Joyrides Down Under Part 5: A Capital Stopover
Noun: A ride in a vehicle taken solely for pleasure
Verb: A ride in a vehicle with no particular goal and just for the pleasure of it
This is the third and final instalment of the Australian domestic flights. This report will cover the flights taken on the next day – SYD-MEL on a QF A332, MEL-CBR on a DJ 73G and CBR-SYD on a DJ E70.
I specifically booked the first flight as it was a Qantas service on an A332 but the only problem was it departed SYD at 7am meaning I’d have to be at the airport by 6:30. I made it to the airport with enough time to spare and headed straight for the QF self check in kiosks. I inserted my QF frequent flyer card – it couldn’t find a booking. I inserted my credit card I used to book the flight – it couldn’t find a booking. I thought something must have been wrong. It might have been nice if they had overbooked and something special was heading my way but I entered the booking reference into the computer and it immediately sprung to life. How weird.. To my dismay, all the window seats had been taken so I was left with no choice but to sit where I had been placed – a rear aisle seat among the sets of 3.
Qantas Check In Area
The Way To The Gate
I headed straight for the gate to wait for the boarding call. There were complimentary newspapers stacked up outside each gate. The boarding call finally came around.
26 Nov 2009
Routing: Sydney – Melbourne Tullamarine (SYD-MEL)
Scheduled Time of Departure: 0700hrs
Actual Departure: 0703hrs (pushback), 0723hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 0830hrs
Flight time: 1hr 42 min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-203
Qantas has a fleet of 7 A330-200 aircraft and 4 different configurations. VH-EBH was first registered with QF on 24 Dec 2007. It is an internationally configured A332 with a layout of 36J/199Y, like EBG and EBI. Business Class has sky beds installed. These usually fly to CGK, HKG, PVG, on domestic routes and have previously flown (but will recommence the following route from Sydney instead) MEL-AKL-LAX [AKL-LAX no longer exists]. The Economy cabin is split up into 2 sections.
Boarding commenced from the rear of the aircraft but a line had already formed so I just ended up joining the back of it. I eventually made it onto the jetway and into the plane via 2L where I promptly walked to the far aisle and was greeted by the FA at the door by “Wow, you must know where you’re going!” I was properly welcomed onboard by the purser standing on the right hand aisle with the usual “Welcome aboard Mr. Young, your seat is on the aisle down the end”. As I saw on the self check in monitor, the flight was packed. Passengers were constantly keeping the aisle filled right down to where I was sitting. The interior looked really nice and quite inviting to someone who would possibly be flying long haul on this bird.
Qantas Business Skybeds
Making My Way Down The Plane
The seats on the QF A332 are quite comfortable just like the JQ ones I tried a day earlier. Qantas have fabric seats and have the same amount of recline as what was on the Jetstar A332. Because this was an internationally configured A332, there were PTVs in every seat. The remote was in the armrest and definitely in a bad position, prone to bumps like many have pointed out over the years. It also narrows down the armrest and would be quite uncomfortable to lean on for a long haul flight unless you manage to get by with your elbow on the small portion of the armrest which is ‘normal’.
Pushback commenced 3 minutes late, seemingly justifiable by the heavy loading on today’s flight. The safety demo was played over the PTVs and we were on our way to runway 34R for the departure to Melbourne.
The seatbelt sign was switched off within 6 minutes of takeoff, after the steep right bank over the Tasman Sea had levelled off. I think I was guilty of playing around with the IFE too early and it wouldn’t let me do anything so I just left it as I couldn’t be bothered annoying a flight attendant just to get the air show programme operating on a short flight.
It didn’t take long before breakfast was being served. It took a while for them to reach the back of the plane but it eventually came. On the tray was a box of cereal, milk, a scone, orange juice and a small orange/mandarin. It was probably more than what I was expecting and did its job in filling me up. The reports on a lot of the seat websites like seatguru.com are correct when stating that the last row of 4 seats is bad due to FAs knocking it regularly. It must have happened at least three times and it didn’t look or sound very good. It’s one seat where you would be better off keeping your elbows tucked in at all times!
After breakfast had been completed, trays were quickly collected. I had a quick wander around the plane but there wasn’t much to see that was different to the JQ A332, which had previously served QF domestic and had an identical lavatory. The only difference I could spot was the removal of the projectors onto the bulkhead because the aircraft had PTVs.
Sure enough, it was time for our descent into Melbourne. The captain came across announcing that we’d be arriving into the gate (11) a little later because we were given a tight gate which required an engine shutdown and a tow into the gate. We landed, quickly vacated the runway and made our way to the gate.
Yananyi Dreaming In Melbourne
Upon disembarkation, I headed to the cockpit to see if I was able to get a bit more information about the flight and possibly a picture of the cockpit. My request was politely declined by the purser using “the pilots have a very busy schedule and this aircraft is due for a quick turnaround” as the excuse. So I walked off the plane and into Melbourne Airport for the 3rd time in 3 consecutive days.
The first thing lined up for my time in Melbourne was to check in for my flights back to Sydney via Canberra, both on Virgin Blue. I was able to check in using the kiosk for the first leg to CBR but I had to wait in line at the customer service desk to check in for my CBR-SYD flight. I took my boarding pass and supermarket docket and headed airside.
DJ Check In Area
I used my 3 hour long layover to get some rest as I was exhausted from all the flying over the few days. I did a little bit of spotting too. A couple of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts gave me a much needed sugar boost. The start of the first cricket test between Australia and the West Indies had just begun while I was down the pier waiting for my flight. A boarding call was made shortly after for my flight to CBR.
REX Saab 340s
My Plane To CBR
26 Nov 2009
Routing: Melbourne Tullamarine - Canberra (MEL-CBR)
Airline: Virgin Blue
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1200hrs
Actual Departure: 1156hrs (pushback), 1204hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1305hrs
Flight time: 56 min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-7Q8
VH-VBA was delivered new to DJ from Boeing on the 4th of April 2001 and was the first 737-700 registered in Australia and also the first 737NG for Virgin Blue. There are 21 73Gs operating for DJ in a configuration 12Y+/126Y totalling 144 seats. Information about the seats such as legroom is virtually identical to the 73H. They have Live2Air PTVs as well.
There weren’t that many around so I assumed it was going to be a rather light load to Canberra. I was correct when the doors closed early and it seemed like nearly everyone had a set of 3 seats to themselves. I flicked through the channels on Live2Air to try and find the cricket game I was watching in the terminal earlier but instead I found the New Zealand vs Pakistan game playing! It was great being able to watch that particular match from the plane and it was a good thing Lunch began before we departed so I didn’t bother wasting my money to keep watching nothing.
Down The Jetway
Live2Air – NZ Cricket!? DJ Can’t Get Any Better!
We were soon on our way to Canberra via Runway 34. The crew were very enthusiastic once again. There wasn’t much to report on this flight apart from the fact that we levelled off at 31,000ft. The lavatory was basically the same as what was in the 73Hs. For some reason, the recline function on my seat broke prior to landing and there was no way that it could be kept in an upright position if you leant back on it. I should have moved seats but I wanted to take pictures so the whole landing felt like holding a sit up for a while as we slowed down on the runway.
Past The International Terminal
Climb Out Of MEL
Cabin Shot – Quite A Bit Shorter Than The 73H!
Descending Into CBR
Queanbeyan, NSW, 3mi Final
We touched down in front of schedule on Runway 35, the main runway in Canberra. This meant a long taxi back to the terminal parallel to the runway we just landed on.
Touchdown, Looking Down The Cross Runway
Looking Back Down The Main Runway
Pulling Into Gate 7
Various Planes Which Use CBR
There wasn’t any airbridge at this gate but there were no problems as we walked off the plane after thanking the crew and headed down the stairs into the magnificent 31 degree dry heat of Canberra.
Inside The Terminal
Because I had already checked in for my flight back to Sydney, there was no need to rush or anything so I took my time to look around at what Canberra Airport offered.. Not much at all but it is undergoing major renovations with the whole entrance being a construction site.
QF Check In
TT/DJ Check In
There was basically nothing landside so I decided to pass through security and wait upstairs. There was a PA advising everyone that there was a school excursion happening and told people not to be worried if a man in a green suit was walking around the terminal.. More about this later. Anyway I passed through security to be taken over for secondary bomb testing – they get a swab over your clothes and baggage and run the sample through an itemiser to check for bomb residue. The staff must have been bored because I had been through 7 other flights around Australia and hadn’t seen one person being tested! Of course I passed through without any problems at all and headed upstairs.
My Plane From MEL Boarding For MEL, QF 738 Pushback Behind
A whole lot of kids came past and headed over to the cordoned off part of the departure hall. It was a very fun event to watch as first of all, the kids got to see and touch an AFP (Australian Federal Police) German Shepherd. Then after that, the guy in a green bomb suit appeared. Man is that thing laden with Kevlar! They then invited the kids to punch/kick the guy in the green suit as hard as they could.. This was one hilarious event as kids were injuring themselves in their attempts to bring this guy down! Canberra Airport can’t get any more interesting than this! I’m glad I chose that day to travel to Canberra!
Guy In Green Suit
Boy Throwing His Arm At Guy In Green Suit
In the meantime, the E170 from Sydney arrived, ready to take me on my first E-Jet experience.
My First E170 Arriving From SYD
Shortly after, a boarding announcement was made.
26 Nov 2009
Routing: Canberra – Sydney Kingsford (CBR-SYD)
Airline: Virgin Blue
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1400hrs
Actual Departure: 1358hrs (pushback), 1405hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1450hrs
Flight time: 36 min
Aircraft: Embraer ERJ 170-100LR
The Virgin Blue Embraer fleet isn’t very old at all. DJ has 6 E170s, predominantly for flights to and from Canberra and mainly for the SYD-CBR run. They are configured in a 12Y+/66Y arrangement, totalling 78 seats. The Economy seats have between 30 and 31 inches of legroom. ZHE was delivered new from Embraer and was registered on 4 September 2008. [They have since disposed of their E170 fleet but continue using E190s]
Boarding was made through a jetway. The first impression I received as I walked in was how spacious it was for a 4-abreast plane and the fact that I could stand up properly was another positive. The windows were very square and felt much bigger than the window in the A380. There was plenty of legroom for someone like me. There was definitely enough under seat storage too. It felt very spacious even though I had a neighbour. The one con I had about the flight was the fact that the air vent was extremely powerful, probably the most powerful I’ve experienced. It’d probably dry hair quicker than an A340 engine!
Pushback occurred in front of schedule again even though this flight was pretty full. A short taxi to the end of Runway 35 and we were bound for Sydney. The engines seemed fairly powerful for its size. I had a good view over Canberra as we climbed and could name a few landmarks like Canberra Radio Tower, the fountain and Parliament House.
Above The Clouds
The seat belt sign stayed on after takeoff as the pilots said that they expected turbulence. It was a complete non-event and to my anguish, it prevented me from taking a nice cabin shot. It sounds silly and hypocritical that the flight attendants are allowed to serve passengers their buy on board offerings when they expect turbulence as a loose cart is undoubtedly going to cause more harm in times of turbulence than a person is going to. I was ordered back to my seat when I tried to go to the toilet and they continued to serve passengers. But nonetheless, the flight was quickly over and done with. It was bumpier than other flights but the turbulence proved no real danger to anyone who may have wanted to stand up. It could be the fact that the E170 doesn’t handle the turbulence as well as a 737 might but I’m not in a position to test this theory just yet.
It was quite an interesting flight path taking us for a direct line towards Sydney before making a turn towards the southeast and continuing over the ocean to line up with Runway 34L, the longer runway in Sydney. It’s funny that all the propeller planes and the E-Jets use the main runway due to the patterns and position of those airports relative to Sydney Airport. The E70 wouldn’t come close to using up the whole runway when landing and this was no exception. We made our way back to the terminal and that was the end of my domestic travels around Australia!
Warragamba Dam – Sydney’s Largest Water Supply
Town of Picton, 50km Southwest of Sydney
Woronora Dam – Quite Low, Under 50% Capacity
Turning Onto Final Over The Water
CI A332 And Reverse Thrusters
Approaching The Gate
Although it was the shortest flight, it was pretty fun to try out the E70. The crew were definitely the most tempered out of all the DJ flights I flew on during my travels. Luckily they’re only on the short flights and I didn’t have to put up with them for too long. The thing that probably annoyed me the most was when I asked to take a picture of the cockpit. Before I had finished asking the question, one of the FAs butted in and immediately said “No, I’m sorry, the pilots are very busy right now and we need to head back very soon”. Oh well!
So that ends the last of the three domestic Australia trip reports. Thanks for reading!
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