CHECK OUT THE BOOK BY SCROLLING DOWN .... AND GET YOUR FREE PICTURE !
This site was last updated on the 7th November 2013.
Greece Needs To ... & Latest News, Editorials & Feedback here.
Boracay, The Philippines.
Fifty-five minutes from Manila - after taking Dash 8 flight to Caticlan, on the mountainous Panay Island - you can take a short ferry ride to Boracay Island. The dog-bone shaped island has a magnificant white sand beach facing west to the Sulu Sea. The eastern side - Bulabog Beach - faces the Sibuyan Sea - and is the province of the wind surfers. The island is worth a visit.
Sundown Beach Studios
There are 350 resorts but the best one - if you want a quiet holiday - is run by Jurgen Schatzle. HIs vision and attention to detail has produced a remarkable building - 40 solar panels provide its power. Complete with high speed internet, heaps of power points in the rooms, bar, restaurant and dive centre. Contact directly, HERE, and he’ll pick you up at the airport.
Best Balcony View: Dawn or Dusk?
Jurgen was scheduled to remove the bamboo framework - signifying the end of the typhoon season - on Nov 5th. Now the island is in the path of Super-Typhoon Haiyan, due to hit in 24 hours with 131 kph winds.
The Day I Won The Grand Final
Hawthorn’s appearance at the Grand Final reminds me of the time when ... CLICK TO HEAR
With 400,000 people living in the slums aurrounding the airport, it’s no surprise that many of the airport workers live there. This will prove a problem if they try to expand the airport and remove the slum-dwellers; whose homes are not only supported with electricity - but with satellite TV as well.
The Indian Monsoon, with such unstable air, sees seemingly innocent Strato Cumumlous clouds suddenly trigger into thunderstorms - rising faster than elevators. They take 20 minutes to build - are active for 20 minutes and then dissipate into high level cirrus clouds and low level stratus clouds
A country awash under the monsoon.
Sun Sets Behind The Monsoon
Night Comes to Kolkata
Sun Rises Over An A330
Wind Powers A Greek Island
Expensive Beach-Side Houses In Alexandria, Egypt
Oil Installation, Saudi Desert.
And their weather-radar image
Sun Rises Over The Tallest Building InThe World
Sun Rises Over The Burj Al Arab & The Palm
Jumeirah Lakes Towers & Dubai Marina
Foehn Wind Clouds
Dubai Airport Control Tower
View from the balcony - (photo of a photo).
Testing A New Sail
Italian-Side Of The Alps
Images Of The Bosphorus, Istanbul.
Burj Al Arab, Dubai.
Madinat Jumeirah Souk and restaurants, Dubai U.A.E.
Saudi Irrigation Project
Seems to have failed, they used to be a net exporter of wheat ... no longer.
No Borders In The Real World
At the east fork of the Red Sea (it’s really blue), Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi converge.
If You Believe In Moses
Here’s where he came down from the mountain with the tablets. The west fork of the Rea Sea above, and the Nile Delta at the top.
Suez And It’s Canal.
Not as long as you’d think, but forever vital for seafarers.
Cairo and Giza’s Pyramids
Where Hitler’s Rommel discovered that ANZACs ‘diggers’ can dig-in like rats.
If You’ve Made A Good Dam ....
May as well sign your name on it.
Gozo And The Island Of Malta
On Sicily, Mt.Etna sits fuming volcanic ash. Luckily, for air travellers, the ash is heavier than air so there is usually no problem flying above. It’s a killer though, most recently in 1987 when two tourists were killed by an exposion. You’d never get me up there ... ‘cos one day - when you least expect it - she is gonna wake up.
Happy Emirates Crew, Lake Como
The practice jumps were hilarious ...
Run on time ...
Superlative Co-Pilot. Just the man to have beside you when the engine fails.
With its welcoming airport on the mainland. An hour after this picture was taken we diverted back here.
Performed flawlessly after an in-flight engine shutdown.
An Expensive Afternoon’s Work.
My Rolls Royce A330 engine cost between three and ten million dollars - depending who you believe - it’s now destined for the wreckers yard
Spend more time on their mobile phones than anyone else ... besides Saudi drivers.
The Grand Canal
The Most Expensive Ties In Italy
Available in Essendon and Richmond Fotball club coiours.
If Venetians wore as many masks as they’d have you believe ... you wouldn’t be able to recognise anyone.
When You Least Expect It ...
More F@#$%n Gondolas...
Summer In Venice
Watch thousands of people melt ...
The Biggest Gondola
Dressed as Disney crims ... Gondolliers stand poised to relieve you of 80 Euros for twenty minutes as you listen to them chat in Italian on their mobiles
Tourists Are Immune
To the little old lady begging for a coin.
Their Charms Are Hard To Resist
Generation Z On The Ipad and Book
Whilst the wife reminds her husband that 20 mins is up and they are still in the little side canal ...
Where Does The Sewer Pipe Go To?
One of the many questions that arise when you are stuck on a boat in a canal.
Specialised Venetian shop ... very quiet in Summer.
Direct From Panama
Copies are available everywhere for 8 Euros ... and they also keep the sun off.
Puppy Captivates Weary Tourists
Besides restaurants, there are not many places to sit in Venice
No Wonder Venice Is Sinking
Under the weight of the summer tourists
No Russian Mafia For Venice, For Italy
Implores the signs ... who needs mafia when you’ve got the Gondolliers?
The Pope Does Not Condone Condoms
The Venetians are so randy that condom vending machines are on the footpaths.
Rows Of Strato-Cumulous Clouds
Road Side Stall
Kid’s School Run
Ancient Taxis - Sans Seat Belts.
The Men’s Room
Park Circus Station
Exhausted Bike Courier
Exhausted Shop Owner
The Tea Waller
The Concrete Luge
Bay Of Bengal
Free Water ... Not For Drinking
Queen Victoria Monument
Kolkata, India. Locals pay one fifth the entry fee of tourists. Try that on The London Eye ...
The Men’s Room
Caring For The Disabled
Kolkata, India. Western countries could learn a thing or two ...
The Hay Shop. Pump Up Your Tyres First ...
The Americans have gone ... their compounds used brilliant white lighting.
Foehn Wind Sunrise - Turkey
The Bosphorus Strait
Istanbul, Turkey. The Black Sea (it’s really blue) at the bottom of the pic.
Turkish Hydro Scheme
Turkey is the land of hydro-electricity with 78 dams.
Fellow Pilot Catches A Ride
Within minutes of parking our wing attracts two others.
The Author - Seat 1A EK406
Even after 28 years flying experience, arriving home as a passenger is still a captivating experience.
Summer Thunderstorm - Melbourne.
Pretty from a distance - violent underneath.
Alexandra Avenue - Melbourne.
Roads closed for the annual ride across the Westgate Bridge
Albert Park Beach - Melbourne.
In the last few years beach volleyball has blossomed to become a regular weekend activity.
Electric Car Sharing
Linked with Lombard train services in Italy, the E-VAI Car Sharing system is up and running. Sign-up online, swipe your credit card, unplug the car (take the cable with you!) and you’re off. 5 euros an hour to a max of 60 a day. Click HERE and drive away.
The northern half of Laga Di Lugano is in Switzerland, the southern in Italy.
With such stunning geography, you can understand why the italians care little for politics -
having more governments since the second world war than years.
All the new development in the island kindgdom of Bahrain is on reclaimed land. Why? Only Bahrainis may own property on the island itself, so to attract investors from overseas, all the new developments are built on the ocean.
Empty Quarter, Saudi Peninsula
Intriguing sand dunes in the empty quarter, bordering the U.A.E. & Saudi Arabia.
Dubai Marina Runway, Dubai
The runway, used for the World Parachuting Championships six months ago - is built out on a pier. The guy who takes the jumpers up, flying an Islander, ALWAYS lands into wind; which is the preferred-option. This guy in the yellow plane, however, lands with a tailwind. He gets away with it all the time ... but he makes watching pilots cringe - everytime. Is that why his passengers jump out?
Dubai Marina, Dubai
The incredible twisted tower nears completion and life is, again, full speed ahead in Dubai. Huge boats ply the waterways. Property values are up 15% on last year and in some suburbs rents have increased 40% in the last 12 months. Property values are still 22% behind the highs - before the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 - but they are growing steadily without the hype. Australians finding the stopover enroute to Europe will never get the appeal of the place. When the weather is perfect in Australia it is also perfect in Dubai. But when Aussies travel, in winter; Dubai is suffering three hot months. For Europeans, however, when it’s freezing, wet and snowy - Dubai’s magnificant winter is only six hours away.
Beach Clubs, Dubai
A popular misconception about life in the Middle East is that people live in the desert. Like Australians, (whose deserts are much larger), Middle Easterners cling to the coastlines of the Med. & Red Seas and the Gulf - and are largely watersport people. As well as public beaches, there are beach clubs (one large public club is ‘women-only’ on Tuesdays). Every hotel has its own slice of beach for its guests - most with waiter service. This one is the famed Barasti Bar. Yes, alcohol is provided at all hotels (and their beach clubs) in Dubai, as well as the country’s airlines. In fact, Dubai Airport has the largest alcohol duty free allowance of any country - up to five bottles.
Anzac Day, Dubai
The desert, itself retreating from the coast due to encroaching civilsation, is just over the road - in the form of Jebel Ali Racecourse. They like their horse racing here in Dubai. Thanks to TuneIn Radio, the recorded Dawn Service from ABC Melbourne and the answer to the burning question, who is going to replace the late Tony Charlton AM - who passed away recently? (see story below)
None other than the voice of the RAAF at Point Cook and Avalon Air Shows, Peter Meehan; (ex-competition cyclist, pilot, 3KZ breakast announcer and now media trainer / MC). He did a marvellous job as a light katabatic breeze came from the desert toward the sea as night became day. Less than twenty kilometers from here, at Al Minhad Air Base, today’s ANZACs transfer from their white A330 as they head to Afghanistan and continue Australia’s longest-running war. The Last Post to an audience of one, and all was held together ... until Tony Charlton’s grand-daughter took to the microphone. She did him proud.
Fisho’s Club North Deck
Taken with iPhone 5’s panorama setting.
Autumn In Melbourne
Best time of the year
The Map On The Kitchen Wall
Since 1960, or thereabouts, my Dad’s trips were displayed on the map in the kitchen by use of pins joined by a strand of red wool. Wouldn’t mind a dollar for every time he went thru Melbourne, Sydney, San Francisco and L.A. airports.
Dubai International Financial Centre
Is that Big Ben on top of that new scryscraper?
Birthday Sunrise, Melbourne
Every year I make a point of checking-out my birthday sunrise.
Norfolk Pine Trees, Royal Botanic Gardens , Melbourne
How come these Norfolk Pines are OUTSIDE the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne?
‘Cos they are not exhibits, they were grown as masts for ships for the Port Of Melbourne.
Christowel Street, Camberwell
Built by Barry Humphries’ father in 1933, it is the house that laughed. And Laughed, and laughed...
May the new owners have as much happiness as we did.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
Every Sunday morning, they manage to avoid the trees.
Albert Park Lake
From Robb’s Carousel.
Albert Park Lake
Rowing sheds near Jeff’s Pool.
The first Victorian bridge built using reinforced concrete, Anderson Street Bridge was built by John Monash in 1899. It’s name was changed in 1936 ... and in 1998 turned-into a pedestrian / bike bridge during Citilink takeover of state assets.
For ten years Melbourne suffered a drought. The first victims were the city’s fountains.
They’re back now, and on Sunday mornings ... foaming liquid detergent.
Ten minutes from home is the Dubai Marina, and the spectacular Sheraton Beach Club. It’s a cross between The Gold Coast and Toorak Village. This view, from a friend’s apartment on The Palm, is always captivating.
Some people would say that young people draping themselves on the Shrine Of Remembrance in Melbourne is sacriligious. Methinks the Diggers, for whom the Shrine was built, would get a kick out of the irreverence. It’s not a bad place to watch the sunrise.
Thirty minutes around dawn and dusk. Sometimes it’s as short as 2000th of a second
An A330 on the same airway, 1,000 feet above, crossing at a closing speed of 1,700 kph.
‘Re-stock In Aisle Two!’
An Aussie expat is on holidays in the IGA supermarket in Abert Park, Melbourne.
All the Clinkers have been taken.
Prince’s Bridge, Melbourne
Looking across Prince’s Bridge at Hamer Hall and the spire of the Melbourne Arts Centre, the city’s distinctive taxis and a tram ply their trade on Swanston Street. The bridge is often misnamed ‘Princess Bridge’. It was, in fact, named after Edward, Prince Of Wales - in 1888. Sometime in the last few years the apostrophe has been removed from the name ... but I am too much of a pedant to allow that grammatical sacrilege to appear here.
The Tri-Colour, Senegal
Dakar Senegal is having a tough time right now. The weather is great but European tourists - normally swarming the place to get away from a vicious winter - are staying away. They don't seem to understand that the fighting in Mali is a very long way away, and not affecting Dakar. That is except for the huge French navy supply ship, crammed to the brim with army guys and their equipment ... waiting to deploy to the Sahara.
Gorree Island, Senegal
It may seem extravagant - catching a taxi and ferry to go to a cafe - but the view is worth it.
Hard to worry about elections when you don’t know where the next meal is coming-from. After dinner at a local restaurant we noticed the owner combine all our table scraps onto a large platter which she then took and placed in the gutter. It was 11pm. Thinking cats were the recipients, we were shocked when eight boys dived on the remnants. Never seen that before ...
Shrouded by clouds, the mountains of Crete are snow-capped in winter.
Dubai’s Foggy Winter
The Resurrection Of Dubai
An atmosphere of optimism has returned to the world’s newest international city which continues to recover from the 2008 U.S. financial crisis. 2012 ended with a slow-motion fireworks display - as lazy chinese lanterns (in the shape of love hearts) drifted over the city forcing media and security helicopters to keep their distance from the Burj Khalifa.
The world’s tallest building - originally named the Burj Dubai - was born in a boom time; as have all the tallest buildings in history. Going on past performance it may be prudent to sell your stock market shares the August before the opening of the next one! The name was changed to celebrate the Ruler of the U.A.E., Sheikh Kalifa of Abu Dhabi - whose help during the financial crisis assured the success of Dubai.
One second into 2013 the massive fireworks display began - drawing not one of the traditional “Ooohs and Aaahhs” associated with fireworks. Instead it was more like “F@#K ME!” as waves of explosions raced up and down the structure. To get the perspective, The Address hotel (the gold vertical line to the left with the white sign on the roof) has a bar at its 63rd floor - that’s two floors below the Rockerfeller Center’s Rainbow Room in New York.
After about seven minutes it was all over while the ‘traditional’ Burj Al Arab display - about six kilometers away - kept thudding-on. Arguably a better display, it lasted twice as long before leaving the chiily night sky (it’s winter here) to the drifting Chinese lanterns. An economic prediction of the future? Time will tell.
At rooftop parties all over Dubai, people wait in the balmy evening air for the main event. While you're waiting, the backdrop ain't bad ...
The towers along Sheikh Zayed Road are about a third of the height of the Burj Khalifa.
(I took a magic image of Tony with his mates Tony Gaze & Stirling Moss -
but until I find it this, (stolen from 3AWs website) has to suffice.
Tony Charlton A.M.
Broadcasting hero - Tony Charlton A.M. has died today in Melbourne. If you have ever stood in the darkness and the rain in the half hour before the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Melbourne's Shrine Of Rememberance; you will have been captivated by his dulcet tones giving thumbnail sketches of individual soldiers.
Beginning work as an office boy at radio station 3AW in 1949, he was 83 when he passed away after losing his battle with bowel cancer. The consumate sports broadcaster and interviewer - his voice liquid gold - his other pursuits including flying and golf - at one time he was even a restauranteur. He gave freely of his time and talent for The Alfred Hospital, the Melbourne Cricket Club and Australian Football League as well as many other charities.
From the deck of the Albert Yachting & Angling Club in Melbourne,
the summer sky provides a spectacular canvas
Dame Elisabeth Murdoch
One of my great pleasures in life was meeting and subsequently corresponding with Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. Matriarch of an incredible family who has given thousands of people the opportunity to do what they love - for a living. From cancer researchers and geneticists, to pilots, flight attendants, journos, cartoonists, actors, musicians, photographers and other reprobates; few people in the world have used their wealth so widely and wisely. She had a sparkle in her eye and a ready smile for all she met. The world will be poorer for passing - today - at 103.
Newspaper editors the world over can now start their stopwatches. Prepare for some revelations that would never have appeared in her lifetime.
The Day Kathy Met Charlie
An update for my non-Ansett Refugees regarding our Flight Attendant Kathy Seago who was diagnosed with a brain tumour two weeks ago.
It was a stage 5 & aggressive Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) - the most common and most aggressive malignant primary in humans. This was the tumor that took ABCs much-loved presenter Andrew Olle. A research trust has been named in his honour and important work is being done the Kolling Foundation (http://kolling.com.au/) in association with Sydney University.
Sydney's Mr Charlie Teo is recognised as the world's leading surgeon in removing GBMs. An organised email bombing of his office two Saturdays ago resulted in their ringing Kathy to say they would call her on the Monday.
They called and an appointment was booked for Tuesday, just gone, the 13th. She was told by him
"... it needs to come out NOW - tomorrow morning 6:30am. “
UPDATE That was Wednesday (14th November). We had 48hrs to come up with the money for the operation and thanks to all airline friends, both Ansett and Qantas, family and other friends - not to mention strangers from all over the world - we raised $15,000 by the time she went into theatre. By opening time this morning the amount stood at $42,065. We’re still $8,000 short of the $50,000 we need, so we need your help
Account Name: FOR KATHY
Acc No: 147189282
The group's Facebook page is HERE. Feel free to go there and have a look, and post your comment after donating. You will have to click the tab on the top right to join the page; with 1600 members in such a short time Facebook automatically applied security protocols. If you have problems, or are sending money from overseas, and need the swift code, email me email@example.com.
Concern shows on the face of the young mother just before her surgery yesterday
GOOD NEWS - the surgery was a success, the tumour all gone and pathology pronounced it BENIGN. She was discharged and is now home in Melbourne.
The recovery period now begins and we would appreciate any help you can offer. If you can donate anything - give ’til it hurts ... and then give a little bit more - our Ansett & Qantas family would be very grateful.
Who is Charlie Teo? Check him out on ABC’s Australian Story HERE. Or listen to Andrew Dentron’s interview on ABC’s Enough Rope with Andrew Denton: DRCHARLIETEO
The iRadio Max archive broadcasts have been remastered and here for your peusal.
Story 1. DUBAI: Centre Of The World
Dubai - centre of the new world
Story 2. THE U.K. End Of The Empire
BBC Radio 4 killed it's Opening Theme and the Empire
Story 3. Looking Out The Window
Flying, global warming, bushfires and the human spirit
Story 4. BA 777 Crash Initial Reaction
24 hours after a double-engine failure, why are 777s still flying?
What You’d Tell The 16 Year Old You
Heaps of things, how to drive a credit card ... how to go through life without doing ANYTHING you’d not do again if you had a second chance .... and how to ensure you’d live long enough to enjoy it all. Watch THIS
Felix Baumgartner Jumps From 127,980 Feet
A few minutes ago Felix became the first person to brake the speed of sound without the aid of an aircraft by jumping from a helium balloon at an altitude of 127,980 feet over Roswell, New Mexico in the USA.
After a two and half hour ascent he completed his 40 point checklist which concluded with his depressurising the capsule, and standing on a ‘skateboard-sized-step’. On the step just before he jumped he said: "I wish the world could see what I see.”
And "Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.” After a short pause he thought “God, please don’t let me down” then stepped-off the step into the stratosphere - beginning a 4 minute 20 second freefall.
Whilst a longer distance, the freefall was about 15 seconds shorter than the record, set in 1960; due to his faster speed.
He completed a tricky touchdown, his vision impeded by a fogged visor and without accurate wind information from his ground crew.
Data affirms that Felix Baumgartner recorded the highest exit altitude 128.100 feet, the longest freefall without a drougue chute: 4'20'', the longest freefall distance 119,846 feet and maximum vertical velocity 373 m/sec (1,342.8 kph 833.9 MPH) ... 1.24 MACH.
Felix reported that, in his space suit, he didn’t feel passing the speed of sound. At the press conference he is seated next to his Capcom (capsule communicator) - Col.Joe Kittinger - who set the previous records in 1960. Kittinger said ‘Records are made to be broken. I can’t imagine a better man to do this than Felix. And I’d love to give a one finger salute to all the folks who said he was gonna blow apart when he went supersonic!’.
Moon Sun Rise
At 5:00am local time over The Gulf, a sliver of moon is lit by the sun. The light blue remainder of the moon is lit by the reflection from earth.
Sunset Over The Sahara
How many offices have this view?
Through a hazy, humidity-filled lens, a CumuloNimbus cloud (Cb) starts building, the sun on its upper portion proving that the earth is not flat. Twenty minutes later it became active, trapping-us in the pool bar.
Sunrise Over India
How to beat jetlag? Read this.
Eleven years ago our airline died.
Hear Julie McCrossin’s (ABC Radio) interview
( ... it may take a few minutes to load - so click below and go make a coffee)
James Nixon Life Matters Interview 1
What We Lost
Let’s never forget how the Manhattan skyline used to look before this fateful day in 2001.
Remember how simple and peaceful life seemed back then?
PHOTO (C) NASA
Many words have been written about the Apollo 11 Commander, Astronaut Neil Armstrong since his passing last week. Sadly, few have pointed-out that this is the ONLY photo of him on the Moon taken by his co-pilot, Buzz Aldrin. No-one’s pointed-out that Buzz was a little miffed that Neil was given the role of ‘first man out the door’ - but it’s rumoured he was. If so, he had reason to be. Aldrin’s doctoral work on how to dock two spacecraft, using differing orbits, made the moon voyage possible. As did Mike Collins’ work on suits. Each suit had to be a mini-spacecraft in itself and Collins’ project was indispensible. As was the work of at least 400,000 people in the greatest voyage in history. But Buzz could have taken just one photo of Neil - as good as the one Neil took of him (below) - which went on a million bedroom doors and inspired many people to become pilots, including your author.
Sadly the world’s journalists have also neglected to mention Armstrong’s most important role on earth since returning from the moon. They say he was a NASA administrator, a recluse, worked for private enterprise, had a small farm and was a professor. None mentioned his work as Vice Chairman on the Rogers Commission - the investigative panel into the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. This role paved the way for return to manned spaceflight. It exposed flaws within NASA and Morton Thiokol, blew the whistle on coverups, allowed the Shuttle program to continue, and gave ‘closure’ to family, friends and colleagues of the lost Astronauts. Arguably his most important work - on earth.
Without the loss of the Apollo 1 Astronauts, we’d never have found out about the dangers of electrical shorts in an oxygen rich environment and may have lost a crew in space - confusing the hell out of mission control. Without Challenger we would not have discovered the flaws in SRB o-rings; or without Columbia, the problems of tile damage on takeoff.
Investigations into crashes are what give us safety in aviation. Every button on every overhead panel in every aeroplane or rocket has a story behind it. In many cases, hundreds of lives lost is the price of knowledge and safety.
Anyone sitting 11kms up; nudging 85% of the speed of sound with the minus fifty-seven degree thin vapour just outside the glass - whilst you watch a move or sleep - is acutely aware of the work done by Neil and heroes like him. And we are thankful.
Armstrong recently conducted a series of interviews in Australia, see them HERE
PHOTO (C) NASA
Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin
This inspirational photo of Buzz was taken by Neil Armstrong on the moon in July 1969. The best thing Carey Grammar ever did was to have him come to our school and tell us about it. If you doubt the astronauts went to the moon, ( I’m sad for you), watch In The Shadow Of The Moon HERE.
Como-Brunate Funicular Railway
After being built in 1894, the funicular railway has been revamped a number of times - most recently last year. The two cars are raised and lowered by cables attached to electric motors, utilising a single track and nifty passing loop at the halfway mark. Those who are scared of heights or mysterious engineering are advised not to look downhill ... or at the number of the car from which this picture was taken. It is car number 13.
After the 7 minute journey - at 3 feet per second - the Funicular car disgorges its 81 passengers at the Brunate top station; 1627 feet above Lake Como.
Lake Como, Italy
Easily accessible from Milan by train, Lake Como is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. The third largest of Italy’s alpine lakes, it is one of the deepest in Europe - over 1,300 feet.
Preparing For Descent
Having crossed over Venice, preparing for descent into Milan the Alps lie ahead, some snow still visible even though it’s late summer. Sadly residents of Milan couldn’t see the mountains this day; 34C degrees and a temperature inversion made them invisible in the haze.
Anatomy Of A Sandstorm
Sandstorms are usually in a long line, as if the result of frontal activity (see below). This one, nearing Basra, in southern Iraq, is quite different. Australian pilots would recognise a pattern typical of the unchecked bush fires we see in the outback. Localised winds - in this case up to 28 knots (56kph) appear to plait the ground level sand. The raised dust, sand in this case, rose to 25,000 feet.
Sandstorm Over The Tigris
A retreating sandstorm leaves the Tigris River clearly visible.
Mt Kilimanjaro & Family.
On the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley extinct volcanoes huddle together. Well, they were extinct the day we passed. On one side, the cloud shrouded highest mountain on the continent, to the right: Ol Doinyo Lengai (far right) and El Nairobi with Lake Embagai within its caldera.
The Nile - Sudan
The mighty Nile River, downstream of Khartoum, where the White and Blue join forces; just north of Ed Debba in Sudan. After all these years looking at Africa on the map, it is still difficult to understand how this river flows “UP” to the Mediterranean Sea. The Grand Millenium Dam is a project by Ethiopia to dam their river - the Blue Nile - and provide cheap hydro electric power to its neighbours. Even so, Sudan and Egypt are unimpressed. The Economist reports; “Ethiopia and the other upstream countries—Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda—have banded together to rewrite a 1959 treaty that favours Egypt.” A year after the project was announced Ethiopa is having problems raising the $4.7 billion required to finish the job by 2020.
Emirates A380 A6-EDP
Rolling on runway 12 right EK 201 begins its journey to New York with its 525 passengers and 30 crew. The airline now has 21 of the double-decker Airbuses and is expected to take delivery of 13 more this year. (UPDATE 14th October: the 26th just arrived)
Cyprus And The Heavenly Bodies
Tracking to the east from overhead Crete - Cyprus looms in the darkeness. The earth’s curvature is proven by the approaching summer dawn. The bright spot in the sky is the dying moon, with Venus and Jupiter in line to the right. Further right - close to Venus - is Arcturus; the third brightest star in the night sky.
As Close As It Gets
Over Mali a jet skirts upwind of an active CumuloNimbus (Cb) cloud, (just left of the cloud under the horizon). Approaching the storm from the upwind side, the distinctive ‘anvil’ shape is on the other side of the cloud. Airliners avoid such clouds by 20 nautical miles (about 40 kms) on the upwind side. Sadly on June 1st 2009 an Air France A330 penetrated two such clouds - one just over 40,000 feet high and then one much larger one, topping 53,000 feet high. The aircraft was lost with all 228 souls. Every Cb expends as much energy as 3-10 nuclear explosions in its 20 minute active phase. 95% of lightning (invisible in daylight) is retained within the cloud. If man could catch the energy within, our energy problems would be solved.
This Goree Islander - one of 1,500 inhabitants - washes off salt after a swimming lesson.
Goree Boy Band
Drums have a long history in Africa - one only has to go to a soccer game to know that it continues .... as loud as ever. Too young to go to school, these boys continue the tradition.
Goree Island, Senegal
Twenty minutes by ferry from Dakar is Goree Island - an important monument to the slave trade between Africa and the Americas. The House Of Slaves is a monument, renovated in the 1960s, to the three hundred years of slave transport to south and north Amercia by the Portuguese, French, English and Dutch. Many thousands left their on their journey through ”The Door Of No Return” (above) - the majority left from another location on the island. These days slavery continues - except the western countries’ slaves are employed in their home countries of Indonesia, China and India. Clever. And sex slaves travel by plane. On Bastille Day hundreds of school kids over from Dakar received a memorable lecture from a brilliant teacher. The lesson concluded with a loud chant: “We will forgive .. but we will never forget!” Most were wearing trainers made by slaves in Asia.
Sunset In The Sahara.
Flying from Dakar (Senegal) to Dubai, the great circle route (concave to the nearest pole) has the Emirates A330 tracking north east over the Sahara Desert to Tunis, along the Mediterranean Sea, down over the Nile, just south of Cairo - across the Red Sea south of Sharm El Sheikh into Saudi.
Overhead Malta with its western island of Gozo. At the top of the image the coastal lights of Sicily are visible from 38,000 feet.
Cairo And The Nile.
Nearly seven million people live in Cairo. It’s smudged in the haze to the left. The recently-risen moon sits over the Nile river which flows from right to left - during the day a green line in the desert. At night the lights of humanity cling to its sides as it snakes along its 6,650 km length - the longest river in the world - traversing ten countries.
A Wind-fall For Ingenious Builders.
Earlier this month a fantastic thunderstorm tore most of Kolkata’s advertising billboards from their frames. It happened during a turnaround flight while we were sitting at the airport. Winds gusted to 35 knots. (Pilots love thunderstorms ... when viewing them from the ground). The plastic signage now appears as wall and roof material everywhere - even on this barber shop.
Don’t Knock Kolkata’s Slums
This one has an upstairs dunny ... When you see the how robust these dwellings are, with the wild weather that comes with the monsoon season, you admire human ingenuity. And you admire blue plastic sheeting as a roofing material. A good percentage have electricity - and satellite TV connected.
Ok, Let’s Try It Again ...
In Kolkata it’s third bag lucky ...
From Albert Park, Melbourne’s skyline is ever-changing ...
from the pre-dawn light to the blood-red sunset.
Memories Are Made Of This ...
After ten years of drought, Australia has just suffered the wettest year on record. In the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne, the quiet of the lush green hills is broken by a wheezing. Soon the sound escalates to a regular chuff-chuff and “Puffing Billy” emerges over the famous Trestle Bridge. Tourists from all around the world dangle from the carriages as the mournful steam whistle transports grown Melbournians back to their third grade school excursions - complete with burning coal ash in the eyes and greasy smoke in the face.
What Would Happen If ...?
Melbourne’s new dockland precinct. Wednesday afternoon 4:30pm. A boat, just arrived from Queensland with four people on board, explodes in flames. It takes the Melbourne Fire Brigade 90 minutes to get it ‘under control’. Nine fire trucks - lost in Docklands - doing u-turns in an effort to get to the correct wharf. Where was the dock’s Fire Tender boat? Surely a port of this size should have suitably-equipped vessel which should have been on the scene in minutes. What would happen if a ship carrying chemicals caught fire in the Port Of Melbourne?
An Absolute Disgrace
Melbourne’s historic trams are the tourist icon of the city. All lines have been replaced with modern, sleek models except for a few ‘tourist’ lines: the burgundy-coloured free city circle tram and the Prahran service with this famous green and yellow tram. The least they could do is give them a coat of paint, like the Melbourne Trams which acted as streetcars in sister-city Seattle - until the start of the waterfront redevelopment. Seattle’s streetcars should resume service when the works are completed.
When Will Planes Have Quiet Cabins?
In Hong Kong’s airport-city express train you can choose to sit in a quiet section, in the same way we used to choose to sit in smoking or non-smoking compartments of Melbourne’s trains and trams up until the 1980s. When are long haul airliners going to develop a QuietCabin product where loyalty club clients can choose a section of the aircraft devoid of infants, children and people talking on phones? I think it’d be unique selling proposition which would attract, and keep, brand-loyalty. The first airline to adopt it will clean-up.
Intercontinental Hotel, Kowloon - Hong Kong
Thanks to a tip from Giulia Cardamone, took the crew for a drink at the lobby bar of the Intercontinental Hotel in Hong Kong to see the nightly 8pm laser show on Hong Kong’s skyscrapers. Two great bands, (any band that can faithfully reproduce Shakatak’s Nightbirds has to be great), excellent service and an airport to city rail system that works brilliantly. The only problem was that the WeatherUnderground website forecast 19c - instead it was 12c and wet.
Barbara Nixon OAM FRHSV
On Friday 24th February a Thanksgiving Service and Celebration For The Life of Barbara Dorthy Nixon was held at St.John’s Anglican Church, Camberwell, in Melbourne. The eulogies and photo montage have been preserved for your viewing here.
19 years and 8 months after relinquishing my airline command, I have finally got back into the left hand seat. This time it’s in command of the Airbus A330, for Emirates Airline. The command training at the middle-eastern carrier is full-on. 34 Trainers; ground instructors, simulator instructors, line training captains and examiners - as well as six first officers; all contributing their knowledge and experience to help me reach their exacting standards. The study started in May last year, the course proper commenced on October 23rd and concluded on January 14th. Thank you for all your kind words, inspiration and wishes. My late Mum and Dad’d be well-chuffed.
Steve Jobs’ Legacy
Mum is enthralled by cousin Delia Scales’ Facetime link to Dubai. She never got to see my new apartment in the flesh - but Steve Jobs’ invention: Facetime - provided a near HD quality video tour. The photo taken on an Iphone by my sister Ro - a serious Angel, who made Mum’s last days on the planet more bearable. Words cannot express my thanks.
The A380 pushes-back without me. After joining the fleet in September 2008, my last flight was to London in late October. Now re-learning the A330 and studying for command. After more than three exciting years on the ‘super’ - a new life begins.
Has The Spirit Left The Building?
Twenty years and one month after it rolled-off the production line at Boeing, this old Qantas 747 (VH-OJN) arrives at Heathrow. Above the wing leading edge you can see the ribs of the roof. Engine #1 was smoking like an old 727, and the red tail was faded to a shade of dark pink. It appears that the previous CEO, Geoff Dixon, failed to leave a plan B, once the new generation A380s and B787s were delayed - (name one new generation aeroplane that was ever produced on time since aviation began). This has seen the now privatised ex-flag carrier fall behind its competitors whose new, relatively maintenance-free, fuel-efficient fleets ply routes that Crikey’s Ben Sandilands says “Qantas couldn’t even find ... on an atlas standing up in a phone booth” .
The losers? Passengers and Ansett-refugees who have been given part time work with Qantas since 2001. The CEO, (ex Ansett’s Alan Joyce), granted himself a 71% pay-rise the day before grounding the fleet last Saturday evening.
The fleet will resume flying at 2pm Sydney time today, Monday 31st October, after Qantas management’s lock-out of three unions in dispute was rejected by Fair Work Australia - the industrial relations tribunal.
Legacy flag carriers: British Airways (who has been losing over a million pounds a day for over a year), Air France, KLM, Sth.African and Alitalia face similar fates - unless they can learn to compete with the lower cost carriers. The USA market is irrelevant and cannot be used as a comparison. Their Chapter 11 laws allow inefficient, failed airlines to keep operating.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life - and the only way to be truly satisfied is to what you believe is great work. The only way to do great work is to LOVE what you do.
If you haven't found it yet, keep looking and don't settle; as with all matters of the heart you'll know when you find it."
- iPods,iPhones,iPads and Macs aside - that's a magical quote to leave the world.
Watch his never aired-ad, The Crazy Ones. HERE and listen to his inspirational speech HERE
Shanghai In September
From the bar atop the Peninsular Hotel, under September’s leaden skies; the futuristic skyline of Pudong contrasts with the elegant old-world style of The Bund on the Shangahi side. Go and see it as soon as you can.
At the purpose built ski lake, dusk skiers thrill restaurant-goers.
The wet season in Phuket, Thailand is the ‘off-season’ - prices are low, the temperature is bearable and the daily storms leave everything clean and crisp. The Amari Coral Beach Resort at the south end of Patong Beach is a great property for a quiet break, contact them HERE.
Whale Watching, Queensland
Many residents of Magnetic Island use the ferry to commute to their jobs in Townsville and even the island’s school kids stopped their game of cards as the 8:15 ferry slowed to allow passengers a spot of whale watching.
Having recently read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick - it’s much much better than the old movie - I was full bottle on whale behaviour. Every second chapter in the book is a textbook on whales. The Sperm Whale, for example, must replenish the oxygen in its blood between soundings by exactly the same number of breaths on the surface - in the region of 70 - individual to each whale. It could not sound (deep diving for 70-90 minutes) until it had done so, which gave the whale-hunters a window of opportunity. An important job on a whaler, after hearing ‘Thar She Blows, She Blows, She Blows!’ from the three lookouts in the crows’ nests; was to start timing.
My first experience with a whale was when one surfaced right next to our yacht off Tonga’s Vavau island, it was so close we were enveloped-in and breathed-in hot whale breath (it smells like warm wet tuna) - I think it was attracted to Billy Thorpe’s “Most People I Know Think That I’m Crazy” which was blasting through the Beneteau’s sound system. It was frightening. If it had hit our keel we’d have sunk for certain. My enduring thought is this ... the first islander who stood in his canoe and decided to harpoon one - must have been extremely hungry.
Picnic Bay Jetty, Magnetic Island, Queensland
After being refurbished as a tourist attraction, the old jetty was trashed by Cyclone Yasi’s waves.
Full moon rises over Queensland’s Magnetic Island, giving backpackers another reason to party.
CSI : New York
In real life the crime scene tape is upside down and hard to read. At 7am on a Saturday morning in Central Park a NYPD cop sits on a motor scooter chatting on his mobile phone - the detectives are still in bed - the body’s not going anywhere.
Enroute to Seoul, we pass another A380 destination - the third largest building in the world, Beijing Airport. Second only to Atlanta in terms of passenger movements in the world - in 2009 it was voted by Conde Nast magazine as the most popular. Second biggest terminal to Dubai, you can fit all of Heathrow’s five terminals inside - and have 17% to spare. It’s a delight to operate in and out of - except when it snows in winter.
Cadel Evans - My Inspiration
Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win the Le Tour De France - and the oldest to have won the event since before the second world war. In the last eight days he helped in my preparation for my command interview - I’d hit the books all day, pausing only to watch him flatten a few mountains in France and Italy each afternoon. The combination worked - for both of us.
New York In Summer
Is a very warm place indeed. 30C is oppressive, and most of the locals have headed to hideaways on nearby Long Island leaving the streets to be overrun by tourists. The Fire Station of Engine 23 is a memorial to their members who fell in the World Trade Centre attacks. Most New York Police and Firemen cannot afford to live on Manhatten island, instead commuting every day from outlying suburbs.
Kids N Animals
The streets of Bangkok were wallpapered with posters of politicians in the weeks leading-up to the recent elections. This guy may have done himself a disservice by showing his obvious bias towards dogs ... and against kids.
Space Shuttle Atlantis
The final shuttle launch was conducted flawlessly, and only a few minutes late, after a hold was imposed at T-31 seconds whilst NASA checked that the ‘cap’ on top of the external tank had correctly retracted away from the orbiter.
Dong Hoi, Vietnam
Enroute from Laos towards Hong Kong, it only takes a matter of minutes to cross Vietnam at 85% of the speed of sound. At Dong Hoi the country is only 60 kms wide. Looking down twoards Hue, the ancient capital; ‘Hector’ the afternoon thunderstorm is visible at the top right. The slender cloud to its left sits atop the mountains at the coastal city of Da Nang - famous for its My Khe beach during the American War, known by troops as ‘China Beach’.
Rupert Needs A New Editor
Melbourne’s Herald-Sun newspaper explores the limits in its digital manipulation of photography. This from Australia’s largest-selling newspaper whose original masthead included the word Pictorial. Recently they have taken photographers off the road and made them ‘videographers’. Google the image and you’ll find it has been taken off the net. Here’s hoping that Rupert will soon make the editor vanish as well. Both images are reproduced here. I pay a subscription to buy the newspaper, I then took a photo of my own property and produced it here.
Oman Air ... Again
There’s nothing better than sneaking past another airliner when you’re faster than they are.
Makes getting-up early for the morning flight to London worthwhile!
Ipad Uses #32
Finn, from next door, visits to play the piano. Usually bringing her own sheet music, she has taken to using her Ipad - downloading sheet music from a website. ‘It’s easier’, she says, ‘... you don’t have to turn the pages!’ [Update: she was going flat-out and forgot she was using the Ipad, reached the bottom of the page, flicked-it, and the iPad flew out the window]
Shuttle Endeavour Completes Her Last Flight
Commander Mark Kelly lowers Endeavour’s nose onto runway 15 at Kennedy Space Centre, as his co-pilot, Greg Johnson pops the drag chute to provide braking action. It was her 25th and final flight, (I witnessed her sixth launch). In all she spent 299 days in space, orbited Earth 4,671 times and travelled 122,883,151 miles. Photo from NASA/Mike Kerley and Tony Gray
248 Space Walks Later ...
During the USA’s last-ever space walk by shuttle crews, the astronauts took the Canada Arm off the shuttle and fixed it to the International Space Station for use by the inhabitants. Halfway into the EVA they passed the 1,000th hour that American astronauts have spent building the station. One more space walk is planned, it’ll be by the ISS inhabitants when the last shuttle, Atlantis, visits next month. Like Spirit’s passing - below - the event hardly raised a media eyebrow. It seems only yesterday that Ed White left Gemini 4 to become the USAs first space walker - but it was, in fact, June 3rd 1965. The sights they’ve seen in those 248 space walks!
Ed White as seen by Gemini 4 Commander Jim M.Divitt
Today they pulled the plug - figuratively - by sending the last message to Mars Rover Spirit, who has finally succumbed to the Martian weather conditions after 2628 Martian days (called Sols). Her design life was only 90! For six years NASA JPL scientists have been hooning around on the red planet - solving the unsolvable problems to keep her going. She carries a piece of metal from the World Trade Centre wreckage as a cable shield. The achievements of the plucky rover, who has remained silent for over a year, were remembered by her boss HERE. Meanwhile her sister, Opportunity, races on - having travelled more than four times the distance of her older sibling. (artists impression stolen from JPL)
Two days after his 67th birthday Cocker set Dubai ablaze with a 90 minute concert on the spongy lawns of the Al Badia golf club. Starting with Hitchcock Railway and two other songs from the 1970 Mad Dogs & Englishman Tour, he struggled - as did we all - in the 34 degree heat. Summer has arrived early in Dubai. Gaps between the songs were twice as long as most concerts - maybe 15 seconds - and he wisely hydrated regularly (with water). Singing You Are So Beautiful early in the show, one thought that maybe he didn’t trust his voice to tackle such a hard song later in the night. But it wasn’t the case. He adapted to the heat and seemed to sound stronger towards the end - a cooling breeze helped. With a Little Help From My Friends showcased his eight-piece band, the song unchanged from its original arrangement, written 41 years ago! First time promotors Done Events did an excellent job. The brilliant lighting display was by local designer Luke Bonner from Productiontec.
Fourth-Last Space Walk Begins
Greg Chamitoff conducts his first spacewalk - during his second spaceflight. Previously he spent 183 days living in the space station. His first task, during the 6.5 hour spacewalk, was to retrieve a Materials International Space Station Experiment from the side of the space station and load it into the Shuttle for return to earth. As the space station orbits the earth every 90 minutes, half the time they are in pitch darkness, using the lights in their helmets for illumination. Their suits have distintive colour marks and their helmets are numbered for easy identification.
The Most Dangerous Job On Earth
Chamitoff’s partner, Drew Feustel is conducting his fourth walk. To save getting ‘The Bends’ the spacewalkers spend the ‘night’ preceding the EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) sleeping in the airlock, where the air pressure is lowered to 10.2 psi instead of the station’s (and earth’s 14.7 psi) - flushing nitrogen from their bodies. However on the last two walks they will try a new method of doing light exercise in their suits whilst breathing pure oxygen, which is expected to purge nitrogen in the same way. Their suits are complete ‘space ships’; moderating their body temperature as the exterior temperature varies from +250F to -250F as they move from sunshine into shade. There is a possibility they may have to repair some tile damage on Endeavour before they can return to earth.
Endeavour Docks For The 12th Time
Hand-flying Endeavour at 27,724 kph, Cdr Mark Kelly inches the shuttle (below) towards the International Space Station’s docking ring (top). The docking occured in the darkness over the Pacific Ocean. At dawn (it occurs every 90 minutes at this orbit) approaching the Chilean coastline the ISS cameras revealed Endeavour, parked in space for the last time. Thanks to NASA TV HD for the images.
300 Feet & Closing
From the International Space Station Endeavour approaches for docking at 0.16 feet per second. The two craft are approaching sunset and the north west coast of Australia at 27,724 kph. As they both go into darkness for about thirty minutes the docking procedure will continue on instruments.
After catching the International Space Station, by staying at a lower orbit, Commander Mark Kelly performs a final course correction from the left seat before moving to the rear station so he can fly Endeavour with reference to the two rooftop windows and the docking target (yes, that’s the Space Station below). It will take over an hour to cover the last 600 feet, during which he will manouvre the shuttle upside down so the three Space Station crew can take photos, surveying the orbiter for any tile damage caused during launch.
You never forget the first person who gave you a fishing rod. So it is with the owner of Waratah Bay Motel, cray fisherman, Melbourne supporter and all ‘round great man - Geoff Gair who died suddenly last week - at home at Walkerville. Devoted husband of Joy, he was always ready with a smile, kind laugh and happy to share a glass of champagne. Our last together, in February when this photo was taken, was - as usual for us - in the late afternoon. The photo was taken looking-out their lounge room window and whilst the cray boat is not his old Brigadoon, it’s parked in the same spot. In the foreground are the Bluff Rocks, in the distance - Shellback Island and Wilson’s ‘Promontory. He is survived by wife Joy, and sons Sandy, Peter, Clive (dec), Jamie and their families.
Commander Mark Kelly; who Senator wife was shot in the head - (and has recovered sufficently to be at the launch); clears the fixed service structure tower in his space Shuttle Endeavour. The launch was flawless and on time. All systems are reported as normal. In her 9 minute trip into orbit she used 1,000 gallons of propellent each second.
Close Out Delay
The Close Out Crew (numbered so they can easily be identified for Flight Controllers) discovered a damaged tile near the hatch after it was closed, (see below). They used ‘a tile repair kit’ to ‘fix’ the tile. The countdown continues. Every one of the 20,548 tiles is unique - and individually-numbered.
STS-134 Shuttle Endeavour
The sun rises on the biggest bomb in the world. She’s been fuelled and the crew ‘inserted’ - the hatch closed.
Two hours to launch.
STS-59 Shuttle Endeavour
Growing-up, our celebrities were The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Astronauts. They were our heroes.
If you get a chance see a Space Shuttle takeoff. If it’s Endeavour, plan to be delayed a few days - the youngster of the fleet, she never takes off on time.
They are full of aging Kapton wiring and will soon be retired. Future generations will forget that, for fifty short years, men and women from earth rose on a thundering, ground-shaking plume, sitting in a tin can on top of a flame that - this day - was brighter than the rising sun. - (from ON TOUR - Travels With An Airline Pilot).
STS-134 Shuttle Endeavour
Under leaden skies with only seventeen hours until takeoff, the youngest shuttle awaits fuelling. She seems reluctant to embark on her 25th and final mission which has been delayed three times. And who’d blame her for drawing-it out? She has already orbited the earth 4,429 times in her 280 days in space, traveling 166,003,247 kilometres. Once this mission is over she’s off to a museum, the Califorina Science Centre. There’s a 30% chance weather could further delay her 9 minute ride into orbit, in which she’ll use as much energy as Manhattan Island uses - every train, bus, car, air-conditioner, elevator, light, heart and watch - in 20 minutes. No wonder she’s so noisy. Watch her go 08:56 in Cape Kennedy, 12:56 UTC, 16:56 Dubai & 22:56 Melbourne. Before that, spend a few hours watching her crew get ready - with footage from inside the Shuttle HERE.
The Waldorf Astoria
We’re not in New York - where in 1893 the Waldorf became the first hotel to offer room service, and was home to Cole Porter for 30 years, and Frank Sinatra for one - (Porter’s Steinway is behind a gold rope in the foyer) - this is Shanghai. The revamped 1911 Shanghai Club building, complete with the longest bar in Asia (110 feet ... who measures these things?), became the Waldorf last September and is a fantastic place to have lunch, high tea, or just a drink. The day I was there we had to listen to two Type A expats rattling-on over a power lunch of juices about their ultra fitness regimes. Messrs.Porter and Sinatra would not have approved.
There’s No Place Like Home
Women are not allowed to marry in China until they are 20 years old - (22 for men). And whilst the Asian fear is prevalent (if you’re not married by 30, then no man will have you); many Chinese women are putting off marriage in favour of gaining an education and furthering their careers. Due to a desire to have boys in the past, there is now a shortage of women - (over 505 million men aged 15-64 years compared to only 478 million women). So there’s no need for this bride to run to the altar. She has just come from a photo-shoot at the Peninsula Hotel.
Burj Al Arab ... By Balloon
Cees Van Dooren had to be employed to take this image because I am not crazy enough to get into the basket below a hot air balloon unless: (1) I am wearing a life jacket (2) I am wearing a crash helmet (3) I am drunk and (4) the Outside Air Temperature is not greater than 6C and the balloon’s Internal Air Temperature is about 30C or greater ... (5) we only fly over soft grass and there are NO powerlines within a ten mile radious of our operations. So this is Cees’s late afternoon pic of The Burj Al Arab - I was nearby, at home, watching TV at the time. And he’s right when I describe him as a ‘basket Cees’.
Is a very clean, safe and efficient way to get around China’s largest city. All signage has the station names in Chinese AND English. Once onboard the indicator shows the previous stations in red, the last one in amber and the next stations in green. Arrows indicate stations with connections to other lines.
If You Can Read A Map
You can zip around Shanghai. Note the addition of English to all the street signs, as well as direction indicators showing north, south, east and west. The west should learn from the Chinese example.
After previously becoming the first female captain to fly an Australian registered Boeing 727, Kamma Lyhne has become the second female captain - after Kalina Comenho - at Emirates Airline. She flies the Boeing 777.
Shanghai’s Huangpu River
In 2010 73 Million - I say again - 73 MILLION visitors attended the World Expo in Shanghai, which straddles the tributary of the mighty Yangtze River. The futuristic side of the river is called Pudong and the oustide, ancient side, is known as The Bund. The changes to the city in the last two years have been enormous. Every hotel staff member now has an English name aside their Chinese name - English is being taught at schools and is present on all street signs and on the metro system. Make a point of coming here for a holiday, have lunch at The Long Bar in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel; a drink at the rooftop bar of the Peninsula Hotel (from which these photos were taken) and dinner at Jade 36. Then bask in the history of the city which is spearheading China’s incredible growth.
Shanghai’s Maglev Train
Balanced about 15mm above the tracks, Shanghai’s Maglev Train zaps the 30 kms between Longyang Road Station and Pudong International Airport in a remarkable 7 minutes 20 seconds. Winding up to the maximum commercial speed of 431 kph takes about three minutes (it’s done 501 kph in testing ), and is piloted by a very young man - presumably because the old ones refused to get on board. There are no seatbelts - at this speed it’s not worth worrying about the consequences. The front of the train displays battle scars - victories of scrapes with birds and bugs - and yes, that’s a neat cracked window above the headlight. The train banks into corners and produces a shotgun-like sound when it passes its sister at speed.
It is worth a look in the cockpit at the Pilot Cooling System. The cracked windscreen (presumably caused by a wayward bird) may have caused a Pilot reaction akin to “ ... when the $#@% hit than fan! “. Well, now you know what the what the fan looks like.
Jade On 36
Rated as one of the best restaurants in the world, Jade On 36, in Sanghai’s Shanghai Hotel, certainly lives up to the publicity. Overlooking The Bund and the futuristic TV tower, the food and service is second to none. It’s also worth having a drink next door at Jade On 36 Bar.
Britain’s Beautiful Girl
The Battle Of Britain - whose flight performed a fly-past of the Royal Couple - was fought by 3,500 pilots in Fighter Command. Of them, only 200 had received a public school education (English for private school). Nearly all of them were younger than the royal couple - both of whom are 29.
Girl Kisses Pilot.
Ok, so I am a romantic. Can’t resist taking a pic of girl kissing a pilot.
Bangkok Tuk Tuk
Since 2006, Bangkok’s stinking old two-stroke TukTuks have been replaced by four stroke 650cc LPG models. They are much quieter and less-polluting. With 7,400 of them vying for business it’s important that tourists haggle and agree on a price BEFORE getting-in. Then hang-on tight!
Once every minute a stunt driver in New York’s Times Square tears down the side of a building for General Motors.
15 Seconds Of Fame
In New York’s Times Square teenagers photograph their image as it flashes-up on the American Eagle billboard. The store has hit upon a nifty marketing idea whereupon customers have their photo taken inside the store then have it displayed - along with a message - above the famous tourist attraction.
England’s Windsor Castle
Ma’am’s obviously not in residence, as the fleet - approaching on Heathrow’s 09L - gets to fly right overhead. She’s probably getting Buck House ready for the wedding. The Poms must be sick of it - SKY NEWS is running the complete guide to the wedding - EVERY HOUR!
New York’s Chinatown
Catch the subway downtown to Grand Street station - it only costs $2.30 each way. As you come up the steps there’s this unmistakable ‘Asian’ smell. Fantastic cuisine from China, Vietnam,Thailand and Malaysia. Try Nyonya Malaysian at 199 Grand. Very inexpensive and first class.
But Look How Bl@#dy Wide It is!
London’s Heathrow Airport has become the other best place to see an Airbus A380. At the other end of the Kangaroo Route from Sydney, the A380s of Qantas, Singapore and Emirates are there every day. Emirates have two A380 daily services. For a time Air France was also a daily visitor as their pilots were undergoing sector training. French passengers filled the aircraft - doing return commemorative trips. Here we see how the near-80 metre wingspan takes-up the entire parking space.
In West 37th Street in New York City the famous Elizabeth Taylor is still selling - despite having recently died.
Perspectives of Turkey
Over the Turkish mountains we slide underneath Oman Air’s A330 flight to Heathrow. Due to the windscreen design our aircraft was not visible until we had drawn about five miles ahead. An exchange of email addresses over the chat frequency allows images to be swapped.
Getting Ready For The Royal Wedding
A rare summer’s day - during spring - as the sun sets over the Thames River in central London. The city is getting ready for the Royal Wedding in twenty days. Britains have been told to keep the bunting and flags ... the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend will take place on the 2-5th June next year, kicking-off with the largest flotilla of boats ever assembled on the river - 1,000 craft. Almost worth bringing Slopalong Placidly across the seas.
Strawberry Fields Memorial
In a corner of Central Park - opposite the Dakota Apartments - where John Lennon lived, and was murdered - is the Strawberry Fields Memorial. Every day Lennon’s fans gather in silent remembrance, (yes ... they are strawberries). There is often a musician playing and singing his songs. The area, funded by Yoko Ono, fills with fans every December 8th - the date of his death. From there they can see the single candle placed in the window of their apartment by his widow.
Cinematographers Running Late
You can’t slow nature. So when these cinematographers found that the snow had vanished from their Central Park film set swings, they had to employ cotton wool ... and some nifty work by the continuity team. Security guards kept onlookers from wandering into the shot or using flash photgraphy. What film? They wouldn’t say, there are currently 16 films being shot in New York City according to the mayor’s office - pick a title HERE.
Bubbles ’N’ Nuts.
Central Park is not a pretty in early spring as nature recovers from the chill of winter. On a freezing afternoon this nut vender goes to extraordinary lengths to draw customers.
There’s Only One New York
Clever photographers know that adding red turns even a dud picture into a winner - some have even made it their stock in trade (see the effect of the A320’s rotating beacons in the shots below). So whilst both London and New York exploit red as the primary image, only New York has the perfect marriage by insisting on using the famous Kodak Yellow on complementary text and all its cabs. For those new to life, Kodak was a company that made film, like they used to make movies with, but on small rolls that you put in cameras - you only had 36 photos to a roll. Seriously. After you’d taken the photos you’d take the roll of film out and take it to a pharmacy for ‘processing’ - that’s right, a pharmacy. Stop laughing, google it and you’ll see I am telling the truth.
JetBlue A320 De-Icing
Fat snowflakes thud against our windscreen as we wait to be dei-iced. Across the tarmac JetBlue’s four operators clear their A320 of ice and snow before applying the anti-ice coat - a glycol-chemical mix with a low freezing level. The anti-ice mixture gives about 45 minutes of protection (dependent on a number of factors), allowing the aircraft to safely takeoff during inclement weather.
Reeling-in the 777 takes some time, but at the cruising speed of 0.85 Mach the A380 finally overtakes the Qatari flight enroute to New York. We’re always hoping that one of their passengers will see us glide past - but sadly today’s passengers are more likely to have the blinds drawn as they watch movies.
It’s not only jet-lagged aircrew who haunt the Apple Store in Manhattan’s 5th Avenue. After midnight every night people line-up in the hope that they will be able to purchase the new Ipad 2 when the truck arrives at nine in the morning. There are no guarantees as staff members never know what is ‘on the truck’ until it arrives - some days there are no Ipads at all. (It’s all in the name of marketing - the factory could email the delivery docket the previous night) When the manager discovers how many he has to sell, he gives out a corresponding number of tickets. ‘By 8 am the line will be around the block’ an employee said. A few minutes before this pic was taken the heavy rain briefly turned to snow. Such an innovative company - you should see their nifty umbrella bags - should let their loyal public line-up inside the store.
Nothing To Worry About
Every 28 days the earth’s moon completes its eliptical ordbit. Measured from the centre of the earth, its perigree (closest point) is 356,334 kilometers whilst its apogee (fathest point) is 405,503 kilometers. Rarely its closest point co-incides with a full moon, when the sun is directly in line, giving earthlings the impression that the moon is larger - up to 12% larger than at its apogee. This month the full moon occured when the moon was nearly at its perigee, in actual fact at 356,577 kms away. With a good zoom lens, as small an ISO as possible - this was 200, and a shutter speed of about 150th of a second - you can get the same shot next month. The media hype of ‘Moonageddon’ is bunkim - the recent earthquake and tsunami have nothing to do with the moon: its gravitational effect is not strong enough to move rock from this distance; and the fact that the ‘close approach’ occurs near the equinox is a coincidence. It’s just the same old rock - no need to call Bruce Willis ... yet.
Dedicated To The People Of Japan
Stevie Wonder opened his concert in Abu Dhabi last night by dedicating the evening to the people of Japan - suffering after the recent earthquake, tsunami and current nuclear plant worries. The Motown superstar demonstrated his musical brilliance on keyboard, piano and drums for over two hours and fifteen minutes. During the encore he became matchmaker to a young man who proposed (successfully) to his girlfriend. In keeping with Wonder’s role a UN Messenger Of Peace, (bestowed in 2009), he implored the crowd to spread the message of peace and love in their lives. He asked people to record his hit HAPPY BIRTHDAY on their phones, so that they’d always have him wishing them a personal message on their big day; clever!
Tolerance Can Be Stressful
The stress is showing on Ilya Kabakov’s face as his, and wife Emilia’s, latest art installation - SHIP OF TOLERANCE - is dangled into the waters beside the Sharjah Aquarium as part of the 10th Sharajah Biennial, run by the Sharjah Art Foundation.
As the boat-builders, Mancunian Uni students, and local crane operators struggle to get the tolerant vessel afloat; art professionals discuss the merits of the project, in which local kids are commissioned to contribute artwork and enthusiasm.
The raising of the sail now 24 hours away, the project nears completion. The Kabacovs’ fleet of tolerant vessels have included installations in Miami, Venice, the Sahara and Eygypt.
Hundreds of art journalists, collectors and gallery heads have descended on Dubai and Sharjah for the annual Art Festivals.
Discovery Drifts Away
Over 11 years after his passing, my Dad’s legacy continues. The CANADA manipulating arm, devloped by the Canadians and used by the Space Shuttle crews, employs an aluminium alloy designed by my late father’s Comalco Research Centre in Melbourne. In this NASA image, Discovery has undocked from the International Space Station in preparation for its heart-stopping 65 minute return to earth. The subsequent landing will be its 39th and last. It first took off in August 1984, and will end its days as an exhibit at the Smithsonian. Watch the final approach from 20:20 Dubai time Wednesday (0330am Thursday for eastern Australia) on NASA TV here.
What Happened To Summer?
After 14 years of below average rainfall and a crippling decade-long drought, Melbourne has experienced the wettest summer and one of the coolest on record. There were only three days above 35C. Here, instead of a warm, breezeless, autumn night; the gondolier battles against a stiff chilling wind. If the loving couple had not been swathed in blankets, the magic would have disappeared. Climate change? Hardly. Commenting on the floods that affected Queensland and later had 33% of Victoria under water; the wizened farmer told the radio presenter “ ... it’s always like this, the longer the drought - the larger the floods that follow. This is Australia, mate!”
It’s Airshow time again in Melbourne, and that also means Australian Army Blackhawk training time. Again and again, two blackhawks thud their way over the coast at Kerford Road, up to St.Kilda Road, then back to the coast abeam Pickles Street. It’s a racecourse pattern, designed to ensure that no matter the weather or cloud base, the machines can enter and leave the city without running into each other. After nightfall their pilots don the night vision goggles and retrace their steps. This is all in aid of being able to protect the city against a terrorist attack. Problem is, it’s all done BELOW 500 feet, and is extremely noisy for residents (and their pets). Why can’t they practice above 1,500 feet? Some people think the cure is worse than the disease. Check out the Darth Vader masks.
Weighing 373,000 kgs and gliding to a stop without as much as a jolt, the A380 arrives at Heathrow Airport. Park Brake ON, Engines OFF, Storm light ON, Beacon OFF, Door Announcement Complete - Doors Checked Disarmed - Parking Checklist.
Using Conde Nast Traveler’s choice as World’s Best Cruise Ship as background for their wedding photos, this married couple is unaware of the other ship - also embarking on it’s life journey - on the other side of the pier. It’s Cunard’s new baby, the new Queen Elizabeth, named by her namesake in October 2010.
Nah, just new doors.
It’s Not Me
It was bad enough growing-up under President Nixon, how many jokes were made about ‘I’m not a crook!’? ... then when portly Victoria’s Police Commissioner Christine Nixon dined whilst Kinglake burned the headlines continued. But this latest scandal; with football player manager Ricky Nixon being caught in a 17 year old’s honey trap; has produced the most racy headlines. Enough to put you off your breakfast -- momentarily.
Melbourne’s Yarra River
Don’t Touch That!
Rolling towards Melbourne’s Yarra River is the new AAMI Stadium, home to rugby and soccer -- sports played on a rectangular field. The nifty design, which seats 30,000, is a frozen moment of a sporting goods salesman’s recurring nightmare. That horrible moment when a toddling three year old pulls down the delicately-balanced display of soccer balls ...
On Hobson’s Bay, at the top of Victpria’s Port Phillip, only a few hundred metres off the beach -- this fisherman may as well be in another world. Drivers on their way to work, watching whilst sitting in peak hour traffic, gaze longingly. If envious looks were fish -- he’d ‘ve had a boatful.
Cleaning the Roof
Cleaning the roof of the mammoth Dubai International Airport, these three guys must have a never-ending job. This ‘new’ extension to the terminal, opened in 2008, has taken the capacity to 60 million passengers per year and is the home of the fifteen Emirates A380s. Servicing the A380 requires three aerobridges. First and Business passengers board the upper deck of their aircraft directly from the dedicated lounges, above the body of the departures halls.
Another terminal of similar design is underway -- to handle the 90 A380s ordered by Emirates. Dubai was 14th largest airport in the world last year, with 38,851,486 passengers. Were you one of them?
Stand Back - Giotto’s Barista At Work
In Stanley Street, East Sydney, the Barista at Giotto’s Italian Art Cafe performs artistic miracles on every cafe latte. Is this the way of the future? The business does NOT have a website, but instead only a Facebook page - HERE.
Armed with a toothpick, and years of experience, he makes swans ...
... imagined images of customers ...
and puppies for mothers of children.
The indignity of being eaten by African wildlife is showing on the face of this puppy, being chauffeured by Australian fashion designer, Camilla Franks. She’s on her way to open her Beach House, a nifty, dog (husband and kid)-friendly shop where women play dress-ups with Camilla’s creations; award-winning kaftans in bright designs. Can’t make it to Bondi Beach? See her range, and buy online HERE. Are you wanting something more formal? Have a look at Alex Perry’s designs HERE -- after all, if it weren’t for him, you wouldn’t be seeing these pics of Camilla’s Carrrrrr.
Sydney Stops For Filming
There is a film-shoot in progress n Sydney’s Hyde Park today. It seems to involve some ‘normal’ actors walking in a world where the norm is to get around on power-stilts. Power-bocking allows the wearer / user to run up to 32 kph, jump 1.5 metres high whilst taking 2.7 metre strides. Some Aussies call them ‘Kangaroo Boots’, but they are more often called ‘Bocks’ after their German inventor.
‘First Positions Please...’
“Sound ... Roll Camera ... Speed ... Mark It ... ACTION!”
Truck Drivers On The Road Of Life
On the edge of the Plateau Of Tibet are a range of mountains, Kunlun Shan, and north of them the Taklimakan Desert. In the middle of the night, almost black to the naked eye, this high ISO rated image reveals the humanity that keeps the most populated country in the world ticking. The town of Minfeng below and the nearby highway to Yutian which looks as busy as the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney on a week night.
Top Of the World
Flying from China into Pakistan, the A380 struggles into a 200 Kph headwind over the Karakoram Ranges. The second highest mountain in the world: K2 is the most famous K (for Karakoram) mountain ... but K1, 3 4 5 & 6 are also found in the range - along with over 20 more of the highest mountains in the world. In this picture - taken during a full moon using 3200 ASA and a four second exposure - the blueness of planet earth is visible; but not to the naked eye. The south westerly packs the clouds on the Pakistani side of the range.
The Silk Road
Following the southern leg of the 2,000 year old Silk Road, the highest international paved road in the world, The Karakoram Highway, snakes up the middle of this valley in northern Pakistan. Still in darkness, the road is yet to see the rays of the rising sun. Known as the Friendship Highway, and alternatively as the 9th man-made wonder of the world; the road connects Pakistan and China. Work commenced in 1959 and concluded in 1986. 810 Pakistanis and 82 Chinese lost their lives during the construction. At its highest point the road crosses the Karakoram Range at 15,396 feet above sea level.
Since the 1830s Dubai’s dhows have been plying the waters of the Gulf and the Arabian Sea, working out of the Dubai Creek ... the city’s reason for being. It’s always been, foremost, a trading port; despite the rumours, the Emirate does not have the oil reserves of its richer brothers. Today the dhows keep Iran supplied with everything from flat screen TVs and air conditioners to automotive spare parts and foodstuffs. It only takes a day to make the trip across the Gulf.
Plug Into The Future
If you win $200K next weekend, invest in the Tesla electric sports car. Like the first plasma TV screens the more people buy ‘em, the cheaper they will become. With a range of 400 kms, acceleration of 4 secs to 100 kph, and top speed of 212 kph; it’ll completely recharge from flat in the time it takes to go to a meeting and on to lunch. Based on Lotus running gear, the heavy ‘mid engined’ battery lasts for 7 years, leaving enough boot space for a set of golf clubs at the rear. They are made in the USA and you can get one HERE.
Who Burnt the Toast?
The still harbour air on a Saturday morning is suddenly dominated by black smoke issuing from Blues Point Tower. Lasting only a matter of minutes -- presumably extinguished by an automatic sprinkler system -- the sky soon cleared. My Serbian walking-partner enquired as to the smudge in the middle of the bridge itself. “That’s left over from when Oprah was here,” I said. “I saw that on the news the other week,” he countered, referring-to the huge ‘O’ that dominated the central bridge skyline; “I thought Roy Orbison had come back to life!”
Nick DeVilliers photo of a man rescuing a kangaroo from the flood in Queensland may well become the news photo of the year. It was published in the Herald-Sun newspaper. Their website can be found HERE, but I prefer to get my newspaper intact each day, just like the paper version, online from PressReader.com HERE. For the same subscription price as one newspaper I get the entire world.
The heart of Dubai, and its reason for being, has always been the Dubai Creek. As well as a trading port for pearlers and fishermen, it also saw service as the landing strip for the Empire Airways flying boats -- delivering the Royal Mail, and passengers, as far afield as Sydney and Auckland. Today the RTA Abras shuttle passengers across the creek between Bur Dubai and Deira; and traders load modern wares, air-conditioners and fridges, bound for Iran.
On Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai the plethora of sky-scraping apartments, hotels and offices makes it difficult to photograph -- too close and you don’t capture anything like the sheer quantity (there are over 100 in Dubai) -- too far away and you miss the detail. Here the setting-sun plays with the designs. The famous Emirates Towers furthermost away, behind Emirates Airline crew accommodation, the asparagus tip shaped U.P. Tower. Almost completed beside it is a stylised Big Ben.
Burj Al Arab
Over shadowed by the one year-old, taller, Burj Khalifa tower, the grand Burj Al Arab hotel sits proudly on the edge of the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf if you are from Iran). The new moon rests atop the sea-facing restaurant.
A 747 Changes Course Over Myanmar
Clive James said of the Boeing 747: “When it gets up and preens its feathers -- it’s hard to believe that there are 300 people inside. It looks like there is only one guy in there ... having the time of his life!” Geoff Neate said: “If you don’t stop and look when one taxis past, there’s something wrong with you.” At a closing speed of 1,700 kph every photographer’s dream is to freeze one in full flight.
Dubai’s Still Here...
Despite the urgings of the British press, Dubai is still here and is not going away. The much discussed Dubai World never went broke, no banks have gone under -- and projects are back on the rails and being completed. The Metro system was conceived, built and had delivered over three million passengers in the time Melbourne’s MyKi public transport ticketing system was completed. Oh? It’s not completed yet? DNATA, Dubai’s airport handling company, has just purchased the massive worldwide Alpha airport catering conglomerate -- not a bad way to begin 2011.
Not Going Anywhere.
These photos were taken by Cees Van Dooren from his apartment balcony on The Palm, (yes, it’s up and running). Above is the Dubai Marina and below, his view of the two lined-up Burjs. Burj Al Arab and Burg Khalifa. For those thinking of a shopping holiday, this is the perfect time of year -- with overnight lows of 15-18C and tops in the mid twenties, the cooler months are all about outside dining and entertainment. The shopping festival (20th Jan-20th Feb) is not to be missed, with tax free discounts up to 75% from participating stores. In its 16th year -- 3.5 million visitors are expected to flood the city -- details HERE.
Happy New Year
Oblivious of the significance for earthlings, the sun rises on just another day.
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, provided a massive fireworks display to show in the new year; similar to this one, taken when the building opened in January last year.
Resting between flying lessons, this baby sparrow awaits further instruction from its mother.
The first thing airline crew do after arriving in a hotel room is check out how close the nearest crane is. Can you get to sleep before the guys start work? Before the maid starts vacuuming the room next door? Why do they insist on banging the vacuum cleaner into the skirting board, centimetres from your head? Sydney’s Hilton is across the road from a large building site -- at the moment it’s at the jackhammer stage -- the hotel staff try their best by placing day-sleeping crews as far away as possible.
Reaching-up from the depths of the Indian Ocean, this island; one of 200 inhabited within the Maldives; catches the last rays of the sun. The Maldives has 1,192 islets (small islands), together forming the smallest Asian country. The average height above sea level is 1.5 metres, making it vulnerable from damage from tsunamis. After the third largest earthquake ever recorded by a seismograph, the Boxing Day earthquake of 2004, 15,000 people in the Maldives were displaced, and 82 killed in the subsequent tsunami.
A Chinese sidecar puppy’s ride in the freezing morning air is interrupted by a blissful red-light pat.
Not far out of Beijing a man uses a converted bicycle as a wheel barrow.
One of the delightful aspects of a life on the road are the people who are regular touchstones with normality. But there’s nothing normal about Brian, who takes us to and from the hotel in Sydney. Originally from The Old Country he’s worked in Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle as a French Polisher and for the RAF. He even worked as a “Doctor” treating Malaysian rubber plantation workers for three months under a Singaporean aid program. ‘They had leprosy and everything, the only treatment we gave them was Vitamin C and Cod Liver Oil!’
After moving to Australia and a life on the road -- originally as an interstate Coach Captain and now, when lesser men would be retired, as our trusty driver. He finishes picking-up and delivering the Auckland crew to Departures then moves to Arrivals and manhandles our 30 suitcases and 30 cabin bags on and off, then goes to pickup the next crew -- from Thai Airways. In between flights he works in ’the yard’ servicing the fleet -- or takes some tourists as far as Canberra.
One morning, double parked in Pitt Street, he was the target of a road rage attack when an angry motorist punched him to the ground before two of our pilots stepped-in. The offender has escaped scot-free due to lack of witnesses. While you are enjoying your Christmas dinner, raise a glass to this great man, who’ll be getting ready to pickup our A380 crew bound for DXB and retrieve those just in from AKL.
Ray Leigh’s Back!
Only on youtube, sadly. Whilst he now lives in Sweden, we’ve come across some tapes of him rehearsing at the Basement in Sydney in the 1990s. Click HERE to find the first song: Moon River. There are seven more, including Wonderful World, Sweet Lorraine, Almost Like Being In Love and my favourite: My Funny Valentine.
It’s Scary On Stage
The cast of Kids’ Theatreworks Dubai show parents and friends what they’ve been learning for the last term.
Sign up for next year HERE.
Hyde Park Sydney
Despite Oprah madness they still have time to prepare for Christmas.
We’re In China
Over a highway north of Beijing a sign implores drivers not to dring and drive.
The 27th highest mountain in the world greets the sunrise. Near the Pakistani - Chinese border in the Karakoram Ranges, it is close to the airway waypoint of Purpa -- and sports a minimum safe altitude of 28,000 feet. The Karakoram Ranges are 500 kms long (northwest of the Himalayas) and are home to the most glaciated non-polar areas of the planet, as well as greatest concentration of five mile high peaks in the world. More than 100 peaks are over 20,000 feet. Whilst it only takes about half an hour to traverse the range, it takes much longer than that to prepare secondary flight plans in the aircraft flight management systems -- just in case an emergency descent is required.
The U.K. is suffering a cold snap and whilst Heathrow is clear this morning, Edinburgh and Gatwick airports are closed. Gatwick will be closed for at least another 24 hours. Further snowfalls are expected this afternoon, about the time we get to fly the full-sized A380 back to Dubai.
The Greatest Wall ... Ever!
At minus 5C, the exciting taxi ride; (almost as exciting as in Hanoi ... but less than Bangkok); took only one hour -- thirty minutes better than predicted. As sole occupant of the freezing chairlift -- best taken with eyes squeezed shut whilst listening to an audiobook -- the ten minute ride to the top and subsequent loss of a few years of longevity was a good trade for the five thousand upward steps.
To walk even small sections of the Wall takes more energy than you’d imagine. In places it is extremely steep as it hugs the ridges of the surrounding terrain. It’s impossible to understand how it was built, and how many must have fallen to their deaths. A group of Chinese businessmen, wearing only suits in the crisp sub-zero stillness, chanted team-building slogans and rallied-around red flags.
Apart from the businessmen, away in the distance, I was alone with wall and its ancient spirits. That a stretch of rock -- that stretches over the mountainous peaks in the distance -- can render you humble and insignificant, is breathtaking. Go there. Do it.
Winds off the North Sea create orographic lifting of the moist air along the Norfolk coastline on England’s east coast. The ‘lifting’ of the air mass causes strato-cumulous clouds making it easy to map the land-sea barrier. The line of cloud ahead is running along the Belgian beachfront.
Sunrise Over Severn
Approaching overhead Cardiff Airport, the sun rises over the Severn Estuary and, to the right, the Bristol Channel. Cardiff is on this side, and Weston Supermare on the other. It’s possible to spot the River Avon entrance in the middle of the picture; just to its left is Filton, birthplace of many great aeroplanes, including the Brabazon, Britannia and Concorde. Today Airbus employs more people there than ever before, making the wings for all Airbus ‘planes, except for the A380 -- whose wings are made in Broughton, North Wales.
Like two huge Humpback Whales surfacing, the earth in Iran is squeezed and pushed at the join of the Arabian and Eurasian Tectonic plates forming salt domes. Not far to the East the Indian plate joins them both. It seems that every year an earthquake causes distress in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or India. Still moving at the rate your fingernails grow, each plate is between four and forty miles thick. A glance out the window at Iran’s Zagros mountain range makes you wonder how anyone can imagine that the earth is younger than 100 million years ... that’s how long ago these mountains were formed by the collision of the plates.
New Jersey Devils Slip On The Ice In Toronto
After an eight game losing streak the Toronto Maple Leafs -- (I tried to correct the spelling of ‘Leaves’ but it is written everywhere and my texta ran out) -- have strung together two wins in a row, defeating the red New Jersey team, 3:1. The evening opened with a rotund, middle aged male tenor, without accompaniment, delivering a tear-jerking display of both national anthems. Australian sports lovers take note: neither team clutched their left nipples during their song, and the Canadian crowd matched their singer, note for stirring note. They knew ALL the words.
Like A Piano ...
The game began like a piano being edged-out of a skyscraper, by the end of first third it was just leaving the top floor. The top shot shows the makings of a Toronto goal. In the dying minutes, as the piano passed the mezzanine level, the Devils substituted their goalie for a sixth attacking player. Weird to see their goals undefended, but the puck had no intention of going in that direction -- all action was in the Devils goal as the visitors tried to defeat gravity. The bottom shot shows the Maple Leafs goalie expertly deflecting a Devilish attack. Like their nearby baseball venue, the stadium was amazingly clean, the food and beverage service top class and crowd warm and hilarious. All except the two Devils fans sitting in front of us, who must have wished they had left their branded clothing at home. In two days the Leafs (?) travel to Montreal to try their luck on the Canadiens -- word is that they’re gonna miss their hometown advantage.
Hugo The TV Watching Puppy
One of the pleasures of dog-sitting the hilarious HUGO is watching his reaction to Animal Planet on the high definition television. As soon as any felines, from cats to lions, appear on the screen he launches himself onto the furniture -- growling and snarling. To date he has taken on snakes, a turtle and even a horse. He’s a real bloke ... when any woman knocks on the door he is off ... not even stopping to say goodbye.
EK A380 Arrives In Heathrow
Eight minutes early, on runway 27 Right, piloted by Paul Ridley and Paul Naude. Meanwhile the Qantas A380s, and now three belonging to Singapore Airlines, remain grounded due to problems with their Rolls Royce engines. Lufthansa have changed one engine and continue to fly their A380s. Emirates and Air France do not use the problematic power-plants, instead using an American engine, the Engine Alliance (EA) GP7200; a joint project between General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.
Stormy Over Sri Lanka
Visible on the weather radar from hundreds of miles away, even on a moonless night, this thunderstorm becomes active -- providing the energy of 10 to 100 nuclear bombs. If the Sri Lankans could tap into the energy released every thirty-five seconds by this one storm -- they would need no other energy source. I wouldn’t want to be the electrician charged with connecting the cables ...
All Melbourne Loves The Spring Carvival
Today is Emirates Stakes Day at Flemington, the last day of the Spring Carnival. Sydney-siders find it difficult to understand why the Spring Carnival, and particularly Cup Day, is so heavily attended by Melbournians. Unlike them, the last long weekend was Queen’s Birthday - which rings in the ski season on the winter solstice. So it’s been a long, cold winter. The Cup Carnival is a celebration of impending warm weather. Here, in a photo taken by an observer in the A380 flight deck, we see 110,000 Melbournians -- it looked like half of them took flash photos of us going past. If you have a good pic, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Emirates A380 Flypast
Top Melbourne photographer, Mark Smith, positioned himself underneath the flight path of the A380 on the bank of the Maribyrnong River to capture these photos of my flypast of the Melbourne Cup. He kept saying: “It’s SO BIG!” Correct. 80 metres wide, and as heavy as 25 Melbourne trams (the old ones), when fully laden. Thanks mate.
Photo by James Morgan Photographic Consultancy, see their work HERE
The Emirates A380 Crew
Celebrate after completing two successful Melbourne Cup flypasts, timed to the second. Captain Eric Trotter, Senior First Officers James Nixon and Sayed Ahmad Al Hashimi; with Purser Amandah Cotchin with Cabin Crew Paul Eddy and Nichola Knudsen. The A380 flew at 1,000 feet above the course in front of the 110,000 strong crowd and a worldwide television audience.
It’s Not Often
You get to fly past your sister’s house. Thank-you to brother-in-law, Steve Ashton, for the image.
The Race Is On
As the afternoon Europe-bound fleet heads over Iraq the race for the optimum altitude continues. The two Airbus A330s 2.000 feet and 4,000 above are split by a Boeing 777 just behind (and closing at a faster speed). An Etihad A340 ahead, and 1,000 feet above our A380 keeps us pinned-down. Once past Iraq, in Turkish airspace, the flightpaths diverge and we can finally climb to 38,000 feet and start saving fuel. The A380’s faster cruising speed, 0.85 Mach, is faster than most aircraft.
Careful - Lookout For Dead Bodies
Just north of London’s Heathrow Airport is farm land, a few houses and ‘common-ground’. Land where anyone can go wandering. And even in a stiff breeze, it beats the drudgery of the hotel gym. But all the viewers of U.K. TV. know, it’s on these small paths that, weekly, a stack of dead bodies pile-up. Stories ignored by the news services. But if you happen to wander into a village, say -- Midsomer -- you can expect to be up to your waist in ‘em.
Centre Of the Universe
So this is where all those naughty pictures come from: a side street in Seoul, Korea.
A World Without Borders
Overhead the Beqaa Valley, Lebanon's Beirut, and further down the coast, Israel's Haifa are clearly visible. Up here the earth's humanity is evidenced by lights. One planet, one race. If only everyone could see the world this way.
While You Were Sleeping
The constellation Orion rose over cloud-covered Belgrade, capital of Serbia. Below and to the right is an Etihad A340, also travelling to the middle east, 2,000 feet below. Immediately in front a Cathay aircraft is coming in the opposite direction. Waiting to takeoff after our A380 at London, a Virgin Atlantic A340 was told to line up behind the A380. The pilot replied, "Cleared to Line-Up after the Bigger-Me!"
Sharjah, one of the Emirates within the UAE doesn't allow alcohol. Which is wise considering the use of jetskis on Saturday afternoons. Imagine the carnage if their reflexes were impared.
Well Meaning ... But Misguided
Toronto's Uni Students divided into teams and staked-out intersections harrassing pedestrians for donations to give the people of the world 'Clean Water'. When quizzed as to where donations would go they had no idea. They couldn't say how much would go to 'the people' -- in fact they didn't know which countries were needing clean water. One girl said 'The people in Dubai don't have any water' ... that's when I walked-on.
The A380 Superjumbo of yesteryear sits in elegant retirement right in the middle of Toronto. Behind it the massive infrastructure keeps the country's train wheels turning. In Australia the rail system has almost failed. The bumper wheat crop, after ten years of drought, cannot rely on the traditional method of transporting wheat. Train lines that have been closed and 'downgraded' are unable to be handle the task. Today's crop from north western New South Wales alone will require 10,000 double-bogie truckloads to get it to the ports of Brisbane and Newcastle, taking almost a year and further damaging the roads.
Last night the Emirates Pilot's Club function turned into a tribute for the two UPS pilots killed in the recent B747 crash near Silicon Oasis. As well as the local representative for UPS, we were joined by two of their pilots on their layover. Framed prints of our aircraft were signed and will be given to the families of the two pilots -- plus one for the crew room in their base of Anchorage. Attending his last function prior to retirement was the Captain who, during his last flight, relayed ATC information to the doomed crew, and was the last person with whom they spoke. Read further on the matter HERE.
Harry's Not Bad At All
Harry Connick Junior is a very talented singer, actor and devout son of New Orleans. His actions just after Hurricane Katrina helped get the city the emergency aid it needed. Since then he has headed some amazing charity works, specifically the Habitat for Humanity's Musician's Village. But more than all of this ... he's a brilliant musician who has to be seen to be believed.
The thirteenth A380 has arrived at Dubai for Emirates. Only 77 more to go until the largest aircraft order in history is completed. Another perspective, (still trying to find an angle that makes it look pretty), of the 80 metre wide monster -- powered by the most powerful, and most economical, aeroplane engines ever produced. They are made by a consortium of manufacturers under the name Engine Alliance; and have proven more economical than the Rolls Royce engines used by Singapore and Qantas.
Remove Before Flight
Standing level with the flight deck side window, but clear of the spinning engines' intakes, the Dispatch Engineer holds up the nose gear steeering pin for the benefit of the pilots. Attached to the pin is a long red tape with 'remove before flight' written in large white letters. The pin is necessary to prevent uncommanded movement of the nose wheels during the pushback phase. If the pin is not removed the gear will not retract, which, in the past, has resulted in embarrasment for pilots in a number of airlines. Unless it is a very short flight, invariably it means dumping enough fuel to prevent an overweight landing, then returning to land. Transport aircraft can takeoff with a much greater weight than they can comfortably land. The A380 can always land at its maximum takeoff weight in an emergency, but it is very stressful on the brakes ... and the pilots!
Having declared an emergency prior to an uneventful landing at Toronto airport, the JAZZ Regional Jet taxis to its gate followed by two rescue vehicles, out of sight of the passengers.
Toronto International Film Festival
Has arrived, so the city's hotel workers take the opportunity to voice their concerns. As the top Hollywood actors check into the famous Fairmont Hotel they find managers performing the role of normal workers. Outside in the street unionists complain that the hotels have refused to increase staffing levels since the Global Financial Crisis, despite recording strong growth. This has resulted in "overworked and injured staff" and lost opportunities for those retrenched in the downturn.
The Captain Is NOT Dead
Every Melbournian has a story about The Windsor Hotel's most flamboyant resident, Captain Peter Janson; who, it had been rumoured, had died after an illness in Melbourne. Thankfully the rumour was unfounded. He is alive and well. Hilarious party-monster, brilliant part time racing, rally and double decker bus driver, the Captain (of what it's dubious) has always been a delightful host and spender of Other People's Money. He changed his name to NGK to get around sponsorship regulations which only allowed driver's names on the windscreen strip on racing cars. One Friday night I was having drinks at his 'warehouse' in Richmond -- after he'd been moved-on by the Windsor Hotel's new owners. He received a phone call and excused himself. 'John!' he exclaimed, 'How would you like to do the Chamberlain trial? ... Great! ... Let's speak tomorrow.' The caller? John Phillips QC who went on to unsuccessfully defend the Chamberlains. The Captain has fingers in many pies and is fondly remembered by all whose lives he has touched. Long may he reign.
Yellow Peril Retires To South Melbourne
Officially named VAULT, the $70,000 Ron Robertson-Swan sculpture invaded the Melbourne City Square in 1978. The media immediately dubbed it Yellow Peril and whipped-up a noisy campaign demanding its removal. After only seven months it vanished overnight -- courtesy of rambo dentist, Dr.Maurice 'Supertooth' White's engineering sideline. It later reappeared in Batman Park on the Yarra and remained for 21 years. Like many retired city workers it has crossed the river to Southbank and now spends its days relaxing next to the Australian Cantre For Contemorary Art in Sturt Street South Melbourne.
The Demise Of Manufacturing In Australia
Opposite The Melbourne Club in Collins Street workers are replacing water pipes. The club house was built in 1858, at a time when Melbourne was the richest city in the world due to the gold rush (1851- late 1860s). In ten years the Australian population nearly tripled. What would the city's founding fathers have to say about the new water pipes -- made in Switzerland by VonRoll hydro? That Australia can no longer build cast-iron pipes, coated in polyurethane or zinc-bitumen, and deliver them to Melbourne more economically than those made in a tiny land-locked country in Europe speaks volumes about its current status: the cleanest third world country in the world.
Who Needs A Beach?
Toronto, on Lake Ontario, doesn't have a natural beach. No matter. Truckloads of sand have produced a beach for the late summer enjoyment of the locals who live in the many apartment towers on the shorefront.
It's All Too Much
A million people visited Buskerfest in Toronto during the weekend. Whilst Mum was getting an ice cream this little spectator couldn't stay awake but kept a vice like grip on her twisted balloon puppy.
Stop ... Police!
A Police car screams to a halt outside a bank during the filming of an episode of La Femme Nakita in Toronto on a quiet Sunday in Toronto, Canada. The wheelchair guy is not an actor, but a member of the public whose progress was delayed during the take. The strong Canadian Dollar (it's about the same as the Australian), and the California Governor's incentives; has meant that the outsourced work for Hollywood, (like the X-Files) has dried-up. As a result the local industry's productions have gained a toe-hold.
Australian Voters line-up to hang their government on Saturday 21st August 2010. Much is made of the compulsory requirement to vote. However, that notion is incorrect. You only have to attend the polling-booth and have your name ruled-off. There is no requirment to make a valid vote. Besides hanging the Parliament, so it'll take about two weeks to determine a winner; up to 6% of votes had no mark on the ballot paper, or were invalid. What people really come for are the sausages, being BBQd under the tree to the left. Polling booths are surrounded by party members handing out How To Vote literature, and the smell of cooked onions and snags.
Football Fan's Revenge
Squadrons of Silver Gulls descend on the MCG during the last half of every football match to supp on cold chips left by fans. They disrupt play and often trick the auto-focus of the TV cameras as they swoop around the players. Here a strategicallly-placed chip on the inside window sill at the Fisho's Club fools a feathered flier.
The Drain Man
Signs on the footpaths of Albert Park remind Melbournians that whatever goes into the storm water drains soon enters Port Philip Bay. Nothing prepares you for what comes back the other way!
The Big Men Fly
Hawthorn's Buddy Franklin flies high to mark the ball in the match against Melbourne to the delight of the club's cheer squad during the final stages of the Australian Football League's match on Sunday. The Hawks eventually drew ahead of the Demons to take victory in the rain-affected match.
A Stiff Katabatic Wind
Clears the haze, dust and pollution from Dubai's summer skies. At six thirty in the morning the temperature is already 36 C and on the rise. The QE2 waits patiently to be converted into a hotel and towed to The Palm development. The global financial crisis has slowed her transition from famous Cunard ocean liner to posh pub.
K2, Second Highest Mountain In The World
Four of the 'Big Nine" mountains in the world sit together in pakistan at the western-most edge of the Himalayas. A few days earlier a climber was killed on the mountain, recognised by climbers as much more dangerous than its big brother, Mt.Everest.
On the border of Pakistan and China, is the 27th highest mountain in the world. It stands in the Karakoram Ranges, immediately west of the Himalayas.
Sydney In Winter
To the left of the Harbour Bridge lies the Opera House and Royal Botanical Gardens.
London In Summer
The London Eye and the Houses Of Parliament sit beside the brown River Themes. Trafalgar Square, to the right, the Mall leads to Buckingham Palace (top left)
Under The Threat Of Nuclear Attack
Life goes on as normal in the South Korean capital, Seoul, as their navy and that of the USA undertake a four day exercise named Invincible Spirit. North Korea has threatened to use its 'nuclear deterrence' in response. However locals just yawned and said "... Whatever ..." Nerves of steel.
World Cup Final
The French tri-colour gets a run at the FIFA World Cup Fan Zone in Paris despite the lack of their team in the finals.
The Spanairds caught the Dutch napping.
There are two periscopes in an Oberon Class Submarine. The forward one, used by the Captain, is called the Attack Scope. Presenting a small target, its field of view is limited. The rear one is much larger, uses two eyepieces, like binoculars, and can have a camera attached. Here HMAS Onslow's attack scope is focused on Sydney's Centrepoint Tower.
Single Pilot Operation
HMAS Onlsow's Helmsman's position, like all Submariners' positions, is cramped. Similar to the controls used by aircraft, the control yoke provides roll (left and right) and pitch (back means up, forward means down). Unlike Pilots, Helmsmen never get to see where they are going, their entire lives spent 'on instruments'. In 1972 a disgruntled sailor used these controls to try and destroy the ship, and all hands, by disobeying orders and diving the submarine to twice its safe operating depth. Luckily the ship was not crushed by the increased pressures, and the ship and crew was saved. The incident led to a change in policy. Never more would conscripted-sailors become submariners in the Royal Australian Navy. From that day forward, all submariners have been selected from volunteers.
Adrian King Goes to Work
One of the first planes to takeoff after the end of the morning curfew in Sydney is a Jetstar A321 piloted by Adrian King, late of Ansett, Air Malta, Azzura Air and Vietnam Airlines.
In terrain that has defated every invader since time began, Australians are fighting, and dying, in Afghanistan. The futility of Armed Forces Vs Terrorists becomes apparent to anyone who has seen the geography. The only time terrorists have ever been defeated was in the Malyan Emergency where armed forces were supported by the hard-slogging detective work of the Police Special Branch. Now that Afghanistan has become the longest war for both the USA and Australia; with the President and the United Nations telling us that The Taliban may actually be our friends after all; it seems that the public is becoming restless. Motivated as we are by images, we will stay until we are shown a defining image of the war's futility ... to sicken and revolt the Mothers who continue to send their children to fight. In Vietnam, it was the Police Chief executing a plain-clothed Viet Cong soldier in the 1968 Tet Offensive, and followed-up, after the decision to pull-out, with vision of napalm-victim Kim Phuc. But today the media is controlled in Afghanistan and there is little chance of such an image making it onto the front page. As letter writers flood the Australian press imploring their government to pull-out, a lesson in history may be gleaned from the U.S.A's Vietnamese disaster - the only war they have lost. It's widely agreed that if they had stayed an extra three weeks they would have starved-out the Viet Cong in the southern half of the country, and maybe won a Korean-like victory. Food for thought.
As summer arrives in eastern France, the farmers' harvesting continues on schedule.
On The Other Side Of The World.
The A380 readies for departure from Toronto after a late afternoon rain shower. Due to the proximity of Lake Huron to the northwest and Lake Ontario on its doorstep, the area is prone to afternoon showers and storms anytime the temperature soars. The thrice-weekly service is always full, thanks to the large Indian expat population in Canada's largest city.
And In Paris ...
In the airport industrial park, they have a pleasant distraction from the workday stress: a small forest and lake. Not a bad place to take a crusty bread roll, some cheese and a small bottle of wine during your lunch hour. They even have fake, broken down piers on which you can sit and pretend you are miles away. It wouldn't happen in Australia: the 'Nanny State' as labelled by current F1 World Championship leader, Mark Webber. Instead of the greenery there would be Occupational Health & Safety signs warning you of the dangers of sitting on the crumbling piers. As in France, you could still injure yourself ... but the over use of warning signs would contribute to the stress the lake is designed to reduce.
Clinging to the western bank of the Volga River, and previously named as Stalingrad; Volgograd is Russia's 12th largest city, with a population of one million. In 1942 between 1.2 and 1.7 million people were killed in one of history's largest battles. From July until late November the Germans and their allies gained the upper hand. After almost flattening the city by aerial bombing, they gained control of 90% of the city. Then in late November the Russians, with winter on their side, hit back, attacking in a classic pincer movement, and slicing the supply lines. House-to-house flighting ensued which bogged the Germans down, in one skirmish control of the railway station changed 14 times. Eventually they starved the aggressors out. Of the 91,000 Germans captured only 5,000 returned home. in March 1943 40,000 were buried in a mass grave after catching Typhus. The rest died over the next eight years in labour camps. Today the city has an important industrial role: oil-refining, steel and aluminium production; as well as ship and car production. The city is powered by a hydro-electric plant.
Iran's Aseman Boeing 727
Technology has no sentimentaility for history. Here a noisy Iranian Aseman Airlines Boeing 727 takes to the air in Dubai. At one time the most popular airliner in the world, and only overtaken by the Boeing 737, there were 1,831 built before production ceased in 1984. They first took to the skies in 1963. After building the tourism industry in Australia, opening-up the Gold Coast, Perth, Darwin, Alice Springs, Tasmania and Cairns as destinations; they have been banned from operating, even as freighters, because of their noise footprint. Originally 21 miles, 'hush-kits' shrank the noise affected area to 3 miles, but it's still much louder the A330 (below) which carries an extra 120 passengers for the same fuel burn.
Emirates A330 Over India
The airways over India are crowded with air traffic heading to and from Asia. Enhanced radars, aircraft instrumentation, autopilots and systems engineered to a higher quality, with qualified crews and controllers operating to critical specifications, allow the airspace to be deemed RVSM. Reduced Vertical Separation Minima means that aeroplanes can be only 1,000 feet apart instead of the standard 2,000 feet, which makes for spectacular passing manouvers at closing speeds of nearly 2,000 kph. The twin GPS and triple Inertial Navigation computers ensure each aeroplane flies within milimetres of the airway's centre, their headings only adjusted for the prevailing winds. This means that airways can be laterally closer together, with twice as many levels between 29 and 41,000 feet, allowing more flghts and less delays, resulting in fuel savings and happier passengers. Emirates was the first airline to paint their logo on the underside of their 'planes, an innovative marketing initiative now adopted by other airlines.
Heathrow's Third Runway Scrapped
A British Airways A320 lines up on Runway 27 Right. News today that the new UK Government has scrapped plans for the third runway for the worlds busiest international airport. This will have wide repercussions for airline manufacturer Boeing, who have bet on the 'more flights more often' mantra in developing the 250-330 passenger 787 Dreamliner. With no ability to increase aircraft movements the prize must go to Airbus who bet on the 520 seat A380. Airlines with only two landing slots a day have no other choice to satisfy future expansion demands in the short term; and 202 have been ordered. Most of them will operate into Heathrow. Boeing's passenger version of the 747-800, currently being built as a freighter, should seat 467 passengers when it takes to the skies in 2011. There are only 35 or so on the order books.
Moving In At Last
After being delayed for two years, residents are starting to move into the Oceana project at The Palm in Dubai. The swanky apartments are well-finished and offer a resort style living. Here, from the infinity pool, swimmers gaze upon the Dubai Marina. Buyers can grab a bargain, a luxury two bedroom 1,600 sq.ft. apartment, with a study, for less than US$700,000. The property has 240m of white sands beach, a lazy river, a gym, numerous bars and restaurants and even room service, provided from the Movenpick hotel which adjoins the apartments.
Bangkok Hotel Notice
In a concerted effort to stamp out child sex tourists, hotels in Bangkok are leaving these signs in each room. Australia has helped by enacting a law which prevents its passport holders from having sex with minors anywhere in the world. Offenders will be pursued when they return home. It may have slowed-down Aussies, but the over representation of middle aged single males at the airport's baggage collection area, mainly from the U.K. and Germany, makes you wonder if the practise has decreased at all.
Summer has arrived early in Toronto Canada with a 25 degree day in late spring. This building's owners have taken a novel approach to painting an otherwise bland western wall which faces a park.
Life's Simple Pleasures
Beside Sydney Harbour you don't need to be rich to enjoy life; just a pair of runners or a fishing rod. This Maltese-born angler describes the one that got away. Bream and Snapper are his targets ... although they weren't biting that particular morning.
New Life In Dubai
Nest building in Dubai utilises all the native materials at hand ... from the building site of the 20 story Novotel building site next door, from paper scraps to pieces of string and cotton. It's warm, 30 degrees by day, but due to get much hotter in the next two months. The industrious mother-to-be never stops. Is she already pregnant?
Her skinny partner, after strutting his stuff for the last few weeks, has been absent for the nest building. Now it is almost completed, he comes back, loudly announcing his arrival, then takes-off when asked to lend a hand. Males are males the world over...
For Indians the annual 1 billion dollar market is up and running as to the date of the monsoon's arrival in Mumbai. Their equity market climbed for the fifth consecutive day on the weather bureau’s forecast of a normal monsoon. Here it is, in all its electrical glory, lit by last night's full moon. As to its location, direction and speed ... well, that'd be telling.
Civil Unrest In Thailand
The red shirts / yellow shirts problem in Thailand is escalating. The background issues are, of course, plentiful. The yellow shirts are predominately well to do city folk, whereas the red shirts are impoverished country people. Their hero, deposed leader Thaksin Shinawatra, did much to alleviate poverty and increase health care but is accused by the yellow shirts of corruption. He now lives in exile. Red shirts are said to be in favour of doing away with the monarchy, King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the longest-serving in the world. This sign, adorning the entrance to the new airport, is next to a huge 10 story mural of the King and Queen. Balanced on the edge, the country could dissolve into civil war at any time. But then the new PM, Abhisit Vejjajiva, (born in the U.K. and educated in Eton and Oxford), knows that his military maybe be equally divided as yellow and red supporters. Asking them to quell the protesters could be a very silly thing to do.
You can't fly over it when the Queen is in residence. Although it happend once. Just after the 747 was born, a Pan Am clipper lost an engine on takeoff from runway 27 right. Instead of turning left, as demanded, in an effort to keep the aircraft flying he flew straight ahead, calling a mayday and requesting permission to dump fuel. 'Negative, the Queen is in residence!' came the controller's reply. 'Well, Sir, she can have the fuel or the aircraft ... her choice' came the American's calm reply. The ATC paused then said; 'Permission to dump fuel'. Aviation fuel, which is highly-filtered kerosine, evaporates after falling a few thousand feet. But you can bet there were no mosquitoes at the castle for a few months afterwards.
The White Cliffs Of Dover
Fitting on Anzac Day, to consider the hundreds of thousands of young men who have longed to see this iconic signpost enroute to Old Blighty. As we bring the first plane load of post volcanic ash passengers who have been able to complete an uninterupted trip from Australia, the sight of Dover-bound ferries still crammed-full of affected travelers makes one think of earlier times when travel disruption was just another hurdle to be faced by the plucky island nation.
Don't ask me how it's pronounced ... here is the Icelandic glacier atop the now-active volcano which is causing distress to european flight operations. Over a thousand flights a day used to traverse above it enroute to and from Northern America. This photo was taken last summer. To use a high quality copy of this image in your media outlet, email me HERE. There are fears that the plume could last two months. More worrying to British Airlines, which was losing about a million pounds a day before the eruption, is that the nearby Katla volcano could also blow. Also covered in ice, the much larger volcano traditionally explodes within six months of its smaller sibling ... and the plume could last up to two years. The prevailing winds would blow the plume over the UK and western europe.
Only In South Korea
At the restaurant in Seoul's Inchon airport, the ultimate in carbohydrate loading.
New Toys For The Boys
American President Obama gave Australia the flick recently, abandoning his tour to stay in Washington and push through his health care package. That didn't stop his offical escort from making the trip though. Seen here in Auckland New Zealand, the five new Supert Hornets and their airborne refueller, a converted DC10, take a day off from their gruelling trip - which also doubled as a delivery flight for the new squadron.
Terry The Terrible Terrier
Is sadly no longer. After a long battle with lumps and bumps, failing eyesight and hearing, giddy legs and a raspy chest; the plucky pup made his last visit to the vet today. He had just turned fifteen. Not a bad innings really ... and despite his name, he was never really Terrible. A loyal trier, he annually challenged to find out if he was Top Dog. Alas, he never was. But he was a great mate to all who knew him ... and the entire world to Sandy, the Gay Dacshund -- who is gonna have a tough time sleeping alone.
A severe Christian once told me that a dog couldn't go to Heaven because "A dog's got no soul". If Heaven doesn't allow dogs like Terry, I don't want to go there.
Read more HERE.
is written along the fuselage, just in front of the tail of the Pakistan International Airlines' 737 taxying at Dubai airport. Whoever designed the tail's colour scheme, and what were they thinking?
In Auckland's Domain, on Saturday a full-on one dayer. On Sunday the pavillion is empty and a family takes to the field.
In Auckland's Domain, the largest and oldest park in the city, which is actually sited inside the dormant Pukekawa volcano; the freshwater seepage from the bottom of the volcano forms Duck Pond.
Airport Drainage Systems
Passengers are blithly unaware about the geography of airports. Which is a good thing. Due to their distance from terminals, or anything else to give a sense of scale, people don't get scared by approaching the 3-4km long runways at speeds fasters than a Formula One car. To be successful airports are flat, and effective at removing large volumes of water, especially in tropical areas like KL. The problems are solved by a small group of experts. Often they use onsite dams to hold the run-off, such at Sydney and Dubai, which create their own problems. Sydney's has nets over the top to discourage birdlife which cause birdstrikes. Drainage ditches like the one above can be deceptive and are the reason why pilots keep their aircraft on the runway during emergencies. in 1992, at Brisbane, a Boeing 727 cleared the runway onto a taxiway after an emergency landing. Some rescue fire fighters, trying to encircle the jet with their huge truck, ended in the massive ditch ... the 22 tonne water tank crushed the cabin, causing one firefighter to become paralysed.
The name of Malaysia's capital means muddy confluence according to Wikipedia. It sure gets enough rain. The 13th busiest in the world always seems to be empty, unlike JFK which at 19th busiest always appears to be on speed. It's built about 50kms from the city, a healthy fare for the taxi industry, and is surrounded by forest. The Grand Prix track is nearby. But forests mean green and green means hot. During approach pilots (and passengers) have to contend with turbulence due to the localised hot air rising from the canopy. It's good for the Pilots' image. Passengers think they are the cause of the sudden smoothing of the approach as their planes cross into the airport.
Sceptical that Melbourne was assaulted by monster hailstones last week, one must acknowledge defeat when due. Whilst the whoppers presented in the media to date appear to be handfuls of round pea-sized units melted together, these beauties, collected in Mont Albert and whacked in the freezer, are the real deal. When deftly placed beside a US Dollar and Pacific Peso for scale, numerous partygoers decided to add various items for comparison, including a nice garnish. When a loaf of bread was added the party ended ...
The story goes that the lady of the house was gardening when hit on the back of the neck by such a lump of ice. This co-incided with a number of the hailstones hitting the tin roof nearby and, for a minute, she thought these were gun-shots and she was a victim. She yelled out for her daughter to join her, presumably thinking, "... if I am going to die, I'll take my family with me ..."
Propped-up against the van whilst the owner makes room inside, a painting is caught by a gust of wind.
Artist At Work
Top Melbourne photographer Michael Blamey works on his next image for one of his two websites: Melbourne Today and St.Kilda Today If you think it's easy, imagine waking-up knowing that you have to produce two high quality images before the end of the day, EVERY day.
They say that Australians work more hours than any other country (ref: HERE), and they'd be wrong. At 8 hours a day, 5 days a week that's 1,920 hours a year. My Security Guard in Dubai works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week ... 4,032 hours annually. In three years he'll get one 42 day holiday and be able to buy a business back home at the end of his contract. But Australians DO work after hours, free of charge, just to keep up with the flood of email. Here a State Sales Manager of a national company does her email whilst licking her fingers over breakfast. The annual Labour Day holiday celebrates the adoption of 8 hours work, 8 hours play and 8 hours rest. If today's managers worked only those hours, the place would grind to a halt.
Makes It All Worthwhile
You don't really believe you are an author until you see your product on the bookshelf of your favourite bookshop. Here, at the Avenue Bookstore, ON TOUR : Travels With An Airline Pilot is available for a one-off low price as a promotion. How much? Go there and find out, or contact them via their website HERE.
Dundas Place Flood
Albert Park experienced its second thunderstorm in a month, (see SOLAR POWER below). Customers at the Dundas Place Cafe evacuated indoors after being hit by hail the size of peas. The falling ice was the first sign that the storm was headed our way. Two active cells traversed the suburb dumping 20mm rain in 20 minutes. The TV journalists, most too young to have experienced a large storm before, (due to Melbourne's decade long drought), reported that the hailstones were the size of tennis balls ... table tennis more like it. Why is it that no-one ever seems to be able to photograph golf-ball or tennis-ball sized hailstones? 24 hours later five men had been treated for injuries after falling from ladders during the cleanup.
Corner Post Cafe Kitchen
Julia and the staff of the Corner Post Cafe and Nursery in Beaconsfield take time out to admire the shop's copy of the book ... the shop takes Albert Park to the bush ... best food anywhere and well worth a visit, corner Woods Street and Old Princes Highway.
Returning after a two week trip around New Zealand, passengers arrive back in Melbourne after a two week rock and roll cruise. It'll take three days for their ears to stop ringing. A surfboard paddler takes advantage of the glass-like sea.
The Little Blue Cafe is an excellent place to have a meal, (read about it HERE). As well as great food, wine and service, the view of the sun setting over Melbourne is enough to make it worth the trek out to the end of the pier.
Full Of Hot Air
More than 85,000 passengers have been lifted by Melbourne's Balloon Sunrise Pilots since they started flying in 1986. Despite the excellent safety record, you'll never get me up there. Here, two of the five balloons get airborne at Albert Park. If you want to try ... click HERE.
Keep Em On Your Feet, Jason
Sometimes you just wonder. There must be a great story behind these shoes and it's not as if they are a one-off. I have seen shoes straddling powerlines all over the world; wherever big kids bully little kids carrying their gym shoes on the way home from school. Each dangling Reebok a monument to a little boy's worst-ever day, his life changed forever. Or is it? Some say that it is a sign, a meeting place for drug dealers ... In Victoria Street Richmond the dealers are so plentiful it's fun to yell "I'm Jason!" which gets their attention. They think you're saying "I'm chasin' ..." the cry of the hungry addict. Fellow pedestrians tell you to be quiet and not attract attention.
War In The Suburbs
A big issue is being fought-over in two shopping strip suburbs between the local councils, who both want to retain the spirit of their suburbs; and the state government who is trying to solve a wider problem: handling the peak hour traffic. The councils have covered up their previous clearway signs (below) in protest, so in the dead of night the state bolted new clearway signs (above) and have started enforcing the new law themselves. It's going to end in the courts. If the state wins it is another nail in the coffin for strip shopping precincts who are already fighting for survival against shopping malls. It will effectively reduce the ability of customers to park for an hour per day on each side of the road. But there's more. The council who wants to go to court is led by the conservative party ... the state is run by their political opponents ... and there is a state election later this year. Maybe it's not all what it seems.
The Stad Amsterdam approaches Williamstown on Hobson's Bay and makes its way into the Port Of Melbourne. The Clipper ship is following the voyage of the ship The Beagle, on which Charles Darwin served under Captain Robert FitzRoy during the Beagle's momentous second survey expedition. The trip was meant to last two years and ended-up taking almost five. The current expedition is loosely retracing the Beagle's route, (the Beagle never visited Melbourne or Adelaide); 150 years after Darwin's theory of evolution was published and carries on board one of Darwin's descendants. Visit Stad Amsterdam's website HERE.
Never Turn Your Back On The Sea
The members of the famous 'Fisho's Club' have been extracting boats from the sea for 100 years at their clubhouse between Beaconsfield Parade and Port Phillip Bay. It is relatively shallow and the fact that the predominant breeze is south westerly, (right onto the beach), it doesn't take long for conditions to become sloppy and uncomfortable. Boats have to be threaded through wooden pylons to be positioned under the overhead crane system. Some guys make it look easy. It's important not to let your fingers get between the boat and the pylon ...
The rising sun catches the Rhapsody Of The Seas backing into its spot at Port Melbourne pier; one of 45 cruise ships to visit the city during the 2009 / 2010 summer season. Over 70,000 passengers and crew, nearly all over 50 years of age, spend 10 hours in the city, 54% are from the USA with other main groups from the UK, Canada and Germany. 50% of the tourists undertake prearranged bus tours of the city. Below, the following day, the Queen Victoria appears to kiss the Seabourn Oddessy as she approaches Station Pier.
Global Financial Crisis
With office space at a premium, this Melbourne businessman runs his business from a recyle bundle in Merton Street, Albert Park. Or does he? Even if looks prove to be deceptive, the truth is in the number of vacant shops. Seven in the Victoria Ave / Bridport Street shopping strip. The largest number of vacant premises since this reporter started surveying the strip in 1991. A local trader said that Australia's ability to sidestep the GFC is a smokescreen, paid for by a country's Government prepared to mortgage the future of its grandchildren. He says ... "business is tougher this year than last. It's off at least 7% ... which was our profit margin."
As walkers, runners and cyclists circumnavigate Melboune's Albert Park, daily commuters sit bumper to bumper at a maximum speed of 50 kph. The road becomes the track for the Australian Grand Prix on the 28th March. That day drivers will be doing 300 kph. Sadly no money has been spent on the surface since the first race in 1996 and the track is showing signs of wear, (see the cracks in the main straight below). This year Bahrain will hold the first race, pushing Melbourne's back a couple of weeks. As a twighlight race they are taking a risk this year. A week after the equinox, if it's cloudy, they may be finishing the race in the dark! You can pick up cheap tickets HERE ... six weeks out, the event is yet to have a naming sponsor.
These days the idea of getting free water and electricity from your roof is all the rage. The average thunderstorm has more energy than 10 nuclear blasts, some have 100 times as much. Natural selection dictates that you get scared when one is approaching ... ancestors who weren't terriffied never lived to reproduce. When you see the greenish tinge you know it's close. Time to get under cover. Here a Port Melbourne resident gets a year's supply of free electricity in a millisecond.
Pit Lane In The Airline Game
The 6000th Airbus slides up to the gate at Heathrow. In 90 minutes it will slide away again after disgorging its 500 passengers, and having been cleaned, refuelled, watered, resupplied, maintained and re-crewed. 1,000 bags will cycle under its floor and another 500 passengers will board. Waiting in the crew bus to perform her role, this Purser watches the gaggle of service vehicles lined-up, ready to pounce.
A little disconcerting, for an A380 pilot, is to come over the hill enroute to Heathrow and see an A380 playing in the traffic. This 1/3rd scale model has replaced the BA Condorde which graced the intersection for many years, and is the first thing arriving passengers see as they leave the airport. The model, which is as large as a 737 and is the largest model aeroplane ever made, was designed and built by Californian company Penwal Industries. Their trade mark is: ‘We build cool stuff’ which is undeniable. See the video of the A380 project, from start to finish, HERE
The sixth biggest Iranian city is the site of the country’s first solar power plant and was the birthplace of Shiraz wine hundreds of years B.C. It is not the same grape variety as the French Syrah, there is no chance of it having migrated there from Iran as the Iranian version was a white and the French is a deep red. The Gallic grape was brought to Australia under the name Scyras during the mid 1800s and eventually the name was Australianised to Shiraz, and later Hermitage.
At nine every morning the A380 flies over the Sydney skyline enroute to Auckland.
Threading Through the I.T.C.Z.
Picking a clear way through the cumulo-nimbus clouds of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone keeps pilots busy for a number of hours during each north or southbound trip over the equator.
The most-visited paid monument in the world, with over a million visitors paying to ascend it each year, the Eiffel Tower dominates the Parisian skyline. It was the tallest building in the world from its completion in 1889 until the Chrysler building was completed in 1930.
Arc De Triomphe
As mentioned elsewhere in this site, this wonder that sits atop the hill in the middle of Paris was commissioned by Napoleon to glorify France’s many victories. Never seeing the completed article, (they showed him a wood and canvas mockup); he was dead by the time it was completed in 1835.
France has a reputation for being extremely good at surrendering. Winston Churchill was scathing at the speed with which they gave up against Hitler. But then they had been massacred in WW1, losing over 1.6 million people, and were probably not up for a re-run. An unknown soldier was buried under the arc, and an eternal flame burns in his memory.
HP Hard Drive Failure
You think you’ll get a good computer by buying the top of the range HP Vista machine. After all, they have such a good name. Then, when you are using a Windows Only program while studying for a Simulator Check, suddenly, bang - gone. The hard drive just dies. Not only is it inconvenient, but you might fail the check and lose your licence, and possibly your job. You just can’t trust or rely on Hewlett-Packard to perform as advertised. Thankfully the Macbook continues to run like a dream.
Australia’s National Dish
New Zealanders will tell you that they invented the Pavlova, and Aussies will disagree. But the Kiwis are most likely correct. The brilliant dessert’s recipe was published in Home Cookery For New Zealand in 1926, although it wasn’t named Pavolva (after the Russian Ballerina), until she was served it in a Wellington Hotel during her tour later that year. Like all things good that make their way to ‘the West Island’, Aussies have adopted The Pav as their own. But the proof of the pudding is ... it didn’t appear in an Australian recipe book until 1935.
On a Paris street, Rue de Opera, women stand and stare at the blue clad figure streaking skyward, glass all over the footpath the only evidence of Superman’s swift departure from a phone booth. So much for his x-ray vision, the glass door didn’t stand a chance.
Crêpes à la Banane et au Chocolat
At A$18.00 each, a banana and chocolate crepe may not be everyone’s idea of a daily snack. But if you’re in Paris it’s worth splurging once in your life. The decision by cafe’s owner to refuse to take credit cards, (“Non Monsieur, Pas du Card de Credit!”), meant that the officious waiter missed out on a substantial tip ... “Je suis desolee - faute de votre patron” (I’m sorry - blame your boss)
Velib Bicycle Rentals
Parisians have taken to the Velib bicycles. The first hour is free, which is good, cos it can take 29 mins to complete the initial transaction. Before you go, click HERE and download the instructions. Check which bike you want to hire BEFORE you start the transaction, (one had a flat tyre). The charge of 1 Euro per hour is well worth it (even in sub zero temps) ... but be prepared for the kicker ... Paris has a hill. The Arc De Triomphe is at the top. People get their bikes and ride down hill all day and leave them at the parking stations at the bottom. Then overnight a huge operation involves taking them back to the top of the hill for the next day. By late afternoon down the bottom, all the spots are taken in the electronic bike racks. It took us about 45 minutes to find a rack that had spaces. You feel like just leaving the bikes at the rack unsecured, but the 150 Euro deposit per bike on your credit card (450 Eu in my case) makes you keep searching for that empty spot.
The Most Expensive Street In The World
Paris’ Avenue des Champs-Elysees, from the top of the Arc De Triomphe, is arguably the most expensive street on the planet to get a coffee. Looking down to the Place De La Condorde where the gift from the Egyptians, the Obelisque, has replaced Madame Guillotine; and further, through the gardens to the Louvre Museum. On the left hand side of the concorde is the head office of world motorsport, the FIA, and the famous Buddha Bar. Below a Parisian man enjoys the most expensive coffee in the world.
As Australians prepare to celebrate their national day in hot summer conditions, spare a thought for this duck at Paris’ Jardin des Tuileries. He can’t understand why, although the fountain is still working, the water on the pond is frozen solid.
World’s Tallest Building
After scaring crane drivers during the construction process, Dubai’s Air Traffic Controllers have now turned their attention to residents of the world’s tallest building. By taking departing aircraft from runway 12 Right off the standard instrument departure tracks they can increase the number of departures per hour, and give us spectacular views. Meanwhile, if you want to see it from the tenant’s perspective, there is a viewing experience called AT THE TOP on the 125th level, (which isn’t really at the top). Tickets are 100 AED if you plan in advance, or 400 AED for V.I.P walkups, and yes, you get to stand outside. Not me.
Basra Iraq, As the Squadron Heads Home
A few stars and a planet are visible above the earth’s horizon. Two other company aircraft head southeast, one from Germany and the other England. Left of track is Basra in Iraq, and the bright fires are burnoff from the oil wells. At the bottom of the A380 windscreen is the parked wiper blade. Six second exposure using ISO 2500.
F-f-f-f-f-rench Models At Work
It’s all in a day’s work for a Parisian model. Sadly the ad for the new perfume, due out in springtime, has to be shot today. Makeup and lighting simulate the midday sun in summer ... but you can’t beat the cold, which feels like being immersed in a cold bath ... It’s just above freezing, the warmest day of the last week. But at least it has stopped snowing.
The female model is swathed in a blanket, there are two gas heaters pointed at her legs. Until needed she wears a parka and chews gum. The male model has to suffer the cold unaided.
Mountains In The Mist
South east of Dubai the mountains quickly rise to over 8,000 feet and peep above the winter mist.
Humanity Vs. Nature = Nature Wins
The Symonds Street Cemetery in Auckland is a rambling, unfenced affair that served the community for 44 years from 1842. It has a number of notable graves of important people from that era. But, as this photo attests, you can’t beat nature ... and obviously human remains make pretty good fertiliser.
On an empty block in an Auckland side street graffiti artists have been plying their trade to great effect.
Burj Khalifa : 828 Metres High
On a mild 20 degree evening the residents of Dubai were treated to a spectacular display of fireworks and lighting celebrating the opening of the world’s tallest building, previously known as the Burj Dubai and renamed tonight as the Burj Khalifa. Its height, previously a secret, is 828 metres. That’s about 200 storeys. The opening date was chosen to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the rise to power of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates.
The Decade of Terror
Will the two thousand and tens be another decade of terror? Here the Australian Army, (who have more helicopters than the Air Force), undertakes an anti-terrorist training exercise past the world’s tallest apartment building, the Eureka Tower in Melbourne. My recent reading includes Super Freakonomics and Winston Churchill’s intimate view of World War II. Both are recommended. Hopefully, the internet, twitter and the like will lift the lid on the crazies in time. Unlike the afternoon when Hitler came to power ... when he killed 3,500 Germans who opposed him. The machine-gunners had to be given rest breaks ... mass murder, it seems, is tiring work.
New Zealand’s islands are one of the first places in the world to see the new year’s sunrise, (only the Cook Islands and Kiribati - Christmas Islands see it an hour earlier). In Melbourne, frontal activity dropped the temperature 10 degrees at 9pm and brought a series of thunderstorms to Melbourne, washing-out many New year’s Eve activities. Hopefully it is a portent of the year ahead. After a decade of below average rainfalls in Melbourne, it’d be nice to get some rain. Dam levels started the new year 37.5% full ... that’s 3% better than a year ago. Meanwhile, in Dubai, 14,000 workers are frantically readying the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, for its official opening on the 4th.January, the fourth anniversary of the rise to power of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Previous Year’s ON TOUR pics
Follow the link to see last year’s On Tour Pics HERE and see hundreds of images from around the world.
The last night of 2009 saw a Blue Moon rise in clear skies over Dubai, (above). The second full moon in a month can never occur in a February, or more than once every 19 months. Usually, because a February gets in the way, it takes even longer. The last one to occur on NYE was in 1990. Can you remember what you did that night?
The fourth Lunar partial eclipse in 2009 also occurred during the year’s last night. Visible from Western Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and, best of all, from Sultan’s back yard in Dubai (below); it concluded about half an hour before the year itself.
Previous Year’s ON TOUR pics
Follow the link to see last year’s On Tour Pics HERE and see hundreds of images from around the world.