300 tons on three tennis balls

AOn June 11, 2010, D-AIMA took off on the first scheduled flight of an Airbus A 380 in service with Lufthansa to Tokyo. At 2:32 p.m. the plane took off in Frankfurt with 520 passengers on board. On September 14, 2021, D-AIMH will take off for the last flight of an A380 in service with Lufthansa. Four people are on board, they bring the Airbus to a Spanish airfield, to a deep sleep in Teruel. Unless another miracle happens that the operation of the large aircraft makes it profitable again, that was the era of the A380. The youngest of the fleet was only six years old, had only 25,000 flight hours, “just run in well”, as the technicians at Lufthansa say in a mixture of pragmatism and melancholy.

Holger Apple

Editor in business, responsible for “Technology and Engine”.

Returned to Airbus, parked in Teruel, scrapped, that is the fate of the once proud A-380 fleet of 14 aircraft. D-AIMH, which the passengers know by their baptismal name New York, has been standing motionless in Frankfurt since March 2020. Masked, sealed, unfit to fly. Now that the hope of a restart in the foreseeable future has been shattered, the parking fees at Frankfurt Airport are eating up all cost buffers. In order for the A 380 to be flown to its final resting place, it has to be able to do just that again: to fly.

The employees at Lufthansa Technik need three weeks for this. Oil has to be changed, covers removed, electronics and hydraulics checked, hundreds of components have to be checked. They fill 60 tons of kerosene into the tanks that are never completely emptied. If the machines were parked empty, the seals of the tanks in the wings would become porous. A crucial point in the resuscitation is the functionality of the engines. They are started in front of the hall, there is thrust, but never as much as needed during the start phase. This is impossible while standing. The engine, which throws 1000 cubic meters of air in the start-up phase, needs this amount of airflow. The air flow was interrupted while the vehicle was standing. At least 13 tons of kerosene are burned in the test runs called run-ups, then the maximum weight allowed for the next tricky test is reached.

Quite wheelless: If you want to check on the ground whether the chassis folds in and out, you have to understand a little technical acrobatics.



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A 380
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The last flight

With a maximum of 47 tons of fuel on board, the A 380 can reach aircraft jacks. You lift it gently so that the chassis with its 20 wheels is around 30 centimeters in the air. The exactly horizontal position is aligned with a laser spirit level. It is important to check whether the undercarriage retracts and extends properly. Ten times in a row, that’s the rule.

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