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Aviation History And Aircraft Photography

Airbus A380 Visit
To MSP Airport

November 27, 2007

Airbus A380
This Airbus A380 parked at gate H7 of the Humphrey Terminal at the Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport. This photo was taken shortly after noon from the parking lot of Petters Aviation. While the parking lot was marked in a way to discourage visitors, the security guards were allowing people to drive in, park, and take photos. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the airport where the Airport Police was actively harassing visitors.

In other cities, the arrival of the A380 was a big media and publicity event. Orlando had an open house in conjunction with the A380 visit, and thousands turned out in LA to greet the huge Airbus including the mayor of Los Angeles. Here in the twin cities, the Metropolitan Airport Commission, which runs MSP, was in full aviation prevention mode. They would not even publish the schedule for the A380 visit to try to keep people from coming out to the airport to visit.

Notice the Airport Police car under the wing of the airplane, and that they have put up yellow police line tape around the bird. That is kind of silly since this is already in a controlled area. So, some terrorist is going to break though the fences and get into the controlled area, then see the yellow police line tape, and think, "oh, I better stop and turn around." Not likely.

The building under construction in the background is the north wing of the HHH parking ramp. The Humphrey Terminal light rail station is at the ground level of that parking ramp.

Airbus A380
The remaining shots were taken at about 11:45 AM just after the A380 landed as part of its local familiarization flight. The plane took off at about 10:15 AM with 450 passengers, and it took about a 90 minute flight. It departed from runway 12R heading southeast. The Airport Police was not expecting much of a turn out, but people flooded Post Road to get a good view. By the time the Airport Police reacted to the traffic jam on Post Road, the traffic problem got out of hand in other areas around the airport. People simply pulled over on the freeway and side streets to watch the huge airplane take off. The passengers were mostly Northwest Airlines employees, plus some local journalists selected by NWA.

Airbus A380
The A380 continues to taxi to the southwest towards the Humphrey Terminal. The wingspan of the aircraft is 262 feet wide. The runways at MSP are 150 foot and 200 feet wide, and the taxiways are typically 75 feet wide. Not only do the wings hang over the edge of the taxiways, but the outboard engines are over the grass, and the inboard engines are right above the taxiway marker lights. While the 747 is still a pretty big airplane, its engines are closer to the fuselage than the A380. As a result, if the A380 were to operate from MSP on a regular basis, there would likely need to be some modifications made to more easily accommodate such a large bird.

Airbus A380
Minnesota weather rarely cooperates with these types of events, especially in November. One can see the gray sky. In addition, it was sprinkling on and off, which reduces the sharpness of the photos. These series of taxi photos were taken from the roof of the parking ramp at the Mall Of America. The parking ramp gives a very nice vantage point to watch airport traffic, especially for traffic headed into runway 35, where the airplanes fly their final approach into landing within a block of the mall east parking ramp.

The airport chase car can be seen just to the right of the nose of the aircraft. A chase car with an airport official and an Airbus official followed the A380 at all times when it was on the ground. Vehicles that are in the controlled areas of the airport have to get the same clearances to move as aircraft do to ensure that they do not interfere with air traffic.

Airbus A380
Here we see the the A380 having completed its turn and is heading towards the ramp at the HHH Terminal. The Airbus arrived in Minneapolis on the evening of Monday, November 26 at about 6:45 PM. It was already dark, so it did not attract that much attention that evening. The airplane took off on the familiarization flight at 10:15 AM on Tuesday, November 27, and returned at about 11:45 AM. It then took off again mid-afternoon on the 27th for a visit to LAX in Los Angeles.

The A380 is configured for several classes of travel, and it is built out with many luxury features. In reality, airlines make money by selling seats. As a result, expect to see the duty free shop, lounge, bar, and beauty salon go by the wayside, and the current 550 seat configuration be increased to upwards of its certified limit of 853 passengers.

Airbus A380
In this final photo, the A380 is approaching the ramp at the HHH Terminal. The A380 measures 239 feet 6 inches from nose to tail, and the fuselage barrel is 28 feet tall by 24 feet wide. The tip of the tail towers 79 feet into the air. The aircraft weighs 610,200 pounds empty, and can take off as heavy as 1,235,000 pounds.

There was great fear that such a large and heavy aircraft would damage existing airport runways and taxiways. In reality, the A380 has more main gear tires than the Boeing 747, and many more tires than the 777. The result is that each of the 20 main gear tires puts less pressure per square inch on the the runway pavement than does either of the Boeing aircraft.

The landing gear can be seen in the above photo. There are two sets of bogies under the fuselage, each with 6 tires. There are two more sets of bogies just under the wing roots, each with 4 tires. There is also a nose bogie with 2 tires.

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