Getting into the Spirit: Qantas A332 Perth to Sydney
Summer had arrived and I guess that is as good a time to visit Sydney as any other. Not that I was interested in the sights. I had been under and over the bridge in 1968: been there, done that. No - flying to Sydney would give me the opportunity to go on excursions to rural New South Wales, involving different airlines and aircraft types. But how to get there?
Right on cue, an email from Qantas arrived notifying me of "amazing savings" on flights east. A quick comparison with Virgin Australia showed that Qantas did have an outbound flight that was cheaper, so I made a booking. At the same time, I booked accommodation at a hotel just a short walk from the Domestic Terminals.
While dressing, I recalled to mind the old sketch: when I were a lad we us'd to get up at four o'clock in t'morning, half an hour before going t'bed. Unlike that poor soul, I wasn't going to t'pit. The sun was cautiously testing the sky to see if it was safe to come out as the taxi pulled up at Perth's Terminal 4.
As I had checked in online, sent the boarding pass to my mobile and was travelling with a carry-on bag only, I went straight through security and up to the departures lounge. A quick check of the Arrivals and Departure board indicated that my flight would leave from Gate 13.
Qantas Airways QF974
Perth to Sydney
Aircraft ID: VH-EBV Kangaroo Island
Type: Airbus A330-202 Seat: 54K
STD: 05:50 ATD: 06:05
STA: 13:00 ATA: 12:37
I was pleased to see that the aeroplane taking me to Sydney was painted in the one
world livery. This Airbus had first flown with the test registration F-WWKN on the 26th of October, 2012 before being ferried TLS - SIN - SYD on delivery. Powered by two GE CF6-80E1A4 engines it carries 28 passengers in the Business cabin and 243 in Economy.
As there was still plenty of time before boarding was announced, I took a stroll through the terminal. Over at the International Terminal I could see the morning departure for Dubai and the colours of Garuda Indonesia.
The passengers waiting to travel were a mix of business, VFR and FIFO in their high vis jackets. The terminal was decorated in preparation for the Christmas period though, thankfully, they weren't playing Frosty the Snowman
Meanwhile back at the Gate, there was a bit of activity on the ramp as cargo was loaded.
A boarding call was made and being seated towards the rear of the aircraft, I was one of the first to board.
"Good morning Mr. Flaps." My phone was scanned and I was given a small printout to show to the crew at the door. "Have a pleasant flight."
A cheerful greeting at the door and from crew in the cabin as I made my way down the back. Arriving in the rear cabin, one of the friendly crew offered me an aviation magazine to read when she asked how I was and discovered my interest in flight.
The cabin itself looked immaculately clean. In the armrest were control for the in-seat screens for entertainment and information.
Booting up the system took a while as the Red Hat on the Red Tail seemed to be having problems loading images. But eventually the screen came alive displaying my seat number. Meanwhile the Captain made an announcement welcoming everyone on board and giving some details about today's flight.
With the screens still taking their time to respond, a manual safety demonstration was given and push back commenced. "Cabin Crew, arm doors and cross-check."
The manual safety demonstration was completed and Kangaroo Island
commenced taxi to the threshold of Runway 21. Along the way, I followed the advice to read the safety card in the seat pocket.
Coming the other way was the Emirates A380 A6-EUH at the start of its journey across the Indian Ocean to Dubai. This aircraft was the 86th of the type to enter the Emirates fleet, having been delivered in Finkenwerder on 19 November, 2016.
From the largest regular visitor to Perth to one of the smaller. A Skippers Aviation Embraer 120 Brasilia, VH-XUC, operating a mining charter flight.
Following us out in QantasLink livery VH-NHN, a Fokker 100 that only a short while ago was still sporting the Network Aviation colours.
On hold, still in the old Network Aviation livery is another Fokker 100, VH-NHP, also part of the QantasLink group.
Finally, our Captain received the clearance to enter the active runway and take off. There was a change in the sound of the GE CF sixes as it rolled forward, gathered speed and began to lift.
Views over Perth and towards Fremantle and the coast appeared before the aircraft banked to the left and turned towards Kelmscott and Armadale. Gosnells Quarry can be seen bottom left and in the middle-distance Wright Lake and the Champion Lakes Regatta Centre.
Canning Dam came into view just before we disappeared into the cloud. It was quite choppy and the Captain apologised for the "localised weather" and said that we should pass through it in a few minutes. He reminded us to keep our seatbelts fastened while the seat belt sign is on.
Once we were through the clouds there was a solid blanket of white below us. I decided to avoid the reflected glare by reading the Aviation magazine that the kind crew member had given me. Inside was a report on the 787 and the prospect of a non-stop Perth to London flight. That prospect had been confirmed at Perth Airport the day before by Alan Joyce along with Premier Colin Barnett, whose generosity with taxpayers' money made the flight possible.
Time passed and we were about half way across the Bight. Time to put the magazine away have a bite. In the photo you can see that the seat pitch is fairly decent if you're not too big.
Breakfast came in the by now familiar cardboard boxes. A bottle of water was provided and some fruit juice was offered. Tea or coffee were also available. The meal itself was sufficient though a bit soggy. And yes, there is some bacon there. It's hidden under the beans.
As I ate breakfast, the flight made steady progress. By now we had passed Port Lincoln and were flying over the boot-shaped Yorke Peninsula.
In the distance the island after which the aeroplane was named could be seen - Kangaroo Island. Continuing east, we crossed the coast at Adelaide and were soon passing Lakes Alexandrina and Albert and the town of Murray Bridge.
Nature called and a visit to the aft WC followed. This was no loo with a view but it was clean and tidy.
In the galley, the friendly crew member who had given me the magazine was busy preparing for a beverage run but still found time to ask if I was still taking lots of photos.
Back at my seat, the view below is of agricultural land, punctuated by lake beds and remnant mallee scrub. The lakes range from dull pinks and off-whites to bright greenish yellow.
The crew come through the cabin offering tea, coffee, fruit juices and water. Soft drinks were also available and I did note that one passenger requested Heineken, which had to be brought from the galley. Along with the beverage a small Carrot, Zucchini and Apple loaf was offered. This looked good and was quite tasty.
By now we were passing to the north of Junee with its Roundhouse - a forty-two road fully enclosed structure for storing and maintaining railway engines - and the Road to Gundagai. I couldn't see a dog on any tuckerbox at this altitude, sat or otherwise.
Getting closer to Sydney, we passed over Wollondilly with views towards Bargo and soon Lake Cataract is in sight. Very quickly Stanwell Tops appeared with Wollongong in the distance and we crossed the coast north of Stanwell Beach. The aeroplane headed out over the Tasman and I began to wonder if the pilot intended to continue to Auckland. Just at that moment we banked left and headed north along the coast.
We reached Botany Bay and lining up for approach it got a bit bumpy and my attempts at photography (to use a technical term) resulted in crap. Touching down and while taxiing produced better results. At Terminal 2 were aircraft from Virgin, Tiger and Jetstar.
Qantas is over at Terminal 3 where Kangaroo Island pulled in at Gate 11. The Captain welcomed us to Sydney and expressed the hope that we had had a pleasant flight. For those with checked-in bags the carousel from which to collect them was announced. It is worth mentioning that throughout the flight, the flight deck had kept passengers fully informed about the progress and weather conditions.
From inside the Terminal (and at the limit of the camera's range) I could make out Etihad and British Airways parked up, as was China Airlines.
But I was delighted to see this 737 in retro livery. In the distance was the distinctive tail of Fiji.
Over all I enjoyed the flight. The crew were welcoming and ready to engage with the passengers. The cabin service was efficiently conducted and while the meals will win no awards for presentation, they were tasty enough and sufficient for the flight duration.
The aircraft was clean and comfortable. Bar the initial delay in the IFE start up, system offered a range of options to cater for varying choices, although I tended to stick with the flight map.
Qantas offered a good product at a reasonable price. You can't ask for more than that and that is what they delivered with a positive attitude. Full marks on this trip!