I get up at 04:30 and leave my house soon after where it is -6deg C. At Gatwick I find I have written down my booking code wrong and have to plead with Easyjet to be allowed to board. We take-off from Gatwick at 07:15 and Easyjet runs out of its special 'breakfast toastie' despite the aircraft being barely half full. At Airbus HQ in Toulouse I am ritually humiliated in front of just about every aviation journalist in Europe when I am called to the stage to be presented with my passport and boarding pass which I have dropped on the floor somewhere. It's still only 10:30 and it's been a long day.
But do I care? I do not - today I'm privileged to be flying on the A380 for the first time. A world exclusive - just me and about 200 other journalists!
So here we are at the Airbus delivery centre in Toulouse...
...and here are my colleagues and rivals...
Airbus is slowly recovering its confidence and is in no mood to be pushed around by the media. The company wants to talk about how wonderful the A380 is; the journalists would quite like to ask impertinent questions about other matters. Finally the Airbus execs lose patience, the press conference is politely but firmly halted, and we're invited to board. In fairness, practically the entire Airbus management is on the aircraft and happily agree to non-stop interviews for the duration of the two-hour flight. You'll see the results over the next 24 hours or so.
I am personally familiar with the aircraft - F-WWJB. This was the machine that was used for the full-scale evacuation trial in which I took part. I'm planning on using the stairs today. It's also been reconfigured from the all-economy layout used to pack it with 873 people for that exercise into a three-class layout with 64 business class seats and 136 economy on the upper deck; and 12 first-class with 307 economy on the lower deck - a total of 519. Unfortunately the furnishings are bargain basement and give no impression at all of what could, and will, be done with the cabin by airlines. Take-off weight is 361t.
Here's economy class...
...and here's business class...
There's chaos in the aircraft for an hour or so as everyone tries to film and photograph the entire thing at once. Finally we settle into our seats for take-off. Airbus has a new safety briefing card which helpfully notes that "final assembly of this airplane was completed in France". This, I assume, is in deference to this piece of legislative stupidity.
Then it's 13:18 and we're rolling on runway 32L at Toulouse with Brit pilot Peter Chandler in the captain's seat. The take-off run is notably short and everyone, but everyone, is later talking about how quiet the interior is. This really is a remarkably quiet aircraft both inside and out.
We lift off and half a dozen oxygen masks promptly deploy - this particular aircraft is pretty ragged round the edges, and nobody's much surprised. There are a couple of flight engineers on board and eventually everything gets stowed.
What is really extraordinary is the behaviour of the control surfaces as we climb out through today's very bumpy air. I'm astonished to see the three aileron sections on the left wing in furious movement, reaching something like half-travel in both directions, and all apparently competing with each other. It's no exaggeration to say they appear to be flapping. This of course is the flight control system working overtime to cushion the rest of the structure from the buffeting. The result is an eerily smooth ride which most people like, but some describe as "wallowing" like a ship. Once we're in the cruise the ride is quite superb though.
It's hard to say much about the flight. We wander around over south-west France for a while with an Aerospatiale Corvette camera chase-plane in attendance, the cabin is awash in champagne and hors d'oeuvres provided by the Lufthansa flight attendants, and it's interview-city for everyone. I stroll around alternately making my very bad movie which I hope we'll knock into shape for FlightTV and being interviewed myself by CNN, the BBC and assorted others.
One way or another I end up in the cockpit for the landing. I'm happy!
Chandler jokingly assures me that I won't need the shoulder harness for his landing. I remind him of his colleague Ed Strongman's, umm, 'arrival' at Heathrow when the A380 first visited London on a spectacularly blowy day. In fact the wind at Toulouse is uncharacteristically challenging today, with lots of shear and a surface crosswind component that is 20-30kt gusting. Chandler's brow remains uncreased throughout of course, we touch down on the centreline and rumble gently to a walking pace. The nosegear-mounted Airbus taxying camera is selected on the primary flight display and we track the taxiway centreline all the way to the gate. Very elegant.
"It really was very windy Kieran," Chandler comments. Yes, it was I agree. "Very windy indeed Kieran," he adds. OK, OK, I've got the message.
Then the show's over, more interviews, and we all sit down to write. As the afternoon light fades a rainbow appears, encompassing the parked A380 from nose to tail. Everyone sighs, and just for a moment all is well in Toulouse.