Saturday, May 25, 2019

Away for an extended weekend - Melbourne to Brisbane by plane

Every flight is different

I’m sure I wasn’t expecting this to be so, but it’s always good to be surprised.  Particularly when an airline is involved.

The thing is, running on time with airlines in this country, particularly when there is no real competition between them, is not one of their priorities.  Most of the flights I’ve been on recently have either been delayed or just plain late.

But, for us, other than being out late, it doesn’t really matter.  It’s not as if we have to be somewhere at a particular time.  And it’s the reason why we select the flights with the cheapest seats.  They are the flights late in the day and the last to fill, and it’s probably because everyone knows they never leave on time, or arrive on time.

So, having said that, this flight is going to prove me wrong and be the exception to the rule.
6:02 the doors are closed and we're ready to go.

As the stated departure time is slated for 6:10, I seriously doubt we'll be pushing back before the advertised time.  Maybe not, 6:05 and we're pushing back from the gate.  This might be the first time...

But, sometimes being early doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the aviation industry.  It certainly doesn’t mean we are getting into Brisbane any earlier.

This I know for a fact because there always seems to be a problem getting into Brisbane because it only has one runway and nearly every flight has had to  slow down and lose a few minutes because of the number of available landing slots.

I think there's only been one occasion we got in early; that was an international flight and we had favourable tailwinds.

So let's see what happens...

At 6:14 the plane is at the top of the runway, and then at full power, we are scooting down the runway.  The pilot is making use of very metre and it feels like it's taking an eternity to get into the air.  Eventually, the plane lifts off and we are in the air.  

Unlike the tired old plane we came down in, there is no sound of the flaps retracting or the wheels going up.  It's all very smooth, so far.

Back in my favourite middle seat, it’s back to eating like a sardine.  The menu gives us two choices, and I take a lamb tortilla with wild rice, and it proves very difficult to eat when restricted in movements.  In the end, you basically have to eat like a pig at a trough, which can be disconcerting to those sitting beside you.  Unfortunately, you have very little choice, other than not eating at all.

At 7:30, we start the descent into Brisbane. It usually takes about 30 minutes for the plane to land. which means if we're lucky and we do not get sent into a large circular holding pattern, we might just land 20 minutes early. 

Ten minutes later, the flight path display is saying we will arrive in Brisbane, whether this is on the ground or at the gate, at 8:06.  At 7:47 the flight path guide is still telling us we will be arriving in Brisbane at 8:06.  At least now it is showing the icon for the plane heading towards Brisbane instead of out to sea.  It means our flight path to the runway will take us over the city.

Since I am near enough to a window, I will be able to see us pass over the gateway bridges rather than coming in from over the bay, nominally at the sea end of the Brisbane river.  During the day the view below is usually quite spectacular, at night, you get to see the lights, and at times pick out the main roads by the continuous street lighting.  You might also get to see a brightly lit stadium if there is a football or rugby game being played.

At various times I have been able to pick out the M1 freeway, the gateway motorway, and a large city that is reasonably distinguishable from the air, Springwood, near where we live, and once I was able to see our neighbourhood in Daisy Hill.  I have not yet actually seen our house from the air, the plane is too high up to clearly identify any specific landmark that small.

Maybe one day, in the right conditions.  I know it’s possible because planes are always passing over our house during the day and sometimes at night.

We’re still on time for an 8:06 landing and a quick glance out the window just saw us going over the gateway bridges at 8:04.  From there it is a slightly bumpy ride until we touchdown, quite sedately, at 8:07.

The late plane myth has been dispelled.  We arrive at the gate at 8:11, 19 minutes ahead of the scheduled arrival time. 

One suspects the plane crew had a party to get to, and it was the reason why we arrive ahead of time.  Or, maybe not.  Everyone is up the front of the plane, from the Captain down, thanking the passenger,. Or perhaps it’s the other way round.

It’s always good to actually land safely in one piece, in America they applaud.  Here, we’re a little more sedate and simply mutter a quiet thank you as we leave the plane.

By the time we’re off the plane, it’s clear we are one of the last few planes to arrive for the day, and the usually busy airport is starting to close down.  The only place that is a hive of activity is the baggage belt, and it’s usually here where any made up time is completely lost.  Much like the carts with our baggage from the plane.  Sometimes you can wait an eternity.

Today, thankfully, it’s only half an eternity.

Maybe we’ll get home at a respectable hour, if, that is, there are no road works on the main arterial road between our place and the airport.

Oops, looks like I spoke too soon.

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