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VapourTrails
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Qantas Antarctica Flight 2018 – Part 2 | Queen of the Skies - Boeing 747-438ER VH-OEJ | MEL - ZZF - HBA

Fri Apr 03, 2020 9:10 am

Qantas Antarctica Flight 2018 – Part 2 | Queen of the Skies - Boeing 747-438ER - VH-OEJ | QF2902 Melbourne (MEL), Victoria – ZZF (New Zealand Ross Dependency) - Hobart (HBA), Tasmania, Australia | Economy Class Standard

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

My apologies for not uploading the two parts closer together. Link to Part 1: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1428697

Welcome to my Part 2 of my Antarctica Trip Report! At the approximate half-way point in our journey over the ice at 15:50, the announcement was made to move to the seat allocated on our second boarding pass. For those of us that were booked in the Classes with rotating seat allocations this included me. As I had occupied my window seat already, we still shared the seating arrangements among our own travel group. This continued to make it easier to get up and walk around during this stage of the flight too.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

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Source: https://www.facebook.com/antarcticaflights/

As a recap of the summary of the route, we crossed the coastline at Cape Adare over the Ross Sea, the north-easternmost peninsula in Victoria Land, East Antarctica. We then tracked inland to Mount Minto (4,165 metres elevation), across the Transantarctic Mountains to Mount Melbourne (a stratovolcano 2,732 metres elevation), back along the coast, over the dry valleys, across to Ross Island and Mount Erebus (3,794 metres elevation, and an active volcano). We saw two bases (research stations) here, McMurdo (United States of America) and Scott Base (New Zealand). We then tracked back along the coast, and viewed more bases (Italy, China and South Korea) at Terra Nova Bay. We continued north over glaciers, the Drygalski Ice Tongue, and sea ice to Cape Hallett, and on towards Cape Adare, and then travelled north-west back to Hobart. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_ ... Antarctica (Sourced September 2019).

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

At this half way point we were at our furthest south on the route, and this was in the vicinity of Ross Island and Mount Erebus.

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Mount Erebus

As much as I really don’t want to discuss air accidents during any Trip Report, this is a good time to acknowledge and provide some information on the Air New Zealand Flight 901 accident in 1979, given that we were flying past the location. Firstly, the mountain itself - it is the second-highest volcano at 3,794 meters (12,448 feet) in Antarctica, after Mount Sidley, and is the southernmost active volcano on Earth. It is also the sixth-highest ultra-mountain on the continent – being a mountain summit with a topographic prominence of 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) or more. It is located in the Ross Dependency on Ross Island, which is also home to three inactive volcanoes: Mount Terror, Mount Bird, and Mount Terra Nova. The volcano has been active since about 1.3 million years ago, and is the site of the Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory run by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Erebus (Sourced September 2019).

My first thoughts when I saw it were, well, that’s close; and, this is my first ever volcano sighting. I actually didn’t know Mount Erebus was a (an active) volcano. I usually tend to research things in more detail after I have seen or experienced them, rather than before. This was no exception. In my opinion, it was also difficult to see that the mountain was on an island too, with the lack of coastline and distinctive geographical features.

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McMurdo (U.S.) and Scott Base (N.Z.).

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McMurdo Sound, Mount Erebus and nearby Mount Terror, and the Ross Sea were discovered by James Clark Ross, a British Royal Navy officer and explorer, in 1841. McMurdo Sound was named after Lt. Archibald McMurdo of HMS Terror. Mount Erebus was also named after one of his ships, which in turn had in turn been named after the Greek mythological god of the darkness. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMurdo_Sound (Sourced September 2019).

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Air New Zealand Flight 901

The most I knew about this flight prior to the trip was that it happened in 1979; it was a controlled-flight into terrain (CFIT); with a New Zealand carrier; and it ceased Antarctica charter viewing flights for many years afterwards. I deliberately didn’t read up on it before the flight. What I learnt from my post-flight research was that the rescue operation was called ‘Operation Overdue’, and about the unique challenges they faced – both during, and after the recovery operation.

There was a thread in Civil Aviation on this site started in November 2019 titled ‘TE901 28th November 1979 - 40th anniversary’ which is worth reading, and which doesn’t need me repeating any details of the inquiries here. There are also a lot of resources online to find out more. YouTube videos were my own first go-to sources for further knowledge on this. https://www.erebus.co.nz/ is also a definitive site on the tragedy (Sourced February 2020).

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As we banked around, I looked for any signs of wreckage, but I couldn’t see anything – maybe I needed binoculars. I actually didn’t see anyone with binoculars during the trip as I recall, but it would have been a handy item for more detail, overall that is. Those with zoom lens cameras would have got the best benefit of this aspect though.

The only aircraft wreck (a small part of) I have seen in situ to date is the Catalina Flying Boat on Lord Howe Island. Thinking about air accidents during this stage of the flight, it is poignant, that as a result of tragedy, the changes and learnings from these events often change in large ways or small to make flying safer. The opportunity I had today, and the preparation that went into it, had some relevance in this tragedy in 1979.

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Now during our banking around Mount Erebus, it was announced that a marriage proposal had taken place on board. This is not unusual on these flights. This was not one of the themed flights though, where special events take place, like new years’ - with live bands, or citizenship ceremonies for Australia Day flights. I didn’t want to do a themed flight at the outset, as I wasn’t after the party atmosphere, or the hearts, roses or flags. I am also wondering now about the live band, from the point of view of space, reach of pax and the aircraft noise – interesting!


What groups of people do these flights?

My observations (based on this one only of course) were that most of the people were in the older, retirement age group, and couples. The second largest group to me was young, to middle aged adults, my age group. There weren’t a lot of young families. I only saw about three school-age children. There were some students, whom I believe were on a study trip, also some who won a trip. The gender mix overall was fairly equal in my opinion.

I got the impression that most were there for the special unique experience; the interest of Antarctica, research or scientific or hobby. They weren’t there for the 747 experience, primarily. Av geeks on this trip didn’t stand out, to me at least, as would be the case on the final domestic Qantas 747 flights. I would say most if not all of the pax were Australian, with a large number of local Tasmanian travellers, based on the people that I met.

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Grounded sea ice.

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Ross Sea, McMurdo Sound and Mount Erebus.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

The second lecturer was Ian Allison, who was an Hon Research Professor at the Antarctica Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart. He has studied ice and climate in Antarctica for 45 years, spent 15 months at Mawson Station, and was part of 25 research expeditions to the Antarctic.

Further highlights from the commentaries include: the difference of 1000 kilometres in the distribution of sea ice between summer and winter; the first climb of Mount Minto in 1988 by an Australian expedition; the effect of the shine or reflection on the ice (shown in some of the photos here) – known as wind glaze; the shades of white and blue colour and the reflection and absorption of light – one of the best light shows in the world in my opinion; and the behaviour of the Emperor Penguins and the four rookeries in the Ross Sea area, and the Weddell Seals. I didn’t see any penguins or seals – again, binoculars would have helped this.

My visual highlights were the wind glaze effect, and the reflection and absorption of light, particularly later into the afternoon, and also, the fall of the snow and ice on the changing landscape. Next to these moments, the exposed rock was a highlight, as I mentioned in Part 1, you got to see what the ground without its cover looks like (in this area), and my expectation was not this.

I expected the colour of the rock to be black, sharp and rough or pitted, rather than this light brown smooth topography. This was the angle we were viewing it from anyway. From the ground it may look different - based on my very much naïve perception of rock further north, that has a very different timeline and exposure to this one. While more of a geography geek than a geology geek, it did give me some learning here, which I valued from the trip.

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One of the things that I was thinking about during our few hours there, was the question, should we even be here? It is an environmentally pristine environment, obviously because it’s been virtually uninhabitable to humans. I am not sure what my own answer to this is, but I guess if you are doing the flight then you are endorsing it by being there and taking that opportunity. I did feel a bit of a guilt of conscience. It reminds me also of that relatively common term nowadays called ‘flight shaming’ which can be defined as ‘the inherent guilt that an individual feels as a result of one's aviation-related carbon footprint’. I don’t ‘flight shame’ others or find alternative means of transport myself if available, but I know of others that do both. I don’t recall there was an option to buy carbon offset emissions in the ticket price on this flight like Qantas offer on their regular scheduled services. Australian Aviation did a feature on the preparation of these flights in their April 2019 issue. In this, they discussed a few things worth mentioning here, one being the environmental requirements.

They mention that additional paperwork for the flight needs to be completed for the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart. This is the government agency that approves Qantas to do these flights over Antarctica, and is based on environmental impact studies that Qantas supplies and logs that are kept during the actual flights when flying beyond 60 degrees South latitude. These are then submitted to the agency post-flight. Also discussed was that during the flight, when passing 60 degrees South the crew switches the aircraft’s heading reference from Magnetic to True as the deviation between the two becomes too great when nearing the South Pole. Prior to the flight also, when the aircraft for the flight is identified, it is tracked through maintenance to avoid any technical issues on the day. It is also fitted with specially approved camera and inflight audio equipment which allows the commentary during the flight and for the production of the DVD that is produced of the flight. (Source: Australian Aviation, April 2019).

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We are on our way home now, back to Australia and civilisation as we know it. It hasn’t gone too quickly which is really good - but now we are past the half way mark, the reality is that my journey on –OEJ and the 747 experience is coming to an end. On a positive note, the light is starting to throw some even more magnificent shadows on the ice and snow at this stage of the flight.

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Having the whole back half of the aircraft or behind the curtain to walk around, stretch and view in, I felt that for a twelve hour flight, this was an advantage of this Class, as our allowed section for wandering covered Economy Class Standard, Superior and Centre, so Rows 43 to 75.

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https://www.qantas.com/content/dam/qant ... -400ER.pdf (Sourced December 2018).

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https://www.qantas.com/au/en/qantas-exp ... 400er.html (Sourced December 2018).

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https://www.antarcticaflights.com.au/se ... nd-pricing (Sourced November 2019).

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There was quite a bit going on in my mind as I stared out the window – one of which was the sound of the wind in a Californian desert. I am contemplating where this aircraft will end up, and the desert is one of the most likely scenarios. Perhaps it will be there waiting for a new owner, or possibly not. One day of course it will cease flying forever – but what a legacy. 2020 is Qantas’ Centenary year and the 747 is being acknowledged as a huge part of this 100 years of service – and rightly so! The Queen of the Skies is an important title to hold.

Please note here that the majority of this report was written prior to March 2020. As we all know, the airline industry has changed dramatically since then, with the pandemic disrupting and ceasing many routes of air travel, and changing the industry beyond anything ever experienced before. As I understand it, the remaining 747 fleet are not yet officially retired as of early 2020 and are currently being stored. -OEF had already been retired in February, and so this applies to -OEE, -OEG, -OEH, -OEI, and this aircraft -OEJ.

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Selling tickets for the in-flight auction.

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Meal time once again – this was a nice meal.

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Back over cloud, as soon as we are away from the coast again.

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Time for a drink of the alcoholic variety - cheers! I saved this for the homeward journey, as I wanted my full sensory experience on this trip, and not be drowsed. I didn’t have much, and ‘dry and crisp’ wasn’t to my palette anyhow. I am more a sweet wine drinker. Therefore, I did not over pour. The other main reason though is the combination of cabin altitude and (only in moderation) alcohol drinking is not a great combination. I shared the small bottle, and I held my plastic cup up to the window and said a farewell cheers to the successful 747.


How is it being on a special flight like these for 12 hours in Economy with full bar service?

Very friendly! People (strangers) were hugging, there was quite a bit of friendly contact, partly due to the walking around with limited space, and not caring about personal space – within respectable limits. Not once did I feel really uncomfortable or wishing it to end sooner, or for someone to move away – not that they really could – and we all understood this. It was all positive on this flight, in this Class at the very least, from my experience.

There was a thread started in Civil Aviation titled ‘QF to end scenic flights to Antarctica?’ in late 2019, which discussed, among other things, the atmosphere on board for those who have done the flight. I contributed by saying that with regard to the mentions of drugs and alcohol on these flights, mine was very sedate! While the alcohol was flowing, the lack of personal space between pax, particularly with those narrow aisles was noticeable, but not obnoxious in any way - just good-natured friendly banter and hugs from strangers, but that was in the minority. Most were just content to sit, stand or walk around and enjoy the experience.

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How was I coping physiologically?

I was fine, as long as I could continue to get up and walk around, particularly after eating. Not eating too much or too much at once on a long flight is important in my opinion. My ankles were a bit swollen. Mostly though, my knees were hurting. This in my opinion was due to standing and walking around, which was done counter to trying to avoid sitting too long of course. It was the altitude, the pressurisation and the pitch up attitude of the aircraft that made this so in my experience.

Earlier on in the flight I took my fitness tracker off my wrist, as it started to bother me. I could have loosened it but at the time I wasn’t wearing it every day so I just took the option to remove it for comfort. I did notice later on, looking at the data, that my heart rate was quite high! I guess it is the adrenalin. I’ve worn it on other flights and it hasn’t been that high – interesting. Of course, they are nowhere near as exciting or interesting as this!

Other than this, I was as well as well can be. While I didn’t have any pre-existing health issues that would affect me on this flight (which need to be disclosed prior to flight), I did have ongoing health worries pending at the time, and had even deferred an elective medical procedure so I could do this trip. As a consequence of it all, I was tired the day before, and certainly the day after, but on the day I felt really good! For this I am grateful. I also had extended family with existing health issues, so this trip was quite cathartic for just letting all the worries go for that period of time – to recharge, for the rest of 2018 and beyond.

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Time to listen to soppy love songs on the IFE. It was about the only audio I could hear the most clearly still. I also watched out the window, as a piece of the wing, the part in the photos below with the dark colour beneath it, was quivering. Only occasionally, then it would stop, then start again. It was mesmerising. Not much else to look at or do.

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Time to draw the raffle and hold the in-flight auction. This auction was to raise money for the Mawson’s Hut Foundation. This process offered some entertainment as bids were being offered and received from further up the front too, and it was a different and unique, relayed way of holding an auction. It was well received, some items going for modest or quite high amounts, the latter towards the end of the bidding for items if I recall, when the spirit of the process really got going.

After this, I walked around for the last time. Some people had gone to sleep, or maybe they were just napping. They had seen what they had come to see - nothing more to see here. Some people looked bored, or were just tired. It was a good time and place to just zone out, and there is nothing wrong in that.

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Lots and lots of cloud now.

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The reason they are crowded around the rest room is that it needed a repair.

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I was not on the side for the sunset, and didn’t go over for a look. Image below shows the other side.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

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Getting dark inside and outside now as we head north.

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This final part was the most disappointing part of the trip for me. It was dark and dreary outside, and I was hoping for a welcoming party and a bit of fanfare as the 747 approached and touched down. Going into this, I thought it would still be daylight, but I didn’t anticipate the cloud cover and rain showers into this perceived fanciful occasion. There was indeed a crowd of onlookers there, but this was mainly airport ground employees. Sadly also, any decent photos or video were also not possible of the wing on approach and landing for the same reasons of weather and darkness, and too much reflection. I remarked to my seat mate that we would be back in range now for flight trackers to see us. I said that we would be watched by our friends and loved ones at this moment. Indeed we were. We tracked around to the north for a landing to the south. This seemed to take a very long time, with the lack of situational awareness from the cabin.

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We touched down, and to be honest, I don’t remember too much about this moment. It seemed a heavy landing though, but what that really means is that it was a 747 landing, and this was not a really long runway at 2727 metres (8947 feet). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobart_Airport (Sourced March 2020).

It was time to leave. As we made our way to the front, I tried to get as many photos as possible, but this was not all that easy, and also when I turned around as there were many people in the shots and they were looking at me. I noted when we walked out that the further forward we got the messier the cabin looked! This was mainly on the floor.

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Note the ‘No Smoking in Galley’ sign here.

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The cabin may be refurbished but there were parts here that were showing their age.

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Heading up towards the pointy end.

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One of the Captains was standing at the top of our stairs to farewell us. It was at this point that I nearly lost my balance, and slipped down the covered but slippery wet metal steps as I recall them, taking a few people along with me. This was a close call. I was disorientated, slightly off balance and maybe a bit emotional and tired as well. It took me a bit to reorient my mind and body back onto terra firma. Disaster averted, I was now able to look back at one of the – the last - highlights of the trip, which was an open air and across the tarmac disembarkation, into the rainy night air alas, and an up close and personal view of the aircraft, which we didn’t get at MEL. I would remember this moment for a long time.

The Queen loomed large at this small airport, and with the other commercial aircraft nearby. A beautiful sunny twilight evening would have been a stunning backdrop to this moment – but nonetheless I was very grateful for my ‘official’ personal farewell to the Queen of the Skies on the tarmac at Hobart Airport. Also, no, I didn’t ask to look at the flight deck before I left! To be honest, it didn’t even cross my mind – avgeek and all. I do regret this in a small way and don’t like to dwell on it now. We were allowed to stay on the tarmac and get photos for as long as we wanted, within a reasonable time.

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The ground crew on duty take the rare opportunity to see a 747 at HBA.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

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Image courtesy of Sky Video Productions 2018.

We made our inside the terminal, and out again, as we had no checked in luggage to wait for. We drove the short drive back to our hotel. I didn’t get much sleep that night, maybe four or five hours. I was so buzzed by the experience.

I was going to add in a fairly brief account with some photos, of my next morning at HBA, and my departure to Sydney. I’ve now decided I will add this into the comments field of this report, rather than here. This report is long enough and has taken me a while to get this far!


What were my perceptions and what has changed?

I assumed some years ago that a higher seating class would be better - not at all. I felt that we hit it just right with this class of fare and in my opinion, the higher you go the higher the expectation is, and we were there to see the scenery, not to enjoy the service primarily. At least this was my approach to it anyway. It was daylight most of the way so no need for recliners and sleepers and all the comforts that come with long-haul flights. This was a day sight-seeing trip. Economy Class with a window and the opportunity to walk around as we did was fitting for the experience. I am glad I didn’t pay more, or less.

The catering was average and adequate. Again, not there for the fine dining, so while something a little more refined would have been nice, I didn’t go hungry, or have to pay extras for anything else I wanted on board. Out the window: I didn’t think we would get to see so much rock. I underestimated the light show we would see. I thought there would be more scattered cloud. The Captain did mention that it was one the best flights he had experienced, in terms of weather, in 25 years of doing the flights. This is luck and chance, but this was on our side in late November 2018. Yes!

I didn’t realise that it would free the mind for twelve hours from the reality of life the way it did for me – and I am sure many others. It is a complete respite from the world. Cut off from civilisation, apart from the flight crew and their communication to land that is. This was cathartic.


Two memorable quotes from the flight

“It’s a long way down.” Too true! Maybe some of us are not well travelled in long-haul, but this comment was also made by a traveller I met who had travelled extensively overseas. I guess you are aware of the remoteness, and the fact that you have to come straight back makes the distance more so. This quote was overheard in the Qantas Club Lounge at HBA the following day and was from my new acquaintances that I met before and after the flight.

“Just a lazy Sunday afternoon...” This is my own quote. The continent is massive. When I saw our flight route after we got back the track looked so small, compared to the time we were down there flying around. We barely saw anything of the great land mass. However, what we did see in that small area was so varied.


Will Qantas continue to operate these charters in the future?

As of April 2020, I don’t know the answer to this. It was discussed in the thread in Civil Aviation titled ‘QF to end scenic flights to Antarctica?’. With the 747 retired, they would need to operate the A380 or maybe the twin Boeing 787 Dreamliner on this route. I am glad I have done it now, with the 747 as even if a twin were certified to fly over Antarctica - give me a 747 any day. The A380 is not as good for viewing, with the larger wing apparently, and having been on neither of the two newer aircraft yet, I will still say in my opinion, I believe the experience for the Antarctic flight would not be as good on either of these two replacements. Maybe other countries may operate a charter sight-seeing flight? Who knows, let’s wait and see on these ones.

In conclusion, of course I am really glad I did this flight, and when I did it. Sometimes fate intervenes, and I felt that this inaugural - and at this time, only HBA Antarctica Qantas charter flight was the one for me. It was unique, and I got to visit a new airport not previously ever visited, for the first time. I got to do the flight with friends, both old and new. As said, obviously I got to do it on the iconic 747. The experience made me feel special and privileged for the duration and booking process, and the best Qantas and the charter company can hope for is that people are left with a positive experience, and to share it with others. I certainly was and it is a great thing to also be able to share it here.


Thank you for reading or browsing Part 2 of my report.

Cheers. =


Link to Part 1: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1428697
 
User avatar
allrite
Posts: 2614
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:28 pm

Re: Qantas Antarctica Flight 2018 – Part 2 | Queen of the Skies - Boeing 747-438ER VH-OEJ | MEL - ZZF - HBA

Mon Apr 06, 2020 12:54 am

Thank you so much for sharing part 2. It's lovely to read a detailed report with so many wonderful photos that makes you feel like you are along for the ride, especially at a time like this when we are trapped indoors.

Vast vistas of almost uninhabited land, deserts of sand, rock or ice, are so beautiful from the air. You can see the land's stories written on them with space to create your own tales.

VapourTrails wrote:
I didn’t realise that it would free the mind for twelve hours from the reality of life the way it did for me – and I am sure many others. It is a complete respite from the world. Cut off from civilisation, apart from the flight crew and their communication to land that is. This was cathartic.


Yes, this! Even stuck at home (and I work from home regularly) you cannot escape the constant demands of work as it comes in electronically or from family members. There is the expectation from without and within that you *should* be doing something. Right now I'd love to be stuck in a seat watching the world go past and maybe watching a movie on a screen in front of me without interruption. That's why I'm so ambivalent about inflight internet.

VapourTrails wrote:
As of April 2020, I don’t know the answer to this. It was discussed in the thread in Civil Aviation titled ‘QF to end scenic flights to Antarctica?’. With the 747 retired, they would need to operate the A380 or maybe the twin Boeing 787 Dreamliner on this route. I am glad I have done it now, with the 747 as even if a twin were certified to fly over Antarctica - give me a 747 any day. The A380 is not as good for viewing, with the larger wing apparently, and having been on neither of the two newer aircraft yet, I will still say in my opinion, I believe the experience for the Antarctic flight would not be as good on either of these two replacements. Maybe other countries may operate a charter sight-seeing flight? Who knows, let’s wait and see on these ones.

In conclusion, of course I am really glad I did this flight, and when I did it. Sometimes fate intervenes, and I felt that this inaugural - and at this time, only HBA Antarctica Qantas charter flight was the one for me. It was unique, and I got to visit a new airport not previously ever visited, for the first time. I got to do the flight with friends, both old and new. As said, obviously I got to do it on the iconic 747. The experience made me feel special and privileged for the duration and booking process, and the best Qantas and the charter company can hope for is that people are left with a positive experience, and to share it with others. I certainly was and it is a great thing to also be able to share it here.


The A380 would be a dreadful replacement with its huge wing and awful windows. Hopefully Qantas will continue these flights using another aircraft in its fleet, like the 787.

I'm glad you had such a great opportunity to farewell the Queen of the Skies. I drove down to Botany Bay to watch QF28 land from Santiago. Hopefully there will be a chance to say a better goodbye to my favourite aircraft of all.

Thanks again for this report and take care of yourself!
I like artificial banana essence!
 
VapourTrails
Topic Author
Posts: 3939
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2001 9:30 pm

Re: Qantas Antarctica Flight 2018 – Part 2 | Queen of the Skies - Boeing 747-438ER VH-OEJ | MEL - ZZF - HBA

Sun Apr 19, 2020 11:20 am

allrite wrote:
Thank you so much for sharing part 2. It's lovely to read a detailed report with so many wonderful photos that makes you feel like you are along for the ride, especially at a time like this when we are trapped indoors.

Vast vistas of almost uninhabited land, deserts of sand, rock or ice, are so beautiful from the air. You can see the land's stories written on them with space to create your own tales.

VapourTrails wrote:
I didn’t realise that it would free the mind for twelve hours from the reality of life the way it did for me – and I am sure many others. It is a complete respite from the world. Cut off from civilisation, apart from the flight crew and their communication to land that is. This was cathartic.


Yes, this! Even stuck at home (and I work from home regularly) you cannot escape the constant demands of work as it comes in electronically or from family members. There is the expectation from without and within that you *should* be doing something. Right now I'd love to be stuck in a seat watching the world go past and maybe watching a movie on a screen in front of me without interruption. That's why I'm so ambivalent about inflight internet.

VapourTrails wrote:
As of April 2020, I don’t know the answer to this. It was discussed in the thread in Civil Aviation titled ‘QF to end scenic flights to Antarctica?’. With the 747 retired, they would need to operate the A380 or maybe the twin Boeing 787 Dreamliner on this route. I am glad I have done it now, with the 747 as even if a twin were certified to fly over Antarctica - give me a 747 any day. The A380 is not as good for viewing, with the larger wing apparently, and having been on neither of the two newer aircraft yet, I will still say in my opinion, I believe the experience for the Antarctic flight would not be as good on either of these two replacements. Maybe other countries may operate a charter sight-seeing flight? Who knows, let’s wait and see on these ones.

In conclusion, of course I am really glad I did this flight, and when I did it. Sometimes fate intervenes, and I felt that this inaugural - and at this time, only HBA Antarctica Qantas charter flight was the one for me. It was unique, and I got to visit a new airport not previously ever visited, for the first time. I got to do the flight with friends, both old and new. As said, obviously I got to do it on the iconic 747. The experience made me feel special and privileged for the duration and booking process, and the best Qantas and the charter company can hope for is that people are left with a positive experience, and to share it with others. I certainly was and it is a great thing to also be able to share it here.


The A380 would be a dreadful replacement with its huge wing and awful windows. Hopefully Qantas will continue these flights using another aircraft in its fleet, like the 787.

I'm glad you had such a great opportunity to farewell the Queen of the Skies. I drove down to Botany Bay to watch QF28 land from Santiago. Hopefully there will be a chance to say a better goodbye to my favourite aircraft of all.

Thanks again for this report and take care of yourself!


Hi allrite - thank you for leaving a comment. :profile:

Regarding the working from home, I've only been doing it a few weeks. I am loving the opportunity, and really embracing it. For me, it's a good time to build up some leave as well, and 'when this is all over' then the travel plans can become reality (once again). I had this aviation dream last week where a pilot or few said 'don't give up on us' - this is what happens when you listen to interviews and podcasts at night before going to sleep! Anyway, it is not like we have a choice at mo. I notice Qantas are currently giving a flight voucher till the end of 2021. I will probably have to cancel July as well as April. Sigh.

I must say, when the air travel ceased, as I know you, like me, live near an airport - it was different. Now it's just eerie. I go outside, sit down, and look up - and there is nothing there. There's nearly always something there - it is under the second busiest flight path in the world. It's an alternate reality. I can't say the noise is as much missed, as the visuals are, but I know it won't be forever so. It's kind of like being in Tasmania with the skies, being at the end of the earth. No, it's even quieter than that really. :worried:

Speaking of noise, the only things around here, apart from the very few scheduled flights still operating, are general aviation, and a few BBJ - or non-commercial entities, although I haven't seen any freighters. They may be further combined with the limited commercial traffic as I read was happening.

I am surprised at the amount of GA I've seen flying around though to be honest, but I am sure they are enjoying the space!

I checked and according to FlightAware -OEJ is still at SYD. I am really glad you took the time to see QF28 land. The videos in March of the last 744 flights were good to watch, especially one I saw, where a helicopter was close by and they were filming the approach, landing and taxi. Of course, I am keen to see what happens with the remaining fleet currently in SYD. -OEG did go to Mojave, CA this month. Unlike yourself, I will not say the 747 has been my favourite aircraft of all time, but I acknowledge the success and the longevity of the type, and the positive impact it had on the Boeing brand. It is a proven winner. It was also in the right place at the right time.

Regarding the 787 Dreamliner, I read that the windows may not be ideal, due to the dimmer effect and the design of the windows themselves not giving the same natural vista that we had in November 2018. Hopefully one day we can read a trip report of the 787 doing these flights, if they do, and can see what it would be like.

Anyway, I hope you are all well and safe there and l look forward to more of your adventures and narratives when we take to the skies again. I must also get onto the addendum for this trip report sooner rather than later.

Cheers. =
 
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Re: Qantas Antarctica Flight 2018 – Part 2 | Queen of the Skies - Boeing 747-438ER VH-OEJ | MEL - ZZF - HBA

Mon Apr 20, 2020 12:37 pm

VapourTrails wrote:
I must say, when the air travel ceased, as I know you, like me, live near an airport - it was different. Now it's just eerie. I go outside, sit down, and look up - and there is nothing there. There's nearly always something there - it is under the second busiest flight path in the world. It's an alternate reality. I can't say the noise is as much missed, as the visuals are, but I know it won't be forever so. It's kind of like being in Tasmania with the skies, being at the end of the earth. No, it's even quieter than that really.

Speaking of noise, the only things around here, apart from the very few scheduled flights still operating, are general aviation, and a few BBJ - or non-commercial entities, although I haven't seen any freighters. They may be further combined with the limited commercial traffic as I read was happening.


I miss the noise, which is rarely loud at our place unless there's a go around or the East-West runway is in operation (exciting times watching them descend over the river). Now, whenever I'm outside and the odd aircraft does fly past it's a cause for celebration. There are still a few interesting aircraft flying overhead now and then. The odd 747 and 777 freighter (even the MD-11 was back in operation!) and a few international passenger flights, which may only be carrying cargo, but we can pretend. I miss going out to Botany Bay and watching them. I miss being able to go to the airport. Even if I probably wouldn't go, just the thought that I could go if I so wanted and dream about flying. Rather than actual flights, it's dreaming about flights and, yes, like you I've also had some real dreams!

Unlike some here, my actual flying and non-local travel to anything other than work and the shops is so limited that the lock down hasn't really impacted that much in reality, except that there are fewer wasteful local trips and a lot less eating out. I'm loving being around the family as well and having time to read books.

VapourTrails wrote:
Regarding the 787 Dreamliner, I read that the windows may not be ideal, due to the dimmer effect and the design of the windows themselves not giving the same natural vista that we had in November 2018. Hopefully one day we can read a trip report of the 787 doing these flights, if they do, and can see what it would be like.


I can't imagine that they'd activate the window dimming on a scenic flight over Antarctica. Surely that would be locked out! I love it because you don't ever get fully prevented from looking out the window, unlike blinds.

Speaking of the 787, I finally assembled some clips from a Jetstar A320/787 flight from SYD-CNS-KIX into a 1/2 hour movie so I could at least pretend I was flying! The view from the 787 looked okay there. :)
I like artificial banana essence!
 
TN486T
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Re: Qantas Antarctica Flight 2018 – Part 2 | Queen of the Skies - Boeing 747-438ER VH-OEJ | MEL - ZZF - HBA

Mon Apr 27, 2020 2:05 pm

Absolutely brilliant, loved every photo, there is not a superlative high enough to describe it all. I am just going to say "brilliant". Thank you for your efforts. Take care of yourself. Speaking of the lack of ac noise etc, where I live in Berwick in Vic is basically the Junction of all ac movement into MEL from Tassie, and NZ, its like a T Junction. No need to set an alarm clock up till now, however the present is so much different. No spotting trips to MEL on a weekly basis for sometime to come. Still, with a lot on the plate right now, I am catching up with the myriad of tasks around the home I have neglected. Just seems to take a lot longer to do them!! Cheers and thanks again mate
 
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Re: Qantas Antarctica Flight 2018 – Part 2 | Queen of the Skies - Boeing 747-438ER VH-OEJ | MEL - ZZF - HBA

Sat May 30, 2020 11:54 am

TN486T wrote:
Absolutely brilliant, loved every photo, there is not a superlative high enough to describe it all. I am just going to say "brilliant". Thank you for your efforts. Take care of yourself. Speaking of the lack of ac noise etc, where I live in Berwick in Vic is basically the Junction of all ac movement into MEL from Tassie, and NZ, its like a T Junction. No need to set an alarm clock up till now, however the present is so much different. No spotting trips to MEL on a weekly basis for sometime to come. Still, with a lot on the plate right now, I am catching up with the myriad of tasks around the home I have neglected. Just seems to take a lot longer to do them!! Cheers and thanks again mate


Hello! Thank you for leaving a comment here and for the feedback. I am really glad you liked it. :profile:

Not much has changed here in terms of aircraft movements. Commercially, I see just the one QantasLink Q400 a day, that does the MEL-CBR-SYD route. There is also a VA 738 that comes in on weekdays. It is quite loud, as we are not use to it I guess. There is occasionally a heavy freighter overhead which I do hear too.

Haven't been to CBR since March, and have cancelled all trips to end August at this point. Other forms of transport like road where ruled out as a travel option, there being no hard border with Victoria that is. Staying home was what we were advised to do, but it can be hard to plan (months) ahead with such a changing situation we've been in. I decided July I would stay within one hour car drive from home.

When I watch some flight videos on YouTube, taken of near empty flights and airports I get emotional. It will be interesting to be on an aircraft again. I know there are health checks involved, and it won't be the same in the near future, but I haven't really missed it all that much. I've been too busy with other areas of my life to be honest. Like you say, with your myriad of tasks! The things that should have been done, and noticing a lot of new ones! It is good the money saved though I guess. I have saved around AUD$800 all up so far this year with no air travel and associated costs.

With regard to the sky junction you mention, I recall staying at a campground north of Canberra a few years back, and there was one of a few there, for the SYD flights. It was interesting, and time-passing to watch.

Back to this trip in question, one thing I did forget to mention (again) at the end, was that the area of the aircraft I was in was noisy, and this would be a down side to this fare category. This was due to the older aircraft mainly, in my opinion, but the positive offsets more than made up for this. If the higher classes were booked, it would be quieter (up the front). The view would be better too, away from the wing, especially on the upper deck. Saying this, I had no regrets for the fare I chose for this occasion.

I have started on my small epilogue for Hobart Airport and departure, and I am motivating myself to add it here soon.

Cheers. = :wave:
 
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Re: Qantas Antarctica Flight 2018 – Part 2 | Queen of the Skies - Boeing 747-438ER VH-OEJ | MEL - ZZF - HBA

Thu Jun 25, 2020 8:13 am

Monday 26 November 2018

I woke early the next morning after a few hours sleep once again. It wasn’t an early start though, and a midday flight. So we stayed at the hotel till mid-morning. I then got my lift to the airport just nearby, and my friends went on their way. Because I chose to fly back the day after the trip I missed out on seeing Mawson’s Hut and some other tourist sites in Hobart. I would have to make a future trip. Turns out some of the crew stayed over in Hobart as well and were seen at some of these sites.

The aircraft left early that morning with a new crew, empty and direct to Sydney. I was really surprised I did not hear it taking off. The local paper did a short article the following day. Sourced from The Mercury newspaper (behind a paywall sorry): https://www.themercury.com.au/ - Jumbo on a long hop to Hobart by Jack Paynter. The article stated that it was the first time a 747 has landed at HBA since 1989. About 150 people were out at 5:20 am (already daylight in that part of the world in November) to watch the aircraft depart for Sydney. It was noted it only used one quarter of the runway for the take-off roll (being light in weight now too). It was speculated that it could be the very last time that HBA sees a 747 aircraft. I would say that one is now confirmed.


About Hobart International Airport (HBA)

Hobart Airport (IATA: HBA, ICAO: YMHB) is located in the suburb of Cambridge, 17 km (11 miles) northeast of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, Australia. It is operated by the Tasmanian Gateway Consortium under a 99-year lease. The airport maintains a conjoined international and domestic terminal. The major airlines servicing the airport (prior to early 2020 and at the time of my flight) were Qantas, Jetstar Airways, Virgin Australia and Tigerair Australia - operating domestic flights, predominantly to MEL and SYD. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobart_Airport (Sourced June 2020).

As of June 2020, the majority of flights are with Jetstar (JQ) , and also very limited Qantas flights as well, and both only to Melbourne, Victoria (MEL). As noted in Part 1 if I recall, the absence of turboprops at an airport of this size looks unusual IMHO, but it is not, given its geographical location. Interesting to note also here now, that Cathay Pacific (CX) has or had a regular flight scheduled from HBA to SYD using a Boeing 737-800. Didn’t know that. https://hobartairport.com.au/ (Sourced June 2020).

HBA has not had a regularly scheduled international passenger service since 1998 (to Christchurch, New Zealand), but the airport still maintains customs and immigration facilities for aircraft entering Australia. Due to the airport's southern location, Skytraders operates regular flights to Antarctica on behalf of the Australian Antarctic Division using an Airbus A319. https://skytraders.com.au/about/ (Sourced June 2020).

The airport is situated on a narrow peninsula and take-offs and landings are inevitably directed over bodies of water regardless of approach or departure. The airport has an elevation of 4 meters (13 feet) and operates curfew-free services. Hobart Airport has one runway, 12/30, which is aligned north–west to south–east. The runway was extended in 2017. The runway length is 2,727 metres or 8,947 feet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobart_Airport (Sourced June 2020).

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The colour scheme theme of this airport is bright green, which most likely represents the climate of high rainfall, and the wilderness areas. I also like to think of it as apple green as well though, which is a major industry export.

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I photographed some of the local artwork of the native carnivorous marsupials, the Tasmanian Devil, in the main arrivals and departure hall. These are made in cast bronze by Curtis Hore and are the creation of Tasmanian artist Ruth Waterhouse. What I didn't know until researching for this trip report, is that the art have messages on them. Under the chins of the devils there are bumps of A grade braille. Each devil is saying something different, which reflects each one's unique and cheeky personality the artist states - who wanted to create something that was accessible for everyone. Source: https://www.visability.com.au/latest-news/braille/ (June 2020). https://www.nationalgeographic.com/anim ... ian-devil/ (Sourced June 2020).

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You can see the braille here.

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I was early and the check-in for my Business Class flight was not yet open.

A recurring theme for this short stay and departure is that I was very tired I am sorry to say. It did spoil the experience. As said, I plan to be back, and make a better time of it locally. I sat, walked up and down, and that did not take long. After being first to check-in I went through to the Qantas Club Lounge.

HBA does not have a Qantas Business Class Lounge. I didn’t take any photos in here of the interior because it was a small space, with other pax in there. The view out the window was straight onto the tarmac, which you can see in the photo when my flight arrived. I was in there for 1-2 hours. I read the paper, ate and drank hot beverages, and napped – sitting up with my eyes closed, on and off.

I heard some people walk in, who were talking about the main event. They were the pax that I had sat next to on the flight from HBA to MEL. It was good to see and chat with them once again – an example of travellers whom you chance to meet seemingly by fate, and will never cross paths with again – but add to the memories of a trip. I will note here also that the ground staff at HBA were very approachable and easy to talk to and I could tell they really liked their job and were invested in it. It does add to the level of customer satisfaction in this sense, from my perspective - and those positive traveller memories once again. Our flight arrived and was a 712 with QantasLink. This aircraft VH-YQT first flew in Australia for Qantas in 2013. Source: http://www.aussieairliners.org/b-717/vh-yqt/vhyqt.html (June 2020).

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My route was Hobart to Sydney. The image below shows what would be my complete commercial domestic route for this trip. Suffice to say I really enjoyed the upgrade to Business on QF1584. I had flown J on this aircraft type before, this now being my third time, and the new route. I used up nearly all my accumulated Qantas Frequent Flyer points to upgrade for this flight, needing 17,500. It was good to get on board at Seat 3A and really relax. The flight was approximately two hours and would take us up the east coast, over the Tasman Sea and east of the Bass Strait Islands onto Sydney.

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Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.

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The feature of no aerobridges at HBA is a planned one. I do like it, but of course that comment is very weather dependent. No commercial airports in Tasmania have aerobridges, and I have now visited them all. The weather can be a bit unpredictable and treacherous in this part of the world. One or two aerobridges would be good thing in my opinion. Maybe one day into the future with upgrades it will happen.

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Our departure is underway. Note the small air traffic control tower to the right.

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Scenic views of Tiger Head Bay, Dodges Ferry and Primrose Sands – beautiful looking places that I have not yet visited!

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One last word on the Queen of the Skies

As of June 2020, VH-OEJ is the last operational Qantas 747 left in the fleet. It is due to leave Australia for the United States, then onto Mojave, California next week. For the future of Antarctica charter flights, they only have pre-registration bookings for 2020/2021 at this time. I am going to speculate it will be the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that will be the aircraft replacement for these flights, assuming these flights continue at some point. I further speculate the Airbus A350 may also be a future aircraft option on this special charter. I also noted while browsing the charter company site again in June 2020 that carbon emissions offsets are available to purchase for these flights at the time of booking. I overlooked that in Part 2 and wanted to rectify it here.

Source: https://thepointsguy.com/news/qantas-fi ... tirements/ (June 2020)

Source: http://www.aussieairliners.org/b-747/vh-oej/vhoej.html (June 2020)

Source: https://antarcticaflights.com.au/ (June 2020)

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:brokenheart:

As I finalise this report to meet my 30 June -OEJ leaving Australia deadline, it has today - 19 months to the day since our flight - been announced that the Qantas 747 fleet are now officially retired. Source: https://www.executivetraveller.com/news ... retirement (June 2020).

I can hear the sound of the wind in a Californian desert.. ..it would happen of course, but we didn’t think it would be so soon… 2020 what have you done… it wasn’t meant to end like this! :worried:

All unsourced, uncredited images are taken by myself and the source link is available by clicking on the photographs. Thank you for reading or browsing my epilogue. My thoughts today are with the crews and all those who got to work with the Queen of the Skies for Qantas – memories to last a lifetime- thank you!

=
 
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Re: Qantas Antarctica Flight 2018 – Part 2 | Queen of the Skies - Boeing 747-438ER VH-OEJ | MEL - ZZF - HBA

Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:35 am

Thank you for the coda on this sad day in Qantas' story. You are fortunate indeed to have had the Antarctic experience on their 747. I realise that it is five years since I last flew on a 747 (Qantas). Just have to make do with the aircraft in Wollongong and Longreach. I guess the 717's are the last classic aircraft in the Qantas passenger fleet, though not really a 747 substitute. The approach to Hobart Airport is rather scenic, but then so is all of Tasmania!
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