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United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Tue Jun 19, 2001 12:17 pm

This is my first time writing a trip report! so lets give it a whirl.

June 4th, 2001 i found myself in very fimilar territory. Standing around waiting to board United Airlines flight 863 with non stop "Royal Pacific" 747-400 service. The time neared 10:30PM very quickly considering i had spent a majority of the day in SFO and managed to watch a United airlines 747-400 bound for london heathrow go on a massive delay due to problems in the number 4 engine. So with all the fun aside I was all set with 2 of my good mates and we were very excited about the flight. we all carried upper deck seats in business class! I was the luckiest to have the emergency exit row of 15H!! around 10:35 the call was made in gate 92's area that all business class passengers were welcome to board. and with that the 3 of us all at the age of 19 were set for a great trip down under!

a pure rush of excitement hit us right as we were walking up the jet way which was accompanied with the ever so classic rowdy chant of "OLE OLE OLE". We managed to simmer down quickly before we had come into visual contact with the flight attendant welcoming all at the L1 door of the 747. I did my usual act of kissing my hand and place it on the side of the 747 before stepping on board. with that, we all retreated up stairs to the very comfortable upperdeck business class section of United Airlines!

After an on time push back at 11:10PM our 747 made its long taxi out to runway 28 right. 10 minutes following push back and engine start, our 747-400(N187UA i believe) became bathed in bright light as our landing lights were ingnited. we then taxied out slowly onto 28 right and held in position. One minute later the silence was broken by SFO tower saying "United 863 Heavy winds are two six zero degrees, 6 knots, you are cleared for take off runway two eight right". following the command all conversations between fellow passengers seemed to cease as the 4 large pratt and whitneys fired up in a high pitched scream, which was accompanied by the spine tingeling roaring sound and feel of maximim thrust being applied.

Finally after charging down runway 28 right for 53 seconds, at 11:25PM, the large wings begane to flex upwards and our heavy 747-400 gracefully leaped into the foggy san francisco night sky! "United 863 heavy contact departure and have a great flight down under!" was the last heard from san francisco as 863 heavy sloooowly climbed above the city and out over the pacific ocean on its 14 hour and 13 minute flight down to sydney.

Following a great dinner which consisted of steak, ceasar salad, and delicious mashed potatoes, i reclined my seat, broke out the foot rest, and tuned into the ohh so classic movie "space balls" on the personal video set. From then on i figured the flight was going to be one of the smoothest transpacific flights i have ever done! yeah it was that comfortable, and mind you at the age of 19 i have crossed the pacific 16 times now so i knew this was going to be great!

About an hour out of Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport, the flight attendants were just cleaning up breakfast and our pilot's voice came over the aircraft to inform us of a "problem". With that just said you can imagine the panic that everyone was just struck with. awaiting the worst case scenario we were then informed that sydney's weather was below minimums and the airport was closed to all traffic. When i heard this i immediately grew a huge smile on my face. due to the fact that this situation can only mean one thing... DIVERSION!! yes more landings and take offs for me! We were going to divert up to Brisbane after a supposed debate of either BNE or Melbourne.

The diversion to Brisbane from our current location over the Tazman sea took 50 minutes total. So do the math of flight time of an originally planned flight time of 14 hours and 13 minutes plus 50 minutes equals a monsterious 15 hours and 3 minutes total of flight time! wow!! We then finally hit ground on runway 19 at BNE just around 7AM.

following the roll out we were instructed to shut all 4 engines down on an active taxiway due to zero available parking bays at the time. We waited on that taxiway for nearly 20 minutes before our 747-400 was approved to start up engines and taxi to a parking bay at the end of the international terminal. We let a few passengers off that had a final destination at BNE, were fueled up, and lavatories were cleaned and emptied of all that nasty stuff that had built up over a time of 17 hours now. So after an hour and a half at the gate we were told sydney was now allowing arrivals and we were one of the first in line for departure out of BNE.

We were then pushed back very far. I was delighted to see Qantas' Wunala Dreaming 747-400 VH-OJB taxi past our aircraft and into our former parking bay. After 10 minutes of waiting to hear the engines start up i figured we had just been pushed back in order to allow the Qantas 747-400 to park, which had just arrived from London Heathrow as "Qantas 2". Finally after 30 minutes of sitting on the taxiway our captain came on, thanked us for our patience and said we were underway. with that one engine after the other on the right wing which i was peering at all went from still to a blur in no time and we were underway to Sydney finally!

After the long taxi out to runway 19 and seeing a few spotters taking pictures of us (cheers to any of you that were there that day!!) we taxied onto runway 19 and for the second time on that same aircraft the screaming sound of the engines spooling up and the roar was heard again! our take off roll lasted roughly 25 seconds and we were up in a hurry! I was more than excited to be leaving BNE and down to my favourite city on earth!

So after an hour or so flight down to Sydney we started our approach into Kingsford smith airport. We passed over the beautiful Sydney Harbor while on approach for runway 34 left. I was just amazed at how clear the weather was in sydney considering we had to sit in BNE for such a long amount of time! We then made several right turns over the pacific and then directly twords runway 34 left jutting out into Botany Bay. I must say it was my first time sitting on the right side window for an approach to 34L in SYD and there is some very nasty places which you fly over! lots of oil tanks and junky shipping yards! for a first timmer into sydney I bet i would be thinking that i am going to a slum of a city! So i am glad i have had past journey's to SYD.

We Then gently glidded down onto the concrete, Reverse thrust was engaged, Spoilers were raised and we slowed, took a high speed exit onto taxiway alpha and proceeded to gate 58 i believe, at the international terminal. United 863 was due to arrive at 6:34 AM that day instead we arrived the gate at 10:40AM. So with close to 19 hours on that 747-400 we cleared customs and immigrations quickly and immediately proceeded straight to the Beer garden where we all got a round of Victoria Bitters (VB is better than XXXX by the way!!!) and gave a cheers as we were now in the beautiful land of australia, "where beer does flow and men chunder"!

I managed to meet up with Craig Murray again, Who in my mind is one of the greatest photographers of this whole web site! He is for sure a great inspiration to me for getting the best shots possible. So he kindly picked me up at my hotel at 6:15AM on friday and we headed out to kingsford smith for a few hours of photographing! I never have enjoyed myself at one airport as i do at SYD. the only other airport that compared in fun was Kai Tak... i wont even go there! but it was great seeing all the Qantas and other international 747's and so on arrive and depart in busy spurts! Cheers to Craig for showing me a great time at Kingsford smith for a second time now!

After 5 days of fun in sydney and countless V.B.'s downed by the 3 of us and not to mention one "Un holy hangover" i suffered with all sunday until the state of origin rubgy match came on at 7:30PM that night. On monday the 11th it was time to call it quits and head back home on United 862 back to San Francisco. Nothing special about this flight home, taxied on alpha to 34L, saw a few people waving at the fence, Long take off roll, and then a long flight home, No big deal after such a great exciting flight down eh?

Well I hope you enjoyed a 19 year olds point of view of the thrill of a long transpacific 747 journey to sydney australia! more stories to come!
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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Tue Jun 19, 2001 1:06 pm

Sounds like a great time, even with the weather diversion. Having a UA 744 must have been a real treat for the spotters in Brisbane though.
Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
v jet
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Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 9:04 am

RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Tue Jun 19, 2001 4:32 pm

Um the junky shipyards and oil tanks have to be somewhere. With them places tend to grind to a halt.
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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Tue Jun 19, 2001 5:20 pm

Enjoyed reading the report! How the hell did you all afford Biz class tickets though?
Topic Author
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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Tue Jun 19, 2001 5:47 pm

Thanks for your kind comments! i appreciate it! well me and another friend are very very fortunate enough to have mothers working at United with high senority and my other friend just payed a small $311 for the round trip. Standby can turn out just great as it proved this time around but i have had some nightmare flights like HKG-LAX in the back of the plane!
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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Tue Jun 19, 2001 8:22 pm

Hey KaiTakFan

Great report! You really made it real. You are a great writer. Glad to see you so excited about aviation at your age. Thinking of a career in it? All those times over the Pacific. You are lucky. Hope some day u are lucky enought to get in UA First Suites. They are terrific!

Thanks for the great report.

SYD is a great airport and city. I never tire of it.
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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Wed Jun 20, 2001 7:02 am

That was a fantastic report. I really enjoyed reading. Perhaps you should consider a career in aviation journalism.

When is the next report???

Aircraft flown:F27,Viscount. EMB120, SAAB340, ATR70, 737-200.737-300,DC8, DC10,747-100,747-200,747-300,747-400, A320, A3
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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Wed Jun 20, 2001 4:00 pm


great report. I too am a United non-rev. I cant wait for your next report.

I L U V 7 6 7
Topic Author
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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Thu Jun 21, 2001 11:44 am

Hey thanks again for your kind comments! I have just been accepted into flight school and will start there in august! But i do fully enjoy writing in regards to aviation! With that said i think its time to write up my next one... anyone in the mood for some Hong Kong Kai Tak stories?? ha i hope so!!


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Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2001 8:17 am

RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Mon Jun 25, 2001 11:55 pm

Holy crap!! That was an awesome story!!! It just so happens that I have been comparing flights for business class to SYD in many (very many) years to come. It's really cool that you have flown across the pacific that many times. Your just like me, I love to be in the plane as long as possible. Your story reminded me of my Alitalia flight from JFK to MXP on a 742, the sounds of those engines is awesome. Have a great time in flight school, and cut me a discount or something for business class sometime (if you can)  Smile/happy/getting dizzy.
I just have one question. Did you and your three friends go alone, or is your mom a FA or something? For some reason alachol does taste better when your under 21, and in a country that has no drinking age (Italy). I hope I can fly on a 747 again soon so I can hear that awesome noise. How is United business on a 744? Is it better than QANTAS or Air New Zealand? How is coach on UA 744? Keep writing those stories.

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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Tue Jun 26, 2001 12:13 am

Great report! I haven't ever left the USA, thus, the biggest plane I've been on was a DL L-1011, I believe. I have a friend that moved to Israel last summer, and he's made so many trans-atlantic flights you'd believe he was a captain himself (mostly to Israel, since they have family over there, his first flight was a KLM 747 from IAH-AMS!!). But I think Trans-Pacific would be more fun.  Smile/happy/getting dizzy My mom is a nurse at a Reproductive Medicine clinic, and one of their patients is married to a Cathay 747-400 captain, they live here. My mom has talked to him and I might get a Cathay 747 cockpit poster  Smile/happy/getting dizzy. I'm hoping maybe sometime I can use that as an easy ticket to bum a Trans-Pacific ride on Cathay, maybe LAX-HKG or something like that.  Smile/happy/getting dizzy It's good to see more teenagers on here! I'm only 14, and everyone that knows me relates me with aviation, my parents constantly tell me they would have to search forever to find someone as in love with planes and flying as me, but I've got some friends on here that I'm sure could show me up, or get close to it!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy Great report once again, and I'll let you all know as soon as I get a chance to fly somewhere out of the USA! I'll have a report on it faster than you can blink an eye! Keep up the good work, and if you can, take a look at my trip report: WN MCI-TPA, TPA-BNA-MCI. I just posted it recently. Keep up the good work!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy  Smile/happy/getting dizzy  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

Topic Author
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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Fri Jun 29, 2001 12:00 pm

Hi all! in response to the last two post's...
travis... thanks for your comments! well my mom is just customer service for UAL in PHX. so it was just the three of us to go down to sydney! and ohh yes does the beer taste so much better down there! Victoria bitter all the way! by the time i left i think my body consisted of more beer than anything else! i know nothing to brag about but your only 19 once and not in flight school at the time so why not eh? well i have flown Air New Zealand 747-400 before and i would say that United's business class seating is much better in comfort. service is ok but falls very short when compared to Cathay Pacific!

Andrew... hopefully you can get that poster and put it up! my neighbor just retired as a 747-400 capt for united and got me a bunch of united 747 stuff! if you have the chance i would say either go to Hong Kong or sydney! by far the best places for someone to start who is just traveling across the pacific for a first time! either way you would have a blast! but hey no matter where i am going i have a blast as long as i am on a 747!

Cheers guys!

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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Fri Jun 29, 2001 3:34 pm

Hey Brian,

Great trip report! Really enjoyed this one.

Kai Tak stories? Bring 'em on! Big grin

Boeing747 万岁!
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RE: United 863 Non Stop To Sydney?

Fri Jun 29, 2001 4:50 pm


You dont check your email do ya?! LOL
Respond baby, respond hehe....

Did you get my email?

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