Salon.com Writer Blacklisted By Airbus? Style Counts
Salon's Patrick Smith informs us this day that he's been blacklisted from Airbus media events because he's been calling the A380 PotemkinLiner .....well, phugly.
The most hideous airliner ever conceived
The worst-looking piece of major industrial design of the past 50 years
A huge steroidal porpoise
The ponderous, beluga-headed Airbus
Oversized, homely and decadent.
Patrick relates the following:
"The jet is shamelessly, needlessly ugly.
Most of that ugliness is the fault of the plane's bulging forehead, a trait that resulted from an engineering decision to place the cockpit below the upper deck. It is useful to think of a jetliner as a sort of horizontal skyscraper. To recall the words of architecture critic Paul Goldberger, writing in a 2005 issue of the New Yorker: "Most architects who design skyscrapers focus on two aesthetic problems. How to meet the ground and how to meet the sky -- the top and the bottom, in other words." With airplanes, as with office towers, the observer's gaze is drawn instinctively to their extremities, and their attractiveness, or lack thereof, is personified through the sculpting of the nose and tail sections. Not that the A380's tail is anything special either, but it's hard to get past that forehead.
"Perhaps in ten to fifteen years," offered Geoffrey Thomas in last month's issue of Air Transport World, "the A380 will be described with the same passion and affection as the Sydney Opera House or the Eiffel Tower, two of many global icons that were bedeviled by controversy during their early years." Not this time.
Did it need to be this way? Is it true, to cite a quote attributed to an Airbus engineer some years ago, that "Air does not yield to style"? Jet age romantics recall the provocative curves of machines like the Caravelle; the urbane, needle-nosed superiority of Concorde; the Gothic surety of the 727. You're telling us that planes need to be boring, or worse, in the name of efficiency and economy.
No, they don't.
Compare the A380's resultant profile with that of its chief rival, the Boeing 747. The 747 is often derided as "bubble-topped" or "humpbacked." In truth, the upper-deck annex, fronted by the flight deck, provides the plane with its most recognizable feature and is smoothly integral to the fuselage, tapering forward -- the pilots' windscreens anthropomorphizing as eyebrows -- to a stately and confident prow. Front to back, the 747 looks less like an airliner than it does an ocean liner. (For the record, the tail is pretty sexy too -- svelte like the foresail of a schooner.) The airplane is giant, but it doesn't necessarily seem that way. There's an organic flow to its silhouette. For all its square footage and power, it maintains a graceful, understated elegance."
Couldn't have said it better myself.