V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #13 VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline : 10:30L 09.Feb.09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


The last post of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight saga comes from Sydney after our first Trans Pacific LAX-SYD flight as a (proving) airline. With Passengers. Sort of.

As everyone now knows – V Australia now has its first Boeing 777-300ER on Australian soil. I’d like to say that we brought her in without a scratch, but unfortunately that may not be the case.

During the afternoon before the final Los Angeles to Sydney delivery flight, pickup from the hotel in LA was brought back an hour. While I caught this from Dave – unfortunately the same can’t be said for several other parties, including the crew transport and flight planning. So our crew transport was thirty minutes late, and the OFP only walked through the door of the plane twenty minutes before when we had been planning to push. It’s surprising how much you can’t do on a flight deck to prepare for a flight when you don’t have a flight plan, and how busy it gets there once you have it. Fortunately we took advantage of the time together in the hotel foyer for a few Crew snaps.

Check in and immigration were surprisingly seamless. The good news was that the center tank fuel pump was fixed. The SATCOM however was not. I had spent the afternoon exploring the impact of the lack of SATCOM, including no ACARS and the availability of Company HF and propagation tables.

It’s been 9 months since I’ve flown the 777 in an airline environment, and just one of the aspects of line operations I’d forgotten about was the chaotic, frenetic nature of the front end of the plane between push back and thirty minutes before. Dave had been through it the day before in Seattle and now it was my turn. In both cases the pressure of the nature of the operation added several layers of complications for us. Apart from myself and Dave, we had Paul and Kevin assisting in a typically competent and unobtrusive manner – with all the resources on hand, it should have been a piece of pie. But while I now can’t remember all that went on – I DO remember being quite flustered at several points.

As usual, once the doors were shut and push & start called for, things settled into the comforting routine that we know so well. A minor (fifteen minute) delay was incurred as Hallmark went off to find us a push back tug to replace the one that had been driving the aircraft all round LAX during the day, but had now decided it would no longer do so.

I was Pilot Flying in the left with Dave beside me, Kev Beard and CASA Clive behind. Paul had previously calculated that we needed to be airborne at 0850Z to meet the schedule comfortably into Sydney. Between all our efforts to go early, frustrated by some pre-departure issues and the tug – we were airborne at 0847Z. No Problemo.

Take off was when it really came home to me that I was back in the job again and if felt great with the big girl charging down the runway at 311 tons towards a rotation speed of 174 knots (325 kph). Once in the air I couldn’t resist hand flying for a few thousand feet. As we cleaned up, the weather radar showed a small green return about 8 miles ahead. I put the autopilot in and Dave and I discussed a vector round it. However it was quite small without any scalloped or unusual edges, and we watched the previous aircraft plough on through so we continued on the radar heading and left the seat belt signs on to keep the passengers and crew seated.

Just after we penetrated we entered a briefly moderate rain shower. Dave jumped on the radio to ask for a vector, when there was an almighty FLASHBANG! and we were struck by lightning. As quick as that we were out the other side and into the clear night sky. The later consensus was that the lightning strike was on the left fuselage near the L1 door somewhere, through the aircraft and out the right side. We’re still waiting to hear if there is any damage at the entry/exit points on the skin.

I’m fairly sure I recall a couple of expletives at this point and I distinctly remember thinking, “Well, I should have gone around that one.” I watched the autopilot for a minute or so, then asked if all was ok. About this time the Cabin Call rang, followed shortly thereafter by the Cabin Alert. However Dave and I flew the plane for a while, evaluated the EICAS (which was clear) and STATUS (also clear) and I just generally looked around and let things be while my heart headed back to its usual place and pace.

I handed over to Dave and took the intercom. By this stage Clair the Flight Manager and the crew had resorted to the All Call dial (since we hadn’t answered yet) and the intercom was a babble of voices. We discussed the situation and explained what had happened. I asked Clair to look through the cabin for indications of electrical impact, particularly galleys, IFE, etc. I provided some reassuring words (Lord knows what) then returned to the aircraft.

We cleared transition and at 20,000 ft I handed over to Dave to do a PA. I don’t remember what I said (I do remember pausing for 30 seconds to think about it, always important) but it began (after the introduction) with something like “Well this flight certainly has been one of Firsts; we’ve managed to achieve this aircraft’s first lightning strike”. I then went on to explain they were uncommon but not unexpected, etc, etc. Hah – this was only my second in 20 years of airline flying.

After top of climb Paul jumped in my seat and I went for a walk through the cabin to see how everyone was. While there were a few frayed nerves, and lots of questions, most wanted to know when the seat belt signs were coming off so they could get up and begin the festivities.

After I returned we sorted out the Crew Rest pattern. Paul was to jump in the right with me while Dave and Kev went off for a 5+ hour break, then Paul and I would rest while Dave and Kev flew. I was to come back at 30 minutes before top of descent, and Dave and I would land the plane. And that’s pretty much what we did.

CASA had scenarios to run on us related to an EDTO dispatch with DDL items, and subsequent failures. By the end, Paul and I had an aircraft with one fuel jettison valve inoperative, no APU, Left Backup Generator Failed, the EDTO enroute alternate had gone down and we were cruising 4000 feet below CFP with one engine operating at reduced thrust because of GE (General Electric home base flight watch) ACARS detected vibration. Eventually I think I preferred the lightning strike. We ended up (theoretically) in Honolulu. For Paul and I that was the end of it – when Dave and Kev came back, the aircraft lost the damaged engine on the way to Honolulu and completed a single engine landing there. End of exercise.

The lack of SATCOM was not particularly onerous, just inconvenient. It seems that San Francisco ATC owns most of the Pacific anyway and we had them on HF without difficulty. Contacting Virgin Blue Ops Brisbane on the HF was an entirely different story. Somehow it had escaped everyone’s appreciation that while the aircraft had SELCAL receive (ATC could call us via HF using a bell-ringing SELCAL [selective calling] system) – the 777 did not have such a system to send a bell-ring to the Company. The Company was not actively monitoring HF the whole time – they were waiting for us to SELCAL them, which we could not do. So we’re trying to get ATC to call the company for us to manage these theoretical scanerios, even as I’m combing through my PDA for frequencies for Stockholm/Portishead Radio for a phone patch. All in good fun.

I came back early from rest to find that we’d lost about 10 minutes on the original estimates, which gave us an FMC ETA of 9:50 Local. Brett Godfrey had previously communicated the importance of the arrival time (VIPs waiting) so I went back to discuss it with him and Scott Swift.

As long as we could be over the fence as close to 10:00, they were happy. Based on this, Dave and I figured we would have time to descend early to 1500 ft, cruise across the Heads, then swing over to the Harbour and Bridge, then truck on down for a reversal back to 16R.

ATC and Sydney’s weather had other plans.

The cloud base in Sydney was generally 700 ft with significant lower cloud at 500ft. A harbour manoeuvre was out of the question. Additionally they put is in the hold at Shark and gave us a landing time of 10:14. Despite out best efforts of cajolement with ATC, back door attempts through our company handler Toll Dnata and Virgin Blue Domestic Ops (who we confused the hell out of : “V-OZ what? We only handle the Domestic Side… you’ll be parking at International… call them.”)

So after the usual multiple step descents and vectoring, with the assistance of Dave and Paul I was finally descending nicely through about 900 feet on the ILS when we broke clear of cloud. I remember a VB 737 being cleared into position on the runway at this point, and as I was making a mental note of how close we might be, the VB pilot came back to ATC and said “Ma’am, if it’s okay we’d like to remain here and watch the Triple Seven land.” The female ATC Tower Controller came straight back and said “No problem – delays we can do.” Someone with a sense of occasion and someone with a sense of humour… fabulous.

The wind was 20 kts or so down the runway-ish and the viz below cloud pretty good. As soon as I was confident of the runway (799 feet) I disconnected and we continued down manually. The landing was a good one, I think… not a greaser, but in the right place. As we trundled down the runway towards the high speed we saw the cameras left and right, and a chopper overhead taking photos and video. Taxi and parking was cool as we passed by two Qantas aircraft being held for us.

As we rolled to a stop and set the parking brake, once the engines were off Dave and I rolled down our windows and got out the Australian Flags. We waved them madly at the V Staff in the aerobridge which to my delight included Phil Warth. At this point the ground engineer called the flight deck. “Yes Ground” I said. “This is your AQIS inspector ? CLOSE THOSE WINDOWS.” Oops. It appears I may have contaminated the country by opening the window prior to spraying. Don’t tell anyone.

It took about 90 minutes to get to the VB lounge at domestic, and on the way I met up with Meg who had flown up that morning to be there. I managed to finagle Meg a pass into the lounge event and, unfortunately, we arrived just as the speeches had ended. Damn.

I bumped into one of the PR reps and asked what was happening next. She said they were about to start bussing people out to the aircraft for tours. I asked if she wanted a pilot in the flight deck for the tours, and she said yes… so off I went on the first bus. On arrival at the aircraft there were dozens of pilots – mostly Cruise FO’s – lined up as an honour guard for people coming to tour the aircraft, waving American flags. It was very moving for me to walk down that line of all of you, shaking hands and recognising familiar face after familiar face. Everyone, we’ve done it, the plane is here.

Like in LAX I saw dozens and dozens of individuals who were delighted to find open (supervised) access to the flight deck, and a willing photographer to take a picture of them at the controls of a 777-300ER.

About half way through this Meg cam onboard and sat in the 2nd jump seat for a while. About two thirds of the way through we began to encounter mostly staff, then the pilots and cabin crew who have volunteered for escort duty that day. You’ll see lots of photos of our pilots sitting in the left seat in the pictures I took; these were just those who didn’t have cameras.

Eventually we ran out of visitors and left the aircraft in time to catch the last bus. Meg and I headed back to the lounge to collect our things, have a bite to eat and wait for the next Melbourne flight. It was 3:30pm. In the lounge I caught up with my crew for a chat, and bumped into many of the flight deck visitors I’d seen earlier that day.

All in all, it’s been an experience I will never forget. The first aircraft is the culmination of a lot of work from all of us, and hopefully the beginning of something much, much bigger.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #12 Down to the Checkered Flag – 12:30L 06Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


This is part twelve of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight series. We pick up the day before delivering V Australia’s first Boeing 777 to Australia.

After the kerfuffle yesterday, last night I had a quiet meal with Dave, Paul, Kev, Andy, Marto and our CASA friends Clive and Paul. After that, I headed back to the Hotel, ran through the urgent mail, uploaded the last three days of blog entries, and hit the sack. I think it was about 1 am that I went head down, and I’d had it – the last week has been full on. I left my mobile on but didn’t set an alarm, figuring a sleep til lunch time would do me good.

At 3:30pm I rolled out of bed and looked at the laptop and mobile (which I had slept through). Tonight has turned from a PR event towards a Simulator LOE challenge. One thing I didn’t mention yesterday was that we dispatched out of Boeing BFI with a centre tank fuel pump U/S. Yes, the plane actually is brand new, they didn’t swap us a repainted one at the last minute. I think.

Those of you with access to the MEL will know that LAX-SYD with only one centre tank pump inoperative is a vastly different exercise from yesterday’s little hop. We had all hoped the pump would be fixed and all efforts (including cannibalising another aircraft) have been made – so far to no avail. I should stop at this point and thank the engineering team who I know have been flat out trying to fix it since we left the aircraft yesterday for the comfort of the hotel.

An additional complication at the moment is the lack of SATCOM on the aircraft. Essentially we could not get any satellite communications to work yesterday, despite our best efforts. Should this reamain – we’ll be using HF (High Frequency Radio) to communicate with ATC and the Company across the Pacific – much like the WW2 bombers you see in the movies (same technology). This problem has also had all sorts of resources thrown at it last night, so far to no avail. Although the SATCOM has worked over the past week, it did not for yesterdays flight. Loss of SATCOM takes out the FANS/CPDLC capability of the aircraft (good thing we have four very experienced HF users on the aircraft – thanks to Mumbai Radio) and we’ve probably lost the ability to communicate through ACARS with the company as well, once we’re out of VHF range. On a normal flight this becomes quite a chore. With the scenarios CASA is going to throw at us, and the information and communication that will be required to solve problems – it’s going to require some ingenuity and work.

This proving flight has been an educational exercise for all concerned. Hopefully, all the nooks and crannies we’re now exposing will go a long way towards making our actual launch on the 27th a far smoother affair.

Individually and in combination, these defects are acceptable for dispatch, with some fairly heavy performance restrictions that have kept Tech and Nav Services busy as well. I now have John Bennett and Phil Warth on speed dial (poor guys). I plan to tell CASA tonight to put their books away – we have a scenario that’s far more interesting and unusual than any they could dream up!

The pickup has been brought back an hour, the earlier the arrival at the airport the better apparently. I’ve sent Meg a ticket and I’m hoping she can manage to get to Sydney to meet up with me after I escape the arrival celebrations.

Tonight and tomorrow is the payoff for all our hard work. Tomorrow we’ll have an aircraft over the skies of Australia, the first of many, I’m sure. For myself, I am humbled and appreciative of the privilege to be out front of the team that takes us all in V to the next step towards line operation.

Waiting for me in LA – an Indianna Jones hat to go with the Uniform.

I hope to see some of you in the morning in Sydney. Thanks for all the comments of support!


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #11 First Flight – Seattle BFI – Los Angeles LAX – 12:30L 07Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


Part Eleven of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight blog has us finally flying our first aircraft.

The Big Bird Flies

After a late(ish) finish last night, I joined the cabin crew at 06:15am to be out at the aircraft in the early twilight hours. While the flight crew pickup was scheduled for 8:00am I couldn’t resist joining the cabin crew who were going to the plane early to complete their aircraft familiarisation training before today’s pre-departure festivities. While getting out of bed at 5am this morning (midnight body clock time? – I don’t know anymore …) was hard work – from the time the lift doors opened and the first cabin crew member joined me in the foyer, the excitement has just kept on building. The crew are just so motivated and thrilled to be here – and so am I!

Of course nothing goes to plan, and on a delivery flight, I was always expecting the unexpected – so when I received a call from a Boeing engineer to the effect that when they powered the aircraft up this morning, the upper display unit (DU, one of the Electronic Flight Instruments Displays that provides the engine instrumentation) was un-serviceable – I took it in stride.

While I was fairly certain, I broke out my laptop and checked the Maintenance Procedures DDG (don’t tell anyone I referred to a “non-controlled document”) – as long as we swapped Upper for Lower, we could go. If you’re like me, you’re thinking – “We’re parked at Boeing!they MUST have spares!” And you’d be right – except that the aircraft is technically “delivered” now and Boeing don’t deal in direct spares to the aircraft. Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork.

With no one present except the Boeing crew preparing for the event we headed straight to the plane, and there she was as beautiful as we’d been led to expect. Of course, I could be biased – it’s been 8 months since I’ve stepped into a real plane. Simulators are excellent for retaining currency, but there’s nothing like the real thing. We arrived at Boeing and walked through the “Party” area where the delivery ceremony is to be – it’s all set out as a beach set, with coloured balls, surfboards and the Boeing crew in windbreakers (did I get that right?) with “Life Guard” emblazoned across them. Lots of tropical drinks and tropical nibbles.

While I discussed the DU with the engineer, Nikki Thorn our manager of Cabin Crew hopped in first, then set herself up to take a picture of all the crew placing their foot over the door sill – all at once. All the operating cabin crew boarded the aircraft at the same time (Nikki has the picture) how fabulous is that?

I ran around discussing the likelihood of a replacement DU with Boeing, and eventually woke up poor Phil Warth in Brisbane (say, 1 am Australian EST?) to put him on the case. It took over 3 hours (which is a measure of the degree of paperwork ‘flexibility’ required) but a replacement DU arrived and was fitted.

I toured the aircraft with the crew and looked for differences from what I’m used to. The cabin is excellent, with shades of purple (Meg’s favourite colour) all through the premium cabin (do you think that’s a sign that I’ll be able to buy her staff tickets there?).

I also inspected the Bulk and Main cargo holds for security. Flight Crew rest DOES have IFE (sadly not the cabin crew rest though) and the rest area seems to be all it was reported to be. Interestingly the bunks have a slight tail up tilt, which I’ve not encountered so markedly before. EACH bed has TWO oxygen masks. Hmmm.

Lisa from Boeing volunteered to model the crew rest area for me. All the Boeing staff have been fantastic – they’ve bent over backwards to help me personally on both operational and personal requests. Their involvement has been a true highlight of the trip for me.

The bar is very cool with its own pop down oxygen supply for decompression, although it caused some consternation when Natalie noticed that each of the PSU’s had little “INOP” stickers on them.

I discussed it for a while with the Boeing guys, who decided they were put on at Boeing when there was no bar, the bar was put in at Victorville, and the stickers were left in place. I asked them to open the PSU’s and check there were present and serviceable, then to remove the stickers.

That’s when the fun started – the Boeing guys must have spent 20 minutes trying to open either PSU. Normally there’s a little tiny hole and while there’s a tool to do it, pretty much any old stick will pop them down.

Instead, these PSU’s had a little slot, and the Boeing guys had odd little strong plastic strips that fit in the slot and would hook on the catch inside and pop them out. Well, that was the plan … but 20 minutes later they didn’t have it open. I missed this bit, but they then “got creative” and managed to get them open without damage – PSU’s present and serviceable. They closed them up, removed the stickers – and there were the holes you can stick anything into to open the PSU!

The crew meanwhile had headed back into the Hanger for some PR. A couple of VERY understanding cabin crew were given a … ahem … special uniform for the event. I’ve since reached the conclusion that while our current cabin crew uniforms may be stylish and functional – they do not do our crew justice! Only at V … Only for V!

It was round about this time I struck Don Moloney (V Engineering) who has been faithfully following the aircraft around the States, nursing it through various ills with Mick. He was morosely working through maintenance documentation and staring at an EICAS status message which was a no go item. It was electrical, so after much part checking/swapping/changing, we eventually powered down the aircraft completely for 20 minutes, then powered it up in the hope that the problem would go away (believe it or not – a valid, documented maintenance procedure apparently – I believe they got it from Bill Gates).

Well, the message was still there. Things were looking bad, we were an hour before departure and Brett Godfrey was being held in limbo between the speech that would launch us all onto the plane, and the speech that would take us back to a hotel. It was then noticed that “ELMS P210 PANEL” had, in fact, become “ELMS P210 CHANNEL” which had no dispatch limitation.

Suddenly it was all on for young and old – they rolled back the hangar doors (we were parked just outside) to reveal the plane that would be taking them all to LAX. Nothing like last minute drama to add to the adrenaline of the event.

Passenger boarding seemed to involve an inordinate number of visits to the flight deck, which we took with good humour. At this point, nothing could dampen our spirits, although we knew we were on a tightening schedule.

Dave Kienzle flew the aircraft to LAX, with Clive from CASA on the jump seat. Andy Grierson and Craig “Marto” Martin assisted us greatly and ran interference for us with the cabin as well. Brisbane backed us up with Maintenance, Flight Documents and Loadsheet support. Boeing were there for all sorts of things. It really was a team effort – no more of this two pilot stuff for me. There were a number of operational issues to discuss – wet runway, long taxi, jet blast an issue because of the hanger/the crowd and because we had to start taxi with a tight turn, mountainous terrain – it was all there. But start, taxi and takeoff – and indeed the flight – were routine – and thoroughly enjoyable – from that point on. So good to be back in the real job again. The aircraft flew well – you’re all going to love flying her.

Descent and Approach were also pretty standard into LAX – other than icing in the cloud and bouts of moderate rain all around LAX. It actually started raining over the field about 30 minutes after we parked, and didn’t stop for quite some time. Despite some rocky turbulence very low to the ground, and an autocallout that forgot about forty feet, Dave pulled off a greaser in a gusty crosswind.

We landed on RW25L and cleared on A7 – right at the display area (who’s wooster was that?) and waited for a tug to tow us in. Flight Deck windows down and Australian Flags were out. It looked like a thousand people were there to greet us, along with a marching band and cheer leaders (this is LA after all).

Sir Richard went for his much reported wing walk ala champagne frizz – although Marto had to first roll out the rubber matt because no one else would go out there and do it!

Brett Godfrey popped his head in just after shut down, thanked and congratulated us and gave Dave a very nice keyring from Boeing. Someone later asked about the key ring and I told them that the reason we were slightly delayed from Boeing Field was because no one could find the key to the aircraft. Apparently they believed me and that story has rolled up in a few places since. In hindsight, probably not a good idea to joke about that!

Then all our passengers wandered up and down the plane for 20 minutes, then all got off for an hour, then a couple hundred got back on at L1, mostly industry related people, who wandered up and down the aircraft admiringly.

I sat in the FO’s seat and took pictures of anyone wanting their picture taken in the Captain’s seat of a 777. I must have snapped off at least a hundred photos for people, and chatted with prospective passengers about all sorts of aviation (and non-aviation) related things, not to mention taking pictures for the 20 or so who didn’t have their camera – hence the odd people in my online picasa album, sitting in a 777 flight deck.

Paul Halpin and Kev Beard were waiting at LAX and eventually fought their way the wrong way through the crowd to the plane. We all caught up during the lull between loads and munched a few crew sandwiches.

By now it was almost seven o’clock and the public had mostly moved on with their lives. We wearily gathered our things and got out of the plane, stopping only to take the obligatory crew Engine pictures before continuing on. I have yet to have my picture taken in the nacelle of a 777 GE engine, but it will happen one day soon I hope.

Tomorrow is the Universal Studios tour. For me however, after the whirlwind of the last four days, I’m looking forward to a quiet day in the Hotel and trying to catch up on some of the work that has been piling up.

The CASA EDTO review was cancelled this evening (thanks to all who helped “manage” that) and it will take place on the LAX-SYD flight instead, so tomorrow will also involve some study. Tomorrow evening will bring dinner a Bubba Gump Shrimp for the non-crew travelers, while the rest of us head out to get the aircraft ready to go.

Today felt like the culmination of an awful lot of work and for me – a grand moment in my personal career. On a personal note, I’d like to thank Phil Warth and others in BNE who probably got no sleep at all last night because of the shenanigans on the aircraft this morning.

Tomorrow night’s flight, which will include a flyby of the harbor bridge on the way into Sydney (weather permitting) will be the icing on the cake.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #10 Delivery Party – 19:00L 05Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


Part Ten of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight blog has us wining and dining with Virgin royalty.

I was barely packed and organised when I had to get ready for the pickup to the big function this evening. This was the one where Sir Richard Branson was coming, along with Brett Godfrey, Scott Swift and a host of other Virgin who’s who – this was the biggie. With Alcohol.

A quick photo in the foyer and we were off. Another quick photo when we got there, and in we went.

Delivery10 1 Delivery10 2

Several busses drove us to the function hall which was decked out for the occasion. Tasteful hors d’oeuvres accompanied free-flowing drinks until the VIPs rolled up and we all sat.

Delivery10 3 Delivery10 4 Delivery10 7

The dinner was excellent and came in several small courses that were interspersed with chat as people moved from table to table to meet and greet.

I met and chatted with several people from all areas of our industry – ILFC, Macquarie Bank, AAPT, ATW. It was fascinating and not a little daunting, although everyone I met was genuinely great to talk to. I spoke at length with an elderly couple who live in Canada but come from the Uk. It was quite some time – and several visits – before I found out they were Brett Godfrey’s In-laws (what stories could I have heard there had I known!)

Sir Richard (who’d just go off a plane) to his credit worked the room meeting as many people as he could, having lots of photos taken with V/VB employees from all walks of life. The man was tireless.

Brett Godfrey also worked the room and spoke personally to many people from his company. The night was great fun and a real eye-opener for someone like myself who has come from a company with a completely different culture.

Eventually, it had to end. Boeing wound it down with an invitation to a bar called Cowgirls Inc – something of a Seattle Institution and a Boeing favourite, judging by the way I saw one of their senior exec’s riding the electric bull!. I won’t speak more about the rest evening, I’ll just leave you with these two photos.

Delivery10 8 Delivery10 9

Tomorrow is the Boeing Field to LAX flight – where all the planning, preparation and effort that has gone into the last few days to my benefit – instead becomes part of my responsibilities. Dave and I are ready, and can’t wait. Some sleep would be nice first though!


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #9 Seattle Tour – 12:00L 05Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


The latest instalment of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight series takes us around Seattle – including the Boeing shop.

Today we saw Seattle – but mostly the Boeing Shop.

This morning we were collected at 9am by Boeing for a Seattle bus tour. Since I hadn’t managed to get to bed until extremely late (the pub with the piano accordionist booted us out at 2am and the evening didn’t end there), it was not easy getting up for it. Quite a few didn’t show, and many of those that did succumb to the odd nod off on the way. I can, however, report that the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle does an Eggs Benedict that is almost as good as Megs.

Seattle is a pretty place in which much of the architecture and housing reflects it’s colonial fishing village origin. Very green of course (lots and lots of rain apparently). Our tour guide was a veritable font of information, so much so that I can no longer remember anything she said. We stopped at several places before returning to the hotel to collect the morning’s stragglers (including the redoubtable Charisma) to head to the Boeing shop at Boeing Field.

While I was really looking forward to it, everyone else was like kids in a candy store. The Boeing staff took one look at us all piling into the shop and gave us 10% off on the spot. I shopped eclectically, but specifically purchase a Lego 787 for Griffin (11) who I’m hoping will let me play (er) build it with him.

Back to the Hotel, I met up with Dave Kienzle and we spent the afternoon reviewing the plans for the next day’s flight. I could not find adequate details on the parking at the Air Museum at LAX, and resorted to a google earth/map image of the area, including cutting and pasting a 747 from elsewhere on the airfield to see how tight things would be. We were still unsure about many details of the flight, including whether we were being towed onto stand or taxi in, and what marshallers would be available. Much of this stuff has been take-it-on-faith, which as you might understand does not lead to high comfort levels for pilots. Cabin crew, on the other hand, take this kind of thing in stride and deal with what comes. Probably a lesson in there.

This evening is the 100 guest (not so) formal ball with Sir Richard and other veeps. I hope to be packed and ready to leave the hotel before the event, because it’s bound to go late and tomorrow’s pickup is 8am.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #8 Party Time! – 23:00L 04Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


Part Eight of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight series is all about the coming together of crew in Seattle and the beginnings of our journey home. The latest instalment of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight series takes us to a party at The Crab Pot Seattle.

Two busses took us to the Crab Pot Restaurant down by the waterfront promptly at 6 this evening. Present were the competition winners and a number of V people, as well as reps from Boeing (who were sponsoring the evening) and we were joined later in the evening by the Crew who will be operating the flights back later this week. Richard Branson, Brett Godfrey and Scott Swift were at another function, I believe, no doubt more swanky but probably less fun …

Boeing went to town paying for the entire evening (including alcohol) as well as some free gifts. I talked with several Boeing reps during the evening, as well as a few journalists from ATW and others. The feeling I get from Boeing is that during these times (post GFC), they’re pleased by any aircraft delivery – but are particularly pleased to be associated with the launch of a new airline.

The Boeing Sales head there was particularly strident about that aspect – he reminded me how fortunate we all are to be part of this launch. It’s starting really to hit home now how fortunate indeed I am to be part of this delivery, part of this launch, part of this team.

I laughed at the “Subject To Regulatory Approval” comment at the bottom of the sign out front of the restaurant – then I remembered this Friday night’s grilling from CASA.

I’m sure there will be a few familiar faces here. There were only minor efforts at PR and speeches – everybody concentrated on having a good time instead.

Delivery8 1 Delivery8 2
Delivery8 3 Delivery8 4
Delivery8 5 Delivery8 6
Delivery8 7 Delivery8 8

Notice the Mallets? These are used to crack open the Seafood. And seafood there was, so much so that it was poured out over the table, from where you ate it. We got quite a shock when dinner came out and was served on the table!

The Boeing Reps were fantastic. One of my aims for this trip is to hit the Boeing shop and grab a few things for friends and my kids (Griffin has his eye on the Lego 787). When I discussed this with the Boeing reps, we did a quick survey and found almost everyone in the room had the same request (not necessarily for the Lego 787). So they’ve altered our tour of Seattle tomorrow to finish at Boeing Field Boeing Store.

Note : I did grab Fin a Lego 787, we built it together after I got back. They now go on Amazon for $700+ USD. Next time, I buy two – one for myself to keep …

Afterwards, we found an Irish Bar (of course) and also a piano accordionist who took requests. Much singing was accomplished, including the single longest rendition of American Pie in the history of bar singing (no-one could remember how it ended). I have the full version somewhere, it runs for 11 minutes, but if you accidentally repeat several of the verses over and over, time is no limitation. Alcohol seems to both retard your progress towards the end of the song and dampens any real desire to get to the end …

Tomorrow morning is the tour of Seattle and the stop in at Boeing Field.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #7 A Day in Seattle – 17:00L 04Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


Where has the Day Gone?

After 12 hours of restless sleep, this morning I started on the e-mails that gathered in my inbox over the last couple of days. I’d been dealing with the easy ones along the journey and pushing down the inbox those requiring some effort. Many of you will be aware of the issues going on with the examinations on Virginetics – especially the CAR214 course material and exam (don’t get me started!). I looked up at one point and it was 2pm – missed brekky and lunch. Time for a walk.

The weather here in Seattle has been nowhere near as cold as I’d been led to expect. However, 10° is an excellent opportunity to wear my new coat. Things are quiet here – lots of sales in the shops, not many shoppers.

There are some interesting buildings, and I listened to a father explain to his daughter about the thousands of names on a WW2 remembrance area in the centre of the city.

When I arrived back from my walk, I ran into Dave Kienzle who’d arrived into Seattle this morning. Dave flew into LAX a few days ago and caught up with Andy Grierson, who is over here for the delivery flight of Aircraft Two. They’d driven around LA for a couple of days, including a bike ride along Venice Beach. Dave had scored an upgrade on the AirNZ flight (!) and found the Alaska Air LAX-SEA flight mostly empty.

As we spoke – the V party arrived at the hotel, those coming with us on the flights BFI-LAX-SYD – Competition Winners and Crew, along with Scott Swift and others.

Our delivery flight from LAX to SYD (and the Boeing Field to LAX flight) will be a proving flight for our AOC with CASA, and for that, we’ll need guinea pigs … er … Passengers. So a competition was held and a hundred or so V Staff have been flown over to party here in Seattle for the launch, then serve as Passengers for us to experiment on during the LAX-SYD proving flight.

While it was a long flight SYD-SFO-SEA for them, apparently the flight was quite empty on United and most got several seats, in some cases an entire row, to sleep in. Tonight we’re heading for dinner at Seattle’s Crab Pot Restaurant, something of a landmark around here.

Apparently, it’s not all parties though. Today I found out that Friday night in LAX after we arrive, CASA is presenting us with a Pre-EDTO dispatch exercise, designed to test us on all aspects of EDTO dispatch, from the Flight Plan, to the walk around and several DDG exercises that will require liaison with JMCC (Maintenance Control). Something to look forward to!

Next, I’ll come back with some pics from the evening with the crew at the Crab Pot, a renown restaurant here in Seattle that Boeing is taking us to for dinner.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #6 Seattle – 17:00L 03Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


Part Six of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight has me at Seattle Fairmont Olympic Hotel – (almost) the end of a very, very long day.

Despite that, of course it’s lunchtime in Geelong (the next day), so I’m exhausted but not ready (or able) to sleep. It’s 5pm here in Seattle and I’m about to head out for some fresh air and a bite to eat before I come back to finish some work and get some sleep. Free internet in the hotel room is a serious bonus – I hope we get the same in the Crew Hotel in LA when we launch.

I’m almost worldly now when it comes to the lower end of the airline market. The Alaska Airlines 737 flight LAX-SEA was by far the most comfortable trip in the last 30 hours. But that could be because I had the entire row, and the ones in front and behind me, free. They did a basic drinks service for free, alcohol was an extra cost.

I think there’s been a mistake though. The Fairmont Hotel is reportedly one of the best in Seattle.

At Seattle-Tacoma, I was met by a nice man in a Boeing T-Shirt (thanks Lisa from Boeing who organised my ride) who brought me to the Hotel. Service indeed.

For now, my time is my own so I hope to explore Seattle a little bit. The bulk of the crew and trip winners arrive tomorrow afternoon so that gives me tomorrow in Seattle. The next few days is a hot and cold affair of packed first aircraft delivery events and free time.

I will take lots of pictures over the next few days, but only put a few of them in these blogs.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #5 Los Angeles – 13:30L 03/04Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.


Greetings from LAX – Part Five of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight.

Sitting in a barely air-conditioned Alaskan Airlines terminal area, the immediate space is one of those designs where the combination of layout and surface causes PA’s, loud noises, and for the most part general conversation to bounce around and around until you have no idea what anyone’s saying or your own thinking, and the noise never seems to end. Of course, after 28 hours awake, my tolerances are lower than usual. And I’m now definitely smelling worse than I did in Auckland, and not all of it is mine. Yuck.

As I mentioned at the end of my last post – I have discovered why I was unable to secure a spot next to an empty seat on either of my AirNZ sectors. While seated at the departure gate in AKL, 45 minutes before the sked ETD (by which time check-in is closed and all seats should be allocated) I was connected and checking the seating on my flight. I was much relieved to see that I had retained my position in a row of my own on the AKL-LAX sector.

However, as I looked around I began to suspect there may have been a schism between the AirNZ website where I was looking at my seat and the booking systems used to allocate them in real time. The first hint was that the departure gate was packed – standing room only. The second hint was that rather than the spacious B747-400 depicted on the website, parked at the stand was a much smaller B777-200. Hmmm.

The flight from Auckland to Los Angeles was Full-Full-Me-Full-Full, with just the odd empty seat here and there. I’ve realized that contrary to my perceptions, my international travel experience is actually quite limited by the fact that I’ve mostly traveled just one airline. As such, I still find it surprising/amusing/annoying when another airline’s cabin crew continually make PA’s advising the passengers what they’re about to do.

We are coming out with their service now, the selection is Chicken or Beef. If we run out we’ll try and make sure you get your selection of Breakfast.

We are coming round to collect your tray and provide tea and coffee. If you want tea and coffee please make sure you keep your cup, spoon, and sugar from your meal tray, or you won’t get any.

We are coming around to collect rubbish, please have your piles ready.

We are going to be walking up and down the aisle now, basically killing time until we go to rest.

And so on. It’s really, Really, Annoying.

Two things I forgot to mention before. One was that on the MEL-SYD flight, somehow that nice sturdy little silver luggage tag they gave us during Jump On Board indoctrination training (which I save and attached especially for this trip) went missing. Since the only way I can perceive this sturdy little trinket would have come off was for it to be unscrewed and taken off, I was a little miffed, to say the least.

Also, on the AirNZ flight SYD-AKL, not only did the safety demonstration fail to operate, we had the boarding music still playing all the way to AKL (including as we disembarked – along with the obligatory explanatory PA’s) I almost felt like I was back on a sub-continent Ek flight.

I suspect I might have gotten an hour or two’s sleep on the AKL-LAX flight, but I can’t be sure. I took along some work to do – laptop and a manual to read. Laughable really; I keep forgetting that in Economy, there’s no room to read, no room to open your laptop, no room to flex your mind; and your mind/body is so deeply into survival mode anyway, you can’t expend the resources on anything else.

Being in the middle of the middle, I didn’t see much of LA during the arrival. It’s a beautiful day here with blue skies and a temperature in the high twenties (that’s inside the terminal – not sure what it’s like outside).

LAX airport is one of those large airports that you can tell at some point was much, much smaller. There’s a wide selection of construction styles and ages, something for new and old alike. But all of it looks like it peaked in the 70’s.

When I was growing up, Flying High (known as Airplane in the States) was released. Coming from an aviation family, I saw it quite a number of times. So when I walked out of the terminal to the disembodied “There is no Parking in the White Zone” I was fully expecting a male voice to follow with “Betty, don’t give me that White Zone Sh!t again.” Unfortunately not. Just the Red Zone warning.

There are “Travel Assistance” counters everywhere in the airport, staffed by volunteers. Their job is to chat to you, tell you about their grandkids, listen to your stories about your kids, and talk on the phone. Stuck to the counters are signs and posters that should tell you most of what you wanted to know when you stopped at a travel assistance counter.

I see a StarBucks over the way, so I’m headed there in lieu of finding anywhere with actual coffee. Hopefully 5 hours from now I’ll be in my Hotel in Seattle. I’ve unpacked a coat and jumper, at this point I’m very much looking forward to 4°.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #4 Auckland – 16:35L 03Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


Greetings from Auckland Airport for Part Four of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight blog.

My cunning plan to keep logging onto the Air NZ website right up until just before boarding time and move my seat allocation around to ensure I would have an empty seat next to me from Sydney to Auckland worked extremely well – right up until about the 3rd last passenger to board the plane who very rudely sat down next to me. A quick stand-and-glance revealed about a dozen empty seats in the cabin, none of them two together. I never realised 4 hours (or was it only 3?) could be so long.

I’m not sure, but I suspect the seat pitch on an Air New Zealand A320 is even less than a Virgin Blue B737. I may never know the truth though because I actually have no interest whatsoever in finding out. Ever again.

The entertainment was better though – not only did I get about 100 free channels of movies, television, and radio, but I also got to experience – for the first time in many hundreds of hours of travel – sitting in amongst a group of rowdy Asian tourists. Although traveling as a group, they were clearly from several different nations. I recognized Japanese, Korean, Chinese and a few Malay-la’s as well. How they all come to be traveling together on an A320 to Auckland would probably have made a fascinating story, but since none of them spoke a speck of English, I can’t reveal it to you.

Despite the nationality and seating spread, my innate sixth-sense told me they were traveling together. That and the way they kept talking to each other over 5-6 rows along and across the cabin. The lack of English didn’t stop them communicating quite vociferously with the Air NZ cabin crew either, who coped extremely well, with great stoicism and tact. Although being tactful is probably not a major challenge when your antagonist can’t understand your verbal communication (I think they missed most of the non-verbal cues from the Crew and other passengers as well).

I’m now sitting in the Air New Zealand departure gate waiting area, where in the past (when I used to fly for Emirates) I’ve killed a number of hours waiting out the turn-around on a Melbourne-Auckland-Melbourne (or the Brisbane, or the Sydney). I’m sure the first time you transit Auckland your interest is captivated by the cosmopolitan nature of the area, the people, the shopping (especially if you’ve just come up from Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton), the accents, the sheep products, but after ten visits or so, Auckland airport loses its edge.

I’m an hour through a three-hour wait here at Auckland airport. Then it’s AirNZ Flight 6 to LAX. I have roamed the airport for free Wi-Fi and I can reliably report it does not exist. I even loitered near the VIP lounges, but all connections required a password from Airline Mission Control.

NZ6 AKL-LAX is a 12:15 hour flight departing at 7:15 pm AKL, arriving at 10:30 am LAX (on the same day – thanks, International Date Line!). That makes it a night flight, so if I don’t get some sleep on this one I’m in trouble tomorrow (earlier today?) in LAX. I’m armed with a travel pillow, ear plugs, eye shades and an I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude that will hopefully have me sleeping through anyone else’s problems. At this point I’m a bit tired and I kind of smell a bit. Economy deserves me.

I should add that the second implementation of my cunning plan to keep an eye online on my seat on flight NZ6 is being frustrated by the fact that the online booking systems says I’m flying in a 380 seat B747-400, and there’s a 280 seat B777-200 parked at the gate … this does NOT bode well.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #3 Sydney (Outbound!) – 09:00 03Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


Part Three of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight saga comes from the new V Australia office at Sydney Airport. The ride up here on the jumpseat of a Virgin Blue 737 was excellent, extremely welcoming and informative.

Having arrived at Sydney Domestic, I headed across on the T Bus to find our new International Office.

Having been told it was near the Etihad office, I figured we’d be the small office no-one knew of yet, near the large and lavish Etihad Airlines office space.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are three separate offices spaces (one office space, and crew rooms for Cabin and Flight Deck crew) along with flashy neon signs outside each. For one flight a day (for the moment), it’s fabulous. I arrived just in time to catch the ground staff heading out the door with all the display stands, roping, posters and other paraphernalia that’s put out before each departure. It’s pretty funny really; they build a departure area each time a flight goes out, and tear it down again before taking it back to the office for the next day.

I just managed to catch Phil Warth in Sydney before he headed out to get some things done. Phil has been awesome in the project to date and is an important contact in the Delivery Flight support team for me. This is not his first rodeo – it’s the presence of people like Phil in V that give me the confidence that we can pull this off.

  

Catch you from Auckland.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #2 Melbourne Airport – 07:00 03Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


The next stage of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight mission comes from The Lounge at Melbourne Airport; I didn’t even need a tie, just a $199 salary-sacrificed deduction for the year.

Since the bus dropped me here at 5:05 am and I was checked in and ready to go at 5:10 for a 7:00 am flight – brekky, the paper and some work on the laptop is in order.

Currently, I’m working on Day Two of the Phase One recurrent simulator training program for Primary Crew. Perhaps a magazine or The Age.

Before leaving home, at the last minute I popped back inside and grabbed a tie (how pathetically hopeful am I?) you never know when that upgrade might come along. The taxi 5 minutes early, the lady driver friendly and efficient – I love Geelong! After a week of high temperatures (including a memorable 44.8 degrees with rolling power failures all week) it’s 18° and raining as I load my case in the boot of the taxi. On a whim, I make one last (nervous) check of my passport and ticket before closing the boot.

During the drive, in a manner reminiscent of the Truck Driver Rain God in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, she describes to me in great detail the type rain we are experiencing (light, misty, not enough for full wiper usage) during the drive, as opposed to what was falling earlier during her shift, which oddly enough, I now don’t remember the description of. I wonder if she really was a Rain God? Just out of Geelong (on the bus) there was no rain, in fact, the ground was very dry, as is most of Victoria as we continue through several seasons of drought. Hmmm …

The Gull bus driver is his usual taciturn self, refusing to allow me my carry-on bag on the bus – it has to go in the trailer. The usual eclectic mix of passengers to Melbourne Airport on the mostly empty bus (what else can you expect at 4 am?).

While waiting on the bus for it to leave I look down the street, my sight attracted by the flashing red and blue of some sort of emergency vehicle – Ambulance? Fire Truck? As I watch I’m startled by a loud bang and shower of sparks all over the road from a transformer exploding (twice) as the street and the surrounding residential area is momentarily brightly lit before being plunged into darkness. Five minutes pass and the first blue and red flashing vehicle is joined by another. I guess I’ll never know what that was all about, but it certainly served to fill in the time.

It’s hard to keep my eyes open on the bus, hopefully the driver isn’t having the same problem. I wonder how often my passengers think that of me? I manage about 20 minutes of kip and wake to hear the driver sharing the news of the road over the radio to others of his ilk. Apparently, there are now several SES vehicles back at the bus depot. I wonder what the first one was doing there, before the transformer went kaput?

Check-in complete and almost two hours to wait for the flight. I’ve requested the jump seat, something I usually do. I haven’t been near the front seat of a plane since May, and sitting on the flight deck and watching others do it helps keep my hand in, in a strange envious but not sort of way. Also, there’s more leg room (sort of). And I sometimes get a free bottle of water.

Next will be boarding for the (hopefully) jump seat to Sydney and the transfer to International for the Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. Fush and Chups anyone?

Hopefully, I can connect in Sydney or Auckland, prior to the big one across the Pacific to keep posting. No sheep jokes, I promise.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #1 Off Into The Night – 03:30 03Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


Deliver1-2My name is Ken Pascoe and I’m the fortunate guy who will be one of the Delivery Captains for V Australia’s (Virgin Blue’s Long Haul Airline, later to be part of Virgin Australia International) first Boeing 777-300ER next week from Seattle to Los Angeles and then the big one, LAX to Sydney.

I’ve decided to blog the trip, mostly for the benefit of the other hard working deserving staff at V Australia who aren’t fortunate enough to be part of this experience.

I’ve been with V for 7 months now, training and checking pilots in the simulator, designing and documenting lesson content and Standard Operating Procedures, providing decent coffee and cake at the sim center (thanks to my wife Meg), and everything in between.

With me on this flight will be Captains Dave Kienzle, Paul Halpin, and Kevin Beard. All of us will be making our own way across to Seattle. What follows is a series of blogs that detail this journey from my home to the conclusion in Sydney. I hope you enjoy reading them at least part as much as I did experiencing them!


Well, it’s 3:30 am and the taxi is due in ten to pick me up and take me to the Gull Bus to commence my journey. I’m packed and on a whim have decided to blog this epic as much as I can, just to see how it turns out. I’ll try and take some snaps on the way to make it interesting (including for me).

It’s going to be a looong day.

0330-0345 : Taxi to the Gull Bus
0400-0515 : Gull Bus to Melbourne Airport
0700-0825 : Virgin Blue Flight to Sydney
1130-1330/1635 : SYD-AKL : Air New Zealand Flight to Auckland
1915-1030 (same day) : AKL-LAX : Air New Zealand Flight to Los Angeles
1330-1430 : LAX-SEA : Air Alaska flight to Seattle

With all the time zone (and date line) switches, I haven’t looked to see the total travel time. But it looks to me like about 28 hours in and out of Economy. Frabjous Joy.

That said – thanks to the International Date Line, it takes place within a single day – the 2nd of February, 2009. So how bad can it be?

And that’s the end of the negativity. I’m headed off to collect Vs first 777 – How fabulous is that? – I wouldn’t be anywhere else or anyone else for the world.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline