Some days are designated “Red Pants Days” by this I mean underpants (shorts if you’re American). If I have a very busy day ahead I wear red undies as they give me energy and I can keep going through an 18-hour day.
Today was booked to be a stinker, I had to fly AKL
, meet the Admin Bunny and go to a meeting with the Wellington Somali Council, then off to the Harley Davidson shop to get some odds and sods and finally into Lower Hutt to our National Office, brief the Southern Belle on the Treaty of Waitangi unit standards, shoot the breeze with the Board (explain what the hell it is I do except fly around the place) and then get back up to “Wild at Heart” (who in their right mind would spend squillions of dollars re-branding an airport that has a monopoly????) and catch the 8pm flight back to AKL
Well of course…..that didn’t happen did it??
I was out of my comfort zone from the beginning as driving to AKL
in daylight is not something I do very often, I had an 11:30 flight to WLG
and this (a significant fact) is actually an AKL
run, they give you parachutes and a hefty shove as you pass over the airport at WLG
On the way I dropped off a job application form in Takapuna for The Hormones and pondered why I felt out of sorts but I wasn’t paranoid, I just felt not quite connected to the world and a bit distracted, I shrugged it off as being a daylight thing and toodled off to AKL
where another worrying omen manifest….OMG! My usual carpark space was taken!! OMG! WTF???
I almost always park in the bays just at the end of the ramp that leads onto the roof of number 1 carpark, it gives me views over the Airworks hanger (there is usually a 737-200 parked outside), it is convenient for the trolley park, not that there are ever any trolleys in it and it also means that I can find my car when I return, late at night and half-asleep, days later.
So….all the usual protocols were not in place! LOL!!
Domestic is always a bit of a surprise these days as the make-over is well under way and things are rarely where you left them, or the bits around them have changed.
Today the check-in area looked much bigger and the door seems to have changed position making the express kiosks seem in different places but I found them and noticed on the board that my flight, NZ472 was showing a delay til 11:55.
At the kiosk I selected 24F for the outward leg and 23F for the return, both on a 737-300 but since the cabin re-fits some NZ
733’s have gained an extra row and I do like to avoid any chance of an encounter with the anti-recline Nazis…not that you see many of them in NZ
…so I go for the last row window seat every time, recline my seat and gaze out at the views….if I don’t fall asleep that is!
Once I had my two boarding cards (no checked bags today) I looked up and noticed that we were now only showing a delay until 11:40, so I didn’t phone the Admin Bunny as it was hardly a delay at all.
I grabbed a fruit salad at The Bach, munched a muesli bar outside whitcouls and wandered through to the departure area, which was almost as I had left it except for some major scaffolding over the exit escalator and some new aribridges.
My gate (31) which is the stairs gate with no airbridge, was deserted so I grabbed a hot chocolate from the kiosk and watched the world go by as I drank it.
Just near the end of my choc a MILF walked by, pushing her mum in a wheelchair and I heard her say to the aged one (loudly as one does to old people) “We’ve had a gate change mother”.
“Hmmmm, WTF? Is that me?” I wondered and bumbled off to check and found that yes, we were now at gate 30 and the rather dirty looking ZK
-NGG I had been scowling at for the past 10 mins was indeed our steed for the morning.
There was a lot of shitty looking black stains around the lower rudder pivot and a huge repair patch (at least that’s what it looked like) at the lower front corner of the forward, starboard, door.
I moved seats and sat in front of her and found myself becoming fixated on the windscreens…I had never noticed how industrial they are, big slabs of flat glass, not curvy and streamlined, plus, with the unpainted frames it just looked like they had used up a job lot of B-17 windscreens that Mrs Boeing had found in the basement during the annual spring-clean.
I was also a bit aghast at all the paint flaking off the rivets and the big black marks on the raydome, a legacy of hitting a few things that were more substantial than the Bogon Moths currently smearing the QF
fleet with their kamikaze gut-splatters …NGG was looking in need of a makeover.
This was brought into sharp relief when the freshly painted and very green and shiny ZK
-FRE lumbered into gate 31, on her first day back in service in her new livery.
I didn't take this pic, it is from the a.net database and if the guy who took it cares to contact me I will buy him a beer....or remove the pic, whtever he prefers but his name is Graham Weatherby.
I went back to looking at the windscreens as if I had never seen one before, completely transfixed...WTF? (I don’t take drugs and I’m not OCD…honestly!!).
We got the call to board and I was probably about 5th down the airbridge, knock on the door frame, smile at the FA
, say “24F” and notice the “Oh f#*%k!....an a.netter” look as she recoils in horror, handing back my boarding pass as one might hand a leper his nose after a particularly violent sneeze.
Once ensconced it was “spot the enemy time” as I tried to calculate the angle of attack of each person’s eyes to see if I had got lucky and would have either the whole row to myself or 22E empty (both are good things) or would I have a 300 pound Samoan rugby prop crammed in beside me with an equally large lady from the Ministry of Interference in 22D….I’m a big lad but there are times in NZ
when I feel like an underfed midget.
Now, as it turned out, I just had a 250 pound accountant from an unspecified Polynesian country in 22D and the seat between us empty but in the row in front there as a Pakeha guy, not fat but not a skinny-arsed wretch either, by the window a young pommie lad who had flown in from London that morning and in between the two of them….a 300 pound Samoan rugby prop!!! I kid you not….in keeping with the vast majority of big Samoan guys, we was very polite and friendly and welcomed the pommie lad to NZ
, they talked most of the way but I fear the chav had a sore neck at the end of it due to having to look sideways and up to see this giant of a man’s face.
Ha ha! I won today!
There was a family with 3 young kiddies, she was a bit of a hottie and Scottish, her hubby was Maori and the kids must have been up all night on cough syrup and “no doze” pills because they were wired man! Loud, excited and in the case of the lass in pink…..Very high pitched, like ear-splitting.
THAT OUR PLANE DADDY…LOOK DADDY, THAT ONE IS
GREEN! WHY IS IT
GREEN DADDY? CAN WE
THE GREEN ONE DADDY? WHY NOT…I WANNA GO ON
THE GREEN ONE DADDY…OUR ONE’S DIRTY!!”
Over yonder in Mangere and Manukau, dogs started howling…….
But as usual, every body got settled, we pushed back and yomped off skyward, I caught the usual glimpse of the boat ramp at the western end of the runway, assessed the sea conditions and fell asleep.
The Captain had apologised for the delay and with the general racket in the cabin all I cauight was...
"Apologies for the delay...................................................out of service...............because, well, they keep breaking down."
I woke up about 10 mins later, gasping for water and trying to work out where we were, the sea changed colour as it emerged from under the starboard wing so I guessed land was ahoy, which meant we were crossing the northern coast of the Taranaki Bight, just over New Plymouth. I sent good vibes to NZ8800 (fellow a.netter) and picked out the landmarks in the city, marvelling too at the coast road, reminiscing on my road trip here a few weeks back, fulfilling an ambition to drive the whole way round the Taranaki Bight.
It was at this point that I knew something was wrong.
As we drew opposite the summit of Mt Taranaki the pilot chopped the throttles, rather too quickly for my liking and in the wrong place…it is the norm to start the descent over the sea, a few miles south of Wanganui and then it is a gentle easing of the throttles.
But this was more urgent…we lost height and then levelled out, again, not the usual way of things.
Then, instead of gently curving left to get on the WLG
track, we did a dog-leg to the right and picked up what I later realised was the CHC
I was concerned and baffled as the usual things to see what not in their usual places, then the Captain spoke and this is what he had to say:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are halfway through our descent into Wellington but we have a small problem….the windscreen has cracked, now, don’t be alarmed as there are 3 layers to the screen and only one of them has cracked….but we have been instructed to bypass WLG
and go straight to CHC
(I’m assuming Smith & Smith in Miramar were fresh out of 737 windscreens)….we apologise for this but as a compensation, due to the need to fly at a lower altitude in case of further problems and the fact that we will be going quite slowly, you will have best views of the Southern Alps that you are ever likely to get, we don’t usually fly this low over them so make the most of it, relax and we’ll update you soon…thank you”
A lot of people said “bugger” they guy next to me had a job interview to go to, I had a meeting and everybody who was going to WLG
was going there for a reason (it isn’t the sort of place you go to accidentally….like Mangakino or Ruakokafatuna) so the FA
’s were busy.
Th guy next to me was on his way to a 14:30 job interview with the Ministry of Nasty Bugs and Weeds (MAF
) so he got the FA
to give a note to the Captain to pass on to the ground so that the guy could be re-scheduled for his interview and not marked as a "No-Show"...god old Air NZ
, they are brilliant in a crisis!
And then, as if sensing the minor emergency the little girl in pink with the shrill. Piercing voice, decided to get stuck into a major tantrum of epic proportions…man did she yell!!
“Waaaa, waaaaaaaaaaa, WAAAAAAAAAA!!!!! NOOOOOO!! WAAAAAAAAAA!!!! WWWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHGHHHHHHHHHHHHGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!”
This set her sister off, who was more of an alto and with more misery to her tome than the naked aggression and frustration of the Pink Lass.
“Weeeeeeeeeerrrrr, ahweeeeeeeerrrrruh, blubber, weeeeeeeeeeerrrrruh, sniff”
The Pink Lass was not about to be out done and stepped things up a notch, and gave it her all until she turned bright red and wailed until she dry-retched…
“WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHBLURGH!! WAAAAGLURGH!! HUUUURRRGGGHHH! WAAAACCKKKGGLLLUUURRRGGGHHHHURGK” and then settled into something like Asthmatic Seals at mating time, backed up with the smokers cough from hell and the conviction that if she really tried she could turn her guts inside out and make daddy feel really guilty…..clearly she had lost the plot because she didn’t…couldn’t stop for the rest of the journey.
Her sister gave a good account of herself in her subdued and utterly miserable way and this kicked her brother off but being a boy he didn’t have the grace and complete commitment that little girls are blessed with, in such a way that you cannot fail to respect their hard-out tantrums as something to admire….no, little boys just get shitty and unreasonable but still (unfortunately) coherent.
“I want it now…buh-huh, buh-huh, sniff, woooh”
“You can’t., it’s in the bottom of the plane dear”
“I WANT IT
“I’m afraid that isn’t possible…sit up straight dear:
Both parents were the model of restraint and should be given big, shiny, medals made of unobtainium as a reward.
“I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU SAY…I WANT IT
The guy in 23D and I looked at each other and smirked our knowing smirk….our kids were all grown up now and whereas we felt sympathy for the family……HA HA
!!! Not our problem!! We could admire the Pink Lass’s stamina and appreciate how completely she had lost it…ah, the joys of being 40something!
I turned away from the scenario and took in the views….they were everything we had been promised, we must have been at about 10,000ft in case of de-pressurisation and there isn’t a scenic flight in NZ
can match what I saw, there was still snow on the tops but this was mainly on the sheltered side, you could see all the paths and the sheep and the funny little piles of things that farmers feel a need to pile up in random places.
These are old shots taken from a higher altitude but I had no camera with me, but you get the picture......not a good place for an emergency landing if we de-pressurised with hull-fatigue!!
I got lost in it all, a mountaineer of some years standing I was planning trips and routes, eyeballing campsites, lakes and riverbeds….bugger! Emergency or no emergency, this was a flight to remember!
The snows departed, the hills got smaller and flatter and just at that point where the foothills flatten out abruptly into the Canterbury Plains, the pilot chucked a left and lined us up on the runway, on approach I realised that for the first time ever, I was gong to land from the SW
, every time into CHC
I have come in from the NE.
Our approach was low and languid, I spied people out testing racehorses, farmers, ploughing, trucks delivering stuff and cows….just cowing.
Coming in low over the ploughed fields at the end of the runway, flocks of birds scattered, fleeing the outfield and the insect-laden grasslands in favour of the sky, each bird or flock of birds knew the drill, fly like hell towards where the plane had just come from, lest one end one’s days as another black mark on NGG’s raydome…
’s had told us that we had to land at CHC
so we could have a long. Slow landing on the longer runway but the landing was a shocker…banging down on the starboard gear, a huge lurch to the left and heaps of smoke, I was afraid the screen may have cracked due to a structural failure and NGG might just break apart under all this stress but she held together, the nose hit the deck and reverse thrust bellowed its defiance into the warm still air.
The purser came on the PA:
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Christchurch….I know that for many of you this is the wrong airport but at least we are on the ground…even if it is the wrong piece.
When you disembark could all WLG
pax make their way to counters 2-9 where arrangements will be made to get you to WLG
ASAP. Thank you for you patience and once again….welcome to CHC
….even if you don’t want to be here…”
Nervous laughter all around the cabin and the odd grumpy face, the wailing kids had shut up or passed out with “Rage Fatigue” and I was on a sugar rush from all the free lollies the FA
’s had handed out during our scenic flight.
I turned my phone on and Admin Bunny rang almost immediately.
“So…avoiding me are you….you could just have told me you didn’t want me to come to the meeting”
I like Admin Bunny, she shows me no reverence or respect and that, to me, is a good sign, god help us if she just took all my shit and was polite.
I got her to rearrange my day and Air NZ
and done a stirling job keeping those worried meters and greeters at WLG
informed and reassured so she had the various bods I was supposed to be meeting all primed and ready to deal with whatever scenario came my way at counters 2-9.
Exiting the cabin last I stopped to have a chat with the Captain:
“So, what’s this crack like then?”
He grinned sheepishly (I have never actually seen a sheep grin) and waved me into the cockpit.
“Bit more than a crack I have to admit” he laughed.
OMG!!!! I was expecting a crack but this looked as if someone had twatted the screen with a bowling ball, just on the frame….a network of radial cracks and corresponding sideways ones completely filled the left hand screen…..it looked pretty bad and assuming it had happened suddenly, must have scared the holy crap out of the pilot.
“Bugger….how did that happen?”
“I think the heating element went wrong and overheated the screen”
We shared a blokie-ish smile and went our separate ways.
We had landed at 13:21 by 14:20 I was up at gate 16, after a spot of lunch and a struggle with my phone, which had decided that it didn’t want to dial any number with a 3, 6 or 9 in it (which made getting my voicemails problematical as my PIN has a 3 in it).
I was given an odd boardding card, instead of my name it had AKLDISD...which stands for Auckland Disrupted..
We had a slight delay as this a/c NGJ had come in from Queenstown (ZQN
) and things had been a bit tricky getting out (as they often are in ZQN
) so it had worked in my favour really, my 14:00 meeting was now a 17:45 and the Admin Bunny had been returned to base but had no doubt relished her few hours of freedom from the admin shackles.
We took a while to board and there were a couple of grumpy blokes who were bad-mouthing Air NZ
for not offering them free flights to anywhere in the universe, first class of course, to make up for this inconvenience.
They started on the (male) purser, who took it all in his stride and managed to shut them up, make them look stupid and preserve his dignity all in a single glance…well done that man…give him a pie I say, because us pax have to get some perspective on things…better to be in CHC
than dead in the Tasman Sea….not sure if the same holds true for WLG
but far better to be late and in the wrong place than being torn apart by sharks in the foamy sea, surrounded by drowning people and flotsam.
Our take off run (due to there being 141 pax in a 142 seater 733 and many bags), was bloody long by NZ
domestic standards, no sign of any romping, more of a lumbering gait, like Wildebeest stampeding in slow motion.
I fell asleep again and woke up on the descent, the trip seemed to take only seconds but I spent the approach chatting with a surfer-dude and eyeing up the waves before a greasy-smooth touchdown.
It was 15:30 and I was in WLG
at last, I made some calls, grabbed a shuttle to the Harley Shop and spent 60 bucks on some tiny bits of rubber. Walked past the basin reserve into Adelaide St and stopped at the fish market to grab some grub in their excellent restaurant.
I did my 17:45 and the shuttle came for me at 19:10, dropping me at WLG
just in time for me to stroll onto NZ480…..yeah right….my day of trials wasn’t over yet.
We had a 30 min delay because the front wheels on the a/c had ceased to be round and had to be changed in AKL
This was a good excuse for a beer! I downed a Macs Red and watched the sun sink below the hills behind Lyall Bay and without further delays we boarded, the Captain promised us a quick thrash back to AKL
and I slept until Hamilton……..so glad I wore those red underpants…what a day!!!
We, the undersigned, do hereby consent.....