Airbus to help Emirates pilots sleep after crews find A380 'too quiet'

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Weary Emirates Airbus A380 pilots are complaining that they cannot sleep in their crew-rest area in the aft main cabin because the aircraft is too quiet.

The pilots say that the lack of engine noise in the A380's cabin compared with other long-haul airliners means they are constantly disturbed by sounds created by passengers, such as crying babies, flushing vacuum toilets and call bells. Passengers also mistake the rest area for a lavatory, and pull the door handle.

The Dubai-based carrier has asked Airbus for a solution that does not involve substantially adding weight, which rules out insulating the walls of the rest area, situated at the rear of the all-economy main deck, says Emirates senior vice-president, fleet, Capt Ed Davidson.

"We are expecting to hear back from them by the middle of the month," says Davidson, who admits that the airframer has "overdelivered" on its noise promises on the airline's Engine Alliance GP7200-powered A380s. One option could be installing lightweight generators to create ambient noise.

"We're getting a lot of complaints. It's not something we expected," says Davidson. "On our other aircraft, the engines drown out the cabin noise. [On the A380] the pilots sleep with earplugs but the cabin noise goes straight through them."

Emirates is the only A380 operator so far to have situated the crew-rest areas at the rear of the main deck. It did not opt for Airbus' standard option of locating the pilots' compartment behind the cockpit as it would have compromised the design of the airline's upper deck first-class cabin, while the alternative location of the cargo hold was rejected as it thought crew would find it "claustrophobic".