|Extra-long wings give a distinct look|
A smiling ground crew was courteous enough to let us know that Netaji Subhas Chandra (NSC) Bose International Airport - a crucial cog as far as air-connectivity with the East Asian countries, let alone the neglected north-east states, are concerned - was not being able to facilitate landing of the giant Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft hovering the Kolkata sky due to lack of space, and more surprisingly, water on the runway...!!!
Even before stepping into the Dreamliner, one of the six planes inducted by the state carrier in the recent past and now operating in a few chosen sectors, we were left wondering how such an important international airport can afford to leave water stranded on its runway even hours after it had rained actually. The bigger question was, whether the Indian airports with their poor infrastructure are at all ready for smooth functioning of such huge aircrafts.
Nevertheless, the time came.
Leaving us awestruck inside the glass-windowed departure lounge, the dream aircraft, considered to be one of the most environment friendly in the world, descended over the City of Joy. The fat-bellied flying machine with a wingspan of 60.34 meters (according to the passenger booklet), longer than the cabin itself, had a predominant presence in the Kolkata airport and covered a space usually occupied by three smaller aircrafts together. At first glance, it was almost impossible to ignore the imposing impact.
Minutes later, as the gate for boarding opened and we started approaching the great belly and stepped into the sprawling cabin, it was hard to miss the difference. The ears, otherwise used to the distinct mechanical noise of the aircraft engines at the time of boarding, waited eagerly but in vain. It was much quieter this time. In fact, 787 Dreamliners are armed with a range of technologies that produce much lesser noise and thus reduce noise pollution considerably. The latest technologies used ensure that the aircraft’s sound exceeding 85 decibels, which is a bit louder than a busy street intersection, never go beyond the periphery of the airports.
On board, we were greeted by the crew with some soothing music in the background. As we occupied seats, the green features of the double-aisle (needless to say, in the economy class) aircraft started unveiling themselves one by one. Bigger windows allow natural light to become an integral part of passengers’ experience making them switch off the artificial reading lights, leading to energy conservation. The electronic dimming system allows passengers to regulate the window tint as needed, anything between fully transparent and completely dimmed. The electrochromic window system also requires lesser maintenance.
The focus on green technology was quite evident in the interior lighting of the aircraft as well. Thanks to dynamic LED (Light Emitting Diode) lightings, heat generated inside the cabin is much lesser than the amount of heat produced by the filamented lightings used in most of the other aircrafts, and six different versions of lightings create calming effect on the passengers.
Now, it was time to soar high and we had an incredibly smooth take off despite quite turbulent monsoon weather under a laden sky.
As the giant flying machine tore into the overcast sky with landscapes and human habitations fast disappearing beneath the dense clouds, we had no dearth of food and entertainment (every seat is equipped with a personalised television set on which you can watch films, listen to songs or even can get indulged in gaming with a remote control) on air.
However, the Captain in charge did not forget to remind us that 787 Dreamliners that have a maximum speed of 587 miles per hour consumes lesser fuel, thanks to improved aerodynamics, and thus have fewer emission records. It’s important for environment. Rapidly growing aircraft emission has become a matter of concern as it affects the atmosphere’s ozone layer that filters out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and other radiations before the sunlight reaches the earth. Some international communities are even planning to impose tax on aircraft emissions. In India also, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has decided to set up an environment task force to monitor and check aircraft emissions.
It was indeed turbulent both in Kolkata as well as over Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in New Delhi (weather condition in between was not good either). However, thanks to the Smoother Ride Technology (SRT), which senses turbulence and commands wing control surfaces accordingly, the bad weather outside could never really made us panic (even as two quite turbulent flights, another Kolkata-New Delhi trip and a bit longer New Delhi-Coimbatore flight, were fresh in my mind). Then what? It was an undisturbed movie time for me (and for many others, I’m sure).
Not only while flying, the Dreamliner aircrafts contribute to environment even at the manufacturing stage and remain environment friendly at the end of their service life as well. The aircraft body is primarily made of specially designed carbon fibre composite material. Therefore, the manufacturing process produces lesser scrap metals and waste in comparison to other conventional aircrafts. Besides, all parts of the flying machine can be recycled, and this very feature ensures that the planes do not end up as a lump of metal contaminating environment in more than one ways (which is the case for many discarded aircrafts and ships).
Two hours down the line, the National Capital Region (NCR) welcomed us with quite a jerky touch-down amid steady drizzling. And it was time to be grounded again.
We alighted from the state-of-the-art aircraft only to find the posh IGI Airport, named as the world's second best in the 25-40 million passengers category after Incheon International Airport in South Korea by Airport Council International just a couple of days back, was dealing with a semi-flood situation following heavy downpour.
Time for reality check - do we have enough infrastructure...??? If yes, why every time it grounds us during crisis...!!!
Or, maybe it was another reminder that environment, and not the human being, is the ultimate power, and so the latter must take care of and be considerate to the former. And yes, not only up in the sky but on the ground too. (The environmental catastrophe was yet to strike Uttarakhand at that time.)