Friday, 27 November 2009

The Airbus A380 cockpit

Airbus A380 cockpit forward view, extracted from , photography by .This is a cut-down still of part of the Airbus A380 cockpit, taken from It's from a panoramic viewer, on a page that uses Flash to let you pan and tilt and zoom in and out of a view in any direction, so that you can really explore the cabin in detail, in high-res. If you want to look out of the window, look backwards, or look up at the ceiling while it spins, you can do that. The mouse scrollwheel zooms you in and out. It's nice. The 360-360 photography is by

The A380 is a very nice plane, with a famously-great cockpit control surface layout. It has a comfortable, relaxing, reassuring look to it (as opposed to some of the more traditional layouts with lumpy panels and dials everywhere all screaming "Look at MEEE!"). It doesn't look scary – as a newbie, you can look at this user-interface and half-kid yourself that you might actually be able to fly it.
My concern when I first heard about the Airbus' screen-based system was: what happens if a screen develops a fault, and you lose a whole bank of virtual instrumentation? Well, the A380 panels tackle that problem brilliantly – you notice how the eight main portrait-format screens all seem to be the same size? Well, they're completely interchangeable. You're supposed to be able to pop out any of the main screens and swap them round, live. There's a couple of little grey rectangles below the bottom two corners of each screen panel, presumably those are the finger-latches. And apparently you can completely change the layout, so if one panel's connection points are messed up, you can watch its data somewhere else. I like this plane.

So let's explore ...
Twin side-joysticks and QWERTY keyboards. I don't know what those two rounded plastic bulges are ... perhaps they're calming devices, for the pilots to put their hands on in moments of stress. Or maybe they're there so that if you get thrown towards the panel, you have something to grab onto that doesn't accidentally result in you pressing an Important Switch by accident.

Three spare seats at the back (for parties), and an overhead camera (so that you can remember what you did the next morning). Fun Wagon!

Note the video camera views, on the centre screen. Useful for parking, and also for reminding yourself which airport you're at. Also for checking that you still have the right number of engines, that none of them are on fire, that all your control surfaces are present and correct, and that your wheels haven't fallen off. Without cameras (or a periscope), it's not always easy to know if your wheels are really down, because planes tend not to have glass bottoms. The central panel showing the video views is the obvious "spare" section of control surface to use in flight for additional functions if further equipment is retrofitted that needs its own display space (like customised additional avionics – rocket launchers, anyone?). There's a pull-out shelf thing in front of each seat that gives the pilots additional keyboards and pop-up screens for general flight admin and map-browsing.

Very Importantly: what looks like three cup-holders per side, left and right, away from the important controls, plus another five at the back left. It's deeply important to have enough cup-holders (one for fresh coffee, one for water, and one for soup, or perhaps noodles?). That's assuming that the holes aren't for something more boring. There's a clunky laptop-py thing at the back, for system-level stuff.

I like the documentation holder on the back of the door, made out of two types of sticky tape. But what's that panel in the door, with the nasty scratch gouged in it? Is it a “people” version of a cat-flap? I also like the design of the door-hinges, with the hinge protruding inside the cabin, and the screws accessible. That means that the cabin crew can remove the door from its hinges from the inside, if it jams (say, after a crash). Someone's put a lot of thought into this.

Twin microphones (for karaoke duets? Pilot-copilot comedy banter?). Between the "emergency power" and "oxygen" switches overhead (up above the left windscreen variable-speed wiper knob), there's also an intriguing switch marked “Entertainment”. Hmm.

Rear right, there's what looks like a locked cabinet marked CDROM. Well, if the Batmobile has one, I suppose the 380 ought to have one, too.

"Escape rope" compartments on both sides. Down to the rear left, by the fire extinguisher (whose sign I initially misread as “portable fire eating”), there's a hatch set into the floor. I've seen this hatch drawn on a schematic with a ladder poking through that exits through the front wheel port. I guess this means that if you're a pilot and you have a panic attack before takeoff, you can pop down through the floor and run away across the airfield without the passengers realising that you've gone.

The seat covers have large tags facing each other saying "Pilot" and "Copilot", which might be useful for resolving cabin arguments. Point at the tag. 'Nuff said. Also handy for avoiding those embarrassing "But I thought YOU were supposed to be flying the plane!" moments.

So, a very nice vehicle.

The only design decision here that I'd query is the upholstery. Pinstripe? Hmmm. But perhaps there's a reason for that, too ... perhaps striped material doesn't show sweat stains so easily. You don't want to be settling down into your seat for a long-haul flight, and be too conscious of the big sweaty patch left by the previous pilot. Eurgh. I wonder how often they change the covers?

With the addition of deep-pile furry tiger-pattern seat covers, vibro-back-massagers built into the seats, a proper entertainment system with giant speakers, and a couple of foot spas, I'd give this cabin 10/10.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

why there is no stick in the cockpit, it looks strange without take off sticks.