The Airbus A380 is a rare and remarkable thing – a leviathan of the air, carrying a multitude of passengers and controlled by a computer. It is a pleasure to stretch out in its comfortable armchairs and to scroll through 1200 channels of entertainment.

But when the computer does not work it becomes a leviathan of the ground – crammed with 500 irritable and hot people. Who mutter and wriggle as the Captain goes through a sequence of switching off the power (yes, the whole aircraft can be switched off at once and all the systems from the toilet door locks to the air conditioning cease functioning) and then starting the computer up again to see if this has solved the problem that was indicated on the immensely clever computerised diagnostic screen.

The whole reboot process takes 30 minutes. The Captain tried it twice as we sat on the tarmac in the summer sun of Dubai.

The alt-ctrl-delete sequence did not work. The Captain explained that the patient engineers would need to change a part in the avionics bay to resolve the problem. The avionics bay can only be accessed once all the cargo and baggage is removed (that must have been designed by the same engineer who put the spare wheel in a VW Golf).

The problem with a leviathan is that there are no spare leviathans. It is also impossible to replace one with a lesser aircraft because there are not enough seats.

Therefore 500 irritable and hot people are required to leave the aircraft. Go through security once again (all at once) and find their way back to the departure lounge, which they had optimistically left two and a half hours earlier. All without mislaying their boarding pass stub without which they become stateless nomads.

At some point today, or perhaps tomorrow, I will arrive home. Meanwhile I clutch the creased stub of my boarding pass. And wait.

3 Responses to “Gentleman-in-waiting”

  1. 1 Andy, at Aviva Perth

    I hope the new part they fitted was not like the spare tyre that is often supplied – meaning you can only go at half speed and for a short distance!

  2. I once found myself on a train to Glasgow which had to be re-booted, twice, before it arrived. Thanks to the PA system we learnt that the trains operating system was one of the less stable versions of Windows. I haven’t travelled on that type of train since.

  3. 3 Camilla

    Buses too. I was on a rail replacement service from somewhere in East Anglia to Liverpool St a couple of years ago. We got stuck in Docklands with the driver apparently unable to engage any gears. After a couple of panic phone calls someone evidently said “have you tried switching it off and switching it on again?” 10 seconds with the engine off was enough to reboot the system in this case.

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