It was a relatively uneventful Sunday morning in Bangor, that is until 8:23 when an email from FlightAware popped up in my inbox saying “Etihad Airways #103 (A388) en route from Abu Dhabi Int’l (OMAA/AUH) has diverted to Bangor Intl (KBGR) for an estimated arrival at 08:27AM EDT”. It wasn’t until an hour later that I checked my phone after finishing a movie from the night before that I saw it, along with a voicemail, multiple text messages and Facebook messages from friends alerting me about the diversion.
Sure, an A380-800, to someone at New York’s JFK or Houston’s Intercontinental airports, it’s just as another plane, like we see CRJ 200s in Bangor. But not to Bangor. Yes, we’ve seen the Antonov AN-225, last summer a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, several Boeing 747s, many C-17 and C-5 military cargo planes, AWACS E-3s and the AN-124 to name a few. This however, was the first time an Airbus A380-800 was going to plant it’s gear on the 11,440 foot runway.
Shortly after 11am, Etihad Flight 103 touched down on runway 33 and taxied to the ramp area to take on fuel. These fuel stops aren’t out of the ordinary, but for a plane this size, it is. Many of the fuel stops are due to heavy headwinds on the crossing, prohibiting the planes to make it from their European point of origin to their American destinations. To further add to that, most of those aircraft that divert for fuel are of the Boeing 757 family. Not a super jumbo such as the Airbus A380.
Bangor’s location as the first(or last) US airport on the east coast, makes it a favorite for fuel stops. The team at the airport is able to handle any type of plane, get them in and out in a short period of time.
The flight from Abu Dhabi to New Yorks’ JFK runs around 13 1/2 hours in length. Unfortunately, as many of us in Bangor and Eastern Maine know, the winds were blowing fiercely. Etihad Flight 103 as it touched down in Bangor was already 15 hours long from Abu Dhabi. An hour and a half longer that the usual flight to JFK.
After the tanks were filled, the mighty A380-800 received clearances and taxied down ALPHA taxiway for departure on runway 33. An arriving Allegiant pilot asked the tower to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. There were 5-6 vehicles parked at the gate near the Maine Air Museum(myself included) as it taxied by, making the turn up to 33.
Holding short briefly before lining up, cameras were clicking fast and furiously. People were taking videos and kids were looking on in amazement. The mightly A380 in the new “Facets of Abu Dhabi” livery spooled it’s engines and began rolling down 33, gradually rotating and lifting off. Taking to the sky and a quick 1 hour trip to JFK, the excitement in Bangor was over. Hopefully we will see another soon. The men and women of the Bangor International Airport will be there waiting. And I will be at the end of the runway, cameras in hand.