Thursday, July 31, 2014

Christchurch Airport - Regional Lounge

Here are some shots from the regional/turboprops area of Christchurch Airport, taken last week.

Last week, I was out at the airport again for the 4th time in as many weeks picking up dad after a short trip down to Dunedin (sigh... there don't seem to be any short trips on the radar for me yet for the next few months). From past experience, I knew that this meant that would involve the smaller ATR-72 fleet in the regional/turboprops area (where you have to physically walk out on the tarmac to get your plane) instead of the usual "larger" 737's and A319/A320's jets (which are served by the air-bridges).

Despite having been through the airport a few times since its major redevelopment project finished several years ago, up till this point, I still hadn't managed to take shots of this part of the terminal yet. Earlier attempts had usually been hamstrung by the scourge of effectively having to pay over $10-$20 you step foot in the carparking building (since it's rare that you actually manage to leave within the 15 minutes of free parking they give you). This time though, with reduced parking fees (now $4 for the first hour IIRC) and a legitimate reason/excuse to be hanging around peering out the windows with a camera, I got to take my time.

Regional Terminal Area
Unlike the rest of the terminal, this part of the terminal was decked out in a distinctive pacific-inspired feel, with angled wooden panelling and furniture, a semi-industrial walkway along the side, and large exposed air ducts. In this area, there was also a second (mini) foodcourt and convenience store serving the waiting lounge area.

The waiting lounge area, with a few stores. At the far end (where those signs with red and white lettering area) are the "gates" - manned by a cluster of airport staff dressed in fluro vests (as you do). Overhead, some of the exposed air ducts can be seen (we are standing under the overhead walkway, which is more obvious in the next shot)

Reverse view of where we were looking before. The walkway can be seen running across the screen just under the ceiling. It can also be seen how different this section is from the rest of the terminal (which is 2 storeys high).

A mini baggage-carousel. It's kindof dinky, but also barely functional - in the way that you'd expect from the baggage restrictions you'd face on planes like the ATR-72 turboprops. One the wall, they had "welcome" spelled out in block letters (and the Air NZ font) using a number of different languages.

The extensive use of wood in this area was quite visually striking, and made for some nice shots...

Of course, the main point of an airport is for getting and off planes. With these regional jets, they're kindof small, so they end up all being parked out on the tarmac, and you have to walk out across the tarmac to reach them. (On the last time I was on one, it was also quite a noisy, slow, and slightly bumpier experience - you really feel that there is some human operating the controls through a bunch of directly-connected mechanical systems).

Thus, at this airport, that means that departing passengers end up just walking out of the terminal, passing firstly through the closely-guarded sliding glass doors into a closed corridor spanning the length of the lounge, before exiting through another door on the other end, getting out on to the tarmac, and following the yellow lines to the waiting plane. Passenger arrivals are even more dramatic, as all of a sudden, you get a large swarm of people powering through that sealed-off corridor and pouring out from one specific set of sliding doors.

 Airport staff in fluro vests guarding one of the doors allowing passenger access/exit to the tarmac

A view of the glass-flanked corridor - planes on one side, "the public" on the other, and a herd of "deplaning passengers" in the middle

Of course, one of the main benefits of such a nice long window like this is of course that you get to observe the planes sitting out there, and the going ons of the airport operations. In particular, there was a particularly striking ATR-72 with a black and white paintjob. From memory, Air New Zealand only really does this for certain "special" jets (e.g. the new 787-9 that we just got delivered as the "launch customer" of that model is painted in a distinctive and sleek "All Black" livery). In this case, it turns out that this was the plane which had just flown up from Dunedin :)

A view of the front of the plane. Note how the luggage/airmail bay is located up the front (while the passenger stairs are at the back). I wonder whether the pilots get in through there, or whether there is a thoroughfare through that bay to the cockpit... Also note how many blades there are on those propellors (and how they each seem to have an interesting shape)

The striking tail fin, with the Air NZ koru and bold silver fern patterns. IMO, these black-themed liveries are quite distinctive and should be featured on more of our national carrier's jets, helping to make them stand out from the crowd a bit more. 

Also, from what I've read about these jets, that thing beside the boarding stairs might be the thingy they place under the tail when passengers get on and off which stop the plane's tail from getting too heavy, causing it to get unbalanced and to tip over.

A shot of the whole black turboprop (@ Gate 12 IIRC), and another similar/older turboprop painted in the older livery. Note also that the older/closer jet appears to have fewer propeller blades, and stairs mounted at the front.

Closeup of another turboprop preparing to depart, while we waited. It's interesting to also note how this jet is "plugged in" while waiting for its next flight (I'm guessing that's needed since many don't have APU's, and also currently hold the dubious honour of still being the only commercial planes in NZ that you can't have phones powered up on at all - not even in "Airplane Mode")

Three planes in one shot

The Rest of the Terminal
On the corner approaching the regional terminal is this funky-looking feature wall, which is made from some kind of semi-translucent plasticy material. I've been trying to get some shots of this for years, but have until now failed to get a decent photo of this (since the lighting conditions here are clearly quite tricky). That said, I love the visual effect this little corner/wall has - it looks like a slice of the corporate world you often see in movies or on tv (at least the ones they had when I was a kid)

Here are some of the sculptures you'll find hanging in the arrivals area (and the baggage carousel for certain domestic arrivals - placed in front of a pretty "living wall" and backdrop of the Southern Alps). You may remember these from the shots I took back in 2012, prior to departure for HK.

And of course, here's the main check in hall. It's an integrated system catering for both International and Domestic departures. Along the back wall, there's a marble/stone carving representing the braided Waimakariri river, which runs East to West, and which most flights end up passing over (especially when landing, except on days when there's a nor-wester blowing, in which case it passes over our house instead!)

I don't think I've ever posted any decent photos of the exterior of the terminal during the day. So, here goes...

Parking building on the left, and the entrance to the Air New Zealand regional lounge part of the terminal

Air New Zealand koru adorning the one entrance, and the current generation of colourful city flags (featuring the current set of tourist attractions left in the city centre).

Control tower on the right, and main terminal building on the left (with its distinctive triangle shape)

This cricket-ball display is advertising the cricket world cup being held here next year (following a lot of fuss surrounding whether resource consent would be granted to support building a permanent raised embankment + large stands + lighting equipment for a "world class" cricket ground in Hagley Park (a large green-space/park area in the middle of the town, which was set aside for the use of ALL Cantabrians). Knowing what any local does about the parking conditions around there, you can only wonder how well the traffic management will cope during that event.

Meanwhile, this traveller seems to have quite the baggage in tow!

The carparking building, complete with a large billboard promoting the university (I wonder how many million they wasted "invested" on that), and an interesting mural promoting the surrounding area.

The jagged-donut sculpture on the lawn beside the control tower

The control tower. Along with the terminal building, this gets lit up in beautiful coloured LED lighting at night, and is quite a sight to behold. IIRC, all the air traffic movements in the south island depend on this tower at some point, since this is the main "Airways NZ" hub (at least for the south island) IIRC. From job listing adverts, I do know that the Airways NZ team working on developing and maintaining the air traffic control software used in this country (and probably being exported to other countries too) is developed here in Christchurch.

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