Friday, November 27, 2020

When giant planes disappear forever

Beached whale
Toronto, ON
November 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram

Almost a year ago to the day, I stood face-to-face with an Airbus A380 through the glass of Canada's largest airport.

I had been on a bit of a travel jag at the time, and as I've so often done while flying, I wandered the terminal and drank in the experience.

I had been studying this monster plane for much of my adult life, but had never seen one close-up and in the metal until this day. While it was humbling to think that something this large could leave the planet and cross oceans, it was even more sobering to imagine the gumption ít took to conceive - and green-light - such a project in the first place.

Because some folks don't just dream big. They act it, too, even when the math doesn't quite add up. Because history isn't always written by the mathematicians.

As I pressed my lens into the glass in a futile attempt to get this entire behemoth in-frame, little did I know what lay ahead. That the majority of these planes would soon be grounded. That Airbus would cancel the beleaguered program. That the first still-young airframes would be cut up for scrap. That the terminal around me would empty out. That the world was about to change.

When the planes return here, the A380 likely won't be among them. Airports will look irrevocably different after this is all over, as airlines retire their four-engined passenger craft in favor of far more efficient twins.

The panes of glass - where dreamers like me would gather to marvel at the outsized machines parked just outside, seemingly within reach - will never be the same. The skies, too, will look radically different. Less wondrous, even, as the queens of the skies land for the last time.

Rational craft will take their place because the math says they must. But history, legacy, and wonder will be left wanting by their absence.

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