Plane Spotting

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This jumbo will NOT come to you as a surprise!

Ever since I was a baby, probably before I was even aware of it, I have been a plane spotter. I had grandparents who lived under the flight path in Adelaide, and the head office of the family business was also directly under the flight path – as in planes flying over so close you could almost touch them. My Nanna and Poppa were both crazy for planes and every single member of the family inherited this craziness.

There is just something special about a plane flying. The magical scientific mystery that it is even possible at all – that tonnes of metal can be lifted into the air – is awe inspiring and breath taking to watch.

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So, Qantas were retiring the first 747-400, and they decided to donate it to a little known outfit known as HARS – or the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society – little known unless you are a plane spotter like me and thousands of other plane geeks in Australia to whom HARS is a well known awesome band of volunteers who have kept the Connie and many other planes flying or in tip top shape to be displayed to the public for many years now.

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HARS have an excellent museum at the Illawarra Airport which will shortly be made all the greater for having the 747-400 VH-OJA “City of Canberra” on display.

This event was hyped up in the media and full respect to HARS because they deserve every single bit of media attention they can get.. but unfortunately, people are crazy and what happened was an example of sheer and utter lunacy.

It is not HARS fault, they had a plan. And they announced that plan very clearly in the days leading up to the event – where people could and could not be. However plans are just that, and there was no way in heck that anyone could have moved these people from the spots they had arrived at in the early hours of the morning.

We also had a plan, thinking that every man and his dog would want to be close to the end of the runway, we were going to the carpark of Hungry Jacks at Yallah. But when we got to the Yallah turn off? Gridlock. Nobody could go anywhere. The exit from the highway and the road that leads to Hungry Jacks was a carpark. ps1

Though you cannot see it in the image, there were cars and people stopped on the bridge that goes across the highway there. It turned out that there were cars parked all through Haywards Bay – I bet the residents there were super pleased! People parked their cars and then walked off in search of what they thought was the best vantage spot.

Cars were just parking wherever they felt like it, including in the no stopping lane on the highway, or like this one we spotted as we were leaving – that black car there is parked, there is no owner with the vehicle. SRSLY?

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I hate to be the one to tell these would be plane spotters – many of whom arrived at the airport this morning from 3am onwards in order to secure a decent vantage point – just one hour down the road in Sydney, large planes like this plus the A380 are landing all day every day, and you can get a lot closer and it is not nearly so crowded.

Anyway, we ended up next to a field in the middle of nowhere and yet not very far from the end of the runway, and we did get a couple of semi-decent shots.. though we had a lot of electrical wires to shoot around.

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I’ve been flown over by all kinds of planes many times, so I was perfectly fine with not being right at the end of the runway for this one. We will go back to see the plane close up once they open it to the world. HARS estimates this will be in a month or so. I will be able to fulfill one of the items on my bucket list, which is to stand right next to a 747.

While we were there to see the plane fly over, my parents were at home expecting to be able to view this on news channels who had spoken about bringing the landing live to everyone – and when it came time for the landing? Nothing. They were airing a speech by Barack Obama instead. KTHX Obama, I know you are fascinating and all, but this was a special local moment which should have gone live to air.

Later on they discovered the landing was on Sky via the multichannel where you press red to see extra channels, and all you get is a tiny image and you can’t record it. Not cool, media people. Not cool at all.

Here is a video – they actually closed the highway for the landing and I think that was a good idea not for plane safety reasons but for people safety reasons, because there were just SO many people there.

It might be just me, but I still have great concerns about the apparent inability of people to enjoy a moment without having to use their phone, iPad, or various other means to capture it. And another video which gives you an idea of the large amount of people –

For other shots from the day –

This photo here sums up the absolute insanity of newbie plane spotters.

This is a great shot here.

HARS has a photo album online which you can view here.

Here is the HARS Facebook page – there are quite a few videos linked from there.

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12 thoughts on “Plane Spotting

    • Absolutely right about the chaos.

      Even more scary, I would say a good 65% of the people there were wearing thongs on their feet, which I still struggle with as a concept especially when you have to walk any distance – maybe I just don’t wear them the “right” way but I spend more time trying to keep those things on my feet than walk comfortably. I think they are fine for going to swimming pools and a beach where you don’t have to walk far from your car, anything more than that is a bit dangerous in my mind. Does this disqualify my Australian citizenship? :)

      However, if they all wear thongs when the zombie apocalypse happens, the zombies will have no trouble catching them. There’s a reason the cast on The Walking Dead are wearing boots.

      I think this plane might be a good hiding place in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse as long as we have a ladder and the keys to the air stairs, for anytime we might need to go out and collect food and water.

  1. I was at work and a friend also working went to the roof of his building and captured it for me. No crowds. I’m rather happy I wasn’t at the airport. Crowds and me don’t mix

    • I’m with you on the crowds thing. Where we ended up there were a few cars parked alongside the road but nobody close enough to us that it was annoying.

      It reminded me of one occasion – we used to go to the plane spotting weekends held annually in Sydney, and once there was such a large crowd of us at the end of the runway that the tower mentioned our presence to pilots flying in. Plus we had the police arrive to check us out. And that was only 50-60 people. If this amount of people showed up at the end of a working airport runway I think airport security would have a bit of a panic. :)

      I think the museum will be rather busy when they first open the 747 to the public, we might leave it a little while. But a museum visit is high on my awesome things to do in 2015 list. :)

  2. Co-pilot, “geez, look at all the people!”
    Pilot; “yeah, hope the landing gear doesn’t clip somebody’s head.’
    co-pilot, “watch out for that tall guy on the roof of his car!!! aaaaaah!”

  3. I used to work at an airport and cleaned aircraft for almost 4 years. Standing underneath a 747 is a truly humbling experience which makes you feel like an ant. ;)

    • I would have loved that job. :) Almost any job at an airport I would be a big fan of. But the one I always wanted was the person who guides the aircraft in to park with those lighted wands. :)

  4. oh wonderful (not the crowds though). I used to fly, though rotary aircraft. I miss it terribly and am an in the closet aircraft spotter!

  5. I love 747s although I’ve only flown on one a few times. The one I want to get on is that GIGANTIC Quantas Airbus with two floors. My older daughter and I saw one sitting on the runway at LAX once and it was incredible! I’ve never seen anything like it!

  6. Re the news coverage. I watched abc news 24 for a good 6 hours on Saturday night. Not a single mention of OJA during that time.

    I did get to see a press conference where a scary looking Tony Abbott was promising (because this was absolutely in the plans if there is no election in NSW this month) billions of dollars on road projects. That and the same things over and over, even Barrie Cassidy but nothing on OJA.

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