Linux and luxury: Behind the scenes on the Emirates Airbus A380

We take a look at the Emirates Airbus A380's high-tech luxuries and Linux-based Panasonic Aviation eX2 in-flight entertainment system.

  • All of these systems are custom-made for Emirates. Two companies make IFE systems for Airbus A380s: Thales (with the Top Series i-5000) and Panasonic Avionics (with the eX2 series). All parts, no matter how small, must be tested and approved as avionics equipment.

    Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Emirates all use the Panasonic Aviation eX2 IFE system, which runs off Linux . Emirates says that the eX2 package is 30 per cent lighter than its previous IFE system and costs US$5-7 million per plane.

  • The Crew Work Station (CWS), located beneath the forward stairwell, provides a central terminal where the Airbus A380's systems can be monitored and managed. Changing and monitoring the lighting, water usage and a wide range of other facilities can also be done through crew terminals located in the some of the galleys, as well as in the business-class bar and near certain emergency exits.

  • Emirates Airbus A380 in-flight shower. Other interesting A380 bathroom features include motion-sensor taps with electronic water temperature selections and a window in some of the toilets — perhaps don't use the loo when the plane's on the ground.

  • Unless you can afford to fly in the top two classes, you’ll never see this first-class drinking hole — and if you’re in business class you still won’t get to use it. This water feature is transformed into a self-service bar after take off and repacked before landing, with most passengers never suspecting it's filled with a range of very expensive booze.

    The Emirates A380 has a top deck with 14 first-class and 76 business-class seats, while the 399 economy-class seats take up the entire lower deck. First and business class have four "suites" — or seats — per row while economy class has 10 seats per row.

  • If you’re an economy-class passenger your seat will have a 10.6in LCD with a USB port for viewing images and PDF files stored on USB thumb drives. You can’t play movies or music from USB drives, however.

  • This bar can fit 25 people, and is located at the rear of business class. Don't worry if you're supping on cocktails if the Airbus A380 goes down, because oxygen masks are hidden in the ceiling panels for this room as well. There are two seating lounges

  • The on-board shower system provides commercial plane passengers a world-first — showering at up to 43,000 feet! The two shower rooms, described by Emirates as "Spas", are little more than shower cubicles with room for getting changed and refreshed. Even so, the two Spas can provide each first-class passenger with 25 minute showers (and the sign on the door says that two people are allowed in at a time — awesome!).

    The Emirates Airbus A380 carries 2250 litres of water for both regular use and the showers, which is more than the standard A380 configuration of 1700 litres. The inset image shows the indicator thoughtfully installed in the showers to tell passengers when to grab some oxygen masks.

  • This is the controller unit for economy-class passengers in the front row. Each seat with its touch screen and media controller is linked to the broadband data network by a fibre optic backbone and provides "audio/video on demand" (AVOD).

    Despite the high data throughput potential provided by the fibre optic cabling, the data speeds for each terminal never rise above 5 megabits per second. The system is rated to accommodate a maximum of 1000 terminals at once, so the Emirates Airbus A380 doesn't come close to hitting full capacity. None of the terminals have seatboxes, with most of the key electronics built into the touch screen.

  • Emirates Airbus A380 first-class seats.

  • Emirates recently brought its Airbus A380 to Australia and PC World Australia was lucky enough to get a close-up look.

    Despite being 73 metres long from front to back and 80 metres wide from wing to wing, the Airbus A380 makes less than half the noise of a Boeing 747 during take off. Fibre optic wiring and the widest cabin of any aircraft in the world make it a fantastic piece of tech.

    The A380 runs regular services three days a week on the Dubai-Sydney-Auckland route and three days a week going from Auckland to Dubai via Sydney.

    David Ramli flew to Auckland as a guest of Emirates.

  • Emirates Airbus A380 first-class seats.

  • If you get bored by your fellow wealthy passengers, the bar also features a 42in LCD that provides flight information and status reports. Try not to enjoy yourself too much though — big brother is watching. Seemingly harmless panels (see inset) are actually cameras that let the pilots check up on you wherever they are installed. You'll find them in the lounge, in the passenger cabins and at the staircases, as well as several other locations.

  • First class comes with an even larger massage chair and a 23in LCD. All seats in all three classes have flash-based cache memory and receive the same content, but those few extra inches in screen size make a huge difference... maybe.

    If you're in first class and can't be bothered to physically pull down the window blinds, then fear not because Emirates plans to install electric window shades in its newer Airbus A380s.

  • Two things that business- and first-class passengers share are the noise-cancelling headphones and the handheld wireless console that controls the seat, lighting, and media playback. They also let users send messages to other seats and to people on the ground via SMS and e-mail.

    Emirates started rolling out the AeroMobile system in its aircraft in March 2008. It lets passengers use their mobile phones to make calls and send messages. Unfortunately, this system has not been installed in any of Emirates' Airbus A380s.

  • All three seating classes receive the same content on touch-screen terminals and share the same network.

    Servers and solid-state storage are located on the flight deck. Movies and music are streamed throughout the plane from up to three SSD-based media servers that can each hold up to 2TB of data and use the Linux-based Panasonic Avionics eX2 in-flight entertainment (IFE) package.

    The Airbus A380's cockpit is one of the most advanced in the world. Eight LCD screens and fly-by-wire controls help the pilots control the massive aircraft while monitoring the crew, passengers and cargo.

  • Business-class passengers enjoy 17in touch-screen displays and lie-flat seats that can also provide vibrating massages. Two USB ports are provided along with a power plug for charging your electronic devices like laptops. There is also a shoebox for storing your footwear (next to the foot-rest), a mini-bar with drinks and the afore-mentioned bar out the back.

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