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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I love the Sydney Airport Stamford. Truly, I adore it! I have stayed there many times over the years and it never gets old. They have fantastic bathrooms with Aveda toiletries. They have comfortable beds. The furniture is tasteful and solid. They offer excellent food. The parking is excellent and they have many single parks surrounded by concrete, perfect for those of us who own performance vehicles and might find our sleep interrupted by thoughts of “is someone too close to my car”. But above all else, they have one thing which is rare when it comes to a hotel.
Brilliant views with extremely comfortable chairs to sit and watch the view in.
Of course this is not something everyone appreciates but for those of us who are plane enthusiasts (read, plane geeks) a 5 day stay at the Sydney Airport Stamford in which you never leave the room would be the perfect holiday. As long as you have an airport view room. And you need to ask for airport view because sometimes they put you on the other side of the hotel. I’ve never had a problem getting the room with a view yet and we have stayed there *a lot*. Including several long stays where we rarely left the room. ;) Here is a panorama of the view from the room – click for a larger view.
However you will have to do a little moving the chairs around, because for some unknown reason the hotel puts them away from the window. This is fine, it doesn’t take a lot of work and once you’ve done it you can sit down with your scanner flicking through the air control frequencies and enjoy the view. In fact you might not leave the room at all. Why would you go outside to watch planes when you can do it from the hotel? The only possible *better* view would be sitting in the control tower..
There is one small problem. If there are two of you, there is only one chair. However we share nicely and there is the ottoman at the end as well. Planes fly right over the top of the hotel – and you can barely hear them thanks to some amazing double glazing. It is quite the experience.
We stayed there with my parents who had the room next door. It is times like those when you realise how nutty they are. We’d parked in the carpark and The Other Half got a brilliantly fantastic park in between the concrete poles I mentioned. Then we decided we wanted to go out for dinner, but we did not want to lose the park. What to do? My Mum suggested we “borrow” one of the big witch’s hats and put it at the entrance to the park – she meant it as a joke, but Dad and I decided it was a brilliant idea and picked one up. They were incredibly heavy so the two of us had to drag it halfway across the carpark giggling the whole way. It worked too – the fantastic park was empty and waiting for us when we returned. There was heaps of spare parks, no harm done but we were happy. ;)
The next morning we had breakfast in the buffet for the first time. We did not know they had an egg chef. But they do. :) Good to know! I had me a nice omelette. We saw the Singapore A380 for the first time. Amazing.
BYO binoculars, scanner and bottles of water. Remember to put the “do not disturb” sign on the door. We almost had a visit from housekeeping before we got out of bed. Use the door chain as well, just in case. Of course you do that anyway when staying at a hotel, right?
No, the Sydney Airport Stamford did not pay me for this post however if they happen to be reading this I will happily accept a free stay or something. Because I love ya’all. And your hotel ain’t cheap, but it *is* worth it. And I didn’t roll the housekeeping carts and steal a shedload of Aveda toiletries, however sorely I was tempted.
Have you ever wondered why they bother to have a safety demonstration on the plane at all? A lot of people think ok, if the plane is going to crash what is the point of knowing any of these things. They’d rather skip the safety demonstration all together – for two reasons, one being the “It will never happen to me” attitude and one being that they find it annoying, repetitive and intrusive.
If you knew what I knew, you’d know watching that safety demonstration very closely might actually save your life. Not every incident on a plane is fatal. Incidents on a plane can *become* fatal if people haven’t been paying attention to the safety demo. Here’s a few things I think you should know. They may not be things you *want* to know, they may scare you a little. However being scared might make you a survivor instead of a statistic.
First of all, you need to know about hypoxia. At sea level there’s plenty of oxygen in the air. As you go up into the atmosphere, two things happen – it becomes a LOT colder, and there is less oxygen. Where commercial planes generally fly is between 30,000-40,000 feet and they do this for a lot of technical reasons which I won’t bore you with here. They are able to do this because the cabin you are travelling in is pressurized.
The moment the plane doors shut, air is pumped into the cabin to increase the air pressure within the plane. That means you can safely breathe, and the air is kept warm, and the plane can safely fly at high altitude without killing you. You may notice you have to swallow in order to make your ears pop.
However in air travel, things can and do go wrong. If they did happen to go wrong, you need to know this – at 30,000 feet, you have approximately 45-75 seconds to get on oxygen before you lose consciousness and will be unable to put your mask on. At 40,000 feet, you have between 10-30 seconds to put your mask on.
The safety demonstrations try oh so gently to not scare you, but in effect what they do is take away any urgency you should feel. There have been times when the masks have fallen from the ceilings in commercial jets and the passengers just sat there looking at them. Nobody made an effort to put their mask on. Lucky them, because in those cases there wasn’t anything wrong with the plane, but they *could* have died if there had been. So, that makes safety lesson number one –
IF YOU SEE OXYGEN MASKS DROP DOWN IN THE CABIN, PUT ON THE MASK FIRST AND ASK QUESTIONS LATER.
It’s better to look a little silly than to be very dead, would we all agree?
So why would the masks drop down, I hear you ask? What’s going to be wrong with the plane? Best case scenario is that something is wrong with the planes cabin pressurization system. Worst case scenario is that there has been an explosive decompression of some kind. That could be anything from a small hole in the plane to the plane missing an entire section.
If there has been an explosive decompression, there will be a fine mist in the air for a short time, things will be flying around in the cabin. You may experience intense pain in your ears especially if you have a bad cold or flu the pain caused by this cannot be described, it will make it impossible to think. Anything or anyone not tied down is going to fly around and might even get pushed out through the hole. So that makes safety lesson number two –
KEEP YOUR SEATBELT FASTENED ALL THE TIME YOU ARE SEATED.
It’s just good sense to do that and not just because of the possibility of explosive decompression, there could be turbulence, anything can happen. I’ve seen people thrown out of their seats during *taxi* from the runway to the terminal because the plane had to brake suddenly. That could end in tears – or even a broken neck. Have you been on a plane and heard all that seatbelt un-doing right after the plane lands? So that makes safety lesson number three –
DO NOT UNDO YOUR SEATBELT UNTIL THE PLANE HAS STOPPED AND THE PILOT HAS TURNED OFF THE SEATBELT SIGN (unless you are being ordered to evacuate the aircraft by the flight attendants).
You’re not going anywhere until the plane stops anyway, having your seatbelt undone won’t make you get off the plane any faster, so why take the risk?
If something did happen, the amount of time you’d be in shock because you were in “it won’t happen to me mode” could be the amount of time it takes to kill you. Many passengers die because they sat in stunned silence while the plane filled with smoke. It’s almost like they gave up – they thought well, the plane is crashing, that’s it, I’m dead, there’s no way I can survive this. People can and do survive. Safety rule number four is important and simple.
BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING. READ. EDUCATE YOURSELF ON PLANE SAFETY. KNOW WHAT CAN SAVE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.
There are a lot of good aviation safety books out there. However there is one book which I believe should be on your bookshelf. It is called “Black Box” by Nicholas Faith. There are many excellent lessons to be learned from this book, even by non-aviation fans.
I know a fair bit about flying. I have absolutely no fear of it. What I fear is that the people around me aren’t going to have paid attention to the safety demonstrations, and they’re going to slow me down to the point I can’t get off the aircraft. Passengers have been known to try and collect their hand luggage in the event of an evacuation.
You know something? If you’re in front of me, and you’re trying to get your hand luggage out of the overhead locker, and we’ve been told to evacuate, I’m going to punch you, push you or KICK you, hard. I’m going to get you the F*CK out of my way, and I don’t care who you are or how important your stuff seems to you. You may be more interested in your laptop than saving your life, but I want to live, so get out of my way, get out of everyone else’s way, have some respect for the lives of others. Safety rule five therefore is –
IF TOLD TO EVACUATE, DO NOT DAWDLE. DO NOT BRING ANYTHING TO THE EXIT BUT YOURSELF. THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT WILL NEVER LET YOU TAKE IT OFF THE PLANE ANYWAY AND PASSENGERS MIGHT KILL YOU IF YOU GET IN THEIR WAY.
And PS – even if you don’t have travel insurance that covers everything you have on the plane, if your stuff is destroyed the airline will usually compensate you. And if you’re dead, you can’t use your stuff, so leave it where it is and get out of the aircraft. NOW.
I will leave you with this final thought and a few videos. On August the 22nd, 1985, a British Airtours Boeing 737-200 lined up for take off at Manchester airport. 130 passengers were on board. As the plane gained speed, there was a loud thump heard. The pilot thought a tyre had burst, so he aborted the take off, slowed the aircraft, and turned off the runway. He did not know the plane was actually on fire because parts of the engine had disintegrated and been thrown through the wing fuel tank. The evacuation was more difficult because most of the exits on the side of the plane that was on fire could not be used. 55 people died.
What surprised most people about this incident was that the plane never crashed. It never got off the ground at all. It was at an airport with an excellent fire fighting team who trained constantly and who arrived at the aircraft within moments, literally, of the fire being reported. This incident was one of the major factors in changing many things in aviation, from the materials used in building planes becoming less flammable to aisles and exits being made wider.
What does an evacuation of a big plane look like? Chaos really. This video shows the new Airbus A380 being evacuated. 873 people in 77 seconds. Can you imagine how much slower it would be if people were trying to get their stuff?
Chuck Yeager talking about another pilot experiencing hypoxia and how he helped save the pilot’s life.
Air Force Pilot undergoing hypoxia training
Further reading on plane crashes and how to prepare for them and potentially survive them – (all are PDF, so be patient while your browser loads them)
Am I Alive? One flight attendant’s heart breaking story of what happened when the plane crashed. I recommend you read it but beware, it pulls no punches and is disturbing in some ways. Tissues may come in handy, it sure brought tears to my eyes.
Training Saves LivesAnother flight attendant’s story.
United Flight 11 Explosive decompression and quite a lot of missing plane as well as 9 missing passengers.
United Flight 232 A long read but well worth it. Captain Al Haynes is one person I greatly admire, and you’ll see why if you read that.
You should also check out my previous post – what not to wear on a plane.
You might want to read this very interesting transcript of a speech given by Captain Al Haynes. The crash at Sioux City (more info here and here) seemed not survivable when you saw it happen however thanks to a lot of preparation and the skill of the crew and a DC-10 instructor pilot who happened to be a passenger on the flight, 184 passengers and 10 crew members survived.
I had the strangest dream last night – I had this lizard which was injured and I had found it and healed it’s injuries, and I was supposed to make it this soup of carrots, lettuce and other fruits and vegetables but I couldn’t find any fruit and veg at the supermarket. Very odd.
I have so many thoughts I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll go with the most controversial one first.
1. The people who jumped or fell from the WTC buildings who have since been apparently written out of the history of the day. How completely unfair to them. Not only that, how completely unfair to everyone who works or lives in a highrise building. By ignoring what happened or pretending it didn’t happen, the chances for change are lost. If those people who fell/jumped had access to one of these emergency parachutes, they could have survived 9/11 too.
There could be other changes – better exits, other technologies that could save lives, if only we didn’t ignore the fact that people either chose to jump to their deaths or fell out of the building trying to get fresh air.
It reminds me of this aviation incident when people died needlessly. Out of 137 people on the plane, 55 died of smoke inhalation. You would think over 20 years later, with all the technology we have now, that you would not have to worry about this now – but the only increases in safety have been in how to get off the plane. If smoke hoods were made available for every passenger on the plane there would be a good chance of this never happening again. Right now if your plane caught fire, the only hope you’ve got is to get to an exit before you are overcome by the smoke. The reason they are not found on planes? The cost – it would work out around $450,000 per life saved.
It is a terrible thing to think of that choice people may have been forced to make – do I stay here and not be able to breathe or get burned, or do I jump and hope for the best – either I survive, or a fast end to a horrible situation. It is even more terrible to think that people would rather just pretend it didn’t happen than to face it.
2. Wow, it could have been a heck of a lot worse. The amount of people who managed to get out of those buildings (both the WTC towers and the Pentagon) is seriously amazing.
3. I watched a documentary on how ATC got all the planes out of the sky on 9/11 which was really interesting. There were a couple of incidents I didn’t know about, including a Korean Air 747 on its way to Anchorage which was showing the transponder code for being hijacked – which resulted in f-15’s being launched, and all kinds of headaches for the authorities. In the end, once they got the plane on the ground in Whitehorse Alaska (the second time a 747 had ever landed there) it turned out the pilots were using that code was to show they got the message about the planes being hijacked. Yes, this is why I was terrified – honestly, shitscared is the best way to describe it – when my Dad flew to Korea on Korean Air. Keep off ooooo Korean Air! The plane could have been shot down – and it almost WAS shot down.
In other news –
Animal Planet have been running a tribute to the Crocodile Hunter and I caught a couple of hours of it. They showed some of his tour across America when he released the movie a while back, stuff which was behind the scenes and them in planes and limos and stuff. We got to see some of Steve being a Dad, and it was beautiful. There was also a photographic book in one of the Sunday papers here, and it had some of the most lovely photos of Steve in it.
The other half is on his way to Thailand – and I am a little terrified, I’ll be honest. Meanwhile I have to work the next 3 days.. ;)