A320, MD-80, 727

From:         bwalts@lamar.ColoState.EDU (Brandon Walts)
Date:         22 Nov 93 15:41:20 PST
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I have 2 completely unrelated questions that I've always been
curious about.  Perhaps someone here knows the answers...

1)  Why do 727s and MD-80s always have their ventral stairs down
when parked at the gate.  I never see any service or maintinence people
using them.  Is it for faster emergency egress in case of a refuelling 
accident?  Does it somehow hold the tail up when there's nobody in the front
of the plane (ala DC8 and IL-62)?  It seems like a lot of wear on
the hydraullics and mechanical systems, so there must be a good reason...

2) Has anyone ever noticed that the A-320 looks a _lot_ like the
old Dassault Mercure (sp?) with a new wing and engines.  Everything,
from the aesthetics of the cockpit and tail, to the placement of the
emergency exits looks the same.  Is there a common ancestry here, or is
it just that French style?