Web

The world’s biggest Christmas tree pops up on an online flight tracker

The Airbus A380-800
Maarten Visser/Flickr
For many Europeans, a “festive flight” might mean a short trip up to Lapland with the family to meet Santa Claus. But for a German pilot in the cockpit of an Airbus A380 over Germany this week, it meant flying a route in the shape of a giant Christmas tree.

Taking around five and a half hours to complete, the outline of the tree — complete with festive baubles — appeared on online flight tracker services like Flightradar24 and FlightAware.

No, the plane’s captain wasn’t a rogue pilot who’d downed one too many Christmas sherries before taking the controls, nor were there any passengers in the back wondering what on earth was going on. The carefully planned flight was actually testing a new A380, a double-decker aircraft that’s currently the largest passenger plane in the world. It’s just that Airbus fancied having a bit of fun with the route.

The jet plane’s journey, which started and finished in Hamburg, stretched almost the entire length of Germany and traced the shape of a tree. It even included different colors, which reflected the different altitudes of the flight.

Flightradar24 tweeted about the special flight, noting that Airbus had “turned a standard pre-delivery test flight for a new A380 into something a bit more festive.”

While most commenters lauded the creative effort, one pointed out that “the carbon footprint on this tree must be astronomical.”

The aircraft used in the test flight will end up carrying passengers around the world for Emirates, based in Dubai.

It wasn’t so long ago that a pilot for rival aircraft maker Boeing showed off its artistic skills in the sky, drawing a giant jet plane across the U.S. in a flight that lasted 18 hours in August. As with the A380’s recent outing, this was not a flight of fancy but instead a necessary endurance test, that one for a Rolls-Royce aircraft engine that’s undergoing certification.

And back in February, a Boeing test pilot flew one of the company’s new 737 MAX aircraft over Washington state and nearby Montana, tracing the word “MAX” in the sky that plane watchers could also see on flight tracker websites.

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