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Turtle-themed A380 jet gets wash down ahead of New Year's Day sunrise flight in Japan

An All Nippon Airways A380 passenger jet in sea turtle livery gets a wash-down ahead of its New Year's Day sunrise flight, at Narita International Airport on Dec. 27, 2021. (Mainichi/Tadakazu Nakamura)

NARITA, Chiba -- A giant All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) Airbus A380 passenger jet done up in sea turtle livery got a serious scrub down in a Narita International Airport hangar here on Dec. 27 ahead of its New Year's Day sunrise flight.

    It took about six hours and 15 people to clean all the oil, dust and airborne pollutants off the massive double-decker aircraft with its parent-and-child sea turtle paintjob. For comparison, the little Boeing 737 takes nine people two hours to wash, and the same number of workers need four hours to clean a Boeing 777. Meanwhile, a 777 requires twice as much water to wash than a 737, and the A380 takes 3.5 times as much.

    The process began by spraying the plane down. Then, workers put cleaning solution onto very long-handled horsehair brushes and mops with handles 4 to 6 meters long, and the scrubbing -- left, right, up, down -- began.

    The A380 is 72.7 meters long and 24.1 meters tall, with a wingspan of 79.8 meters, and elevated work platforms were needed to reach places including the nose, second deck and tail fin. The cleaning done, spots that had been so dirty they obscured the plane's skin were left sparkling. In fact, the entire plane sparkled.

    This particular A380 will be carrying passengers on ANA's New Year's Day sunrise flight out of Narita International Airport in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. Kota Sato, a 27-year-old ground crew member who usually works at Tokyo's Haneda Airport told the Mainichi Shimbun, "There are sea turtles decorating the fuselage, so all of us were having fun cleaning the aircraft up. We were imagining how excited the passengers would be as we worked." He added, "The first plane the people will see this year is all clean, and I'd like the New Year's Day sunrise flight passengers to enjoy the beautiful morning sun."

    The plane's usual route is from Narita to Honolulu in Hawaii, but the coronavirus pandemic has meant far less time in the air. The A380 has only carried passengers 28 times in all of 2021, including just one return trip to Honolulu, and special excursions and tours to domestic destinations like Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, the Kansai area, the Okinawa prefectural capital of Naha, and Shimojishima island, also in Okinawa.

    Less flight time also means less dirt. The aircraft generally gets a wash every 100 days, but it had not been scrubbed this time since April 26, 2021.

    (Japanese original by Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau)

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