Date-11 Jan. 2003.
Flight:NZ5018, CHC-HLZ via WLG.
Scheduled Departure: 1650.
Aircraft: ZK-MCU (ATR 72-500).
Photo © Frank Schaefer
After three weeks in the South Island it was time to go home. Headed to the airport to check in half an hour before the flight was due to leave. I encountered the longest queues I have ever seen at Christchurch and it took 15 minutes to get through. All the staff were working flat out so at least they were trying. After receiving my boarding pass headed straight through security with no hassle and out onto the tarmac and onto the plane. Once onboard I saw that one of the F/A's had worked my flight down to Christchurch (Victoria). She seemed just as happy today. The other F/A (Georgia) looked a little out of it and during the safety instructions her actions did not meet what was being said (she was a bit behind). Started to rain outside just as the Number 2 engine got moving. We started taxing with only this engine working and some passengers seemed a little worried. As we taxied out I saw ZK-NCN leave the domestic gate on its return flight to Auckland. ZK-NBA was at the international terminal having come from Aussie. We held short of the runway to allow a Qantas 767-300 to land and then we were off. Once again a very loud seat as I was right beside the prop. As we lifted off we very quickly entered dense cloud and climbed and climbed and climbed. We eventually leveled of at 17,000ft but were still in heavy cloud. The drink service did not come around for a while and the F/A's seemed to stay in there seats longer than normal. I choose to have a mineral water. As on 3 of my last 4 flights with Air New Zealand, no boiled sweets were given out. Are these being phased out????? Landing was a non-event and very smooth. We taxied into the terminal and saw ZK-MCJ receiving some engine work on the ramp and more than 3/4 of the passengers got off (apparently no one wanted to go to Hamilton). After they all left maybe 10 of us were still on the plane and out from the front appeared to First Officer. Did he go outside? No. Did he talk with other crew?. No. He donned a vest and started to clean. Is this common around the world??? Short 10 minute stop and a few more passengers got onboard (maybe 1/4 full). Takeoff was quick and once again we climbed to 17,000ft. With many vacant seats I seized the opportunity to move and clambered over to seat 6D. Another drink service came around and I opted for a Coffee. Very nice I must say. Mostly clear blue skies until the central North Island were it got patchy. Quick decent straight in and I was back home. Overall 4 very pleasant short flights and I must say the Express service seems to be well thought out and encouraging even more people to fly then ever before (at least that's what the Check-in lady said).