Paris Air Show

How does one unload 873 people in 90 seconds? Airbus recruits a select crowd of 1,100 to find out

 - December 12, 2006, 7:10 AM

Airbus officials hope to eventally have the new A380 very large airliner certified by European and U.S. safety regulators to carry almost 900 people. Initial A380-800s will enter service with nominal loads of 555 travelers, but the European manufacturer plans to show later this year that both main cabins can be cleared of 873 crewmembers and passengers quickly enough to ensure approval of planned higher capacity variants.

To meet European Aviation Safety Agency and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration standards, the A380 must be capable of complete simultaneous evacuation of both cabins through half of the available exits in 90 seconds. Airbus A380 executive vice president Charles Champion said cabin evacuation will require a live demonstration, while overall regulatory compliance will be proved through calculations, analysis and technical means, as well as fatigue, static and laboratory qualification and flight tests.

The demonstration, which is expected to take place in the fourth quarter of this year in a special aircraft hangar in Hamburg, will involve a total of 1,100 people. The event will require two days of preparation before the first evacuation which will be followed by initial analysis and adjustment before a repeated exercise six days later.

To meet European Joint Aviation Regulations, or the U.S. equivalent FAR 25.803 standards, some 853 passengers–538 on the main deck and 315 in the upper cabin–will simulate ground evacuation through eight doors. For reasonably authentic load representation, the complement must comprise minimum elements of 40 percent females, 35 percent over 50 years of age, and 15 percent both female and male over 50. There also will be 11 cabin crew and two pilots on the main deck and seven cabin crew in the upper cabin.

The test, which requires use of original slide/raft equipment, must be conducted in darkened conditions, with low ground illumination. The passengers taking part must enter the aircraft through a covered walkway to ensure they do not see the outside environment before boarding. Ironically, the exercise is in near darkness to enhance safety, although a real evacuation could be in complete darkness, involving fire, a ditched aircraft or collapsed landing-gear–conditions that increasingly are represented by airlines’ cabin crew evacuation training equipment.