Air France A380 Close-Up

A little over ten years ago, Air France took delivery of its first Airbus A380 and flew its first commercial service from Paris to New York. Since then, the superjumbo has been the flagship of Air France’s fleet. But ten years is an eternity in the fast-moving airline world, and time takes its toll on hard-working airplanes. Air France originally announced plans to retire its A380 fleet by 2022, but with COVID capacity cuts, the airline just announced yesterday that the plane will be removed from service immediately. So whenever your last flight on an Air France A380 was — if you ever flew it — it was your last.

Air France A380 Business Class Cabin

I had the chance to fly an Air France A380 last year on the same historic route that started its story with Air France: CDG to JFK. I’ve had some good times flying A380s in the past. My very first AirlineReporter story was a Lufthansa A380 trip report. And I got to fly a BA A380 in Club World a few years ago.

But by the time the flight was over, I could see why it was a plane that wasn’t going to be in the fleet for much longer. I did appreciate some things, like the super-smooth takeoff, whisper-quiet ride, and soaking in the spectacular scale of the double-decker. But the AF A380 is a plane that’s stuck in the past, and overall I won’t miss them much as they transition to their well-earned retirement. Whether you’re an A380 fan or a hater, read on for the full scoop.

I’ve always thought airplanes were cool, I suppose. I attended a couple of small air shows as a kid, had a turn at the controls in a cousin’s Ercoupe, and knew enough to notice when I got to catch a flight on an RJ85 or DC-10, but it wasn’t anything more than a casual interest. Seeing the world’s largest aircraft changed all of that.

Six years ago my primary hobby was railroad photography, though my new parental status meant I could no longer responsibly spend 10-20 days a month chasing trains around. Somehow I’d gotten looped into the local plane-spotting group on Facebook, and caught wind that the Antonov An-225 would be making a visit to Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP), which was just 15 minutes away. My first plane-spotting trip was in order.

Not bad for my first time plane-spotting, eh? Photo: Nick Benson

Not bad for my first time plane-spotting, eh? Photo: Nick Benson

My boys were two and four years old at the time, so we visited a playground under the approach path to MSP’s 12R. We were hooked! We enjoyed the parade of typical early-afternoon arrivals; Delta 717s, MD-80s, 757s, A320s, A330s, and the sole remaining scheduled 747, which came daily from Narita (NRT). Seeing so many examples of impressive engineering arriving from so many different places really captured my imagination; seeing the largest successful aircraft glide by was remarkable. This was entirely pleasant way to pass the time.

It has been too long since I have done an AvGeek Pop Quiz. If you are new to these, you are in for a treat! Or in for a lot of frustration. I am going to show you a cropped photo and you have to guess the airline and/or aircraft type. This time I am doing it a bit different. I will show you nine thumbnails below, you make your guesses, and when you are ready, keep scrolling to the bottom of the story and I give you the answers. Then in the comments, let me know how you did (or which ones were the most difficult/easiest)! Here we go:

Think you know enough? Ready to see the answers? Keep on reading…

Al Boraq train

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Crazy times require crazy measures. There’s only so many stories about airplanes we can write at a time when few of us are actually flying. So how about something completely different?

In last year’s April Fools’ Day post titled “Reporter Empire,” our fearless leader David Parker Brown floated the idea of side projects like TrainReporter, ShipReporter, and CatReporter. Sadly I don’t have a cat. And going on a cruise ship seems like a really bad idea right now. But I did get to ride a pretty cool train a few months ago: Morocco’s new Al Boraq high-speed line — the first-ever bullet train on the African continent.

We never left the ground, but writing this story I was surprised how much my train trip report had in common with our usual flight stories. So choo choo, AvGeeks and TrainGeeks alike! Read on for some thoughts, photos, and videos from my 186-mile-per-hour run on the Al Boraq bullet train.