This eleventh episode covers the second part of the overnight flight from Hong Kong to Sydney and a spot of aerial photography.
Hint: Scroll right to the bottom for some of the "cool" aerial shots...
QF128 - Hong Kong to Sydney (Continued)
Continuing from where we left off in the previous installment, the overnight flight from Hong Kong to Sydney effectively had 3 parts, each about 3 hours long. The first third involved the takeoff, some flying in darkness, and finally a meal being served - all while still within the general Asia area. The second third involved flying in darkness, when most people slept, but I ended up watching a few movies until I finally started getting a little sleepy, and probably managed some 20-30 minutes of sleep. We were probably flying over Malaysia or the bit of sea between Asia and Australia. Either way, this didn't really last too long in practice...
Before long, a bit of light started showing on the horizon. I'm not sure exactly how I ended up noticing this, but once you do, it's hard not to be somewhat captivated by it. There is something about seeing a sunrise which is really quite magical and poetic. Perhaps it's just that I hardly ever really get to see them, except for those few times when I am on an overnight flight, or the nights I ended up pulling all nighters last year when everything for honours year would be due.
On the few nights that I've ended up puling all nighters, I've always found it somewhat surreal sitting there after having been hunched over working madly all night to suddenly feel a shift in the outside world; as if the grinding wheels of "the normal world" are slowly grinding back into life gradually, with the sounds of single cars occasionally passing by returning, or perhaps the sound of busses and other traffic flowing past on some arterial routes, all with a new found freshness and energy which cuts through the calm and still of the night. And of course, there's the light, which somehow always manages to find a way to creep through the curtains and blinds - a soft blue-green glow at first, which gradually becomes a dull red/pink/orange, then full blinding yellow, then brilliant sunlight bathing everything in its path...
Cool blue glow of sunlight on the horizon...
The sky gradually glows brighter and brighter, as the peachy red glow of the sun slowly creeps over the horizon, illuminating the landscape below (there seem to be faint taces of some lakes or so). As can be seen, the colours changed from a dull red/purple, to a warm reddish glow, which showed up on the ribs. In the middle shot, there was probably another plane flying around...
Eventually, as I looked closer, it soon became obvious that we were over land now - Australian land - and that through the mist, you could actually see what looked like rivers, lakes, paddocks, and in some cases mountains/hills and even roads too...
Around about this time, breakfast started being served. From memory, there were two options (as usual) between a Western styled (omelet + sausage) or Asian styled (fried noodles or something similiar IIRC) option. These were served with a light fruit salad, yoghurt, orange juice, and coffee/tea as per usual. Perhaps it was the lack of any good sleep, or maybe the catering services when flying out of Asia are just crap in general, but the egg and sausage were reasonably rubbery-stale. Sure, you can't expect too much out of airline food, but the main breakfast offerings on this flight were particularly dismal (though not much better than the ones I had on a similar overnight flight from Singapore back to Christchurch two years earlier).
Around the same time, the sunshine started getting brighter - so bright that by the middle of breakfast service, the blinds had to be pulled down, as the bright light was blindingly bright and the reflections off the wing even worse.
Full daylight shining through the windows...
Approach to Sydney
As we carried on, farmland and hills could be seen out the windows... I've no idea where these were, but judging from the overall time in the flight, these were probably somewhere between south Queensland and New South Wales.
More hilly terrain, some of it covered in dense forests...
Some more farmland...
A note about image quality: although many of these features were identifiable at the time, a combination of general haze in the air and also the strong glare on sunlight against the windows meant that the contrast on the resultant shots turned out to be quite low. Hence, I've ended up heavily boosting the contrast to make things read better, though this has had the result of giving everything a really grainy blue tinge. (Note to self: get a circular polariser before doing this next time).
Nevertheless, it was quite exciting at the time being able to actually see scenery outside the window while the plane was in level flight (and while we weren't really making our descent into an airport). In the past, it has always been that there was generally too much cloud out there to see anything at all (if there was any light outside and we weren't just flying over the sea)!
Flying Over Sydney
As we started to make our descent into Sydney, the scenery outside the window began to get a lot more exciting.
After a little turn, the following complex river system became visible out the windows:
Or how about a golf course/lifestyle village in the hills, away from it all?
A short while later, we made a slightly larger turn, and a few famous landmarks started popping out of the landscape...
A short while after passing the CBD, we made yet another turn - clearly the air traffic controllers were routing us around a bit that morning (at the time, it seemed that we might have been put into a bit of a holding pattern towards the end), but all the better for the sightseeing from the air, as we'll soon see...
Within minutes (or less than a minute probably, since the airport is apparently "quite" close to the airport, in that the CBD can be seen from the airport buildings), the airport itself came into view.
Looping out to sea...
Shortly after we passed over the airport, we banked sharply to the left, vectored straight out to sea, in what at the time to be a need to send us out into a holding pattern for a while.
After heading out seawards for a while (to the point where the coastline had vanished from view), we suddenly started making a really sharp turn straight back into shore. It basically felt like the left wing was pointing nearly straight down into the sea while we pivoted around some 180 degrees or so, as can be seen in the following shots:
As we started to head towards land, the flaps were extended out to "full" it seems (or very close to full, as can be seen from the later shots). But apart from that, there were really no further course corrections on final - we were apparently nicely lined up with the runway, and coming in for "straight from the sea".
The landing itself was a bit of an interesting one: after lightly making contact with the ground for a split-second, we seemed to "bounce" back up before coming down for real and solidly. When we hit the ground, the row of spoilers were fully deployed upwards (as seen below), fully exposing the innards of the wing.
Another closeup of the innards of the wing - interesting looking stuff this!
"Deplaning" as it's called took a while - strangely, we seemed to end up a similar gate to the one from when we arrived from Christchurch almost a week earlier.
As usual, there were some delays before we could get going (as people got blocked trying to grab their luggage and so forth). Meanwhile, out the window, I spied another Qantas A380 about to depart (and then actually go and take off).
Finally, when stepping off the plane and on to the airbridge, the heat could be felt immediately. It wasn't quite "Changi" bad or even "Hong Kong terminal" bad, but given that it was still early in the day, it was still quite a surprise to feel the heat in the air already just walking off the plane.
Closing Thoughts on the Flight
While the food was so-so and it sucked to have be cooped up quite uncomfortably in cattle for so long, the scenic sightseeing we got that morning was awesome. I'd still be happy flying Qantas again on this route, though probably not in economy if I can help it!