When I hear what seems to sound like a Cessna 502 fly overhead, I tend to look up and search for the plane in the sky and fix my gaze on it until it disappears from sight. It brings back memories of the fun flight I had travelling from Decatur to Chicago in Illinois. My first prop flight, first flight sitting next to the “ceiling fan” on the right. Well, yeah. Don’t the props look like ceiling fans. They are about the same size anyway (without the “s”😉).

Cessna 502. Absolutely a fun plane to fly in.

Truth be told is I always look up when any plane flies overhead. I just need to hear the sound of the engines. I still remember the time when I was about 7 years old. I stayed with Uncle Al and Aunty Leen (Albert & Aileen Atkinson). The year – 1965. It was probably the school holidays at that time. Uncle Al was the headmaster of Kampung Pandan School in KL (Kuala Lumpur).

They had a big house on the school grounds. Draw open the hall sliding doors, leads you to the school field. Nearby, was the then Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The Malaysian Air Force used the airport for some of it’s transport aircraft as well.

Every morning, when I was there; I would eagerly wait by the opened sliding door for planes that would fly very low overhead, when they were about to land. I still remember a de Havilland Caribou flying overhead making its decent. It looked like it was going to land on the school field. Well, it did look like that; to a 7-year old boy.

The dinosaur, literally in terms of size; the Airbus A380 super whambo (combination of whale and jumbo elephant); is fast becoming extinct as airlines find it too expensive to maintain. More airlines are pulling it out of service as days go by. Malaysia Airlines was gung-ho about it in the early 2000s, having ordered 6 of them. This may have been one too many. From news reports; 2 of these planes did not have any routes assigned to it.

This also may have been “you got. you think you so great? I oso got” (local slang). Buy first. Plan routes later. It was also timing as the 747 fleet were beginning to age. So, there is good reason. But was MAS, like many other airlines that acquired these beauties; out of sync with the times?

These big birds could pack up to 800 passengers without bulging at the seams. Most airlines may have custom-fitted their A-380s to seat 600 passengers.

Now, to fill 600 seats per flight. That would have been a challenge, as these seats would have had to be filled quickly. Business Development, Marketing and Sales teams would have had their work cut out for them. They had to compete against other airlines offering A380 flights, pricing, optimum flight departure and arrival times, days and date; the list not being exhaustive. These teams had to be on their toes at all times as situations changed faster than a heartbeat.

The next big challenge and the one which eventually signed the retirement of the A-380 and other large 4-engined jets was that two-engined jets were getting the same job done, with two engines less than four, which translated to a huge cost reduction as the average base price of these jets just under-cut the prices of the 4-engined jets.

I think airlines must have seen the writing on the wall (another “on the wall” quote) when they purchased these super-whambos but chose to ignore it as keeping up with the Joneses (other airlines) blinded their long-term judgement.

I had a sense of pride that Malaysia Airlines had the A380s in their stable. To a greater extent, it showed that the airline was modern and forward thinking. From the latest news gathered, Malaysia Airlines had no takers to the 6 A380s from them. They returned them to Airbus in exchange for new long-range twin-engine jets.

A380 super whambo. Isn’t she a beaut?

The Cessna 502 I think, with its swaying from left to right or vice versa when making the approach to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport will remain a fond memory for me. I sat just behind the co-pilot, I had a good view of the instrument panel and its workings. Looking out of the plane, I had excellent all round visibility. Nice!

Looking forward to my next flights.

1. Bilqis Bahari, “No buyers, Malaysia Airlines to return six A380 to Airbus?”; New Straits Times, September 26, 2022

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