Booking these flights a couple of months ago, it seemed like a fine idea to go with an extra-long layover in Frankfurt to get the cheaper fares & a chance to fly home on an A380... Yet - somehow, when the alarm went off at some ungodly hour this morning, it just seemed awfully silly. Not much point questioning one's sanity at that stage though, so off we went. JB flying home to Austin via London, Darragh only leaving Hours later for Cape Town via London & me spending an approximate eternity in Frankfurt before plodding on to Joburg &, Eventually, Cape Town. I should just point out, for the sake of absolute clarity, that it should Never take as long to get home to SA from Europe as it does from the US - ok?! Good - we just all need to know that.
Anyway... If you're Absolutely determined to be an idiot about such things, here's what you should do: Go To Frankfurt & loiter, with intent, in that airport! & for starters, you should camp out in front of one of the big arrivals/departures boards & wait for an update - it's a thing of beauty to see & hear all the little numbers/ letters clattering around! No - Really, you Have to do it :)
Then, try asking Lufthansa whether it's possible to get a business-class upgrade so as to gain access to the upper deck of your A380. Of course the answer's a polite but firm Not Really, NO (not even for 50k frequent flyer miles!) - but in doing so you get to spend at least half an hour in a very peaceful, quiet waiting area, anxiously eyeing the big screen & intermittently checking the large number printed on the slip of paper you're clutching. But - before that, you should track down the counter that looks like this:
& make sure you book yourself on one of the airport tours they offer. What a fantastic idea to offer airport tours! It's just Awesome: you've got this captive audience anyway (about 55 million passengers travel through the place in a year), why not overwhelm them with what an incredible facility it is?! If you make it through the security checks (where, for a while anyway, this story looked set to come to a premature end), you suddenly find yourself on a bus driving underneath the gargantuan tail of an A380!
& getting to gawk at big aeries in every direction :D
You also cruise past the fuel depots that house nearly 200 million litres of fuel. That sounds like a lot, but when you think a 747-400 can carry 225 thousand litres & an A380-800 takes 310 thousand litres, that doesn't last too long. Also, keep in mind that they typically have about 470 thousand aircraft movements per year & their busiest day ever (10 June 2010) included 1429 take-offs & landings!
Frankfurt's also a major cargo airport, handling more than 2 million metric tons of freight per year.
Along the way we got to see one of the A380 hiding places - this building can stow 3 of them at a time.
Seriously cool to be so close to the runway with planes taking off!
The tour guide was beside himself when we came across this one... A current generation plane painted up in the original (>50 year old) Lufthansa livery - the only one of its kind. Fun to see :)
Just another day driving around in airport traffic!
Then time for an Air China Jumbo take-off...
Alright - yes, I know, this stuff makes me silly - but it's a Crause thing, I can't help it!
Even a 737 taking off right next to you rates rather highly...
Then later - after a good lunch & an even better weiss beer, it was time to pop out to the observation deck & see what was happening. Perfect timing as an A380 Superjumbo was just lumbering out :D
After a great side-on view, it turned away to show off the bizarre wing profile...
Then a nice slow rotation before lining up for take-off.
Just love the little toy plane in the foreground for scale ;) & it's completely ridiculous how quiet this monster is - it makes distinctly less noise than Any of the other planes on take-off! It's also vastly more fuel efficient than the others, despite its staggering size.
Pity the planes actually take off pretty far from the observation deck - if only I'd had my 300 mm lens with me for the occasion. But it really did take to the air with what seemed like minimal effort - wow :D
& then it was time for a regular Jumbo to do its thing! Beautiful & elegant in a very different sort of way...
Same routine as the A380 - like models parading down a ramp & then giving us a nice turn.
But Way better :)
Aeries Everywhere - you gotta love it!!
Then the dreaded "golden retriever with 2 tennis balls" scenario - what to do when you've got a Jumbo taking off to your right & a Superjumbo coming in to land from the left?!?
Aw Dad - I miss you & So wish you could see this :(:::
Somehow they manage to make landing these things look like a simple matter.
Then slowly taxi in & leave all other planes feeling mosquitoesque.
Probably just as well they don't have to parallel-park these, but I guess if you fly something like that for a living, you can do just about anything. Just ask Jetman, Yves Rossy, who shuttles A380s around when he's not diving off the skid of a helicopter with his jet-powered wing strapped to his back!
Now for the face-on view that the Lufthansa one didn't offer earlier.
A closer look at the amazing wing shape.
& the 15 m tall tail...
Sadly the observation deck closes at 6 PM so then it was back into the airport where I ran into some kind of protest action. Not sure what it was about - probably to do with airport-related noise-pollution? Surely not from the A380s though!
It's a really cool building - here's the Sky Train station at Terminal 2.
This escalator ride had a slightly surreal feel about it.
& this travelator was even more spaceshippy!
The airport's railway station was worth a look too - these Germans do such cool stuff with glass panels...
Strolled around The Squaire a bit too, the absolutely enormous, hugely swish new building that's full of offices, hotels, restaurants, shops & plenty of air & glass.
Sadly, by then my bags were getting lethally heavy & I was running out of steam so not much exploring in here... Another day, maybe.
More fun with the glass panels at the train station before heading back over to the airport.
Well - at least it's not Another aeroplane shot, right?!
Ah! Yes, we love that tail - such a welcome sight anywhere in the world, but especially when you've had a long day & mostly just want to go home.
Weird to not being flying on SAA, but recall that this whole mission's been about getting to go on an A380. SAA doesn't have those so Lufthansa it is!
Here's the Johannesburg - parked at the gate, getting ready to absorb its 500+ passengers for the night!
Ridiculous as it sounds, I was so blasted from the long day schlepping myself + bags around the airport - I was paranoid that I'd fall asleep while waiting to take off! Fortunately caught myself & didn't miss the coolest part. There really isn't much fuss, or noise, involved in heaving the 560 tons into the air, but you certainly do get the sense that something spectacular's happening! The landing was comparably amazing in that regard - it all just seemed completely effortless. A truly unforgettable experience & I'm by no means cured of this fascination yet!