2008_1 On Tour Pics

Karakoram Range, China

After heading north west from overhead Beijing, paralleling China's border with Mongolia to minimize head winds, we turned left over Pakistan, heading south west. The full moon illuminates the snow covered Karakoram Range. With more than 60 peaks over 7000m (23,000') high; the range, which borders China, India and Pakistan, includes the second highest mountain in the world, K2. It also contains the second and third longest non-polar glaciers on earth. The bright star is Sirius, with the 'saucepan' or 'Orion's Belt' just visible in the top right of the picture.

Frozen Moment

While the other Pilot stands behind his seat to stretch his legs, and the camera balanced on the Co-Pilot's headrest, this time-exposure shows the A340-500 flight deck at night. The light outside the window is the reflection of the full moon off the snow covered mountains below.

Head To Head, 1000 Feet Above

A Cathay aircraft passes, it's strobe lights and red beacon leaving a trail during the time the lens is opened for this night-exposure.

Osaka, Japan

One can never imagine how a city recovers from war, be they aggressor or defender. It's a sobering thought to be in the actual place where, on the 14th March 1945, 274 B-29 bombers dropped Napalm, killing thousands of civilians and destroying over 35% of the city. Today the rebuilt city nestles on Osaka Bay, about 30 kms around from the ancient city of Kobe, site of the devastating earthquake in January 1995 which killed 6,434 people.

Osaka, Clean City

The pleasure of arriving in a city where taxis are clean, people orderly queue for public transport, and tipping is frowned-upon is a novel experience for the weary traveller. People are friendly, and whilst English is not their first language, you can get by easily. Be prepared for the custom of bowing, which is the Japanese way ...

Japanese Television

Besides Italian TV, there's nothing like Japanese Television. Especially the prolific game shows and soap operas which seem to rule the airwaves. Marvel at the lack of makeup used in their sitcoms ... must save them a lot of money.

Kansai Airport

One of he wonders of the modern world, and fore-runner to offshore man-made islands like Hong Kong's new airport and the islands off Dubai, is Osaka's Kansai Airport. Built to withstand earthquakes, typhoons and a three metre tidal surge, it proved itself when the Kobe earthquake failed to break even one window. Three years later it survived a direct Typhoon hit with 200 kph winds. The only problem is that it is sinking! Originally by an unexpected 8 metres, the sinking has slowed to a rate of 50 cms in 1994 and only 9 cms in 2006. One of the bumpiest runways in the world, it is currently being resurfaced. The new runway, out of picture to the left, handles the load during the nightly works. The terminal building, the longest in the world, at 1.7 kms long; has a driverless, computerised train to move passengers.


In Turkey, 16 kms from Iran to the east and 32 kms to south of the Armenian border, lie Mt Ararat, and Little Ararat. The big one is 13,780 feet high, and the smaller one 1,000 feet lower. Whilst the Jewish and Islamic religions believe in the fable of Noah's Ark, only the Christians are convinced that the 137 metre long ship came to rest "in the mountains of Ararat". Considering that the earth's environment is a closed system, one wonders where all the water has gone, if the Bible story is based on any truth. One thing's certain, if Noah parked his boat there in winter, only the Penguins and Polar Bears would have survived.

Morning Sam, Morning Ralph

To keep the Iraq War, um, sorry, Occupation going, the USAF enlists 158 Boeing C-17 Globemasters to ferry supplies to and from the USA. Rumour has has it that not one piece of rubbish is left behind on Iraqi soil. Every day ex- USAF airline pilots on their annual secondment to the cargo airlift bring US made bottles of water while others take away the empties. When the war began in 2003 the French refused the USAF overflying rights, so they'd fly up the east coast of Italy on their way to Frankfurt airport. Leaving the US base, they headed down the east coast of Italy on their way to Iraq at ten minute intervals. They say that the war costs US$ 600 million a day...

Welcome 2008

The Burj Al Arab played host to the U.A.E.'s New Year's fireworks display giving a spectacular view to the guests of the Madinat Jumeriah Resort properties as well as thousands lining the beaches.

For the bull dozer driver on overtime in The Big Hole next to my apartment, site of the new Al Barsha Novotel Hotel, the fireworks came and went unnoticed.

Goodbye 2007

The last Full Moon of the the year, complete with untouched discarded debris and footprints of the 12 Apollo Astronauts, (as well as three cars). If only you could see them, it'd finally silence the conspiracy theorists who think that Man Never Walked On The Moon. Even turning the Hubble telescope to the Moon would most likely fail to show the proof. However the Japanese have just arrived in Moon's orbit with a view to undertaking a comprehensive survey, and who knows? Maybe they'll find the US Flags, the Descent Stages of the four missions and some burn-out wheel tracks. See the Japanese Mission HERE.

STOP PRESS After corresponding with the Japanese Mission Control, they say the camera resolution is not powerful enough to pick out the NASA debris.

The Squadron Heads North.

Every afternoon a gaggle of Emirates flights heads to Europe. Under RVSM conditions, (enhanced radars, aircraft instruments, autopilots and Flight Crew training), planes fly only 1,000 feet above or below each other. Here our Zurich-bound A340 crosses under a Dusseldorf-bound A330.

No Chance.

Pausing during the making of a training video in a Simulator, the author pretends to be the Captain of an Emirates A380 Airbus. Possession being 9/10ths of the law, the chances of the Costume Department getting their Gold Bars back are zero. The A380 flight deck incorporates twenty years of suggested changes since the release of the first fly-by-wire aircraft, the A320 making a very comfortable workplace. It sports a computer keyboard incorporated into the top of each slide-out table in front the Pilots.

They Run And Run And Run

Racing Camels and Horses are big business in the United Arab Emirates. Little kids were used as Camel Jockeys, some as young as four, and were often enslaved into the life. In 2004 the UAE took the initiative to ban children riding in camel races, making the minimum age 16 and, since 2005,18. Instead, Robots are now used during races, with their radio controllers being driven beside the running rail in 4 x 4s as the Camels lope along at 40 kph. It has to be seen to be believed. Meanwhile, on March 29th 2008 the Dubai Cup, which claims to be the richest horse race in the world, will be run. Get your tickets HERE.

Robert Fisk, Thorn In The Side

After five years covering The Troubles in Northern Ireland for The Times, a young Robert Fisk was offered a more relaxed life in Beirut, Lebanon ... just as the Paris of the Med exploded. Still there, he is now a doyen of reporting and the only man to have interviewed Osama Bin Laden three times. Launching his book, The Great War For Civilisation, in a Dubai bookshop Lebanese came from all over to hear him speak his mind. No holding back, it's no wonder that he is branded radical by many Americans. It also puts pay to any rumours of censorship of speech in the UAE. Read one of his pieces about 9/11 HERE.

Grab A Spot, If You Can Find One

With the recent order for 120 Airbus A350s, Emirates Airline will become one of the largest airlines in the world with the A350s along with their 100 Boeing 777s and 58 Airbus A380s. The challenge, for management, is finding staff. They'll need something like 20,000 Cabin Crew. In the next year they need to find 600 Pilots as well as training 80 new Cabin Crew each week. The new Training Centre has 93 classrooms as well as flight and cabin simulators. If you want a job, click HERE.

Dubai, UAE

Like Melbourne, Dubai looks best when stiff northerly breeze blows the haze and pollution away. The Costa Coffee Shop on the roof of the new Emirates Crew Training Centre has arguably the best view of Dubai, looking across the golf course and Dubai Creek towards the towers of Sheikh Zayed Road. The Burj Dubai, snaking skyward, has required the Minimum Safe Altitude around Dubai airport to be raised to 3,800 feet.

Melbourne's Gateway

Leaden skies, devoid of rain, frame the city's colourful gateway on the way out of Melbourne, Australia. After eleven years of below average rainfall, the city's water storage levels were at a meagre 38% at the beginning of 2008. Whilst Melbourne has more rain days than Sydney, the southern city receives 40% less than the capital of New South Wales.

Melbourne Airport, For Rich People Only

You get out of your taxi and need a trolley to get your bags the forty metres to the International check-in counters. If you arrive three hours early for a flight, and are lucky enough to get straight to the front of the line, you may need the trolley for two minutes. After Checking-In your bags, do this: take the trolley back out to the street and give it to the next passenger. It'll cost you $4, but you'll feel great and be sending a message to the people who run Melbourne Airport. Better still, buy trolley-free luggage and refuse to play their game.

Ski Dubai, Mall Of The Emirates

The engineering feat that is Ski Dubai, tacked onto the side of a massive shopping centre, was the star of a Discovery Channel documentary. It was assembled on the ground and then raised into position using huge cranes. Their patented way of producing perfect snow ensures great skiing year-round, in a minus 4C degree environment, even when outside temperatures reach over 40C during the months of summer.

Any Opportunity For A Break

Indian and Pakistani labourers grab any chance to rest as the bobcat driver comes in to remove soil. Working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week on two or three year contracts, they pay Labour Force companies about 1,600 USD for their initial visa and airline ticket and the chance to earn a paltry 220 USD a month. Most work overtime to increase their monthly take by half or more. Their employers pay for their dormitory-style accommodation, at least eight to a room, but not food. After two years they get a return air ticket and at least 42 days home with their families.

The Ruler of the UAE has put in place strict laws to ensure they get proper medical and dental treatment, two hour breaks during the middle of the hot summer days and to ensure they are not exploited. Some spend more than two hours a day commuting to and from work in buses ... and all are avid cricket fans. Even though their wages are low, (tied to the US dollar and therefore dropping in real value in the current climate), they earn about five times what they could back home. Working through the night, on a timetable defined by concrete-pours, the cranes often greet the morning sunrise.

Nairobi, Kenya

When you live in rain-deprived Dubai (or Melbourne for that matter), a trip to the National Park in Kenya in the misty rain is a tonic. Highly recommended.

Lions Mating

Arriving a few minutes after the act, the male was obviously still interested in more. He walked-up and roared...

She expressed disinterest, and like a domestic cat being annoyed by a hyperactive puppy, roared back and swatted-him with her paw

Within a few seconds she rolled-over and enjoyed an afternoon nap. He, like all good gentlemen, just sat and patiently waited for her to wake. She was asleep and dreaming within minutes ... you could see the tips of her toes twitching as she dreamt of running.

The lioness decides when she is 'on-heat' - usually when food is plentiful. This turns-on her mate, and the pair leave the pride to mate. Mating lasts for 30-70 seconds, every 25 minutes, for four days ... to a week. During this time they don't hunt, or eat, unless the lionesses of the pride have made a kill and invite them to come and eat. Mating is not very successful, even though 'the act' has a 90% success rate; with females only getting pregnant after 6 - 9 'honeymoons'.

Natural Selection In Kenya

Vying for the 2007 Darwin Award, these two guys relace a flat tyre ... on a hill. They correctly chocked the wheels with rocks and jacked-up the ute. What you can't see, is that the jack is not under the axle, but balancing in a precarious spot a few inches behind, on the leaf spring. Then they realised they hadn't got the spare out and, on the downhill side, started shaking and rocking it out of position.

Mid Air Collison

Trick photography makes these two huge airborne scavengers appear to merge. They landed safely seconds later. A problem for Pilots during takeoff and approach, these huge birds are prominent in Africa, Pakistan and India.

East African Safari Classic

Car Rally enthusiasts the world over remember with affection the famous Safari rally of the 70's and 80's. Four time winner of the original event, 1979 World Champion Bjorn Waldgard, won this year's nine day re-run in a Ford Escort. Promoting the event, advertising hoardings around Nairobi showed the famous Datsun 260z absolutely flying ... the shadow courtesy of the event's sponsor. Australians Graeme Alexander & Ross Runnalls came 10th and Ian and Val Swan 34th

Winner Bjorn Waldegard in his Ford Escort by leading rally photographer Anwar Sidi. Contact him for copies of his work at anwarsidi@yahoo.com.


With Nairobi in the background a Harem of Zebras graze in the open and vulnerable to their main predator, the lion. Each animal's stripes, like a human fingerprint, are unique. While you'd think that the use of black and white stripes is hardly camouflage, it works for the colour-blind Lion. It is thought that Lions confuse massed Zebras for one huge animal, although researchers are yet to report Lions scratching their heads and wondering what to do when confronted by Zebras. Although Zebras aren't as fast as horses, they have much more stamina than the easily-spent Lion. Plus they kick like a Mule and bite like a Horse. The camouflage is also said to confuse the blood-sucking Tsetse Fly.

Smiling Eland

The largest of the world's Antelopes, the Eland, smiles for the camera. His only predator is man.

On Safari in Nairobi National Park

Kenya's tour operators have small mini-buses with pop-top roofs so tourists can shoot photos of wildlife once they are inside the National Park. The 117 square kilometre park is bordered on three sides by fences and a river on the fourth. With over 400 species of birds and all wildlife except the Elephant, (discouraged because of the damage they cause), there is no free food. "We just let them get on with it .. survival of the fittest."

Dainty-Legged Giraffe
The Fighter Pilots' G suit, which automatically squeezes their legs to stop the blood flow from their brains during negative G manoeuvres, owes its design to the Giraffe. With a ten kilogram heart and double the blood pressure of other mammals, the blood is reduced to the Giraffe's head when drinking to stop it blacking-out.

Camouflaged to hide in the shade of trees, the Giraffe can sprint at high speed over short distances. It's main defence is the ability to kick accurately, shattering Lions skulls and spines. Their thorn-proof tongues are 45cm long, and Wikipedia says that they get by with less sleep than any other animal, only 1.9 in every 24 hours, in snatches from ten minutes to two hours.

Thomas And The Ranger

Thomas The Driver has been taking people on safari for about eight years. Part of the tour includes being taken 'for a walk' by the Park Ranger. You spend about half an hour picking your way along tracks near the river while being shown animal droppings. Quite frankly, this man knows more about Poo than anyone in the world. He wears camouflage clothing and carries a loaded .303 Which makes you wonder. I mean, his .303 is no match for a rampaging Rhino. I think if faced with such an event, he'd shoot the tourist for Rhino food ... and hide in the scrub.

There Was A Leopard Or A Lion...

... nearby because the lookout Baboons, high up in the trees and spaced at regular intervals, were barking out instructions to the other members of the troop. After ensuring everyone was up in the trees, this male followed close behind us, emitting a soft "Woof!" every thirty seconds or so. Having an armed Human Ranger leading the way lifted his confidence, as he scouted-out the terrain.

Half an hour later, with his wives and kids safely out of harm's way, he sat like one of those retired blokes you see watching over their grand children at the park.

Sunbaking Terrapin

A Terrapin is a Turtle that lives in fresh or brackish water. Unlike a Tortoise which lives on land and has a very heavy shell, you can tell a Terrapin by its webbed feet and claws ... if you can get close enough. In this case the Terrapin was happily sunning itself, keeping a lookout for cruising crocodiles until deciding to choose the devil it knew, rather than the photographer.

Gis A Kiss

This Vervet Monkey is an addict, puckering-up to suck the sap from her favourite tree. For five minutes she put on a show, close enough to touch, even choosing the upside-down method of sap-sucking. Then puckered her lips for the camera.

Two Metre High Feather Duster

Never stand in front of an angry Ostrich, they kick forward and can do serious damage. One of their two toes has a sharp claw. They have the largest egg of any bird, have incredible hearing and eyesight, and can run at a top speed of 65 kph, regularly sustaining 50 kph. Without teeth, they swallow stones to mulch up their food, males keeping up to a kilo of stones in their tummies at any one time. Each male has a harem of two to seven hens and sits on the communal nest during the night time, his black colour blending-in with the ground. During the day the females mind the nest with their appropriate camouflage doing the trick. As well as being able to control their body heat better than any other bird, where daily temperatures can range over 40 degrees; they can lie almost completely flat to hide from predators.

"Dr.Livingstone, I presume..."

It's not Tanzania; where journalist Henry Stanley uttered the immortal words after finding long-lost the Missionary after an eight month, 700 mile trek from Zanzibar; but instead Kenya. But if a Giraffe could talk, and wear half moon glasses at the end of its nose ... it's something this one might say.

Eureka Tower, Melbourne

Ninety-One stories high, the Eureka Tower is the latest addition to Melbourne's skyline. It is the tallest apartment building in the world, based on Roof Height and Highest Occupied Floor. The towers on others are higher, but who lives in a tower? 88 stories up is the Sky Deck, which has a nifty glass cube which takes thrill seekers out into the air, dangling them above the street below. A tip: the clearest days for observation in Melbourne are when the wind is from the north. Book your heart-stopping experience HERE.

Tough Life, Australian Style

"Can you spare a smoke, Mate?" This guy's entire possessions are in the pram to his left. A regular at the Albert Park cafe strip, you can see that he is listening to the radio, debunking the myth that homeless people are stony broke. It is thought that 4,000 people spend each night homeless in Melbourne. If you find yourself having a housing crisis, click here.

Class Reunion, Tehran

A year after the guy in the middle, Cees Van Doren, taught the two of us how to fly the Airbus A330 in Egypt Air's Cairo simulator last year, John Halloran joined us on an observation flight to Tehran, Iran.

35,000 Feet Up Over Shiraz

Above the ancient capital of Persia, where the oldest sample of wine in the world was found, dating from over 7,000 years ago. It's also a major region for carpets, cotton, grapes, fruit and rice. And from the look of it, they could benefit from nuclear power...

Tough Life, India-Style

Setting-up a storefront in the tip that is Kolkatta, this man appears oblivious to the mountain of rubbish next door. Hope the rent is low.

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

The 9th fastest growing city in the world, and the third fastest in Africa, Dar Es Salaam has a population nearing 3 million. It's the jumping-off point for the nearby tourist island of Zanzibar, (although check the cost of a Visa first) and eco tourism that includes the 19,000 feet high Mt.Kilimanjaro; not the highest mountain in the world - but the tallest freestanding mountain rise in the world.

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

The 38 million Tanzanians live in a country which includes the Serengeti Plains and Gombe National Parks, (where Jane Goodall studied Chimpanzees ... discovering their use of tools which changed history), and don't forget two of the greatest lakes in Africa, the largest, Victoria and deepest, Tanganyika. Oh, as well as Gold, Diamonds and other natural resources, they have heaps of natural gas. 60% of their power comes from hydro schemes, but they face issues with 35% of their population living below the poverty line, and 8%, more than one and half million living with HIV. Even so, they house more refugees than any African country.

Strong Necks In Tanzania

The women in Tanzania must have strong necks, as they balance heavy loads on their heads.

Street side (and seaside) stall, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

Tough Life, Tanzanian-Style

In many countries there is no safety net for those who fall through the cracks, especially in many places where genetic disorders are elevated. Just use sandals to protect your hands, live with the pain, and get on with it.

Nazi Bus?

Probably not. The Swastika has been used since the dawn of time and is still used in many religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and by Vietnam's Cao-Dais. Tanzania's religion breakdown is 35% Muslim, 30% Christian, and 35% Indigenous Beliefs.

Dar Es Salaam Shop

Corrugated Iron, Africa's wonder material, is the ideal building material in a country that boasts two seasons: The Short Rains and The Long Rains. Admittedly, they only occur over a few months. The annual rainfall for the city is 1100mm, nearly twice Melbourne's ... and a little less then Sydney's.

Dar Es Salaam Bus Stop

Umbrellas are helpful, any time of the year.

Anti Aircraft Installation, Khartoum

Many places you fly into have anti-aircraft batteries. The most interesting is Haiphong in Vietnam where they use approaching Airbuses for target tracking practice. You just hope that (a) their trigger-fingers aren't itchy and (b) that their guns are empty. Here in Sudan there was no-one to be seen.

White & Blue Nile Rivers, Khartoum

The Blue Nile river flows west from Ethiopia (foreground) and meets the larger White Nile which has come northward from Tanzania, through the massive Lake Victoria and Uganda. They converge in Khartoum, Sudan and merge together in a place known as 'The Mogram'. The larger Nile then heads north through Egypt to the Mediterranean.

Late Afternoon Rains, The Seychelles

Beau Vallon Beach is arguably the most spectacular beach in The Seychelles. Whilst the surroundings are idyllic, sadly the country has the highest total public debt in the world, over 122% of GDP, causing the World Bank sleepless nights. The tourist sector employs 30% of the population, but sadly, they don't get it. The service is atrocious. Their money is worthless off the island and residents have to wait months for white goods, new cars and consumer items. They farm US Dollars. Resorts refuse local currency from guests, instead demanding the Greenback. But the people are friendly, the seafood is great and the beaches are stunning. Emirates is building a new luxury eco-resort which may turn the country around with expectations that their customer service training will change the way the locals think about service-delivery. Meanwhile, if you just want a perfect beach relaxation holiday, take a heaps of books, your Ipod and see The Seychelles.

The Palm Jumeirah

Already the largest man made island in the world, the Palm Jumeirah is nearing completion. Near the Burg Al Arab hotel, the Palm will house nearly 8,000 houses and apartments and will sport 30 hotels. The circular barrier is reached by tunnel. Two fighter jets have been sunk to create interest for divers and Dolphins have been imported from the South Pacific to live in the aquarium. As from late in 2008 the QEII will be docked there as a tourist attraction. As well as the bridge connection, a monorail will be able to transfer 2,000 people an hour to and from the island. In the distance you may be able to spot the Jebel Ali Palm, the third Palm, half as big again as Jumeirah, which will house 1.7 million people by 2020.

Dubai Marina

Is the tall tower area in the picture, some 200 high rises are planned. Sheikh Zayed Road can be seen entering from the left. The sunlight is glinting off Ski Dubai at the far left of frame, at the Mall Of The Emirates. The Yellow Cross is at my place, in Al Barsha One.

The World

300 man-made islands, forming a map of the world, lie off Dubai's coast immediately out from what will be the world's tallest building, Burj Dubai, (at the far left of the shot). To the right is the canyon of tall towers on Sheikh ZAyed Road.

Burj Dubai

As the world's tallest building continues skyward, the lower levels are starting to be covered with the final shiny silver covering. The final development will include 30,000 homes, including 19 residential towers and 9 hotels as well as lakes and lagoons. It's height caused Dubai airport's Minimum Safe Altitude to be raised by 1000 feet.

Don't Spill The Coffee

Airline Pilots are reminded not to spill the passengers' coffee. Not good for business. So imagine our incredulity when Airbus Test Pilots demonstrated the A380 at the Dubai Air Show. From straight and level, (a manoeuvre our passengers prefer), a quick deflection of the side-stick saw the double-decker jet roll into a 60 degree bank turn. It holds the record for the greatest cross-wind performance of any airliner. During certification it performed 6 takeoffs and 5 landings in 40 knot crosswinds, with gusts up to 56 knots.

Soon To Be An Everyday Sight

With Emirates ordering 58 of the largest passenger aircraft ever flown, the sight of an A380 crossing the new runway and pulling-up at Gate Foxtrot 12, will soon be commonplace. But right now it is an attention grabber. Many Pilots have put their names down on the list to fly it, with its state of the art flight deck, which has a keyboard and computer screen incorporated into each Pilot's seating position. Hopefully my training starts next August.

The Rhine, Dusseldorf

5th on Mercer's list of cities with the Best Quality of Life, and number one in Germany, Dusseldorf lies on the Rhine River. Too low to be snowbound in winter, but very cold, it comes to its own in summer, with hundreds of small brewery bars lining its tiny ancient streets. It's big Karnival starts on Armistance Day, the 11th of November at 1100am. Fairly flat, it is common to see many fit elderly people riding bicycles to go shopping. The Greens have had a large influence in Germany: just try asking for a plastic bag at the supermarket checkout. The Checkout Chick looks at you as if you have just escaped from a lunatic asylum, and you can almost hear the fellow shoppers screaming thoughts. I just stuffed my pockets and staggered-out...

New Girlfriend: The A340-500.

Ask a Pilot: "What is the best aeroplane in the world?" The answer is always what they happen to be flying right now. They'll always say things like ... "Ahh, the Boeing 727 was my favourite... " but they wouldn't fly one today for quids. After a year flying the two-engined A330 the Airbus Cross Crew Qualification course allows Pilots to also fly the A340. The commonality, known as the Airbus Family Concept is designed around similar flight decks and systems. The A340-500 conducts daily direct flights from Dubai to Melbourne and Sydney, has the same takeoff weight as early B747s but is over 14% more economical.

A Reason To Take Up Flying

But you only get good sunrises by either getting-up, or flying through, the night.

Follow the link to see last year’s On Tour Pics HERE and see hundreds of images from around the world.