A pod of whales on the wing (SLYT)
December 9, 2014 6:14 AM   Subscribe

If the Red Arrows flew 250-ton widebody airliners instead of fast jet trainers their display might look something like this.

Airbus build airliners. Lots of airliners. The Airbus A350 XWB is their next-generation long range twin-engined widebody—competing with the Boeing 787. The first prototype flew in June 2013; the first delivery aircraft is due for delivery to Qatar Airways this month.

Boeing took the 787 to the Farnborough air show in July and gave an eye-popping demonstration. It can't be any accident, then, that in September, Airbus arranged a marketing/publicity shoot in which all five test and development A350-900s took to the sky simultaneously for 1200 tons of aerobatics.
posted by cstross (37 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
They should have had a Gulfstream private jet or something similar flying with them just to show scale.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:28 AM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Fantastic...thanks for the post!
posted by HuronBob at 6:31 AM on December 9, 2014


For the sake of comparison, the A350 is between 60.54 m (198.6 ft)and 73.88 m (242.4 ft) long, with a wingspan of 64.8 m (213 ft). The B-17G from WWII is 22.66 m (74.25 ft) long with a wingspan of 31.62 m (103.75 ft).

So call the new plane three times as long and twice as wide as the old bombers.

When I saw that formation of them flying over the red roofs of Europe near the video's end, I wondered if anyone down there flashed back to the Eighth Air Force's mass bombing raids near the end of the war.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:35 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Cool! I was wondering about the turbulence from each of these craft. But they seemed to cope.

(My typical morning - wake up - make coffee - check Metafilter - open a bunch of tabs - sit down and drink coffee - go through the tabs - this is cool! maybe I should post this! - wait ...)
posted by carter at 6:42 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


They must have disabled all the TCAS systems so the pilots didn't go insane hearing TRAFFIC TRAFFIC PULL UP PULL UP over and over again.

Cool! I was wondering about the turbulence from each of these craft. But they seemed to cope.

One of the hardest things you can do with two large aircraft is try to fly in formation. The plane I work on has aerial refueling capabilities, and you have to get very, very close to the tanker for the hose to reach. The trailing plane has a tendency to get pulled in to the engine exhaust of the leading plane, and if you're not careful you can very easily overcorrect for it and end up in this exaggerated Dutch roll effect which will cause the trailing plane to lose control. It's doable, but it's hard - much easier to follow a large plane with a smaller one like a fighter, for some reason.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:54 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Do a barrel roll!
posted by CaseyB at 7:04 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


backseatpilot: "They must have disabled all the TCAS systems so the pilots didn't go insane hearing TRAFFIC TRAFFIC PULL UP PULL UP over and over again."

Typically in formation flying, only the lead aircraft has an active transponder, so that shouldn't have been a problem.

I've done some formation work in my piston-powered airplane and it's loads of fun.
posted by exogenous at 7:26 AM on December 9, 2014


That was pretty cool. But, man, that music. Enough bombast to make even Murray Gold blush with embarrassment.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:29 AM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well. This pretty well shuts up anybody who has ever called passenger jet pilots something derogatory like "flying bus drivers".

(And I was more than half expecting the lead plane to do a loop at the end of that last formation.)
posted by easily confused at 7:29 AM on December 9, 2014


This is one of those technically incredible efforts that doesn't actually pan out to look that awesome visually, partly because you have no frame of reference for the level of planning and scale.
posted by odinsdream at 7:37 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


That made me smile! Similar to wenestvedt, I was thinking that if you're not at the airshow and those 5 big birds pass over you like that, it must look and sound a lot like doom.
posted by Mister_A at 7:47 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Airplanes are so beautiful and fascinating. I'm 48, and to this day when I hear an engine overhead, I look up. And gaze. But I've never seen anyone else look up. Not once.
posted by jabah at 7:50 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


This was very cool. But there were a couple of shots where I really felt like they should just open the bomb bay doors and start carpet bombing whatever they were over. Reminded me of something like this, but with jet engines instead of propellers (for some reason I can't find any images of B-52s flying in formation, so I resorted to B-29s).

On the other hand, I was just reading about nuclear anti-aircraft weapons that were designed to take down bombers flying in formation (and anything else in over a mile radius), so I suspect that it's just on my mind right now.
posted by Hactar at 8:09 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


But, man, that music. Enough bombast to make even Murray Gold blush with embarrassment.

It's almost as if these new Airbus planes allowed you, at any time you want, to fly Airbus planes at will.
posted by HeroZero at 8:13 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm 48, and to this day when I hear an engine overhead, I look up. And gaze. But I've never seen anyone else look up. Not once.

I always look up. My office sits on the edge of the approach track for the longest runway at ORD. If I go outside at lunchtime I can watch the heavy B747s arriving from Europe do a hard bank right overhead as they slot in for landing.

That equipment ALWAYS makes me stop and stare.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:14 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm 48, and to this day when I hear an engine overhead, I look up. And gaze. But I've never seen anyone else look up. Not once.

I do. I live near the county airport, and get all manner of planes flying overhead. Sometimes, Ball State charters a passenger jet to take one of their teams to a far-away game. Now, the airport is only barely rated to handle something the size of a commercial passenger jet, so from where I live, you can hear them really spooling the engines up in order to launch the plane out of there. It's pretty weird hearing that commotion and then see something the size of a passenger jet leaping into the air from over the trees.

The best is when the warbirds fly in for an airshow in Indy. They often use our airport as their staging area. Last summer, I was treated to a few days of a B-25 rumbling overhead. Every time I heard it, I ran outside to watch. Magnificent bird.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:14 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Another twin-engined plane rated for flying hours from land. NiCad batteries instead of the 787's LiIon to start the APU (with 10% more powah! (density)) to start an engine if they both go out. I guess reliability is always getting better, but I like 747s.
posted by morganw at 8:17 AM on December 9, 2014


Do a barrel roll!
posted by CaseyB at 7:04 AM on December 9 [+] [!] [quote]

You call that a barrel roll? This is a barrel roll!
posted by chavenet at 8:20 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]




You call that a barrel roll? This is a barrel roll!

The difference is that the first one is real.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:37 AM on December 9, 2014


And now I see that the video linked upthread is about the same incident I just mentioned with Tex Johnson. oops
posted by exogenous at 8:41 AM on December 9, 2014


On the other hand, I was just reading about nuclear anti-aircraft weapons that were designed to take down bombers flying in formation (and anything else in over a mile radius), so I suspect that it's just on my mind right now.

This video of five people observing at test of the Genie MB-1 nuclear air-to-air rocket , perhaps? That thing is insane . . .
posted by flug at 8:43 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


anybody who has ever called passenger jet pilots something derogatory like "flying bus drivers"

Well they probably shouldn't have called it Airbus then

I ain't sayin', I'm just sayin'
posted by echo target at 9:02 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


As cheesy as music is, between the formation flying and the music man, this is amazing. This is like synchronized swimming with whales - ok, maybe that doesn't sound cool but it would be.
posted by GuyZero at 9:03 AM on December 9, 2014


Neat!

Now do it with A380s.
posted by asterix at 9:14 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


That was my thought!
posted by MartinWisse at 9:21 AM on December 9, 2014


fwiw you can see the chase plane at 5:52.

i found myself irritated with the editing - the cutaways to cabin shots during maneuvers were like a little stick in my eye.
posted by mwhybark at 9:49 AM on December 9, 2014


So that was all just for an ad?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:40 AM on December 9, 2014


I'm definitely among those who look up. I'll cop to being a bit jaded though - I live right under one of the approaches to Seatac, close enough to get a decent view, and with my south wall lined with big windows. I'm also next to the county airport, which is a rather colorful as county airports go, since it's specced to support Boeing's operations. So there's a little detachment of AWACS planes kept in behind the museum (which features, among others, a 787 and a Concorde). The one time I was down in the valley when one of the classic AWACS planes came in - you couldn't help but look up - the noise of a 707 airframe a thousand feet from landing is tremendous.

When the wind is right, the UPS planes climb up across my living room window in fairly impressively steep climbs. The military sends interesting planes down to practice, and probably for service as well - I'm not sure what I saw take off one summer night, but they both had afterburners, and were using them. We don't get as many of the classic war birds at airshow time - if the Blue Angels are in town, they rather monopolize the place, flying quite a bit lower over my neighborhood than is really polite. For that matter, as this is a hill, light craft will sometimes wander over at similarly impolite altitudes.

But if Boeing wants to one-up Airbus over my neighborhood, I'm good with that idea.
posted by wotsac at 10:47 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The one time I was down in the valley when one of the classic AWACS planes came in - you couldn't help but look up - the noise of a 707 airframe a thousand feet from landing is tremendous.

(insider knowledge!) That is because they have never re-engined those planes; they still use the original JT8 turbojets and they are loud as all hell. I was watching the planes take off at the departure end of a base awhile back; an AWACS was going out to do a sortie with a KC-135 tanker. the -135 has these nice new CFM56 engines, quiet as can be, and it spooled up and seemed to just glide down the runway with barely a whisper. The AWACS took the runway after it, and the sound coming off of that thing was enough to blow you over. Screaming, black smoke pouring out of the engines, it lumbered down the runway and finally took off leaving a trail behind it.

Enjoy it while you can, though - Boeing is shutting down that office for the most part. All the AWACS work is moving to Oklahoma City, and a lot of your neighbors are going to be losing their jobs.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:58 AM on December 9, 2014


It looks fabulous, especially the breaks from echelon to arrow and diamond. And yes, somewhat oppressive and frightening: there's definitely an expression of might involved. But as a long-term aviation nut, what a pornographic ride... There's been talk of doing it for real to save fuel on long flights, but the logistics of creating the formations from flights that have different origins and destinations pan out to need more fuel overall. Shame.

Bit of a shame too that the Airbus diversity policy is "middle-aged white European guy". Just look at that room... I find that more saddening than any number of jaunty shirts on space physicists. Bet they're all heterosexual, too - you couldn't be a gay airline pilot until very recently, because if you can't get married how are you going to manage your legally-mandated one divorce every six years? Fail your psych medical for that.
posted by Devonian at 12:15 PM on December 9, 2014


Airbus being European it's not so shocking that it's full of white European guys. And they're mostly ex-military as the video mentions, which is a further filter. France is like 85% native white people.
posted by GuyZero at 1:28 PM on December 9, 2014


I always look up. This was truly impressive, given the side of the planes--it would have been cute to have a little plane in there for scale, I guess, but if you've flown a big commercial liner you have a good sense of how big (and usually lumbering!) these planes are.

I forwarded the link to my dad and older brother, who also always look up. Brother loved it, and wrote back: "you are our father's daughter."
posted by TwoStride at 2:35 PM on December 9, 2014


When I saw that formation of them flying over the red roofs of Europe near the video's end, I wondered if anyone down there flashed back to the Eighth Air Force's mass bombing raids near the end of the war.

That reminds me of the story of, during the postwar years when Lufthansa was getting back off the ground (sorry!), and the Boeing sales guys were giving their pitch to the Lufthansa execs (many of whom were old fight pilots who had been charged with defending Germany's skies) and wound up with the Boeing guys going on and on about how reliable their new planes were going to be.

The head Lufthansa guy went over and opened the curtains. "We are very familiar with how tough and reliable your planes are", he said as he gestured out over the remains of downtown Frankfurt, "For example, your B-17."
posted by pjern at 4:49 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


A British Airways airliner had just landed at Frankfurt, where the notoriously short-tempered controllers only expect pilots to know their gate parking locations, but how to get there without any assistance from them.

Ground Controller: "Do you not know where you are going?"

Captain: "Stand by, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now."

Ground (with arrogant impatience): "Have you not been to Frankfurt before?"

Captain: "Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark...and I didn't land."
posted by exogenous at 5:51 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I always look up at planes. Sometimes it's a guy on an ultralight landing in the open space two blocks away. A few years ago it was the Collings Foundation's B-17 and B-25 Mitchell passing low over my house, making a sound like approaching air-cooled doom.

My dad works in international freight/shipping, and -- at least through the 1980s -- he often referred to Lufthansa as "Luftwaffe." (Probably not to their faces, though.) At the time there was still an air freight company called Flying Tigers *, so the lingering confusion isn't entirely a surprise.

* When I was a kid we went out to the airport and they showed me around the planes. I got closed up in the belly compartment of a 727, and we walked down the echoing middle of a plane that had been converted to freight: they rip out everything to the walls, and put down a level floor covered in tennis ball-size ball bearings. A big door behind the cockpit allows huge metal boxes of pacels -- with curved roofs to match the profile of the fuselage -- to be slid in and then pushed towards the tail. It's totally cool.

posted by wenestvedt at 6:20 AM on December 10, 2014


I'm 48, and to this day when I hear an engine overhead, I look up. And gaze. But I've never seen anyone else look up. Not once.

My grandmother's house is in Surrey, to the West of Heathrow. I have fond memories of growing up and visiting there. You didn't look up when you heard the standard faint engine noise of a normal plane, but every so often you'd hear something louder, look up and see Concorde passing overhead. Didn't matter how many times, everyone in the garden stopped and looked until it was out of sight. Amazing plane.

The other place nearby is Farnborough, and you'll often see various old or new planes around during air show time. I've got some photos from this year's air show here.
posted by MattWPBS at 6:40 AM on December 10, 2014


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