A380 (Part Deux)

A380 Route LAX to CDG

We’ve dedicated the last few posts to topics that came up as a part of our recent trip to Paris. A few weeks ago, we wrote about our anticipation associated with our first flight on an Airbus A380. There, we wrote:

Our trip on the A380 will be all the more interesting as a good friend from Doug’s college days did significant engineering work on the thrust reverser control system. It’s always interesting to thing about your friends having a hand in creating the things that play a role in our lives.

Since then, we put the following questions to Doug’s college friend.

  1. What did you specifically work on?

The A380 was the first commercial jet to use electrically actuated thrust reversers (all previous were hydraulic or pneumatic). The system used a high-power electric motor to drive the actuation system to open and close the thrust reverser. A power dense brushless DC (BLDC) motor was used. BLDC motors require controllers in order for them to operate. The company I worked for designed the BLDC motor and motor controller.

  1. What was your role on the project and how long did it last?

I was in charge of the motor controller development. It lasted approximately two years.

  1. Have you flown on an A380?

I have never flown on an A380, although I would like to.

Our seats on the A380 LAX to CGD

The LoftyDuo did fly a round-trip on the A380, and we can say that the experience was everything that we hoped for and more. As we pointed out in our first post, the A380 is a big plane. A very big plane. Actually, it’s huge, and that feeling of size is amplified when you walk on board. The Air France website provides seat maps for all of its aircraft, so anyone can get a sense of the aircraft’s size when booking the flight. The particular configuration of the A380 that Air France flies has seats for 516 passengers. That’s a lot of people, and the aircraft’s size and layout combine in a way that doesn’t feel nearly so cramped as most flights.

A380 Cruising Altitude
A380 Cruising Altitude

The flight was certainly enhanced by knowing that a friend of ours had contributed to the experience. Much like the opportunities that we’ve had to interview the astronauts and engineers that flew and worked on the space shuttle, it always adds an extra element to the story—the narrative—when you’ve had first-hand contact with people involved. All stories, even those that seem to be about technology are ultimately about people. And it’s pretty cool to think that the guy you sat next to in TAM 314—TAM being the University of Illinois’ department acronym for Theoretical and Applied Mechanics—went on to design a part of the airplane in which you’re sitting as you glide across the Atlantic Ocean.



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