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APRIL 22, 2007
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Mobile Security
Today, it is all about information and how the right information is sent to the right people at the right time and right place. Uncertainty about how to secure mobile phones in the face of increasing threats is slowing individual adoption of mobile applications. There are many facets of mobile security, including network intrusion, mobile viruses, spam and mobile phishing. Analysts expect big telecom companies to develop security solutions on various security platforms.

Rough Ride
These are competitive times for the Indian aviation industry. As salaries zoom, players are scrambling to find profits. Even the state-owned Indian is now seeking young airhostesses to take on the competition. It is planning to introduce a voluntary retirement scheme for airhostesses above 40 years. On an average, they draw a salary of Rs 5 lakh a year. The salaries of pilots, too, are soaring. According to industry estimates, the country needs over 3,000 pilots over the next five years.
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Business Today,  April 8, 2007

Inside the Belly of the 'Whale'
Business Today's Kushan Mitra went for a two-hour spin on-board the brand new Airbus A380, and returned to earth feeling awed-and a bit sympathetic to the engineering snafus that marred the birth of this behemoth.
9.30 A.M.-6.00 P.M., MARCH 24, 2007
Hong Kong International Airport

An aviation junkie like me shouldn't be saying this, but I am getting a bit tired waiting for the big moment. I have been at the Chek Lap Kok airport since half past nine in the morning for what was supposed to be a 1 p.m. boarding for a ride that had got me all excited just a few days ago-a two-hour, "route proving" joy ride over Hong Kong on board Airbus' newest baby, the A380. Around 2 p.m., I-and 75 other journos who've been flown in from all over Asia-am told that the flight from Frankfurt is delayed by two hours, so the boarding will commence at 3 p.m.

I hang around, chat with a few scribes, and just when I feel like plonking myself down on a quiet chair somewhere away from my boarding gate No. 62, I get the word that the eagle has landed. And one look at it is all it takes to melt away my hours of grumbling. It seems my trip will turn out to be interesting after all.

When Airbus launched the A380 in a gala ceremony almost two years ago, some American commentators dubbed it the 'Whale Jet' as opposed to the Boeing 747 'Jumbo Jet'. And just as Boeing was irritated initially with the Jumbo Jet tag, Airbus officials countered the whale moniker with a barrage, accusing the Americans, in essence, of jealousy. But when you see the A380 up close, you suddenly find yourself at a loss for adjectives-behemoth, leviathan, gargantuan, monstrous, humungous, all adjectives seem too small. However, it is when you board the plane that you realise the enormousness of it. It weighs 277,000 kilos when empty, can seat a total of 549 passengers (that's over 100 rows), and can carry 80 tonnes of cargo. Its maximum take-off weight: an astonishing 590,000 kilos.

Big is too small a word for the A380: You'll be never short of space in business class (left) or first class

Here's the thing, though. Despite its size, the A380 didn't seem big from the inside-heck, even the toilets were the regular airline size. Lufthansa, our host during the flight, kept reminding me that the interiors on this aircraft were made to Airbus' specifications and not to the German airline's. But the massive fuselage of the plane does give it an advantage: the economy seats (in a 2-4-2 configuration on the upper deck and a 3-4-3 on the lower deck) are almost an inch wider than typical coach seats. The wide staircase is also a step up on the narrow staircase on the Boeing 747 and in the way Airbus had set the plane up, there were even a couple of 'lobby' areas, a standing bar area in the first-class zone and what one could describe as a 'lounge' area in the crown of the aircraft next to the staircase and ahead of the business class seats-quite a nice touch and hopefully something operators will retain.

Length : 73 metres (that's 21 Maruti 800s parked nose-to-tail)
Wingspan : 79.8 metres
Height : 24.1 metres (as high as the average five-storey building)
Passenger capacity (in a typical 3-class configuration): 549-555
Passenger capacity (in low-cost, one-class configuration): 853
Maximum take-off weight : 590,000 kg
Maximum Range : 14,300 km (approximately the distance between Delhi and San Francisco)
Number of planes ordered : 157 (including one unidentified VIP customer who wants the biggest, baddest business jet money can buy)
Will you see one in India? Kingfisher's Vijay Mallya has ordered five (deliveries around 2010), but chances are that Lufthansa will bring in this monster in the India-Germany route in 2009-10

However, while one appreciates the level of engineering that went into this plane (there's 530 km of wiring inside the plane, and as if that weren't complicated enough, French and German engineers inadvertently used two different versions of software, delaying the aircraft's launch by almost two years), I could not describe the A380 as elegant. From the outside it just looked ungainly, and not nearly as pretty as the Boeing 747, which has a sharply raked nose and wings. I can't exactly describe the 747 as a quiet plane, but the A380 seemed eerily quiet during take-off and flight. "It's an easy plane to fly," Captain Jacques Rosay, Airbus' Chief Test Pilot, and the man who flew the plane on its maiden flight, told me when I popped into the cockpit to check it out.

Within the next two years, many hundreds of you would have flown on this aircraft, because airlines like Lufthansa do eventually plan to fly them to India, and the sight of the squat A380 should become as common as the 747 around world airports. In fact, I would go as far as to say that in the A380 I saw the future of air travel-it is going to be big. I just hope that no low-cost carrier ever decides to make one of these into an 800-seat cattle express.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the aircraft, there will be the Paris Air Show later on the year at Le Bourget. But a little bird from Airbus told me that the company has 'plans' of bringing one of the aircraft to India later in 2007 before delivery of the first plane to Singapore Airlines, scheduled for October 2007. But for an A380 to land in India, we will need to have an airport capable of handling it.