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Pacific Aerial Adventures: A travel guide for the aviation enthusiast

By Colin Saunders
June 21, 2001

Join us as we fly from Japan to New Zealand with Thai Airways.

My wife and I have been avid travelers for about a decade now. Thanks to irresponsible credit card usage, we managed to see a lot of Europe during our university days. Like so many other people, we discovered that travelling is just about the greatest thing a person can do in life. In fact, the travel bug bit us so deeply that we began to explore ways of spending an extended amount of time overseas. Luckily for us, a chance encounter with a former expatriate led to a job application, and soon we were packing for a move to Japan. That was a little more than three years ago. Since then, we have led a good life in the Land of the Rising Sun. However, as fun as life can be in this exotic country, sometimes we find ourselves ripe for a little get away.

The Japanese affinity for travel is well known. Because of this, direct airline service is available from Japan’s international airports to many of Austral-Asia’s most popular destinations. Contrary to what is expected, airfares from Japan are (often) quite reasonable. With so much intense competition from so many airlines, it is often possible to find a cut-rate ticket on a top-quality carrier.

We settled on Thai Airways, flying from Osaka Kansai, for our Christmas 2000 vacation in New Zealand. Thai received the nod partly because we were impressed with their TV commercials that promised “legendary service”, and partly because Air New Zealand wanted twice as much for their Nagoya-Auckland flight. Of course, we did not want to miss the opportunity to add another Asian hub to our “been there” list of airports, and Bangkok was too exotic a locale to pass by.

Our home in Toyota City (yes, that Toyota) is four hours by train to Osaka Kansai International, so we were forced to get up at 3:30 to make our 11 a.m. flight. That hardship was offset (somewhat) by the chance to ride one of Japan's famous Shinkansen, what we English speakers call “The Bullet Train.” The Japanese name for it is far less exciting: Shinkansen simply means “new trunk line.”

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Photo © Kazutaka Yagi

Kansai International Airport is justifiably famous for several reasons: A prominent French architect designed the place; it is on an artificial island; it was horrifically expensive to build; it is sinking. Kansai is a spacious and comfortable airport and it is easy to pass through without too many hassles. However, all of Kansai’s comforts and conveniences come at a price. In order to recoup construction and operating costs the airport authority charges the second highest landing fees in the world ($7500 US for a 747). The airport also has what may be the planet’s highest “facility charge” at about $21 per person. The authorities could reduce their costs by laying off the young ladies who show departing passengers how to use the turnstiles that read departure cards. Thankfully, the management assumes that people can figure out the toilets for themselves.

The fact that Kansai airport has excess capacity and is $4 billion in the red has not prevented the national government from beginning construction on a second runway. Both the international and domestic airlines that serve Kansai have tried, unsuccessfully, to scuttle the second runway project. There is widespread concern that the airport authority will increase the already high landing fees to pay for the new runway. The government argues that Kansai needs the additional capacity, and that the expansion will attract new services. However, the opposite is taking place. British Airways has ceased flying to Osaka and even stalwart Northwest Airlines recently cancelled three of its services to the city. Other airlines have been scaling back operations by cutting frequency or switching to smaller aircraft.

Kansai Airport is facing another major problem: Osaka Bay. The airport sits on an artificial island made of reclaimed land (read: mud) about one kilometer offshore. Unfortunately, the soil under the facility is not as strong as engineers had at first thought, and the airport is settling much more quickly than was anticipated. The architect’s design allowed for some sinking, but the countermeasures system has used up twenty years worth of “give” in only two years. In the near future Kansai International may become the world’s only submarine airport.

For now, Kansai is a pleasant place to sit in front of very large windows and watch airplanes go by. Interesting visitors on December 19 included a Fair CRJ-200, a Vietnam Airlines 767-300 and a JAS A300-600R in their “near Airbus house colors” scheme.

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Thai 773 -TKE
Photo © Craig Murray

Thai Airways operates the A330-300 and both 777 variants into Osaka. Our flight was on board a brand-new 777-300 (HS-TKE). The aircraft looked massive parked between an All Nippon Airways 767-300 on one side and a JAL DC-10 on the other. Boeing’s 777-300 is the world’s longest airliner (until the A340-600 enters service) and it is the epitome of the “flying tube” school of design. But what a tube! Once on board we noted that the aircraft actually smelled new. As we walked down the long aisle to our seats in row 52, we could not help but replay the Thai Airways TV commercials in our heads. We expected that Thai’s newest airliner would be equipped at least as well as those flown by Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, the co-kings of Asian airlines. We were wrong.

Of all the long-haul aircraft we have flown on, TKE was the most poorly equipped. The seats were of average quality and comfort, the legroom was restrictive (I’m 185 cm, 6’ 1”), and the video screens were overhead, in the aisles. Singapore Airlines offers toothbrushes, combs, shaving supplies and cologne in the lavatory: Thai Airways did not even equip their lavs with soap.

We set aside our disappointment once the aircraft began to push back. Over the intercom the steward was welcoming us aboard, and I noted with pleasure that “777” in the Thai language is “jet jet jet.” A light rain had been falling for some time, and as we approached the northern threshold, those of us in seat K could see down the length of the runway. In keeping with the season, it was lit up like a Christmas tree. We held short, awaiting an arriving aircraft. Soon a Fed Ex MD-11 landed in a shower of water spray (from the rain, not the sinking) and when it had cleared the runway we turned right and lined up. Within a few seconds, the acceleration pushed us into our seats as the massive Rolls Royce Trent turbofans spooled up to over ninety thousand pounds of awe-inspiring thrust.

The 777 is my favorite long-haul airliner for a few reasons. First among them is the takeoff run. No other large aircraft feels as fast as a 777 as it hurls down a runway. The view out the window on takeoff is spectacular. Once the 777’s big wings have enough air under them, they curve upward with a grace worthy of ballet.

We lifted off just before we reached the cargo facility located at the south end of the airport property. As we climbed away I craned my neck to view a Nippon Cargo Airlines 747-200F, a Lufthansa 747-200F and an Antonov An-124 Ruslan with its jaw agape. Or was that my jaw?

The first leg of our journey was uneventful, but our flight path was quite interesting. We took off on a southerly heading, but we circled the airport to gain altitude before flying over Shikoku, the smallest of the Japanese home islands. Taiwan was our first landfall after leaving Japan and we flew directly over Taipei. We then turned slightly west and headed toward northern Vietnam and Laos before reaching Bangkok, our first transit point. As I looked down on the lush green hills of Vietnam, strange thoughts went through my mind. Although we were about thirty years too late to see B-52s or SAM trails, I must admit that I felt a little uneasy flying in such close proximity to Hanoi.

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Bangkok photo
Photo © Colin Saunders

Bangkok’s Don Muang International is one of the most interesting airports in the world. It may not have an exciting approach like old Kai Tak, and it certainly is not as nice as Singapore’s Chiangi terminal. However, I will wager that it is the only airport in the world with a golf course sandwiched between two runways. As I looked on in utter disbelief, one golfer teed off while another sunk his putt, despite the distraction.

If you enjoy being close to airliners, Bangkok’s airport is the place to go. Unlike Kansai, Don Muang is quite old and is a very busy place. Consequently, most passengers take a bus to and from aircraft parked at remote stands. In our case, we disembarked in front of the Thai Cargo hangar and rode our bus down the length of the airport. Despite the heat of the day, I did not mind a bit. We passed by row after row of every Airbus, Boeing, and Douglas product that is still in commercial service, plus a number of ATRs and Fokkers. Luckily, all of Thai Airway’s special livery aircraft were on hand that day, including the “Royal Dragon Boat” 747-400 and A330-300 and the Star Alliance A300.

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Thai special scheme 744
Photo © Craig Murray

Bangkok turned out to be spotting heaven, but not just because of the airplanes. The absolute best thing about Bangkok’s airport is the massage parlor. For $10US, you can have a thirty-minute foot and leg massage while reclining in front of large picture windows that overlook the runways. Sometimes life is just pure hell.

Sydney was the next stop on our three-legged journey. Our flying time from Osaka to Bangkok was six hours and thirty minutes, but the hop to Sydney took eleven hours. This time we flew aboard 777-300 HS-TKF, just as new as TKE, and just as poorly equipped. We can say one good thing about Thai Airways’ in-flight product: they were showing movies that had not yet appeared in theatres.

Our new route was straightforward: we made a beeline for Sydney via an over flight of Indonesia and most of Australia, including Ularu (also known as Ayres Rock). Although I am fond of the 777’s wing, I must admit that seeing an Australian Outback sunset through the window was also quite spectacular.

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Thai 773-TKF
Photo © Eric Phan

Sydney’s airport received a makeover in time for the Olympics, and it is a nice place to wait for your onward flight. It is also a great place to spot upstart airlines like Virgin Blue and Impulse Airways, both of which made an appearance during our one-hour layover. Firmly in the “wow” category were an Emirates 777-200 in the “Dubai Shopping” scheme, an Air Pacific 767-300 and the Qantas “Wunala Dreaming” 747-400. Photos of the latter do not come close to capturing the beauty of its amazing paint scheme.

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Wunala Dreaming
Photo © Craig Murray

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Air Pac 763
Photo © Colin Saunders

If you find that your time in Sydney is limited, you need not fret. Taking off from Kingsford-Smith airport allows you to see the city’s three most famous sites. No sooner had the landing gear retracted than we were over the city’s famous harbor. Within the confines of our window, we spotted the Olympic village, the Harbor Bridge, and the Opera House. After those impressive sights faded in the distance, there was nothing below us but a turbulent Tasman Sea.

To dispel any false notions, New Zealand is far away from everywhere, including Australia. Three hours after leaving Sydney, and after twenty hours and thirty minutes in the air, we finally arrived in Auckland, much to the relief of our backsides, and my nose. The talkative man sitting beside me had a world-class case of halitosis.

New Zealand’s only metropolis is a lovely place to spend time. Nicknamed “The City of Sails”; Auckland must have more square yards of canvas afloat than anywhere else. Someone said that there are 2,500 sailboats in the harbor, and we had no trouble believing them. One can see everything from the smallest Lasers to 300-foot long yachts, plus a lot of America’s Cup racing boats thrown in for good measure.

Speaking of the America’s Cup, if you are a yacht-racing fan, Auckland is the place to go. The headquarters and boathouses of each of the contending teams are within viewing distance of the city’s nautical museum. Plus, just in front of that museum is NZL40, an America’s Cup training yacht that we mere mortals can crew and sail for only NZ$70. That may seem pricey, considering you have to do all the (harder than you think it’s going to be) work, but it is definitely worth it just for the chance to literally cut through the water on a ten million-dollar yacht. NZL40 is the Stealth Bomber of the yacht world, and it has as much titanium and carbon fiber as the American hardware.

As nice as the Auckland waterfront is, we did find some time to visit MOTAT, the Museum of Transportation and Telecommunication. MOTAT has two parts, a run-down looking agriculture/transport/telecommunications museum, and an aviation hangar just downwind from the Auckland Zoo.

We spent about ten minutes at the main site, which was precisely as long as we had to wait for the vintage electric tram to arrive and take us to the hangar. The aviation facility is small, but it is full of gems. Among them is the sole surviving Shorts Solent flying boat, a Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk, and a V-1 “Doodlebug” flying bomb. Displayed along with those are an Avro Lancaster, a Fairey Swordfish and a deHavilland Dragon Rapide.

The immaculate Solent is in the colors of Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL), Air New Zealand’s predecessor. The flying boat dominates the small hangar. It is so big that it can’t be photographed without going over to the zoo and standing on the monkey cage (not recommended).

Volunteers have restored the interior of the Solent to its former glory, and the “economy” section of the 1940’s airliner (as seen through the windows) appears vastly superior to what some of today’s carriers have on offer. However, our three-hour flight across the Tasman Sea took the lumbering Solent eight and a half-hours, so it’s clear that some advances have been made during the past fifty years.

Those who head out the back door of the hangar will find the Solent’s military cousin, the Shorts Sunderland. Behind it is a yellow and black Lockheed Vega. Both aircraft have seen better days and are in the queue for restoration. However, the museum has few funds, and so it will be several more years before these aircraft are covered, let alone restored.

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Qantas NZ Bae 146
Photo © Frank Schaefer

Since we wanted to spend as much time as possible touring New Zealand, we elected to fly to the South Island rather than take the much slower ferry. Luckily, we found a very reasonable airfare on (recently bankrupted) Qantas New Zealand. We arrived at the tiny Qantas domestic terminal and checked-in for our BAe-146 flight to Christchurch, the biggest city on New Zealand’s South Island. Of far more interest to us than the impending flight was the total lack of airport security. No metal detectors, no x-rays, not even a security guard. A Kiwi later explained that New Zealanders are not in the habit of offending terrorist groups, so there is no need for security checks on internal flights. Amazing! Wonderful! Naïve?

If you want to find the action in New Zealand, head to the South Island. Even people in the north ask, “Why aren’t you in the South?” To make a big island small, the South is beautiful, clean, green and empty (remember that we live in Japan). The island’s roads are as twisty as a pretzel, but for no apparent reason. Nature abhors a vacuum, and it seems that Kiwis dislike straight lines.

My wife had laid on a slew of activities for us to enjoy in and around the spectacular scenery of the South Island. To be brief, within two weeks we swam with 300 dolphins, we eco-hiked through rain forests, we spelunked through caves, we clambered over glaciers and we drifted over plains in a hot air balloon. If you see someone yawning in the South, it is not out of boredom.

While we were visiting Christchurch, we made sure to visit Air Force World. This museum resides on the flight line of what was RNZAF Wigram. The former base is now a new suburb populated by computer programmers: Plowshares and all that.

I have never been one to drop names, but as I paid our admission fee to the Air Force sergeant manning the entrance, I could not resist. “I’m a member of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society”, I told him. Sergeant “Barf” (no kidding) Bosher was so impressed with my aviation credentials that he took us on his “VIP tour.”

The tour was OK, if you like crawling around inside Canberra bombers, Hudson patrol planes and Avenger dive-bombers. Some people would have been impressed with the cockpit of the Vampire or the cabin of the Andover: I was speechless! It was all happening so fast that I had a hard time absorbing what I was seeing. I am left with impressions only, such as the Avenger’s massive interior, the cross-cabin wing spar of the Hudson, and the mass of gauges in the Vampire’s cockpit.

Lockheed Hudson cockpit.
Photo copyright Colin Saunders.

After recovering from all the excitement, we re-entered the museum proper for a look at the rest of the exhibits. To their great credit, the men and women of Air Force World have done a lot with few resources. Many of their aircraft are set in dioramas and the effects are very impressive. The most poignant display in the museum is the wrecked fuselage of a Douglas SBD Helldiver. The aircraft is set up exactly as it was found in a South Pacific jungle, including the palm trees.

Since New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world, it would not have been proper to leave the country without risking life and limb at least once. Therefore, after we returned to the North Island (where tempting fate is cheaper) we headed toward Lake Taupo to “jump out of a perfectly good aircraft.”

Like many people, I had always wanted to try skydiving. However, I had never actually taken any steps to achieve my goal, beyond verifying that skydiving is indeed a Yellow Pages category. Skydiving seems like a good idea, until you try to fall asleep the night before taking the plunge.

The people at Taupo Tandem Skydiving looked too young to take me drinking, let alone free falling. This put me off quite a bit. Luckily for me, a Californian couple applied some laid-back attitude on me and they got my heart rate down to 170 or so. It is truly amazing how resigned you become to your own death when you think that you might be staring at it.

The tandem jump process is remarkably straightforward. You meet your jumper, he asks your weight, you put on a jumpsuit and harness, and then you get in the aircraft (an Australian GAF Nomad) and sit between your jumper’s legs. On the way up I was told to put my head on my jumper’s left shoulder, grab the harness with my hands and contort myself into a banana-like pose during the free-fall.

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GAF Nomad
Photo © Chris Waser

As my jumper, Mal, and I were the last people to get on the plane, we had the pleasure of sitting beside the open door all the way to 12,000 feet. “Don’t worry about falling out,” he shouted over the engine noise, “I never forget to bring my parachute.”

I have seen enough war movies to know that when the green light stays on, it is time to go. I was totally at Mal’s mercy, since he had me sitting on his lap. When he swung his legs out the door, mine went into the slipstream too. After one quick snapshot for posterity (or identification of the remains), he lunged forward. That is exactly when I started screaming like a little girl.

Our free fall lasted for 45 seconds, from 12,000 feet to 4,000 feet. After about 20 seconds of non-stop wailing, I noticed that I hadn’t taken a breath since before leaving the plane. You might think that breathing would be effortless at our free-fall speed of 270 km/h, but I am certain that the air was leaving my lungs at 280 km/h.

As the ground came rushing up, I tried to enjoy the view. For some reason, I took more comfort in looking straight down. Looking at the mountains on the horizon was distracting me from my goal of getting on the ground as quickly as possible, but not too fast, if you catch my drift. Just as I began to enjoy the sensation of falling, Mal decided to put us into a very fast spin. We were in the spin long enough for me to think that it was not a part of the plan. However, he managed to get us stopped just before I tried out my seagull impression.

Shortly after we stopped spinning I felt a slight tug from behind and I was surprised that the parachute opened so gently. About a second later I realized that whatever I had felt certainly was not the parachute. When the ‘chute did open it seemed like God had reached down to give us a good yank. Suddenly I attained enlightenment: I knew why the leg straps were so damned tight.

My pre-jump anxiety was based largely on the parachute not opening. When it did, I felt a wave of relief. That relief was fleeting, though, for as soon as it open we began flying aerobatics like an Extra 300 on speed. In case you need to know, it is possible to stand a parachute on its wingtip.

The descent from 4,000 feet to the ground took another four minutes. The landing was every bit as spectacular as the rest of the jump, with a steep descent and then a flare-out four feet off the ground. Because I was taller than Mal, he landed on his feet and I landed…in a sitting position. Really, it was a height thing.

My wife, who was not scared in the least, came in a few seconds later. She is a kind and sensitive woman, but I guess all the wind noise had plugged her ears a bit. When she said, “My God, your face is GREEN!” she probably did not mean to shout.

Two days later we were back at Auckland International, sitting on the very same 777-300 that brought us there. Our return journey was the same as our outbound flight, minus the foot massage. Fifteen hours after leaving Auckland we arrived in Bangkok, where we found that the airport is actually a run-down, crowded and boring place to spend time when it’s dark and you are tired and out of money. Alas, when we arrived in Osaka the next morning we realized that we would rather be back in Bangkok airport than in cold, gray Japan. Such is life.

We have been fortunate enough to visit many countries over the past several years, but we have come to think of New Zealand as our favorite. It is a wonderful place to visit, and the people are as friendly as they come. We would heartily recommend a visit to The Land Of The Long White Cloud when your next vacation rolls around. I recommend the skydiving too. As for Thai Airways, they had an opportunity to live up to their claims of legendary service, but they fell far short. For trips to and within Asia, it is hard to beat Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways, airlines that live up to expectations. They also put soap in the lavatories.

Written by
Colin Saunders

Colin Saunders is a freelance aviation writer and marketing consultant. In July he and his wife, Tatiana, will leave Japan for new horizons. Colin is interested in finding a PR, marketing or management position in the airline or aviation industries at home in Canada, or abroad. He can be reached at colinsensei@hotmail.com

31 User Comments:
Username: Luzezito [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-22 09:28:13 and read 32768 times.

It had been a while since the last article was posted. It has been worth waiting.
I guess some people are gifted for writing interesting stories and as far as I am concerned, you Colin are one of them.
If you writing talent is as good as your working skills and if I were an airline HR manager, I would not hesitate to hire you. Also perhaps because my girlfriend's name is Tatiana, just as your wife's!

Username: Colinsensei [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-22 10:28:32 and read 32768 times.

Thank you very much for your kind comments! With inspiration like that, it's easy to write these articles.


Username: SQA340 [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-22 13:18:41 and read 32768 times.


That was some story. I never made it out to the Pacific yet. You made NZ sound intresting although I will pass on the skydiving though.

Anywho do keep it up with your writings,


Username: Flyingblind [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-23 03:52:33 and read 32768 times.

that was a great article! Your descriptions were awesome, I could picture everything in my mind! keep up the good work.

Username: Jsmith [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-23 04:01:14 and read 32768 times.


Thanks for your article! I too had a very disappointing flight on Thai last year from Melbourne to Bangkok - and yes, it was on a "new" 777-300.

The 9 hour flight on HS-TKB was uncomfortable to say the least. The seats were very narrow and the lack of leg room under the seat in front was astonishing for such a new aircraft. My seat's headrest was broken so the unit was 'dangling' downwards. Also no seat back videos as you mentioned. You would not think that you were flying on a modern new aircraft at all.

My continuing flight to London was via Frankfurt and the Thai MD11 flight from BKK to FRA was 10 times more comfortable - at least I had adequate leg room, even though the aircraft was 10 + years older.

I wrote to Thai upon my return to Australia and commented on the 777 flight and how surprised I was to find no personal entertainment units onboard and how uncomfortable the seats were considering the type of aircraft being used.

The airline's response was, as you might expect, one of regret, and their only comment about the lack of individual entertainment units in economy class was - "at present we only have these installed for our first and business class passengers". Hardly what you might expect from an Asian carrier competing against the likes of Singapore, Cathay and Malaysian for example.

No wonder Thai are thinking of leaving the Star Alliance. With Singapore Airlines now a member, I would not fly Thai where there was a choice within the Star Alliance group!


James Smith

Username: Jet_guy [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-23 05:02:04 and read 32768 times.

Thank you very much on those kind words of the country I can proudly call home!!!


Username: Airbusfreak [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-23 11:55:34 and read 32768 times.

Excellent Article. Very well written with beatifull descriptions. My congratulations. One of the best articles i have read. :-))

Username: Diabolik [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-25 16:33:49 and read 32768 times.

Great Article!

One little detail though: Kansai was designed by Renzo Piano, an Italian.


Username: Colinsensei [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-25 16:48:26 and read 32768 times.

Hmm...Interesting about Mr. Piano. I was sure it was a Frenchman. Sorry about the error, but thanks all for the compliments and comments.


Username: CYVR_man [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-26 03:52:19 and read 32768 times.

Awsome article!

Being a really young enthusiast, my dream of travelling the world I hope will one day come true. It's articles like yours that make me dream those dreams.

While I was reading this, the sights and images that you described were entering my mind as clear as the sky. New Zealand is now a place that has made my list of places I want to visit.

Thanks for the great article! I hope I see much more of them to come.

Oh, by the way: SIA will forever be my favourite. Unless.. of course, if they stop offering those toothbrushes. =)


Username: Colinsensei [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-26 04:49:33 and read 32768 times.

Hi Wes,

I'm very happy to inspire you! To tell you the truth, my travel bug came from my ninth grade history teacher. He didn't just tell us about ancient places, he showed us his photos and shared his memories of them. His enthusiasm for travel was infectious, to say the least. Since then I've visited 20 countries, and I've been living in Japan for the past three years.

Traveling is one of the best things you'll ever do for yourself. There are so many incredible places to visit that you'd better plan a lot of vacations. New Zealand is fantastic, and the people are genuinely friendly. Several times people just came up to us and asked how our trip was going, and if they could help us in any way. I suppose we looked like tourists...

As for SIA, they're my favorite too, though Cathay Pacific would tie them if their flight attendants were a little warmer.

Good luck with your future travels. Remember, more school = more money = more travel!


Username: Colinsensei [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-26 07:30:19 and read 32768 times.

Hello again

Sorry about the garbage in the text above. I am using a Japanese computer so it does not like contractions.

Thanks to Tony for pointing out to me that,

One hangs a shirt on a hanger. One parks an aircraft in a hangar.

I am working on getting that fixed.



Username: Airnewzealand [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-27 11:28:40 and read 32768 times.

Hey Colin,
I would just like to thankyou for writing such a great article, and i am looking forward to hearing more of your trips you have taken.

Like you i would love to work in the Airline business, but as a Flight Attendant instead!!

I would also liek to thankyou for saying such great things about the country i live in; New Zealand. I also think it is the most beautiful place in the world, though i think Canada and Switzerland will come close!!

I was wondering, Have you flown Air NewZealand?? If not you will be blown away, they are truly a magnificent airline. The PTV's are coming in SEP, so this is going to put up even more compitition with SQ. They are currently actually betting SQ in service and product offered in the southern hemisphere region!

Well have a great day, and i hope you fly AirZN one day, and enjoy there quality service and like you said about the NZ people, that we are friendly, you should see our Air Stewards and Air Stewardesses on AirNZ. They are Fantastc...

Sorry, have one more question to ask you, what season did you come in?? Also did you visit my favourite place in The North Island, Rotorua?? What did you think of it if you did??

Have a great day,
And once again, thanks for the great trip report!

:):):):):):)AirNZ: The Worlds warmest welcome!!:):):):):):):)

Username: Colinsensei [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-27 14:47:48 and read 32768 times.

Hi Mikey,

Thanks for your kind words.

No, I've never flown AirNZ. I would love to try them, but every time I check fares they are always the most expensive. Although I will pay a bit more to fly on a better airline, I won't pay 60 to 80% more!

We were in NZ over last Christmas. We arrived December 20 and left January 7. We didn't get to Rotorua this time, but there's always next time. We will definitely be visiting New Zealand again.

Good luck with your bid to join Air NZ.


Username: Super80 [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-28 18:05:28 and read 32768 times.

I really enjoyed your trip details!! Being only 18, my travel experiences have mostly been in the US except for one trip to Europe. With that trip, I have the urge to want to travel all around the world and experience different cultures. Anyhow, hopefully after college I will have the chance to do this. Just curious, but what cruise altitude did the 777/3 fly at ?? Thanks

Username: Colinsensei [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-29 02:53:18 and read 32768 times.

I think we were at about 33000 feet.

Username: Trintocan [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-29 11:05:26 and read 32768 times.

A lovely article indeed, well written and beautifully flowing. Colin this was truly a pleasure to read and is great inspiration for me to write my next trip report, which should appear soon.

A brilliant article indeed. The Far East is a place which has always captivated me and I eventully hope to visit there.


Username: ZK-NBT [User Info]
Posted 2001-06-29 12:31:17 and read 32768 times.

Colin that was an awesome article!!!
New Zealand really is a great place and i can proudly call it home. For some reason though I have not been to the South Island can't wait to go there maybe this year or next.
Anyway I am pleased you loved it and want to come back again!!!

Thank you for writing!

Regards Scott Auckland NZ!

Username: Airhead [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-03 08:57:49 and read 32768 times.

Thanks for the lovely article Colin! It makes me very proud to be a Kiwi. I'm glad that you found New Zealand a lovely place. I haven't been to the South Island yet. Its probably too cold for me at the moment, its freezing in the morning here in Auckland. (We are in Winter at the moment)

I have flown on Air New Zealand and I would have to say they are lovely. I don't know how their legroom compares to other airlines, but it was plenty for me.

Again, I'm glad you enjoyed New Zealand and have fun if you come here next time!

Username: Pacificjourney [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-04 14:28:50 and read 32768 times.

Really enjoyed your article Collin. Travel writing isn't normally my thing but you are good and clearly a man who loves his planes !

I also live in Japan and go to NZ at least once a year. Normally at peak times like you did and I have always found Air NZ competitive with anything else available to say nothing of it being direct and comfortable. I use World Travel Direct and get my tickets online which also avoids the inevitable teeth sucking and head shaking and long waiting list line of bull from Japanese travel agents.

I also share your dispare at Japanese airports. Why have an automated boarding pass reader installed if you then employ 3 or 4 flunkies to ' help ' you use it ?

A tip for air travel in NZ. The ferry trip is nice and scenic but if you really want to fly try the ' Sky Ferry ' airline between Wellington and Picton on the South Island. Brittan Norman Islanders I think at the same price as the boat but in only 25 minutes. It is real basic stuff including a seat next to the pilot if you are quick and a 20 lecture on how that baby works and perhaps even some ' hands on ' if you look like a good sport. They will deny the latter of course.

Keep up the good work, look forward to more.


Username: EGGD [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-06 01:23:57 and read 32768 times.

Well, that was wonderful.

It was a nice bed-time story for me :)

Your descriptions were superb, i felt like i was living every moment, and now i have realized i was not meant to be a proffesional sky Diver!

Your article is Descriptive, yet clever and witty. You have a great sense of humour and it has shone through in this article, i think you could easily publish this as a short story!

I have never had the pleasure of Visiting Japan, nor New Zealand. But I have to agree that Sydney is a great Airport, lucky me i visited 4 times so i got a good taste. I don't share your wonder at Don Muang International, but i only visited Bangkoks airport at night, and i found it to be a confusing and dirty place.

If you had written this in the trip reports section, i would've given it 6 stars!

I'd love to see some other journeys you have made, you defintely share my passion for travel!

Keep up the good work!

Warmest Regards, Dan

Username: CRJ'sRule [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-08 19:46:17 and read 32768 times.

Nice article. Yeah it's really unfortunate about Thai's aircraft being so basic. Considering the amount of Asian competition they get from Cathay PAcific, and Singapore Airlines, and also all the international rivals they have from BA, Lufthansa, Qantas, etc, you'd think they'd try to liven things up. At least they didn't put you on their A300's. I flew on them 3 times with Thai: Kuala Lumpur - Bangkok, Chiang-Mai - Bangkok, and Bangkok - Kuala Lumpur. The air was so lousy that after each of the flights, I felt absoultely sick. Well I hope you enjoyed your holiday

Username: DTD [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-09 02:18:28 and read 32768 times.

Hey Colin. A very nice and inspiring article. I've always loved flying and I have flown Lufthansa 747-400 's from Germany to California several times. Since my friend in Germany is moving to Thailand or may already have moved there, I hope to fly there soon. I bet that trip to NZ was worth it. I just don't want to fly on a 777 without any soap in the lavs!!! By the way, how does feel to fly on a 777?? Since I love flying, I look foward to reading other articles of yours. Just reading your articles gives me the feeling that I'm actually there flying with you. Keep up the good work. Again, great article and best wishes.


Username: Retblue [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-09 17:36:16 and read 32768 times.

Colin:Bloddy well narrated!It's as if I had been with you and Taliana...well,except the skydive bit!! How may one find readings of your other travel topics? BTW, my daughter is a Serv. Rep. for a major airline...I fly often.."standby"..NZ sounds next!Bob Pease JrVa Beach,VA

Username: AeroGlobeAir7 [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-10 22:50:59 and read 32768 times.

Hello! Greetings from Kansas City! I'm another young enthusiast :-) only 14 (15 in October), I do dream of flying around the world sometime, as many of you, and one of my friends have done. I want to be an airline pilot, terribly badly :-), but I've got a few years to go before that will happen. Even then I'll be stuck here flying routes in the good old US of A for a while, but maybe if I'm lucky I'll get to fly to Latin America and Canada. :-) Good story! I like writing myself. I've written flight reports in the style of those the magazines do, from the cockpit, on my friend and I's fantasy airline. :-) Well, good story once again, keep up the good work!


Username: Eugene Koh [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-16 05:23:40 and read 32768 times.

About this article, it is a great one. I live in Sydney, Australia but NZ would be my choice of retirement.

As for your flight with Thai, tell me about it. I flew in their B747-400, B777-200/300 as well as A330-300. It is a pity I did not get a chance to try out their MD-11.

Anyway, non of the aircrafts I flewed with is satisfying. Couln't imagine they are still using the overhead big TV instead of individual ones.

I have flew many airlines both western and asian airlines and guess what, I only have three choice of asian carriers I would go for and that would be;
1) Singapore Airlines (SIA)
2) Malasyia Airlines (MAS)
3) Cathay Pacific (CX)

See, MAS might be in huge debit but nevertheless, their inflight service are much better off than Thai. At least, they have their lavotories furnished with toothbrushes, combs and etc and also with individuals tv on their B747-400 as well as B777-200ER.

I am not sure whether they have individual tv on their A330-300.


Username: Airmale [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-19 10:02:29 and read 32768 times.

Great piece:)

Username: Ger Lawlor [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-29 12:49:22 and read 32768 times.


Thanks for a great read. I live in Ireland & have never been to Australia , New Zealand & Far East but I hope to travel there in about two years time. I have been mainly to parts of Europe & East Coast USA.

Thank you for taking the time to put the article together & posting it on the site here. I found it thoroughly enoyable


Username: SAA-SAL [User Info]
Posted 2001-07-30 21:02:11 and read 32768 times.

Very nice article. No less.

Username: Gebbw [User Info]
Posted 2001-08-03 12:09:52 and read 32768 times.

Your article being the first I have read was truly wonderful. As a kiwi, I was enchanted by your kind words describing your experiences of this place I call home.

I enjoyed reading about your travels around New Zealand, however most special was the 'Jump out of a pefectly good aeroplane' bit.

I made my first and only (well... so far...) jump over Lake Taupo 18 mths ago with TTS and remember vividly every part of it. Your story brought back the memories of anxiety then pure excitement of jumping from 10000 feet.

The feeling of accomplishment was truly rewarding!

It is a shame about Qantas NZ. I guess that is the Airline Business. (My sister lost her job however).

Thanks again for a truly wonderful story.

G Webb
Auckland, NZ

Username: CcrlR [User Info]
Posted 2001-08-15 03:28:10 and read 32768 times.

Dear Colin,

That was a nice article and I really liked the trip you took. I wish that I took that same trip too but I will someday. I've been to Paris London before and they were good trips. I rode some good aircraft in my lifetime. The best one I liked was the Boeing 777-200.(American Airlines) I flew this aircraft from London Heathrow(LHR) to Chicago O'Hare(ORD).

The best part of the flight was the food and the entertainment. they had steak or salmon, I had salmon. The entertainment they had was nice. They had a movie on one channel and some of the other channels they had TV shows for adults and kids. If you wondered where you were don't worry in the front of the galey wall they have a screen that has a map on it. It shows the map and the time of the departure and arrival city and the time is where we are at. Next was a snack before we landed. We had a sandwich and a bag of chips. When we arrived in Chicago it was a nice sunny day and warm. When I left out of my seat, I went to the cockpit to see it and I passed the economy and first class seats and I wished that I was in those instead of my middle next to my right asile seat. when I was in the cockpit I saw all the instruments and the screens. It was nice. The only bad thing about the flight was that they showed the same stuff over and over. If you are going to be on a six hour or more flight, take my advice. Bring something to listen to or do on a flight cause if you are going to be flying 3,624 miles you need some form of entertainment than what the airline gives you.

Carl Robinson
Chicago, IL

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