Airplanes! One of the coolest stuff in the world. It’s a common trend that when we are young we aspire to be a pilot and as we grow up we forget how cool a passenger jet is and take it as a mundane object. I don’t remember whether becoming a pilot was there for a considerable time in my agenda as a child, but I very clearly remember that as an 11-year old I was totally captivated by the Boeing 747-200* that took me from Chhatrapati Shivaji airport in Mumbai to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. And even now, after tens of journeys in these magnificent machines, I am still excited about the prospect of boarding an aircraft, takeoff, traveling almost at speed of sound (80%) and finally landing. And I hope I will continue to do so for rest of my life. However, now as an engineer and a ‘scientist in progress’ it would have been better if I could have learned a little bit about the technical aspects of flight while flying. And guess who comes in to picture, ‘Panasonic Avionics’ fitted in the brand new Boeing 777-300ER of Kuwait Airways (it’s not that easy to guess, I know). Avionics are the electronics related to aviation, thus Aviation + Electronics = Avionics. Now, this Boeing 777 in which I traveled had the facility to see flight related data in the in-flight entertainment screen. I could see on my screen the speed of the aircraft, altitude (height), vertical speed, pitch and roll, direction and some other data updated almost live. Apart from that the live feed from the bottom and the front camera of the aircraft. On my entire trip, I had the pleasure of witnessing 5 takeoffs and 5 landings and I was glued to that screen during each one of them. This actually was a wonderful experience and learned something about the flight.
About JFK-ADI-JFK and Boeing 777
As I said during my recent trip back to India, I traveled in Boeing 777-300ER (300 suggests longer hull and ER stands for extended range). This gorgeous aircraft was introduced in 1994 and will soon outsell the famous Boeing 747 ‘Jumbo jet’. It’s not quite as big as 747, but still quite large. It can accommodate about 350 passengers in three class seating and more than 400 in a two-class arrangement. However, the most exciting thing about 777 is that it’s powered by two GE90 turbofan jet engines, each of them produces more power than Titanic and is the most powerful jet engine in the world. And yes, it’s twin jet means powered by only two jet engines rather than four, which is quite exceptional for its size.
I have traveled in many of the popular passenger jets. In the small segment (technically narrow-body), a couple of times in Boeing 737 and a myriad of times Airbus A320 variants (Indigo’s entire fleet is of A320s). In the larger ones (wide-body), Boeing 747, Boeing 777 and probably Airbus A340. I am still to experience the next generation of aircrafts, Airbus A350 XWB and Boeing 787. But the one I am most excited about is none other than Airbus A380 ‘Superjumbo’, the largest passenger jet in the world. I plan to seize the earliest opportunity I get to get on board the ‘Superjumbo’. I had been reading about its development as a teen and was pretty excited about how it would revolutionize commercial aviation. Today, a decade later, it makes me sad to know that A380 is commercially a failure. With Airbus reducing the production to just one per month starting from 2018, the fate of this gigantic beast seems to be grounded forever.
*Might be 747-400. I remember it as 747-200, and however confident (and proud) I am about my memory, statistically 400 seems more likely.