically a sensory-deprivation chamber, the engines just a windy whisper in the distance… it’s almost unreal.
On course, we climbed through some turbulent air on the way out: We were still running maybe just 200 to 250 knots, weighing over a million pounds, so the air, frankly, was just not able to do much to us. The closes thing we got to “turbulence” was more of a slow, gentle, pulsing as the huge wing, bearing over a million pounds of mass, slid through the moving air.
So the airplane does NOT seem to have a lot of THRUST, given the lackadaisical take-off acceleration and climb, but it still, inexorably, builds up to Mach 0.85.
Here’s the secret: If the A380 is ten times the length, ten times the width, and ten times the height of another airplane, then it is 1,000 times the mass (10 x 10 x 10 = 1000).
That’s 1,000 times the passengers. 1,000 times the payload. 1,000 times the fuel.
But what about the FRONTAL AREA: The thing that has to shove the air aside? Well, if the airplane is ten times the width and ten times the height, then it’s only one HUNDRED times the frontal area! That’s only one HUNDRED times the parasite drag from frontal area of the fuselage… even though we are in one THOUSANDS times the airplane! THAT is the secret weapon of a bigger airplane: The VOLUME and MASS and THRUST go up with the dimension CUBED, but the FRONTAL area of that fuselage only goes up with the dimension SQUARED, so there is a huge advantage in efficiency as you build speed in a bigger airplane. Put another way, The more rows there are in the airplane, the more efficient it will be at high speed: Because the air only has to get out of the way of the people in FRONT! Everyone behind the people in front ride almost for free when it comes to parasite drag due to frontal area of the body. The more rows you have, the more efficient the airplane, because the air only has to get out of the way of the people in front. (Is that why the first-class tickets are more expensive?)
Established in cruise, it was time for the 12-hour straight-line run. Business class here in Emirates is like first class on any other airplane I’ve ever been on. Your little nest has fully-reclining seat that turns into a simple little bed, just barely comfortable enough to get some sleep if you pop a little melatonin or something. You’re in a nearly-windowless igloo in the sky, but they give you a little “cheat” to see outside: There’s a camera way up high, on top of the vertical stabilizer, looking out over the whole airplane like the external view in X-Plane, and that camera view is available in the little computer monitor in front of your seat. You see the the runway falling away during take-off, the city dissipating behind as you climb out, and the sky growing black towards space in the 41,000 foot cruise in the middle of the day.
If you can’t sleep, there is literally a little standing bar at the back of the plane… a little lounge… in the Italian style of standing at the bar for lunch. This is priceless in an airplane where you would otherwise be sitting for 14 hours.
So we left New York at midnight, and flew into the rising sun. Racing into the rising sun at almost the same speed as the rotation of the Earth meant that each day lasted half as long: Six hours of daylight, six hours of night. Since this was a 14-hour flight, we would both depart and land in the dark, flying right through the day without even seeing it, the windows all being closed and the interior artificial lighting tracking a standard 24-hour day to try to maximize sleep and minimize jet-lag. So it was take off from New York just after midnight local, and arrive in Dubai at 8 pm local… all operations were at night… we just flew through a quick day in about six hours or so… a day we never saw, since the window shades were closed. Breakfast was served after our enroute sleep. That’s 2 pm New York time, 10 pm Dubai time, so I guess that makes breakfast, dinner? Or lunch? Or both? Can’t tell.
Arriving at Dubai, my seat-back monitor showed the landing as seen from the tip of the vertical stabilizer, just exactly like the ^ view in X-Plane, and holy cow that runway looked small, and the landing felt quiet and slow. Dubai airport made… every airport in the USA… look like… garbage. Dubai airport makes every major airport in the USA I have seen look like over-crowded, panicked, ugly, worn-out, hangar. We’ve always known our airports here suck, and that airline travel sucks, and that we are treated like cattle and herded through a system… we all already know this! YOU already know this! It was just… eye-opening… to see that it doesn’t actually have to be that way. To see that an airport, and the staff working it, can present a beautiful, clean, wonderful tribute to architecture, grace, service, and humanity. Dubai shows this. LaGuardia shows how much we suck at this here in the USA.
Dubai, the city, is far cleaner, safer, newer, more modern and more elegant than any city in the US that I’ve ever seen.
People race camels for fun, and drive Mercedes with Rentech exhausts (I know the sound) for transport.
They were traditional dish-dashes for the sun, while always having an iPhone in-hand.
The city is basically the ideal for architecture, cleanliness, modernity, transport, service, and safety.
The EPIC Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world is there… lit up by LED lights pulsating to techno every night!
But there is, of course, no other well-lived-in, multi-cultural, ever-changing city that can match New York.
There’s no other city that can match the historic beauty of Paris.
There’s no other fits-like-a-worn-leather-shoe metropolis like London.
You can’t just build those types of history in the desert, with ANY amount of money.
But you can feel a DIFFERENT type of history in Dubai. I spent some time out in the desert, riding camels, helping a Hawk hunt some bait to simulate bringing us dinner as they used to… eating lamb cooked underground, sitting on only a carpet on the sand, and having the same coffee and food that they’ve been having for… 2,500 years now. A different type of history, a history that goes back farther… much farther. A history they preserve.
The difference is suddenly obvious! Western history is not so old: We can preserve our culture in the huge stone buildings of Paris, or gigantic stone museums of New York that you SEE! We can SEE our history in ARCHITECTURE and DOCUMENTS.
But what if you r history goes back thousands of years into the desert? That’s a more tenuous, difficult-to-see history. A CULTURAL history. And a cultural history that goes back thousands of years into the desert can’t be demonstrated by a cafe by the Seine, or with huge banners on the Natural History at Central Park West and 79th. This is a history has to be preserved with continuous THOUGHT. I saw this thought in the coffee and dates they would present to new guests, the traditional clothing that is nearly un-changed for milenia, the offering of coffee after “business” (just buying a rug and cashmere shawl) in a back-alley Souk… the tours into the desert they would give anyone willing to invest a little time.
Back from Dubai, in a meeting with a lawyer, he babbled some vague, rambling word-salad with non-sensical grammar and no perceptible flow of prove-able logic, implying there was some undefined connection between people in the mid-east dressing in traditional dress, and being backwards, or terrorists. Sigh. OK, in response to that, I now show a traditional mid-east resident in traditional mid-east garb. Remember, these are people that live in a part of the world that is only desert and sun: No tree or cloud cover is present. (I’m grabbing photos from the net here since I elected not to act like a tacky tourist, photographing local people on my trip)
And now, the way WE dress in the sun:
Who’s dressed more wisely for the conditions?
Below, the Burj Khalifa, by far the tallest building in the world.
Will the main-stream media tell you what I saw?
Of course not. Fox News will imply that people of a different culture must be backwards or terrorists, while CNN pre-decides that I must be privileged or racist because of my own skin color, denying all of the work that I’ve done. So I think posts like this are a reason for the internet: Sort of like a CB radio transmission: A broadcast of direct observations, free from the bias and greed of the racist, advertiser-controlled, manipulative corporate media.