Above the clouds to Canberra

Another day, another trip to Canberra. You would think that this route, my most frequent of all time, would now be so routine as to be boring. After all, it’s only 30 minutes of flight time. Yet every journey turns up something new and today’s flights were no exception.

The passengers were already boarding when I arrived at the airport. Thankfully I had already checked in online and had nothing in my little bag to disturb security, so I made it into the Qantas Boeing 737-400 with time to spare.

When I reached my row I found somebody else sitting in my window seat. I asked him to move as I knew I would make more use of the view. Then there was a long wait before we set off. I didn’t mind. I had a nice view of a Qantas 767 out of my window and watched a few aircraft take-off overhead. Sydney Airport is very attractive in the early morning sun.

I declined a newspaper and the proffered earphones, watched the safety briefing by the professional looking flight attendants, supported by the television monitors.

As we taxied to the southern end of the further of the north-south runways I noticed that we were followed by the government Boeing Business Jet (another 737 derivative). I wondered which minister was flying in it today and where they were off to. The latter question would soon be answered.

After waiting a while for our turn, we raced into the air before making a turn to the right and across the Eastern Suburbs. The dark grey city was surrounded by white tendrils of morning mists. Continuing to turn south we flew above the ocean and a layer of cloud. For most of the journey the ground was hidden beneath the clouds, though I caught glimpses of the coastline as we crossed near Wollongong.

Once the seatbelt light was off we were fed small raspberry muffins and a choice of water or fruit juice. I welcomed the little meal as I had only had a hurried drink of apple juice before leaving the house. On such a short flight there was no point in using my own music player, so I listened to the music piped through the seat and kept half an eye on the subtitled morning news. These little extras help make the journey more pleasant.

Before long it was time to begin our descent. For quite a while all I could see was grey below, but close to the airport we emerged through the cloud and above the farmhouses and bare willowed creeks threading the land below.

A familiar sight greeted us as we taxied along the runway at Canberra Airport. The airforce’s Boeing Business Jet had beaten us there!

Then we nuzzled up to the gate and disembarked from the airport. I caught a taxi to my temporary workplace and spent the day testing new intranet software.

At the end of the day it was time to return to Sydney. I had booked a seat on Virgin Blue’s 5pm flight back to Sydney. Along with me was another Sydney communicator from an adjacent division.

The Virgin Blue Embraer E-170 is a smallish jet and I was seated near the rear of the wing. Again, someone was sitting in my seat. We took off towards the south, rising steeply through the cloud. The return journey to Sydney was mostly above a carpet of cloud. I was initially disappointed that I was on the side opposite the beautiful sunset views, that is, until I saw something special.

We were getting close to Sydney when the captain announced that we had been placed in a holding pattern. This involved us circling in the air for a while. The aircraft banked sharply as it followed the circular track and I got some beautiful views of the orange grey sunset of out of the window.

The aircraft was pointed north as we regained our Sydney heading. I just caught the sight of a meteor or piece of space junk streaked through the sky, red on white, spitting out a much smaller chunk before exploding entirely.

The aircraft took the “scenic” route across Sydney, going all the way up to the north across the city before turning back towards the airport. The city seemed like a yellow and white glittering jewel, until we descended closer. Now I could see that those lights were not so closely spaced, the long gap between the streetlights, the thick dark slashes of trees. The city lacked the dense lighting of an Asian metropolis.

I was on the wrong side to see the CBD, the Harbour Bridge and other landmarks. On final descent we passed over floodlit sports grounds, over Parramatta  Road, colourfully lit by the neon shopfronts, over familiar Sydenham railway station where we watch for aircraft overhead as we travel to work. We held above the runway for just a bit longer than usual before the wheels touched down on terra firma.

The airport was beautiful at night. It was still early enough that there was plenty of action going on amongst the bright lights. But it was time to go home to my family after another couple of very enjoyable flights.

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