Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The 300-ton gorilla in the room

The Los Angeles Times recently had an interesting article on the Airbus A380, the double-decker airliner that can carry up to 853 passengers.

It focuses on how Los Angeles International Airport (ominously code-named "LAX," though not so ominously pronounced as lax) was not built for such a huge plane, causing other operations to shut down during any time one of these behemoths comes in or takes off.

The authorities in Southern California have been scrambling for a new airport for years, with ideas floated around building one out in the (as yet) vastly underpopulated High Desert nearby, reworking the former Marine base at El Toro into Orange County's second major airport (the idea was nixed and the place is being turned into Orange County Great Park), building a new airport on reclaimed land out in the ocean, a la Osaka's Kansai International Airport, or even a floating airport off the San Diego coast. Any of these, presumably, would be designed to handle multiple flights of the A380.

[above: If an attractive airline employee asks you if you'd like to be on top or on bottom, she's probably not coming on to you.]

This gets me to wondering, did the planners of Inchon International Airport, which opened only recently, in 2001, plan for this kind of thing? Well, maybe not: according to one critic of the airport before it even opened, it would be nice if "people who design and administrate the construction actually thought about what they're doing... it would make life so much easier," so maybe they didn't think of really big planes. Yeah, what a failure Inchon International has turned out to be (oh, thank God stuff in Korea isn't nearly as bad as the whiners predict it will be). 

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