I'm afraid this trip report, my first, will not be an aviation fanatics dream. Registration numbers are unknown, I forget the name of the flight crew, and I certainly can't be specific about the route flown.
What was unusual for me was taking a domestic night flight in New Zealand. International flights in darkness tend to be dull affairs - an aluminum limbo crossing time-zones at such an altitude that only huge cities can be seen from their illumination, and that is of course only if you are one of the few on board to have a window seat.
This flight, NZ8344, only runs Friday nights. It is for all intents and purposes a repositioning flight. The aircraft type is one of Air New Zealand's spacious new Dash8-Q300s. My wife and I were seated behind the engines, port-side, row 11.
Firstly, the atmosphere is different to a daytime flight. Both terminal staff and flight crew are more relaxed, knowing their day is almost done. And the passengers are hardly 'well-attired', more the t-shirt and shorts variety, not necessarily loud, but certainly spirited. And everything ran more-or-less to time.
Secondly, in accordance with 'requirements', the cabin lights are extinguished for the first and last five minutes of flight. This is simply magic. In light winds, taking off to the west, the city of Palmerston North illuminated the cabin from our window-side. During the ascent, small settlements and individual houses continue to provide sporadic visual entertainment.
When the cabin lights returned, the windows become black portals, and only the larger places stand out from the darkness. Thankfully our cabin crew (singular), Anna, maintained the atmosphere with her radiance and charm. And so, for the next 45 minutes, at altitude, it would again be like one of those international flights, in aerial limbo.
As you can imagine we were most thrilled when the cabin was darkened again, for this time the hulking metropolis of Auckland shone as far as the eye could see, glowing under the wings; and to ice the optical cake, there were small and silent fireworks being released near Onehunga Harbour.
You must forgive me, I am as much a romantic as an enthusiast, and my first domestic night flight was quite a sensation. The weather was crystal clear, the cities beautiful, and it was the most relaxing way to end a week.
p.s. oh, and thank you Air NZ, because in addition to being a stunning ride, it only cost $39.