Commercial Video Review San Francisco A380

Description: Intercontinental flight onboard of Lufthansa's A380-800
Software Source / Size: DVD / Blu-ray
Flight Simulator: N.A.
Reviewed by: Andrian Adrian
Published: January 20th, 2013

Computer / Software Specifications
Computer System: - Acer Aspire 7540g AMD Turion 2,2 Ghz
- 500GB HDD
- ATI HD 4570
Software: - Windows 7
- Flight Simulator X


This Pilotseye DVD covers a Lufthansa Airbus A380 long-haul flight from Frankfurt, Germany to San Francisco, California and back in German language. It's possible to use English subtitles. Furthermore, the Pilotseye team will join the Captain while visiting the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France and during his simulator training on the Airbus A380 where he experiences an engine failure/fire caused by a bird strike.

Furthermore, Flight Captain Juergen Raps invites us to visit him during both of his retirement flights, filmed in the best quality with many interesting and informative explanations!

Have fun!

Frankfurt International Airport

The airport of Frankfurt (FRA/EDDF) is the biggest airport in Germany and the third-largest in Europe. EDDF is a homebase for the German flagcarrier Lufthansa, the charter-airline Condor Flugdienst, SunExpress and the freighter-airline Lufthansa Cargo. Frankfurt has four Runways and the newest one was built one year ago. With 75,000 employees, FraPort – the Airport-holder – is the biggest employer of Frankfurt. Nearly 54,000,000 passengers visit the airport per year, which is located 12 kilometers/7.5 miles southwest of the city center.

Frankfurt can be reached via train, highway or bus.

San Francisco International Airport

The airport of San Francisco (SFO/KSFO) is one of the busiest of America's west-coast airports and the ninth biggest of America. KSFO is a hub for America's major airlines including United Airlines, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines, Air Canada and British Airways among others. The airport has four crossing runways for arriving and departing traffic.

With four terminals about 40,000,000 passengers are served each year. The airport is located 21 kilometers/13 miles south of the San Francisco downtown area and can be reached via bus, train and highway.

Outbound Flight EDDF-KSFO

Before the first flight starts, we meet the three pilots – Captain Juergen Raps, Captain Robert Juelicher and Senior First Officer (SFO) Harald Tschira – at the flight deck. This unfortunately means that we completely miss the cockpit/cabin briefings and don't get a chance to visit the Dispatch Center. However, Captain Raps starts with welcoming us at "his" flight deck. As the aircraft is still being loaded and the passengers have boarded, Captain Raps uses the time until departure with welcoming the passengers onboard the flight to San Francisco.

Captain Raps seems to be a very brave man as he promises his passengers they'll be in San Francisco on time despite the fact that we haven't departed yet. As they discuss their departure route, we're told that unfortunately, we cannot visit the pilots while they're performing there outside checks. But back to the departure route. When the DVD was recorded, the newest runway 25R didn't exist which means that the viewer maybe a little bit bewildered if they have old charts but everything is all right! They expect to takeoff from runway 25L, the left of the both runways in western direction, while being on the track of the MARUN2F departure route. During their briefing they discuss the NAVAIDS and the radials they have to cross to be on the right track. Another important thing is to be aware of the altitude restrictions since not following those restrictions can lead to a real traffic-conflict. The A380 is a very large aircraft and also very heavy. So they have to think about their stop margins in case of a rejected takeoff.

The A380 on its flight to San Francisco has a full passenger and freight load, which puts them at their maximum takeoff weight of an amazing 605 tons! As Captain Raps promised to be in San Francisco on schedule, they have to quickly start reading their "before start checklist". In this checklist they review the most important items such as the flight-safety prior to the engine start, their fuel amount, if their mobiles are switched off or if their doors and windows are closed. Another important item is the gear pin, which has to be removed. The gear pin is used by the maintenance personnel and is plugged into the landing gear to prevent the gear from retracting during maintenance work. The potential problem is, if this gear pin is not removed before takeoff, it will prevent the gear from retracting after departure.

So, on the one hand it will cause damage to the gear and on the other hand will mean that they have to return to the airport since they won't have enough fuel to fly to San Francisco without having the landing gear retracted. The gear-pin is checked during the outside-check. Before they can depart, they have to contact the ramp agent. The pilots cross check their numbers of freight and loaded passengers with his/her numbers to be certain that there were no mistakes in calculating the load sheets. Usually, the ramp agents read out the numbers and the Captain checks them, but today they do it the other way around – strange. Then, Senior First Officer Harald Tschira requests pushback clearance. The controller clears them to be pushed while facing east, meaning that they can taxi out in easterly direction.

The pushback vehicle uses a towing bar, which is linked between the aircraft's nose wheel and the pushback vehicle. It's quite amazing that a towing bar can really push more than 600 tons! After the crew has started the four engines, they perform their after start checklist which includes the rudder check and flap settings. During the flaps extension, the camera is set on the passenger view and you can hear the sound of the flaps during extension. To be honest, this sound reminds me on the flaps sound of the BAE146 – beautiful! Lufthansa 454 is ready to taxi and the SFO requests their clearance to the runway.

As the Airbus A380 is very large, there are cameras fixed outside the aircraft, which help the pilots with steering during all ground movements such as taxiing. Unfortunately, there's a wasp sitting on the camera and that's not that funny to the pilots! But, the insect is sitting on the lower part of the camera and doesn't block the whole view. Before we are cleared for take off, another plane is landing on the runway. Coincidentally, it's another Lufthansa Airbus A380, which is arriving from San Francisco!

From the tower we hear -"Lufthansa 454, runway 25 left, cleared for takeoff!" Captain Raps sets the takeoff-power by pushing the thrust levers in the forward position, which spools up the engine to accelerate the 600 tons.

One thing that makes this DVD very special is that you can fade in Captain Raps's audio comments, which were recorded after the flights. In his commentary, he re-explains all flight situations, which couldn't be explained during the flight. As an example, for the take off the pilots do not use full thrust take off power, but a FLEX take off power. This is a reduced thrust and saves money, fuel and the engines! Of course, it also reduces a lot of noise! Most aviation-oriented people know what the callout V1 means. That's the decision speed, or go, no go speed.

Lufthansa has a different procedure. They do not call out V1, but "Go", which is similar to the normal V1 callout. During our departure, we get to see the new Runway 25R/07L which was still under construction. As we pass level 245 (FL245), we have to contact Maastricht Control as they are responsible for the upper airspace. Maastricht communicates us over the CPDLC (controller-pilot data link communications). It is like writing e-mails or text messaging to the controllers and reduces the load on the frequency. CPDLC has been used for IFR-clearances (if the airport offers it), but for a few years some controller stations like Maastricht or Rhine Radar offer it during the flight. And there is our first CPDLC message for this flight. Radar offers us a "direct to" waypoint, which will save a few miles. The only thing the pilots have to do is to confirm it on the CPDLC display.

The flight route today is a little bit special as the video was recorded during the vulcano-ash incident of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. This volcano eruption was explosive in nature and threw so much ash into the air that we had to follow a different route than planned. Captain Raps talked to the dispatch centre which allowed us to overfly the ash-area and that saved us one hour of flight time! It's always dangerous to get too near volcano ash since the engines could be severly damaged if ash was ingested into the turbines.

As we get nearer to the border of the Atlantic Ocean, we have to contact the Shannon Oceanic controller, who gives us our clearance over the ocean. This clearance does not contain common waypoints but geographic coordinates. Furthermore, they tell us at which time should be at a certain coordinate and what altitude and speed we have to maintan. The reason for that is that since radar cannot monitor the entire ocean, so they give us certain restrictions so as to be able to maintain traffic seperation. As we fly a very northern route, we get to see breathtaking views over the mountains of Greenland and glaciers.

And we pass another A380 over the ocean! Since this is Juergen Raps retirement flight, he talks about his first aviation experiences, why he came into aviation and what he experienced during his flight career. It is very interesting to get to know what a pilot with 40 years flight experience talks about. We're now over American territory and get nearer and nearer to the American West coast. As we pass the Golden Gate bridge, we are cleared for an ILS approach to runway 28 right.

During our approach we overfly the island of Alcatraz and San Francisco's downtown and experience an amazing view of SFO! The approach to runway 28 is quite special as we approach from the waterside. Even the approach lights are in water! It's very interesting to observe the approach from the A380's tail camera!

“Retard, Retard“. The flight computer tells Captain Raps to pull the thrust levers to an idle condition and after a smooth landing we vacate runway 28R to the left via our scheduled taxiway. As we taxi in, the San Francisco airport-firefighters congratulate Captain Raps on his retirement with a water salute. We are now on blocks and 50 per cent of our flight is over. See you in the city of San Francisco!

During the flight, Raps had told us that he is a big motorcycling fan. While we're here, he gets unique chance to enjoy a short ride on a Harley Davidson motorcycle around the apron area. It must be fun to have a motorcycle ride at one of the busiest airports of America. Lucky guy!

After that, the whole crew meets at the harbor to take part on a boat tour, followed by Raps' retirement-party.

Inbound Flight DLH/LH 455

As the aircraft is still being loaded, we meet the pilots at the flightdeck during their take off checks. That does unfortunately mean that again we miss any briefings or outside checks. They also discuss the special KSFO taxiing-procedures Here, they don't get any reminder to change frequencies and have to initiate that by themselves as soon as they pass a special taxiway. After that they talk about their departure route. You see, everything has to be planned! The doors are closed and we are ready for pushback - but wait! We still have the bridge connected. Good to have a careful ground crew.

Pushback is completed, engines are started and our flight controls are checked. Let's taxi to the runway! We cross runway 28L and get ready for departure. As soon as we arrive at runway 28R, we take off. Let's fly to Frankfurt! During our departure, the Purser, Peter Jacobus, tells the passengers that this is the Captain's last flight and prepares the passengers for a maneuvre after departure in which Raps will shake the plane to say goodbye to 41 years of flying! Take-off-power-set, Go, Rotate, we're now flying towards Frankfurt!

During the climb, Raps explains why he chose a reduced power climb. It was to reduce noise and save fuel. Since we received a special departure for our outbound flight, we catch an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Downtown.

During the flight, the crew talks about the city’s we pass during the flight and about a special flight Raps performed the last year. Due to the birthday of the port of Hamburg and the delivery of a brand-new A380, they performed a formation-flight with a retro Junckers JU52, a 3 engine propeller aircraft from another era. It's interesting to see the relation between a former passenger aircraft and a brand-new one of our time!

And another interesting fact is, that the total flight distance Raps has performed during his career is visiting the moon 27 times!! Daytime has turned into nighttime and we are now very near to Frankfurt, over the country of Ireland.

Many of you may have asked the question "what this ugly bump on the panel of the A380 is". The answer is simple. It's the trackball for the flight computers and has this shape to be able to use it during turbulent weather. It's use is similar to a computer mouse. We're now descending and are already in contact with the controllers of Frankfurt Airport. Since we're assigned to runway 25R, we save some taxi-time and of course a lot of fuel!

After a nice landing, we vacate to the right and taxi to our gate. Oh, what's that out there? Once again we experience a water salute by the German firefighters! After being on blocks, Captain Raps has to say goodbye to his aircraft, the Airbus A380, after 40 years of flying!

Toulouse and Simulator!

The flight to San Francisco and back to Frankfurt is over but the DVD is not, as we join Juergen Raps visiting the Airbus factory in Toulouse and during his simulator training.
After a scenic approach into Toulouse, we meet Mister Richard Caracaillet, the Airbus Head of product marketing. Together, we visit the second A380 of Lufthansa - D-AIMB - which was still under construction. As you see this aircraft in the hangar, you can really see how big the A380 is! Mister Caracaillet now guides us into the cockpit of the brand new aircraft, which is still covered to prevent it from being damaged.

Even the seating is not implemented yet, so you can see how huge the cabin is. We get to see the APU engine (auxiliary power unit), something you can't see during the flight ops, located in the rear of the aircraft. Although the APU isn't one of the main engines, it's bigger than those of some smaller jets. After having a look on the main landing gear gear of the A380, we join the pilots during their simulator training.

From outside, the simulator looks like a model of the movie's Spaceship Enterprise, but as you get into this "box", you can admire the realistic replication of the real model. The aircraft wants to depart from San Francisco, but during the takeoff roll, they experience a bird strike, followed by a single engine failure. Engine number 1 begins to burn; the pilot’s job now is to follow the checklists appearing on the lower ECAM.

They use the fire extinguisher to extinguish the engine and shut it down to prevent it from further damage, followed by a nice, safe landing back in San Francisco.


Well, this DVD covering the flights and the background information was one of the best cockpit documentaries I've ever seen. They didn't just record what happens on the flight deck, but informed us about the important details. For example, they explained why our route was amended and what the BTV-system is. But having the unique chance to join the pilots during their simulator training was definitely the thing that makes this Pilotseye.TV more than worth the money.

The thing that I missed was the pre-flight-part. We unfortunately did not get any impression how the pilots plan their flights or how they discuss the weather or the routes. Furthermore, we missed the outside check, which would have been a great opportunity to see the A380's technical facets from outside.
All in all I can recommend this DVD to all people who are interested in aviation!

More information can be found at the dedicated web page. The price of the DVD/Blu-Ray cost you no more then 23.20 British Pounds. As of this writing, this equals approximately 30,50 Euro.

With Greetings,
Adrian Adrian

This review is written for Aerosoft Sim News and published via the Aerosoft website. While the reviewer has complete journalistic freedom, we ask the reader to keep in mind where the review is posted.