Welcome to my short trip report for my last flights for 2019 and for the decade. It was not my intention to do a report on these short routine trips. However, amid a season of unprecedented weather, and my first go-around in a commercial airliner, I felt the need to share my thoughts. This is also why I haven’t got a lot of photos for a trip report, by my own standards. The amount I do have though is about average for a routine non trip report flight anyhow. I thought about doing this report in the current tense this time, rather than past tense, but I decided on the latter.
Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.
I arrived at Devonport Airport (DPO) in enough time to relax, but still early enough that check in was not yet open for this flight and the airport and tarmac were quite deserted – a normal occurrence. QantasLink (QF) is the main operator for this airport for scheduled services to Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport (MEL) and for me it is the most convenient option, albeit costly.
I had been visiting Tasmania since before Christmas. As my childhood home, it has drawn me back on an annual basis. This stay proved to be a relaxing and enjoyable one, as most are, but I can say this one was quite at the top of the list. One of the reasons for this is that the smoke on the mainland had been an ongoing issue with the bushfires in south-eastern Australia. Tasmania would be hardly touched by these events, and this season, had no really major ones of their own to speak of which, was a blessing to all concerned, residents and visitors alike.
It was a hot day, not much below 30°C or 86°F – this temperature elevation was a ‘heatwave’ for the region, and this airport has no air conditioning! I checked in (again, for baggage drop as I had already done my online check-in) and asked for two paper boarding passes. The Apple Wallet had a bug in it and would not save my electronic boarding pass at that time. I don’t like using my mobile cell data en route if I can help it, and the cabin crew had needed to scrutinise and touch my phone when I displayed a live boarding pass on the app on the outward journeys, as the information does not fit onto one screen.
I then went through security and commiserated with a staff-member that had to work in these hot conditions. I was told there will be a refurbishment coming along that will change the layout of the airport. I feel this will be an improvement. Not sure whether cooling will be a feature though, it rarely gets this hot, particularly as they are right by the sea also.
Our aircraft arrived, and it was ‘the pink plane’ – emphasis on the ‘was’ as it has since been repainted into the ‘Silver Roo’ livery. Source: http://www.aussieairliners.org/dhc-8/vh-qoh/vhqoh.html
When I checked in online the day before I was allocated Row 4 and an aisle seat. I have decided that as I cannot choose my seat on these flights, then I will choose my preference for aisle over window. As luck would have it, the flight was not near full and I had the window next to me free as well. Of course I did not move though, but it was nice to ‘have the window’.
I had been worrying for a while about having a short connection in MEL because if this flight was delayed I would certainly miss the next. The flights leading up to this one were actually early, or made up time en route. Thankfully this happened on this day, and I was grateful not to have the inconvenience of a missed connection.
I only took the risk because I knew the flights weren’t going to be full; it wouldn’t be detrimental to my onward plans if I did miss the connection, and I knew I would be able to get on a later flight the same day - risk management sorted.
On the outbound journey, I allowed minimum three hours in transit. Not a hardship, and I had some retail to do - but pre-Christmas flights to this airport (DPO) are booked out and demand suggests booking six months in advance to get a decent fare – and a seat. I advocate putting a Boeing 717 in the QantasLink fleet onto this service during peak demand – that is on my wish list.
We took off to the east, and the flight was routine and relaxing. It is only a short flight, about one hour, with less than half of that without sight of land. The Q400 makes a quick flight of the crossing in the modern era. Our inflight announcement was then made from the flight deck. I don’t recall the detail of the weather briefing to my own detriment, and I was distracted by the accent of the crew member making the announcement, which would suggest he was from the southern area of the United States.
The area of Walkerville in Victoria and Bass Strait.
As we crossed the coastline, the smoke from the eastern Victorian fires began to emerge. We approached the airport from the south on Runway 16/34, so I had a view of the central business district, and then also Melbourne (Essendon) Airport (MEB). It was during this descent that I began to feel sick, and I thought it might have been from the inflight catering. I then saw the trees moving and realised it was the wind gusting.
Melbourne (Essendon) Airport (MEB).
FlightRadar24 shows a glitch. We definitely did not divert to MEB. Source: http://www.flightradar24.com
As the wind was not a factor in our departure, I was taken by surprise. So I dealt with this motion sickness mostly by remembering to breathe properly. Not much else I could do. The flight was almost over anyhow. I wasn’t panicking, it was just uncomfortable. I see motion sickness as not connected to turbulence somehow. It didn’t really feel like turbulence – at least from where I was seated. Turbulence is a dropping feeling, this felt like I’d eaten something that was bad. Of course the feeling stopped when the aircraft did.
Once we had landed and taxied in, the FA opened the door and exclaimed her surprise, as she was nearly knocked off her feet by the wind, and the heat. Clearly, she was taken aback by it, although she had not long come from this airport so the weather may well have deteriorated in that time. The short walk to the terminal was almost unbearable - for my un-acclimatised self anyway. It would have been around 40°C or 104°F by this stage of the afternoon. Also, I wasn’t dressed for the heat. I was dressed for flying, which means I had solid footwear, socks, and trousers and short-sleeves on, not sandals, shorts and tank top.
I had about half an hour before boarding, so I used the rest room, and decided to get something to snack on during the second flight. I made my way from our arrival area of Gate 23, to Gate 3 (the older part of T1). As I approached the vicinity of Gate 1, there was an overwhelmingly pungent odour, like the smell of rotting food. It then became apparent that there was no cooling operating in this area. It was worse than being outside. There was hot air blowing, like the heating was on in full force, rather than being a stifling airless space. What the hell – literally.
I went to get my snacks and chatted with the person behind the counter. Don’t know the detail of the outage, but I discussed about the unreasonable efforts of the people stuck working in these conditions on that afternoon. I guess looking back on it now it was a first world problem so to speak, it was just not what we are used to. It could have been worse, we could have been out in the fire zone. She said she was losing stock on the shelves, chocolate to be precise. I bought confectionary and chips (crisps) as a last holiday treat, and went to sit down. People were fanning themselves with their boarding passes. Thank goodness I didn’t have long to wait!
There were a few New South Wales Rural Fire Service ‘fireys’ there. I have a lasting image of one guy, who threw his bag down on a seat, in exhaustion. Quite a different scenario than the one that was at Canberra Airport before Christmas, where they (Victorian firefighters in this case) were lively and quite cheeky and looked forward to where they were going, which would have been home. But did they spend it at home on Christmas Day, or where they out fighting more fires in their home state?
I took my seat at Row 4 – again, no-one next to me, on my side. I had a window, and there were two pax across the aisle. Row 4 is directly behind Business so I had the airbag seat belt once again, and lots of leg room. I chose this seat prior to check-in. I hadn’t been on this aircraft before and it was one of the newer in the fleet. Source: http://www.aussieairliners.org/b-737/vh-vzw/vhvzw.html
The flight was on time and the door closed early, and was also not full. Even so, we had a slight delay on pushback. While waiting for this, the aircraft was being buffeted by the wind. It reminded me of being on a train. This continued while we waited to taxi after pushback. There was plastic and paper blowing across the apron from the north, as it was predominantly the hot northerly wind that we were experiencing that day. We were waved off by the ground crew member, and taxied out to take off to the north on Runway 16/34.
The Wi-Fi would not work for me again on this flight. My issue with Wi-Fi is more miss than hit lately. It was working on the outbound, and I am doing everything correctly to set it up. I didn’t seek assistance as it was such a short flight, I can cope without it – of course!
As I was up the front, the food came out very soon and I started unwrapping and munching. It was then that I noticed a bushfire burning in the area of the Snowy Mountains as we flew east of it. More poignantly, I saw the towering flames. It was the first and only time I felt fear on that day. What if we had to emergency descend? What if an aircraft went down, and into that? Terrible I know, and then the mind needs to be pulled away from these thoughts, to remember better things, like how nice is this seating arrangement, and this hot drink I have, and how smooth this flight actually is.
Not long after this flight, there was a flight very similar to mine that did encounter turbulence out of one of these, it was reported. I took the following photo after my viewing this day, and later identified it to be a pyro cumulonimbus cloud, which is a rather long technical term that Australians have become too familiar with this season. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumulonim ... mmagenitus
The Captain didn’t mention the smoke this time on the PA, like the last time I was on this same flight, a few weeks earlier. This time I could smell it in the cabin during the flight though.
The weather for our descent and arrival into Canberra was quite clear, despite the gusty conditions. I was a little surprised, but glad about this. Prior to my flight and again less than a week later the visibility was much reduced. Again, I felt relieved that I had made this flight, and it was relatively on time – despite all that Mother Nature was throwing at us at this time. These relatively clear skies and air quality were a bonus.
It was then that I experienced something that I had been hoping for, for years – my first go-around! Just prior to touch down the sound of the power being applied was heard, and following this the ground started moving away beneath us. My point here was, it was nowhere near as dramatic as I thought it would be! I was quite excited and attempted to share my enthusiasm with the only people I could see, which were those across the aisle from me. This was value for money here too, especially as the IFE was seemingly down.
From Row 4 I couldn’t hear anything in the cabin that would suggest anyone reacted too much to any of it though. It was quiet on descent, and it was still quiet. The Captain soon came on the PA and told us that he had to take the safest option of a go-around, as the wind gusted a bit too much just prior to touchdown (my words here not his), and we could just enjoy the scenic views that were offered to us in the meantime.
When you do routine flights, it is nice to see that routine from a different angle. I spotted Lake George, which had truly disappeared and lived up to its name once again - and the Federal Highway from Canberra to Sydney, and the village of Bungendore. I usually video the landings, but I didn’t video that first attempted landing unfortunately. I did video the second one, and part of the go-around. May add it into the comments field, it’s a bit short, less than two minutes. Due to the wind here, in my opinion, the aircraft sounded like a 717 rather than a 737 at this point. By this I mean, the engines had the sounds of surging, and these aircraft are not meant to fly around so close to the ground. That is my amateur POV on it anyway.
I took in just how dry the landscape was from this advantage. There was so much to come of this season, and as I write this, it is still very much unfolding. Since my flight, we’ve had the military deployed on the domestic fire front, for assistance in sea evacuation and land remediation works, as two examples. Temperature records for heat and air quality readings for smoke pollution have been broken, and most devastatingly we had a C-130 Large Air Tanker crash in our region with the loss of all crew, those who had travelled from abroad to help us in times of need. This region had been declared a state of emergency for threat of bushfires, and a few weeks earlier we had hail like we’ve never seen before. The airport itself also came under threat from two fires burning around the southern perimeter and which closed the airport for a few hours. These are just a few of the un-precedents, and I’ll leave it there. Need I say much more here about our tragic summer.
Lake George and renewable energy wind turbines.
We came around and I knew he would get it down this time. I was also betting to myself that no-one would clap. This is Australia, and this is a Canberra flight, were my judgemental conclusions on that one. No-one clapped.
I mean, it wasn’t like on the flights abroad, where the gesture is clearly audible and so, worth the effort. Row 4 didn’t offer any clues as to any minor applauding that may have happened further back.
Once the main wheels touched down, followed by the front landing gear, it was then followed by the crashing sound of glass and cutlery stowed in the front galley. We taxied in, and when we disembarked the Captain was standing at the flight deck door to see us off. Those of us who were appreciative said our thanks.
However, I wouldn’t be going home that night, as I had pre-booked a stay at the airport hotel. It was a treat for me as a way to end my holiday, and to make it easier for me to start the day at home in the morning.
I would also like to include, and acknowledge here, the aerial fire-fighting efforts in our region. In particular, these aircraft that were operating that afternoon at CBR at the time my flight landed. They were working on the fires on the south coast of New South Wales at that time.
”Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling, The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.”
– Christina Rossetti
Thank you for reading and or browsing my trip report.