Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A380 Visits Montreal's Trudeau International Airport

The Airbus A380, which started service a couple weeks ago with Singapore Airlines, visited Montreal's Trudeau International Airport earlier today. Although the aircraft has landed in Canada before, once in Iqaluit, Nunavut for cold weather testing and twice in Vancouver, according to the Airport's website, this is the first time the plane has landed in Canada with passengers.

Although it is not expected that any airline will be using the A380 to fly to Montreal for the next couple of years, there is talk that Air France will eventually start flying the jumbo jet to Montreal from Paris.

I'm also glad to see the number of "plane-spotters" that were out. Watching planes near Pearson airport in Toronto was one of the thigns that first got me interested in flying.

Plane-Spotters Cheer for A380

Large crowd witnesses "superjumbo" jet landing
The Montreal Gazette, November 12, 2007.
Jason Magder, The Gazette

Daniel Bolduc said he wished his 2-month daughter were a little older so she could appreciate the historic moment she witnessed today.

As it was, Alexandra Laframboise-Bolduc was sleeping in her infant seat as the Airbus 380, the largest passenger plane built, landed about 12:10 p.m. at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport in Dorval today.

Bolduc also dragged his wife, Chantal Laframboise, 43, to the event and they were in good company among a crowd of about 1,000 spectators who gathered at the end of the airport's runway 24 Right.

People gather to watch the Airbus A380 as it makes its first landing at the Pierre-Elliott Trudeau airport, 12 November, 2007.
AFP PHOTO/David BOILY (Photo credit should read DAVID BOILY/AFP/Getty Images)

Today's visit was part of a tour to demonstrate the plane that was purchased by Air France. The airline plans to start regular trips with the A380 between Montreal and Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport in the near future.

The airport renovated its jetty to allow passengers to board the plane's two floors simultaneously. The airport was one of the world's first to make such accommodations and did so at a cost of $500,000.

As part of the tour, the massive aircraft will leave Montreal today for Orlando International Airport in Florida before returning to Montreal on Thursday. It will then leave for France on the same day.

"She kept telling me, calm down, it's just an airplane," he said of Laframboise. "But this is an event that I'll remember for the rest of my life. It's an amazing feat of technology."

The aircraft's wingspan is 80 metres, 15 metres wider than any commercial plane in the air today. It is as tall as a seven-storey building. It can hold a maximum of 853 passengers, although Air France's configuration has only 525 passenger seats. That's still 40 per cent more than its nearest rival, the Boeing 747. It made its first commercial flight this year and has since visited about 60 airports worldwide.

Those who gathered on Pitfield Blvd. and St. François St. in St. Laurent had one of the best views of the jet as it approached from the east, flew overhead and landed on the other side of Highway 13, near the exit for the Trans-Canada Highway.

There were many so-called "plane-spotters" who come out regularly to see planes flying. Many brought binoculars, telescopes and cameras so they could have the best view of the aircraft.

Some climbed on cars and nearby billboard signs, while others camped on folding chairs they set up near the runway. People came from as far away as Quebec City and some had been there since 5:30 a.m.

On his Citizens' Band radio, Aldo Fittante, 42, listened intently to every word uttered between the pilots of the craft and the air control tower as the plane made its approach, and was too busy to give an interview.

"It's confirmed, they are going to land on runway 24 Right, and they're about 10 nautical miles away," he said with a smile.

He was there with his son Ricardo, 19, and Cosimo Carnevale, 38. The three have come to this area twice a week for the last 10 years to see planes fly. As well as being an aircraft enthusiast, Ricardo has a pilot's license. While the three say it's always exciting to watch a plane land, today was particularly exciting.

"It's historic," Ricardo said. "This is one of the first times this plane has ever landed in a North American airport."

Greenfield Park resident Jean-Sébastien Miller is usually here alone, nearly every morning enjoying a coffee and a muffin while watching planes land.

"I expected a few people, but this is a circus," said Miller, 36, who works in the nearby industrial park.

"It's a real thrill to be here. This is a big event and you can tell by the number of people who are here," he said.

When the jet made its final approach towards the runway, there were many cheers and whistles from the crowd. It seemed to hang in mid-air for a few seconds before it slowly made its way to the runway. It came so close, you could feel the vibration from its roaring engines. As it passed, many waved at the plane, as cameras went off and some people ran to the fence separating the street from the highway, to watch the plane land.

While there were many aircraft enthusiasts, there were also people who came to the area for the first time to witness the event.

"It's special," said Laval resident Stéphane Mailhot, 38 while clutching his camera.

"I'm not really a plane enthusiast, but I am an fan of photography."

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