Part 1: AKL
QF 4061 19:30 hrs. What’s the hurry Captain?
Odd to be driving down to AKL
having just been having tea with an ex 737 pilot, who now trains other pilots on the simulator, unusually I was catching the Sunday evening flight down to WLG
, this was to avoid a 5 am start on Monday so that I would be able to retain the will to live past 2pm during the intense planning sessions ahead.
Unusual to be driving down whilst actually awake and stuffed full of food, I usually breakfast at “The Bach” in the domestic terminal if doing the early o’clock morning run as it is best to beat the harbour bridge traffic in the mornings and arrive bleary but with time in hand.
The QF check-in area is tiny and I was soon being x-rayed upstairs ready to assess the germ spreading capacity of my fellow travellers and select a seat in the lounge that gave me good views out over the western end of the runway and the international terminal but kept me away from the sniffling flu carriers that form a reasonable portion of the AKL
travelling public at this time.
There were two 744s at the International gates, one was undoubtedly NZ2, the other must be an SFO
flight, unfortunately it was too dark to take a pic so I sat and watched the bustling FA
’s as they entered and exited the air bridge prior to letting us board.
The call came and I was second on board, I had 14A, the QF staff and the NZ
kiosk machines must be used to my preference for window seats and I get them automatically now, which leaves the aisle seats free for those Americans who seem to regard them as sovereign territory, especially on LAX
legs!! (See my other trip reports for evidence before you flame me!).
Another regular occurrence for me, seat-wise, is to end up with an empty one next to me, good travelling karma that!
-JND pushed back and we trundled out onto the runway, easterly winds, so take off was to the east, usually this means a right turn soon after becoming airborne, a swift pirouette over Takanini and out over Waiuku to follow the coast and then over New Plymouth to slip round the western side of Mt Taranaki, or the eastern side if on an NZ
I was quite disturbed by what happened next, my body was ready for the right turn but we hung a left instead, quite a tight one at that, the a/c banked steeply and I was left looking down the wing, watching the wing tip pivot round on the same patch of neon-lit suburb, I began to lose track of which direction was which and as we slowly turned in the sky I noted we weren’t climbing very quickly, the turn continued and we ratcheted up a couple of notches, levelling out each time, no word from the Captain.
I got the distinct impression that something was not as it should be and pondered whether an emergency return to base would have been conducted with more haste.
One big mistake I had made at tea-time was to accept Mrs Jafa’s offer of coffee without specifying instant, Mrs Jafa’s plunger coffee is the equivalent of a good hard nose-full of speed, with the attendant psychosis and rapid heart beat….not good! This stressed and over-stimulated state, and the angle at which I was observing a slowly revolving Te Irirangi Drive gave me a major dose of “The Fear”, I fought down a wave of nausea and concentrated on some yogic breathing…in….out…in…out. we seemed to hang there for ages, not much, except the wrong things, happening.
Presently I recognised the shape of the neon streets and we started to gain some altitude, the reassuring blackness of the west coast started to envelop the a/c and The Captain spoke:
“Good evening, we have just started our ascent and I have asked the cabin crew to remain seated, there is a ridge of weather just ahead, once we are over, or through it they will resume what remains of the in-flight service, please observe the seat belt signs as we continue to head south towards New Plymouth”.
I wondered if the weather was the reason we hung a left so that we had plenty of height before getting stuck in or maybe a heavy was inbound and heading out over the Tasman sea to swing onto the landing leg and we needed to keep out of its path, either way, the scene outside was a thick cloudy one, intermittently lit red by the lights atop the fuselage.
I checked the location of the nearest sick-bag, lent back, started to sweat and thought “OK, rough old night, no worries, we can do this.”
The weather ridge was an anti-climax in the end, a couple of slaps and a rumble, that was it, I still felt over-caffeinated and a trifle sick though.
’s set about the cabin with their usual cheery efficiency, I must say I have never been disappointed by FA
’s on any domestic NZ
or QF trip, had grumpy crew on a LHR
leg once but then I’d be grumpy, faced with a 24 hour layover in LAX
I declined coffee but was glad of the water, it was about then that I began to get the impression that we were in a bit of a hurry, I have flown AKL
and vice-versa countless times and it’s a fairly leisurely experience but this was different, the engine note was urgent, the a/c skittish and edgy and when the flight deck spoke to us it was in rapid, urgent speech…hmmmmm.
This fast and loose feeling did nothing to help my breathing, my heart-rate or “The Fear” I shut my eyes, turned on the air vent, reclined my seat, regretted everything I had eaten in the last three hours and begged the Gods to spare me the embarrassment of a good old fashioned chunder….
We started our descent in a manner I have encountered before with QF but not with NZ
, steep and fast!
The Captain (again in that rapid manner) announced we were over the Kapiti coast and the winds were SW
which meant an approach from the North.
“Bugger”, I thought, “another lumpy one!”
We came in hot and high, as soon as I spied neon lights through the clouds we got the predicted turbulence but as well as the “slap, jar, crump!” there was a feeling of instability, sloppiness and indecent haste, more evidence that we were in a hurry.
I began to feel nauseous and stressed again as I pondered which bits of 737-300 were hanging off or which warning lights had put the Captain in a flap, I decided that it was more likely the F/O needing a crap or maybe the Captain’s Viagra had started to work and he wanted to get his hands on Mrs Captain before the moment passed.
Either way we were steaming into the approach, none of this wafting in gently like a great bird of prey settling onto its perch that I tend to associate with NZ
, wings flaring with grace and ease, hanging before the threshold, approaching low and slow….
I caught a flash of things I recognised which confirmed our fast and high status, suddenly a flash of light from the Caltex gas station, a great yawing of wings and splat! We hit the deck, there was an almighty roar of reverse thrust and some pretty hard-out braking, the overhead bins juddered in protest and something slid out from under my seat and shot under row 13.
We slowed and the Captain chucked (literally) a right as if desperate to get off the runway ASAP (The Viagra theory was favourite at this point).
We arrived at the air bridge but it just sat there, sullen, like a flaccid penis…..
”Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a bit ahead of our ground crew (not just me then?) and they don’t have the gate ready, please remain seated until they get a chance to move the bridge and we can open the doors, thank you for flying Qantas, we appreciate that you do have a choice of airlines and we appreciate you choosing to fly with us tonight, sorry about the delay with air bridge.”
I looked out of my window and up to the north catching sight of an ATR-72 on the flare:
“Nyah, Nyah!..beat ya!”
Ho hum, I’m here and that’s all that counts I suppose, my shuttle driver had a big stack of Airline and Flight mags in the mini-bus, apparently he carts a lot of FA
’s to and from the airport, I tried to read an article about navigation and NZ
Airbus certification but got embroiled with the driver’s best “Wellington Landing” story, which involved NOT landing at WLG
, the pilot deciding at the last minute that 120 knots with an 80 knot cross-wind plus one shiny new A 320 was not a good look, they (and several other flights) ended up in AKL
Motel 22 was a haven of sanity and I switched on the Discovery Channel, threw crap all about the room and settled down to a night of quality telly before the coming 2 and a half days of corporate nonsense.
Part 2: That’s the way to do it! (pics too!)
The wonderful thing about my flight back was that NZ
446 leaves at 15:00, at this time of year my AKL
trips tend to take place under cover of darkness, to fly in daylight was a bit of a treat, so with camera in hand I was determined to make the most of it.
One of the funkiest things about WLG
is the portrait of Peter Jackson (He directed Lord of the Rings in case you have been living in a cave in Latvia for the last 3 years) made entirely from toast, I kid you not, s’true as a true thing that can’t lie.
-NGE was to be my a/c today, I have flown on every one of the NZ
737-300’s currently in service with the exception of the one that has just come back from Freedom Air, and no doubt that day will come.
The Express Check-in threw up 19F but I changed it to 22F, I like the atmosphere at the back and it also gave me a chance to snap a pic of the ramp-rats in an unguarded moment.
The sunshine and the bonus of a daylight flight had me feeling all “first-day-of-spring” with a lightness in my heart and the optimism that comes with the return of the sun. I had recently checked that my digital camera wasn’t a hazard to the a/c and its ability to get off the ground and stay there and was happy that for once I had left the office awake enough to remember to stick the camera in my pocket and not in my checked luggage.
The wind was still trending southerly so take off was to the south I grabbed a shot of the view to the side of the end of the runway.
The cloudscape was awesome, giving a real sense of the three dimensional aspect of all that water vapour.
For a moment I was disappointed as it looked as if the cloud cover would be 8/8 but as we slipped over Kapiti Island things improved greatly, giving a good look at the beach which runs almost continuously from Paekakariki to Wanganui a distance of some 125 kms (78 miles).
I am a man of my word and as promised I have included a food pic, or rather a coffee and biscuit pic, on a 45 minute flight you don’t really need all that “something brown, some green things and a beige lump” palaver but I took the pic and I must say that all you a.netters who regularly photograph every meal must have very thick skins, I felt like a complete dick, scrunching back in my seat to take a pic of my tray contents, the woman next to me(22D) gave me the most curious of stares and unconsciously shuffled sideways away from me (even with the now obligatory spare seat between us) I hid my camera in shame and pretended to find the starboard wing intensely interesting as I hid my blush of shame.
I took a set of pics all along the beach but battery issues seem to have precluded their manifestation on whatever passes for film in a digi camera.
But! The power came back after resting the camera for a bit and I started snapping away again (I could hear the woman-next-door mentally memorising my face so she could run and hide if our paths ever crossed again).
The descent slope had started imperceptibly as one would expect from our national carrier, the free lollies were handed out and I was glued to the window as ever, watching my beloved Aotearoa rise steadily to meet us,
We came in over the South Auckland suburbs.
And cranked it over into approach just west of the town centre, which isn’t always the case (is usually well to the east) and I have no idea why this might be but we slipped along beside the Puhinui Road as one would expect, there was an awesome vapour trail from the flaps but the photo isn’t too clear.
Smooth as silk we slid past the spotter’s car-park and glid (glided?) gracefully onto the tarmac with the sylph-like grace that those brash Aussies had deprived us of 3 days ago.
There were a couple of 767’s a QF and an NZ
, waiting for our touchdown and a ginormous EK
777 lurking at International.
The air bridge wasn’t caught unawares but the family in 21DEF nearly left the new Harry Potter behind; I did my good deed for the day by bringing it to their attention, then waited for the lady from 22D to go past and snapped a farewell shot of NGE.
Bye, Bye ZK
-NGE and hello Mitsubishi Galant, not quite time for home yet, I still had to drag my weary arse to Clendon for an evening meeting but I don’t mind, I get paid for this!!!
We, the undersigned, do hereby consent.....