Part 1 – Introduction
This is my first attempt at a trip report. Even though this trip was a few years back, (early 1997) it was in fact my last experience of an airline flight. (Unfortunately I don’t get to fly very often!) I have tried to include as much detail as possible. I have used the FJ inflight magazine, QF timetable and copy of my itinerary, however the great majority of it comes from memory so please forgive any minor discrepencies. Read on.
Part 2 – PQQ-SYD
Airline: Eastern Australia
Aircraft: Dash 8
Left home at 0820 for half hour drive to Port Macquarie Airport. Checked in at about 0850. Got seat 5A right next to the left engine. Then had a cup of coffee and did some limited PQQ spotting before departure. (A few cessnas over at the GA area!) Weather was mildly overcast but dry. Boarded the plane, it was about half full, so I had a free seat next to me. Taxied out to runway then turned right and taxied to the end before backtracking for take off on runway 21. Was my first trip on a Dash 8 and to tell you the truth I was dissapointed with the take off, as I had heard a lot about their STOL capabilities. We stayed on the runway for a long time before lift off and I excpected a fair bit more power, but it was pretty smooth.
Turbulence began pretty much straight after take off and gradually got worse. I had nothing but admiration for the F/A who was pouring coffee. With the aircraft bumping about she managed to pour every cup without spilling anything. The other pax were pretty amazed but she just laughed and said, ‘Oh, I’m used to it… I get a lot of practise!’
About halfway through the flight the turbulence got really bad and the captain but the seat belt signs on. We bumped around quite a bit for about 10 minutes and then into smoother air. The captain then came on and said ‘Air traffic control have been kind to us this morning, so we’ve been cleared staight into Sydney and will be arriving on time.’
He then trottled back and started the descent, there was still a fair bit of cloud about but it was starting to clear. We dropped the gear and did several gradual low turns over the inner city before a smooth landing on runway 16L. Then a long but fast taxi to the terminal. Overall a good flight, but maybe my expectations of the Dash 8 were a bit high.
Part 3 – SYD – NAN
Airline: Air Pacific
Please bear in mind this was my first visit to Sydney Airport in 7 years so I had no idea where to go. Asked at the info desk how to get to gate 1 (international transfer lounge) was told to ‘Go up the escalators and turn right’ So I did and got lost! (Thank God I was’nt trying to find my way around LHR, JFK or FRA!) Finally got there after asking 3 different people for directions! Took QF transfer bus airside to international terminal great spotting opportunity. Remember Cathay and United 744’s, was expecting to see a lot more QF. Went up to the international terminal and decided to follow the signs instead of asking directions (This terminal seemed to be a lot better signposted than than the QF Domestic Terminal.) Checked in at about 1130 and asked the cheerful QF girl for a window seat. Got 19A. Then went straight through immigration and up and down the main peir trying to get a good view for spotting. Went down to the info desk to ask how to get to the observation deck. ‘Sorry, you can only access the observation deck if you have’nt been through immigration.’ They say. No!!!! No!!!! No!!! How could I be so stupid, why did I have to go through so early!!
Anyway I go up the end of the main pier again. A reasonable but restricted view of 16R departures (Ansett 767 and Air NZ 744) then decide to take the travellator to the Southern Pier. Get all right views of colourful JAL 747, Asiana Airbus, Malaysia 777, Koren 747SP and United 744. Again not much QF activity.
Then see my FJ 767-300ER taxi in, so I start to head back as I’m boarding at gate 20. Board at about 1320 and get to my seat (19A on FJ 767s is not good.) It is right next to the toilet near the front of Y class and the view is right over the front on the wing, so you can’t see the flaps and you have to lean forward to see the ground. It has good leg room though.
Push back is right on time, and then we begin a very very very slow taxi to 16R. We don’t actually stop at any time, but I have never taxied so slow in an aircraft in all my life. Take off is smooth but not great power. The nose lifts smoothly off as we cross the 25/07 intersection then we are off. Not bad but a bit more power would have been good.
Fairly smooth and rapid climb. But lots of clouds again and view is’nt that great. Can’t remember what lunch was, but all airline food is all the same to me. Watch movie ‘Matilda’ starring Danny Devito and Mara Wilson, more of a kids pic really. Movie screen is right in front of you and its really hard to see because several pax behind leave their blinds open and the sun is shining on it. Crew do nothing about it.
Actually the crew were’nt bad, but they just seem to act like robots, don’t seem to smile. Also the bells kept chiming every few minutes (weather it was an intercom or pax call button, it was damn annoying – I’ve never heard chimes so often during a flight)
Turbulence is only very slight during the latter part of the flight. Get a bit of sleep and then watch a Fiji promo movie.
Descent into Fiji is very smooth and gradual, very small power adjustments, and a very very gradual right turn all the way down. By far the smoothest approach I’ve ever expeirienced. No tight turns or any changes of direction at all. I then expeirience my first 767 ‘touch down’ rather solid hit on the runway but roll out is very smooth with idle reverse thrust. Arrival is more or less on time, just as the sun goes down. Not a bad flight.
The windows then fog up (because of condensation/humidity or whatever) Pull into gate and see a QF 737 over at the hanger. Good to see the open breeze ways at NAN after you get out of the jetway, very casual feel about it. FJ forgot to stock up on immigration cards on the plane so they have to hand them to us when we get to the concourse. All is chaos as everyone is trying to find somewhere to write. Then get through customs and then finally see some smiling Fijians.
Part 4 – NAN – SYD
Airline: Air Pacific
Schedule Departure: 0715
Schedule Arrival: 1050
Actual Departure: 0915
Actual Arrival: 1210
Get wake up call at 0400 weather is shocking, its pouring with rain. Heaviest rain I’ve seen. (Actually about a week after I get home, Fiji is hit by a cyclone) Hotel courtesy bus is delayed because of late pax then has to drive very slowly because of the appalling conditions. Arrive at airport and check in at 0520 then go through immigration and do some shopping. As dawn comes up the rain eases and then stops. At 0645 (Boarding time) we are told flight is to be delayed until 0745 because of ‘operational difficulties’ (Cabin Crew on Strike) Then at 0715, I ask if we can board. ‘No, at 0745’ he says
‘But 0745 is when we are leaving’
‘No, 0745 is when you are boarding, 0815 is when you are leaving’
At 0800 we are told the flight will board at 0845 and leave at 0915. Over the next half hour the relief cabin crew trickle through and then we board. I am worried because of my connection to PQQ. Seat is 20A, (Even worse than 19A) All you can see is the wing, but are not far back enough to see the flaps. I put my hand luggage under my seat, but the F/A insists that I put it in overhead locker. So he puts it there for me but about 5 rows back! I really wanted to keep it with me but couldn’t be bothered arguing. This crew was even colder than the last lot.
I tell him about missing my connection to Port Macquarie.
He says ‘Ah, we are looking at getting into Sydney at 1145 what time is your connection’
‘No QF… Qantas’
He gives me a blank look
I say ‘Look, give me my bag back and I’ll show you my itinerary’
He has a look at it and then says ‘Right. I’ll let the captain know’
He comes back 5 minutes later ‘The captain may be able to radio ahead and get them to hold the flight for you, but he can’t do it until we’re in contact with Sydney, I’ll get back to you later.’
My first ever pre-take off drink (Orange Juice) Taxi is again very slow, rain has stopped but runway is wet. Once we get there though there is real power on the take off roll and we rotate sharply and climb hard. (Trying to make up for lost time.) As soon as we have taken off the captain comes on and says ‘Once again we apologise for the delay, but we are well on our way now. (?!) We will be landing in Sydney at 1145.’
There is quite a bit of turbulence on this flight but it is gentle rather than violent. I listen to current hits audio channel but it fades in and out. Whenever I hear John Mellencamp singing Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First) It always reminds me of this trip.
Movie was ‘First Kid’ Starring Sinbad. Didn’t really watch it (fell asleep) Breakfast was the usual omlette. When we started the descent into Sydney you could really notice it. They came right back on the power and the nose pitched down, Then there were several sharp turns through the clouds and the turbulence got a bit worse. When we came through the clouds we were over water and then we did a heavy turn to the right and we were over land I imagine somewhere North of Sydney. They levelled off and let out quite a bit of flap and extended the spoilers, you could really feel the aircraft slowing down. They did a very tight right hand turn over the North of Sydney and then right again onto the final approach for 16R. The landing was very rough. They slammed the aircraft onto the runway, and everything shook for several seconds then the bought the nose in nearly as hard and there was quite a bit of reverse thrust. They slowed down and taxied into the terminal at 1155. Good flight, bit more exciting than the others.
I got up straight away and retrieved my bag from 5 rows back. But everyone else got up too so there was a bit of a traffic jam. I stood in the business class cabin for ten minutes waiting to get out. They announced my name over the PA to please contact Qantas when I get off.
Saw a casual QF Gate attendent when I got off. Looked at my watch it was 1210, I said to her ‘I’m on a flight to Port Macquarie that’s leaving in five minutes’
She said ‘Yeah, I know… you’ve missed it.’
QF were really good, she just handed me another itinerary for the next flight to PQQ. ‘There… we’ve booked you on that.’ Very efficent!
Went through customs and then phoned Dad to let him know I was delayed.
Part 5 – SYD – TRO - PQQ
Flight: QF? (Lost revised itinerary)
Airline: Eastern Australia
Aircraft: Dash 8
Schedule Departure: 1525 (approx)
Schedule Arrival: 1650 (approx)
Checked in and got seat 9D (Right at the back) This flight was full up. Attractive F/A. We did a long but quick taxi to 16L and took off fairly rapidly then turned hard to the left as we climbed virtually straight into clouds. Overall was very calm indeed once we got to cruising altitude. Served OJ and cookies. Approach to Taree was interesting, very tight turns, but alll you could see was farms and river. No town and no airport. As we got lower and lower it became apparent that we were going to land in a field then up pops the runway. Very smooth landing. We were there for about 10 minutes before a quick departure to PQQ.
Approach to Port Macquarie was again a seires of tight turns over the town and then we headed North and turned right on a downwind approachand right again onto finals. Landing was rather hard, with one main gear noticebly touching before the other but a nice roll out.
All in all a great trip
- Those hard 767 landings (SYD was by far the roughest and best, I just love hard landings)
- Approach into SYD from NAN
- Good F/As on Eastern
- Fun but not too rough turbulence
- Seats (Something further back would have been better)
- Going through immigration too early and not making the most of spotting opportunities
- Couple of dissapointing take offs
- Worry over being delayed