Wednesday, December 21, 2011

World's Shortest Commercial Flight

Believe it or not, but the honour goes to the roughly 2 minute flight from the island of Westray to the neighbouring island of Papa Westray all the way up in the Orkney Islands off the northern tip of Scotland. There is no time for a meal or a movie, let alone a quick visit to the lav. Being such a short flight means the whole thing has been captured on video and put on Youtube.

The flight is operated by Loganair a regional airline in Scotland that provides essential air services to the remote islands. According to the timetable (PDF download from Loganair website) the flight takes place roughly six days a week.

The aircraft used as shown in the video is a Britten Norman Islander, which is a small twin engine aircraft with seating for 8 or 9 people depending on how many pilots there are. It seems they only use one pilot for this run.

This is what a Britten-Norman Islander BN-2 looks like from the outside.

(Photo by Wikimedia user JJ Harrison under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

I found a video taken on a much nicer day and from a better angle to show the scenery and illustrate how short the flight really is.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Back in Australia

I really did love Japan, I'd love to go back. Saying that I think I would take Japanese lessons before going, as that would make communication with the locals so much easier.

Tokyo was, as I wrote in my earlier posts a bit overwhelming at first. I soon got into swing of it though. I don't think I would want to live there, but it was nice to see how all those people live. I was amazed that amongst all those grey buildings there were large green spaces. In fact at one place, the Meiji temple at Harajuku it was hard to believe that you were in the middle of one of the largest population centres of the world.

I loved the electronics stores that were around Ikebukuro, never seen stores with a staff to customers ratio that was probably close to 1:1, and it was packed with customers! A department store I found called Tokyu Hands was great. It's slogan was "The Creative Lifestyle Store". You name it, if you make it or do it with your hands you can find it there. I found Tokyu Hands in the other cities I visited as well, but the one at Shibuya in Tokyo was the best.

Osaka was an interesting place, with some great food and shopping streets. I also visited Kyoto and Nara for day trips. Kyoto I found draining as I tried to fit so much into one day. I was really over temples by the end. Nara was quite the opposite, it was very relaxing walking around the beautiful park. I saw the big Bhudda too. The only downside to Nara was that I was bitten by a deer while feeding them.

Hiroshima was a surprise. The A-Bomb dome, and memorials and Museums, were as I'd expected. The Museum in parts was definitely confronting. As for the city itself, you'd never know that the place was wiped off the planet nearly 70 years ago, it is every bit as vibrant as Tokyo or Osaka. It even had trams, which in a way made me feel at home.

The nearby island of Miyajima was a great day trip as well.

I plan on doing a few features on a selection of the places I visited, rather then a blow by blow account of my days. I think it's less boring that way, and easier to do now I'm at home.

I arrived home over a week ago now, last Wednesday at 10pm, almost two days later than I'd intended. The extra stop over in Hong Kong was great, albeit rushed. I think I managed to do everything I wanted to do. I was a bit shocked when I walked into my hotel room and thinking there must be a mistake, I can't possibly have all this space to myself.

Even though it's only been 5 months since I was in Hong Kong, I still did the touristy things I did last time. Those being, the Star Ferry (2x's!), Peak Tram, and Nathan Road. I also visited the the ICC building in West Kowloon, which is something like the 4th or 5th tallest building in the world. I decided not to go to the top as it was way too hazy, but spent some time walking around the shopping centre at the base (as you do in Hong Kong). Even though it's crowded, hot, dirty, and sometimes smelly, I really like Hong Kong for some reason. I mean, it is really just another city, but it has something else about it.

I can't really fault Qantas on how they have handled the refund process. For an action that was so blatantly pre meditated, I wouldn't expect any less. As I had made payment by BPay I to make special arrangements, but it all went smoothly. I can definitely use the free return flight to anywhere in Aus/NZ.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Japan - The Plan

Day 1 - Arrive in Tokyo
Day 2 - Tokyo/ANA 787 flight to Hiroshima and return
Day 3 - Tokyo
Day 7 - Train to Osaka
Day 8 - Osaka/kyoto area
Day 11 - Train to Hiroshima
Day 13 - Train to Fukuoka/Hakata
Day14 - Fly to Tokyo, Fly back to Australia

Ammended plans due to the joyce factor

Day 14 - Fly to Hong Kong
Day 15 - Hong Kong
Day 16 - Fly back to Australia

I couldn't resist adding a day in Hong Kong. Also meant I didn't have to go via Adelaide (the only flights I could book straight through from Tokyo involved a stopover in Adelaide), and could take a daytime flight home. Suits me fine.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Japan - The First Day AKA Culture Shock

What a nerveracking weekend it was. Just two days before I was due to leave Alan Joyce pulled the carpet out from under my feet. At 1am on Sunday morning I was on the Cathay Pacific website making alternative arrangements.

I made it, although via Hong Kong rather than Sydney, can't say I'm upset though. I thought Cathay Pacific provided great service, although I kept missing the water runs, because of being in the window seat on the Melbourne - Hong Kong leg. The Hong Kong to Tokyo leg was a "red eye", leaving Hong Kong at 1:15am and arriving in Tokyo shortly after 6am. As it was a four hour flight I only got about an hour of sleep. It wasn't too bad though as the flight was nearly empty so I could at least stretch out.

The rising sun welcoming me to the land of the rising sun.
Could't think of a better way to arrive in Japan.

What can I say about arrival in Tokyo. Complete culture shock comes to mind. After clearing customs I bought a train ticket and got the train to Tokyo proper. By now it was the middle of the morning peak hour and as the train filled up very quick. I thought I was on the Narita Express, but it was actually a local train taking commuters to work. Eventually we made it to Tokyo station where I needed to change to the Yamanote line. I just followed the signs and all was fine. Another 20 minutes later I was at Ikebukuro, the neighjbourhood I am staying in.

I arrived at the hotel about 2 hours after leaving Narita. Talk about a hard slog. Being so early, it was still only 9AM, I was told to come back at 3pm. I left my bag at the hotel and set off to find something to do.

I decided to take the train to Shinjuku and go to the free observation deck at the Tokyo government office. I found my way and spent about an hour up the top. On the way back to the station I got lost as I couldn't find the way in to the platforms (it is in a different spot to the exit).

Just how big is this city?
It goes as far as the eye can see in every direction.
The view from the 45th floor of the Tokyo Government Building.

Fujisan through the haze (and reflections). I seem to reacall
it is rare to actually
see Mount Fuji all the way from Tokyo.

One thing I knew I was going to like even before I left are the trains.
This is a Yamanote line train arriving at Shinjuku.

By now it was all of 11:30 am and all I wanted to do was sleep. If only I could go back to my hotel and check in. Maybe something to eat might help. No that's not going to happen. Looking at the restaurants I had no idea what I was looking at, and in my hazy state of mind I wasn't in the mood for trying. So I resigned myself to going back to the hotel and waiting.

So I waited in the lobby for about 3 hours, too tired to do anthing and too timid to try anything too adventurous. Eventually I decided to go for a wander and stopped at a convenience store to get some water. What are they yelling at me? I don't know, I made my purchase, nodded a lot and got out of there.

Finally I checked in and went up to my room. So small (I knew that when I booked), but just right for me. Oh god, a Japanese toilet!

My small but entirely functional room. Perfect for the salary
man or office lady on their travels.

That's a single bed, desk, chair and TV. Out shot to the bottom
are a small fridge and kettle. To my left is the small bathroom,
and behind me is a small space for luggage and the door.
All in all an efficient use of space.

After resting for a few hours I decided to out and face the world head on. Come on Ben you need to get over it, just go and buy some food. I should mention the last thing I had eaten was about 2 am that morning on the plane. No no good, lots of looking , but I couldn'tdo it. Oh well I'd have to starve.

"Irashimasu!" I went back to my friends in the family mart and bought some western style comfort foods, a bottle fo Coca Cola and a bag of potato chips. Eventually I decided to give room service a chance. The hotel's restaurant is and italian restaurant, so that's what I had. I ordered a Pizza, Capricciosa. Not really like any Pizza I've ever had.

That is day one in Japan. I think I spent it in denial more than anything. I blame tiredness. As I write this it is the end of my third day in Tokyo, and I must say I am really liking it. I've seen some wierd sights in the last few days. Sometimes I have to stop myself from laughing out loud, but often I'm just walking around with a massive smile on my face.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sydney Transport

First we have the much disliked monorail.

I was standing in Pitt street and just made a quick grab. I dislike riding this thing very much. Reminds me of the rides at Wobbies World... I remember one day I was eating in one of the fast food places in Pitt street near where I took the video and watching a curtain of water go down the street. It was raining, but the wall of water was of course the monorail going past overhead pushing all the water off the track. I wish I'd taken a video of that. From memory it was actually raining quite heavily and the street was more or less a river of water.

Now the polar opposite, the Manly Ferry. This is by far my favourite.

I'd rate this crossing as moderate, I've had calmer, and only hope for worse one day. Perhaps not quite as bad as the in the videos that Highriser found on Youtube. As fun as the ride is I am always glad to get off though. A land lubber by nature I guess.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Everest Web Cam

Thought this was interesting. Mount Everest now has it's own web cam.

So if you're stuck in base camp and can't be bothered poking your head out of the tent in the morning, here is your answer. Just whip out your device and check the Mount Everest web cam, then make your run at the summit.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What's been going on then?

About time I put in an appearance.

I have no life. Pure and simple. Not even a fake digital one...

Having said that, I am very much alive.

The near future is looking pretty good as in a few weeks I will be visiting the land of the rising sun. I am really looking forward to it. It is only a 2 week trip. The first week will be spent in Tokyo. The rest of the time I will be travelling around. First off to Osaka and basing myself there for a few days, also taking in Kyoto and Kobe before heading on to Hiroshima and Hakata (Fukuoka). The closest I hope to come to the areas affected by the nuclear melt down is Narita airport!

I guess I will attempt some sort of blog updates. I know. I know

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ben's Ash Alert Center

or BAAC for short...

I was just looking at the Bureau of Meteorolgy's Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre web page (here). They have a page set up explaining a bit the current events with Chile's Puyehue-Cordón Caulle erruption. Most interesting is an animation of satelite images showing the ash plume circulate around Antarctica.

A quick look on Wikipedia shows that this pair of volcanoes have erupted about 7 times in the past 100 years, so they are fairly active in the scheme of things.

I'm just thankful that all of Victoria's volcanoes are no longer active, with the last eruptions happening about 7500 years ago.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shunted QANTAS Style

It was pretty annoying (now that's an understatement) to realise that of the flights that left Singapore on Sunday evening ours was the only one that diverted (the Jetstar direct flight was delayed by 8 hours, but I couldn't think of a better airport to be stranded at than Changi). On one hand the three Qantas staff that were on hand to organise 400 odd passengers from our Airbus A380 did a great job. However I have no sympathy for Qantas management and in particular CEO Alan Joyce.

While I had read about the problems with the ash on the internet, we didn't find out that Qantas had cancelled all flights into Melbourne until we approached the check in desk at Changi airport. We were informed that we would now be going to Sydney. Well at least we were going to Australia. In hindsight, a few extra days in Singapore would have been nice too, although we had already extended our trip. That is why we were now returning on Qantas after leaving Australia on Singapore Airlines.

We landed at about 6:40 am and we were actually dealt with fairly quickly and efficently, at most it took 20 minutes from stepping off the aircraft to get through customs, this included a bus ride from our remote stand to the terminal. Once inside the terminal the three staff members dealt with the crowd efficiently, taking down details and handing out hotel and bus stop details. Immigration was again very quick. Our bags were already on the conveyor and we got to go through the green customs lane with nothing to declare.

Eventually after nearly a two hour wait in the cold we got on a coach and and drove to our hotel. The hotel was the Four Point's Sheraton on the Darling Harbour side of the Sydney CBD. By the time we were nearing the check in desk for the hotel the manager informed us that Qantas had sent too many people and that there were no more rooms available. To his credit he arranged a coach to take all 30 or so remaining passengers to a sister property and full use of the breakfast buffet which they kept open for us while we waited. By now it was about 11:30 am.

After around an hour we were taken to our new hotel, the Sheraton on the Park, overlooking of course Hyde Park in Elizabeth Street. This was clearly a much higher class hotel. After checking in we had to wait about 2 hours until the rooms were ready. So we eventually made it to a hotel room at about 3pm, about 8 hours after landing.

And what a hotel room it was, the best of the whole trip. The best bit was that it actually had a view of the park!

I should add that the last we heard from Qantas was two of those same staff members telling us which coach was going to which hotel at the Sydney Airport coach stops. It was very much a case just getting us out of the way. From then we heard nothing, and if I hadn't done what I'm about to tell you about, I fear we would still be there. I tried calling Qantas that night and the next morning on their regular phone number 131313, but it was so busy it played a message and hung up on me.

Rather stupidly I had left my phone on the plane, which was latter found by a cleaner and handed to the Qantas found property office. Luckily my brother was trying to get in contact and someone in the baggage services office heard it and answered. When talking to my brother that night he gave me the details I needed to pick it up the next morning.

So the next morning I left Mum at the hotel and caught the train to the airport to pick it up.

After retrieving my phone from the baggage services office on the arrivals level I ventured upstairs in search of someone I could talk to about the situation. In the end I found the Qantas sales desk and managed to get us on to a flight latter Tuesday afternoon. It seemed effortless.

So it was back to the hotel to pack up get mum and head back to the Qantas domestic terminal. I hate to think what the others did, although we met one woman who was on our flight in the hotel lobby and I told her what I'd done. I think the best bet for her was to find a Qantas sales office in the Sydney CBD and organise the flights in person.

We left straight away for our 5:15pm flight, arriving at the airport about 2 hours early, as I thought the place would be chaotic . I was wrong, the place was deserted.

Check in was a pain though as we couldn't use the self serve kiosk and the old style check in desks are gone. Now you print your own baggage tags and put your luggage on the conveyor yourself. We did find a staff member to help and she managed to get the system to work. Apparently it was something to do with the way our onward flight was booked. While she was great and helped us out, once again we feel Qantas as a company let us down.

Once through security we could relax, had a bite to eat and went and had a look around the Qantas Heritage Collection (which I do recommend going to have a look at if you ever have time to fill in Sydney T3) before going to wait at the gate for our flight.

We were back on the ground in Melbourne about a day and a half late.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How long is long enough?

Normally I'd love a five day weekend, but this time it is also my pay week. I'd rather get paid. My pay usually goes in on a Wednesday and my savings go out on the Thursday. This week the pay run is late owing to the extra days public holiday.

My main problem is my direct debits all seem to fall at the end of the month, which just happens to be over the next few days. I only have enough money to cover either the direct debits or the savings, but not both. If I'd realised earlier I would have stopped the money going to my savings account this week, but I only realised my predicament this morning, and banks need days to change things like this. Here's hoping I get paid tomorrow.

Perhaps I lack some basic financial skills? This has never happened before though...

Oh and the garbos are backed up because of the extra long break. I hope they get around here soon to take away the rubbish.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In case of emergency

On a recent flight I was lucky enough to get an exit row seat. The comfort of the extra leg room far out weighs the small possibility of having to open the door in case of an emergency.

It's now much easier to get an exit row with Qantas' new seat selection policy. It was covered in the media, but they only focused on the fee being levied for seat selection on international flights, it is however free for domestic flights.

From now on non premium frequent flyers (ie bronze and non frequent flyer members) are able to select seats from time of booking right up until check in. As a bronze myself the initial seats available were rather ordinary, row 19 and back on the 737 I was booked on. In the lead up to the flight gradually more and more of the plane opens up and any seats not taken by higher status FF's (silver, gold and platinum) or chairman's lounge members (almost no mention on the Qantas website, it's common knowledge it is a tool used to suck up to Canberra and mainstream media) are up for grabs, this includes such desirable seats such as the two exit rows. I think the time frame is 72 hours prior that these better become free for all.

Anyway, I found this amusing diagram on the instruction sheet for the emergency exit.

Does the fact this guy is able to shoot laser beams out of his eyes have anything to do with the fire and damage to the wing?

Another month gone...

...Another year older.

And it was a big one, starting with 3 ending with 0! I can't be thirty already, that's old! I don't feel old. I've had a few weeks to get used to it and I think I am coping.

I am not one for making a fuss so I was happy enough with a family dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant. The restaurant turned out to be not so good, shaped like a shoebox with hard furnishings, it was also packed meaning no one could hear what anyone else was saying over the noise of everyone else. The food was pretty good though.

What you see here is the speciality this particular restaurant has created to celbrate diners birthdays. An XL banana fritter flanked by two scoops of fried ice cream covered in caramel sauce. It is set alight with candles and sparklers, and is brought out to the table while "happy birthday" is pumped through the restaurant's sound system to make sure every one in the restaurant turns around and looks. All in good fun, but perhaps not really to everyones taste.

Present wise I think I did rather well. I got a new bedside table off mum and an electric toothbrush from my older brother and family.

Friday, March 18, 2011

South Eastern Australia crazy day trip

All the way back in November I did something that some people will say is slightly loopy. The plan was to fly Melbourne, Sydney, Coolangatta, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne. Five flights in one day.

All the flights were bought a couple of months in advance. The first three legs were on Jetstar and last two were on Virgin Blue. All up the cost was $350, averaging $70 per flight which to me is pretty good value.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

This post was really intended to be posted on an aviation forum, which I haven't done yet (although I will soon), so there may be some abbreviations or bits of jargon that don't make sense. I hope it does make sense. FYI OOL is the IATA airport code for Coolangatta airport.

This is how the day unfolded unfolded.

That morning I was up after 5 and well on my way to the airport by 6. I parked at the long term carpark and caught the bus to the terminal. Having checked in online I joined the rather long (by Australian standards) queues for security straight away. Once through I sat down in the food court for a few minutes and watched the aircraft movements out the window. After deciding not to buy anything to eat I made my down to the gate lounge area used by Jetstar and Qantaslink. At this time of the morning most of the bays were used by overnighting Jetstar aircraft. Of note was VH-VGP in Powderfinger livery.

The Powderfinger plane awaiting it's first flight for the day.
Airbus A320 vh-vgp, one of Jetstar's more recent aircraft

Gate 30
STA 0710 ATD 0725
STA 0835 ATA 0910
Seat 4F

Boarding was announced a few minutes before it was due to start and people immediately formed a long line. I waited until a few minutes after boarding was under way when things died down. I then joined a much shorter version of the line and strolled out to the aircraft. On the way out I took a few snaps of the aircraft, only to be told off by one of the ground staff manning the flag tape. I made sure they weren't refuelling first, but it seems they don't like it either way.

Walking out to my first ride for the day.
Jetstar A320 vh-vqg

On boarding and after saying hello to the cabin crew I immediately found my seat at 4F. I usually sit a little further back so this mornings flight would be a bit of novelty. I chose this seat due to the worry that I need make the connection to my next flight. If I make this connection then the whole day will be fine.

The view from the window, Qantas 767-336 vh-zxd, one of 7 former
British Airways 767 aircraft in the fleet.

Eventually people stopped coming through the door and it appeared we were ready to go. Only that the door stayed open and the crew were just standing around. After a few minutes the captain came on the PA and announced that due to ATC delays in Sydney we couldn't depart for another 15 minutes. At the time I didn't know what this would mean, but I still had plenty of padding to make my next flight. Soon enough the doors were shut and we taxied all the way around for a runway 34 departure and took off at about 0725.

A very full looking Lake Eildon.

Just passing Canberra, you can sort of make out a built up area
to the right of the image, Lake George is the large lake in the middle

It was an uneventful flight until just after we passed to the north of Canberra the engines spooled back and we began to make a right hand turn. The F/O announced that due to weather we would need to hold for half an hour. And so I became very familiar with the landscape of the southern highlands. I noticed that a DJ 737 was chasing us around the holding pattern.

My patch of the Southern Highlands.
We flew over this spot aboutfour times.

Eventually we continued descent towards Sydney and landed on runway 34L. We arrived in to gate 53 at 0910 only ten minutes before my next flight was scheduled. Lucky for me I had checked gate allocation the night before so I knew that my OOL flight would leave from gate 55 the next gate along. When we pulled in there was no aircraft next door.

Better late than never, one last shot of my first ride for the day.

Escaping into the terminal I made my way to the nearby FIDS to confirm that the inbound flight that forms the OOL flight had not arrived. It seems all arrivals were subject to the same half hour delay.

A Japan Airlines 777-200ER in One World alliance livery.

Both JAL and Qantas are members of One World
along with airlines such as British Airways, American
Airlines, Iberia and Cathay Pacific among others.

The Qantaslink/Jetstar/Tiger side of T2 at Sydney airport.
My next flight is departing from the gate just to the left.

Looking the other way, not quite as busy.

I wandered around the Jetstar gates for a while and watched my next ride pull up at gate 55. By now the gate lounge was overflowing and there was nowhere to sit so I went up to the end of the pier to wait for a few minutes. When I came back another long line had formed even before the previous passengers had finished disembarking. Again I waited a few minutes before joining the queue. While waiting though I noticed the clientele on this flight were quite er... different to those on my previous flight .

Gate 55
STD 0920 ATD 0950
STA 0940 ATA 1015
seat 6F

Jetstar a320 vh-jqx, will fly me to Coolangatta.

Close up of her nose. The silver paint on the nose
cone is quite different to the body.

On boarding I found both my neighbours were already seated and a full overhead compartment. The woman in the aisle seat was reluctant at first but was eventually kind enough to remove a piece of her families luggage (a tiny child size backpack that was occupying a space much too large for its minuscule dimensions) so I could fit my backpack in.

Once seated, this was the view out the window.
There are at least 7 long haul aircraft in this shot.

While Taxiing out first we passed this Emirates A380

Then we passed this Singapore Airlines A380.
As this was a few days after the QF32 incident at Singapore I
later learned this aircraft was being recalled to Singapore
for checks on it's engines.

Soon the doors were shut and our full load was on it's way too OOL. We taxied all the way to 34R which is the furthest runway from anywhere all the way out in the middle of Botany Bay.

After driving all the way out to the middle of Botany Bay
we had to wait while this Qantas 737 landed before lining
up for take off.

Take off was accompanied by screaming kids, but otherwise the flight was pretty unremarkable. I enjoyed watching the scenery out the window the whole way. We had an interesting view of Sydney's eastern suburbs and flew out to sea for some way before coming back inland from somewhere on the Central Coast.

Climbing out over Bondi Junction and past Bondi Beach.

Passing overhead Watsons Bay.

North Coast of NSW. I think this is Forster.

We touched down on runway 14 at OOL after a scenic approach past Surfers Paradise. This time the women behind me nattered through the whole thing. Myself I like to sit back and take in the experience, rather than talk. Each to their own I guess.

Approaching Coolangatta, past the high rises of Surfers Paradise.

Passing Broadbeach, you can see where I stayed in Feb 2009.
The shiny gold building glinting in the sun is Conrad Jupiters Casino.

Gold Coast urban sprawl.

Burleigh heads.

Houses close to the runway. I bet they have a great view of the
ocean and of course the passing aircraft.
Touchdown! On the runway.

On de planing the first thing I did was have a bit of a look around the terminal as the last time I was here it was still under renovation. It really is quite a big airport now. Having found a toilet and relieved myself I could now concentrate on my main mission. The mission being that I promised myself I would walk over to the beach. So I followed my nose across the car park and across the highway to the beach.

Not really beach weather. Looking North.

Looking South.

The beach was deserted other than myself and the surf life
saver looking after the water between these flags.

These trucks are shifting sand around the beach.

I remember reading about this in 2009. All the sand builds up
here because they dredge the entrance to the Tweed River just
behind the headland in the background. The sand builds up here
and ruins the famous Kirra surf break which is approximately
where the trucks are working further down the beach.

Getting back to the terminal I was somewhat hot and sweaty, so after passing security I sat down and enjoyed the air conditioning for a few minutes.

From memory my flight back to Sydney was formed by an arrival from Newcastle. I didn't see it arrive as it was at the farthest bay which is hard to see from the terminal. Judging by the number of people around this flight would have considerably fewer people on board.

Gate ?? The leftmost one?
STD 1115 ATD ?
STA 1345 STD ?
seat 9A

It's an engine. Trying not to think about what happened to
QF32 a few days before. I would not like to be sitting next an
engine when fan blades start flying about.

After the short walk across the apron I could see I was about to board VH-VQL. I was quite pleased to see a light load, and the middle seat in my row remained free. It was apparent that many of the other passengers were connecting from the A330 which had arrived from either Tokyo Narita or Osaka Kansai earlier that morning.

We seem to be sharing the apron with only one other aircraft, a
Virgin Blue 737-700.

With the Virgin Blue 737 gone, we can now see a Jetstar A330
about to return to Japan.

Going out the same way we came in.

Somewhere in NSW. The southbound flight went a lot
further inland than the northbound flight did.

This time we took off on 32, retracing my tracks back past Surfers. Again this was a quiet flight, and once again I enjoyed the scenery pass by out the window. I particularly enjoyed the approach into Sydney for a landing on 34R, as it is not an approach I've done before. We came in from the north over the Hawkesbury River and across Sydney's northern beaches heading out to sea overhead Manly. I was on the wrong side to see any harbour/city views, but it was still good. Eventually we turned around and landed on 34R the same runway I departed from earlier in the day. After a long taxi we docked at gate 56.

The Hawkesbury River

Sydney's Northern beach suburbs.

A lone cloud.

Overhead Manly.

On final passing the beaches near Kurnell and Cronulla.

On the runway and slowing down (hopefully) with everything hanging out.

Leading edge slats at the front, spoilers on top, and unseen
at the rear of the wing the flaps will be fully extended.

Reverse thrust? Check.

The black grid at the rear of the engine are the ducts that
direct the thrust forward when the engine cowling
slides back to produce reverse thrust.

At the gate. Next door is a Qantaslink Q400.

A closer look reveals it is VH-QOB, which I
later flew on in February 2011.

This was the my big break of the day, I had a few hours to get some lunch, take a rest, and just watch some planes for a while. I made my way to food court and had some food and then I wandered down the Virgin side of the terminal and sat in the lounge at the end overlooking the airport. It is here I noticed but totally discounted the clouds building to the west. Eventually it was time to move to gate 35 for my next flight, DJ654 to Canberra.

My ride from ool to syd, VH-VQL again.

On checking I found out that I had previously flown on
this aircraft in August 2008
from Melbourne to Launceston.

A Virgin Blue 737-800 at the gate in Sydney.

Virgin Blue
Gate 35
STD 1535 ATD 16 something
STA 1430 ATA 1715
E 170
seat 9F

That's my plane. The jungle jet that will take me to
Canberra. The bald man is the chief
cabin crew member on the flight.

Then it began to rain, and there was thunder and lighting, and
somebody's bag got wet.

Sitting in the gate lounge I noticed the dark clouds gathering and realised it was about to rain. Boarding went ahead on schedule and we were all settled in and almost ready to go when we were informed that a thunderstorm was passing over the airfield and that all activity on the apron was suspended. Sure enough the guys loading the luggage all sought shelter, leaving the convener in place. After a few minutes a passenger nearer to the front rang the call bell. He told the cabin crew that he could see his bags had been left beside the conveyor and were getting very wet. The captain then came back and spoke to the passenger before returning to a locker at the front of the aircraft and donning a fluro yellow raincoat. Out the window I saw the captain retrieve the bags and take them away under cover with the rest of the yet to be loaded baggage. On returning to the aircraft the captain was quite visibly angry about the situation, and suggested that the passenger make a complaint. Cudos to the captain as that sort of thing is not really his responsibility.

Looking a bit brighter, maybe we can go soon?

Our departure time came and went and the storm still hadn't cleared. By now I was stressing about not making my connection in Canberra, it was a tight one with only half an hour between arriving and departing flights. I was considering asking to be let off, but I stayed, hoping we would go soon. Eventually the lightning cleared and activity on the apron resumed. We took off well after 4pm. I was hoping that my outbound flight from Canberra was delayed too.

Glad to be in the air again.

The E170 landed at about 1715 and docked at one of the aerobridges. At an adjacent gate to us there was a 737 that I was really hoping was my flight to Melbourne. Unfortunately this was not the case, it was going to Sydney. As my flights were on separate itineraries I was doubtful whether Virgin Blue would do anything other than issue a new ticket at great financial cost. So I set about finding internet access in order to weigh up the options, one of which was hiring a car and driving back to Melbourne. Alas this was during the dying days of the old terminal and there was no working internet kiosks or wifi available. So in the end I approached the Virgin Blue service desk.

Really I was a bit embarrassed about my situation and was reluctant to say why I'd missed my flight, although when I handed over my boarding pass and they checked my booking, they knew straight away. Much to my surprise they said it was a mis-connect (even though it was two very separate bookings) and offered to rebook me and waive the fare difference. I was however re-routed via Sydney as the flight I was meant to be on was the last flight of the evening to Melbourne. All I had to do was pay the $50 change fee. I was extremely grateful. The bonus for me was that I got to fly an extra leg.

One last shot of "Little Miss Sunshine Coast" the E170 that
flew me down to Canberra.

Once again this is a double for me, having flown on this
same aircraft in March 2010 between Canberra and Sydney.

Virgin Blue
Gate ?
STD 1900 ATD ?
STA 1940 ATA ?
E 170
seat 13C

The one problem with being stranded at Canberra right before the new terminal was to open was that there was virtually nothing to eat or drink in the old terminal, even less than usual. I was looking forward to getting to Sydney's T2 and wider selection of food. After watching what seems like and endless stream of Qantas 737s departing and arriving, DJ669 to Sydney was eventually called for boarding.

It really did seem like there were a lot of Qantas 737s
coming and going while I was waiting. This is one of them.

A dash 8 Q400 on the runway.

My saviour, another E170. Ironically after proclaiming my love for
these aircraft Virgin Blue has begun withdrawing them from service.

They are being replaced with ATR72 turboporps from around April
I believe. It's not all bad as Virgin Blue is still taking delivery
of the larger E190 which are just as nice to fly on.

I was glad to see another E 170 at the gate, the E jets are fast becoming my favourite aircraft to fly on. This would be my 3rd flight on an E 170, and I've previously had two E 190 flights. I was in 13C, my first time in an aisle seat all day, but by this stage I didn't really care. Compared to the last flight I was super relaxed and think I managed to nod off for a few minutes, between catching views of the sunset through the large window to my left (even though there was one occupied seat between me and said window, try doing that on a 737!). All too soon we landed on 34L and taxied into gate 33.

Dinner time! I went straight to the food court to get something to eat, not that the selection is very good, certainly better than Canberra though. Tried to find a table near the window, but all the seats were taken or people had left all their rubbish behind. Actually the place was a mess. Clearly the cleaners had their job cut out for them.

Heading back to gate 32 where I thought my next flight, DJ 894 to Melbourne, was departing from I noticed it was no longer listed. Just as I began looking for a departures screen an announcement was made about the gate change to gate 31 opposite.

Virgin Blue
Gate 32
STD 2115 ATD ?
STA 2245 ATA ?
seat 15F

My sixth and final (and unplanned) flight for the day.
Virgin Blue's 737-800 VH-VOM to take me home.

It was a full gate lounge again, and I managed to find a seat far away from the door. Once again a massive line formed well before boarding. I'm not sure why people are so keen, all seats are pre allocated and the flight will still only go on time. I waited a long, long time for the line to go down before joining it. I say line but there was a time when it deteriorated into a scrum about ten people wide, with many more experienced looking travellers seeming to just cut the line completely. It was When I boarded it was apparent just how full this flight was. I was lucky enough (or not as it turns out) to score an exit row window, but as space in the overhead compartment was non existant by the time I got on I reluctantly took my bag to my seat knowing I would get pulled up for it in an exit row.

Now I'm not sure what the correct etiquette for exit rows is, but the two suits already occupying the row refused to stand, and so I blundered on through to my seat. I tripped on the first suits foot and landed with full force on the second suits foot. I would have thought it was polite to stand up and let someone in, but then that would mean putting down your iPhone for 30 seconds, and we can't do that, can we? Looking back I was probably quite tired and emotional by that stage, which is probably why I tripped, but I still don't think that excuses these men from standing up to let someone in .

Eventually the flight attendant came around checking things and noticed my bag (and that of the man next to me I might add). I can't recall where she put it, but I know it was no where near where I was sitting. As the flight attendant went through the emergency exit safety drill it appeared that the more experienced fliers around me were totally ignoring her instructions and continued swiping at their iPhones. Again during the general safety demo no one around me was watching, just swiping their fingers around on their screens. If anything it is a courtesy to watch even if you've heard it a thousand times before. Besides I don't want some dope who doesn't pay attention to be the difference between myself, friends or family getting out of an otherwise survivable event. Again the suit on the aisle kept his iPhone on the whole flight, including during take off and landing.

I guess I needed to rant about that. The rest of the flight was pretty good. Although the guy next to me didn't look too well. I'm sure it wasn't a broken foot though. He spent most of the flight with his head between his knees though, which isn't a good sign.

I have no idea what runway we landed on, as I was totally beyond it by now. We landed a little bit ahead of the scheduled time of 2245. Being a rather quiet night that would be expected. On disembarkation I was one of the last off due to being in the middle of the plane and found my backpack in an overhead bin somewhere towards the front. Within minutes I was on the bus to the car park.

Driving home was pretty bad however as I got caught in the road works on the Western Ring Road, in theory the journey should have been just as quick as that morning, but I walked in the door just after midnight.