Inclement weather

“Unfortunately the service will have to be stopped due to inclement weather towards Sydney.”

That kind of announcement has had me break out in sweats at the thought of approaching turbulence. Would my new found confidence in flying hold?

I spent the last couple of days down in Canberra attending a workshop for the organisation’s communicators. The flights down to the capital are almost routine now that I have done them so often. Still, I found a way to make this a little different.

I had asked the question on about what would happen when Qantas retired the Boeing 737-400 jets that currently do the run. One respondent replied that they would just use the more advanced (and larger) 737-800s that we already doing some Sydney – Canberra flights. Oh, I didn’t know that!

Fortunately, the workshop started late in the morning so I could catch one of the 737-800 flights. Though I’ve caught that aircraft before it’s been a while and I was curious to see what differences there were with the long-in-the-tooth 400s.

So I caught the train in to the domestic airport, breezed through security, wandered the terminal for a bit, then plonked myself down at gate 1. And waited. And waited. The aircraft arrival from Adelaide was delayed and so were we. We finally departed about 45 minutes late.

As I walked down the bridge to the aircraft I caught a whiff of that special plane smell. Not jet fuel, something else. It brought back memories.

The interior of the 737-800 was much cleaner than its older and smaller brother. It also had little LCD screens that dropped down from below the storage bins. And, of course, the big winglets on the wing tips. Apart from that it was no big deal.

I was pretty disappointed with the programs of the different audio channels, but they change monthly. The breakfast snack was a small raspberry muffin and juice, as usual. For much of the trip it was a pretty unremarkable flight out over the ocean, then back across Wollongong and inland. As we descended into Canberra I couldn’t see any snow on the ranger, but things got quite choppy and the crosswinds felt nasty for our landing. It was all okay though.

I’m not going to say anything much about the workshop here as I’m still processing what we discussed. I had a pretty awful headache by the end of the day and just wanted to sleep. I called B, who was at home with Alex, in the afternoon. When she put Alex on the line he kept saying “Daddy! Daddy!” and began crying. After that I was banned from talking to him until my return. According to B he woke up during the night and called for Daddy as well. It’s nice to be missed and I was missing them desperately in return.

We spent the night at Canberra Serviced Apartments in Kingston. Nothing special, but the breakfast at nearby Silo was very nice. I listened to music to send me to sleep, using my little laptop and amazingly compact TDK NXT flat speakers.

While Monday was sunny, by the time our workshop ended it was beginning to spit with rain. I arrived early at the airport, bought a Pamela Anderson childrens’ book called “Alexander’s Outing” from the newsagent, then spent the rest of my time waiting at the departure gate, watching other flights land and take-off and listening in to the Qantas cabin crew’s discussions behind me.

When the boarding time arrived I was pleased, though a little surprised, to see that we would be on another Qantas 737-800. We took off into cloudy and wet skies, water streaming over our windows. Things were a little rough as we flew up through the clouds, but eventually we emerged above them.

I had my Byron Bay cheddar flavoured chips on my tray table and was about to be served the juice when the announcement came over the PA for the cabin crew to prepare the aircraft. They continued service, then came the “inclement weather” announcement. They gave me the drink, then returned to their seats as we approached grey clouds.

For most of the rest of the flight into Sydney I had no idea where we were. The flight got very bumpy indeed, but I almost relished the test of my new found confidence. And by and large it held. It’s a great feeling to have subdued a fear.

When we punctured the base of the clouds I looked below to see us flying over the Inner West suburbs, with the CBD to my left, approaching the airport from the north. As we crossed the last few kilometres to the airport then crosswinds were quite fierce, with the aircraft rolling a bit around its long axis. A fairly hard landing, then we were down.

Not the most inspiring or pleasant of flights, but that’s the fault of the weather, not Qantas.

What was nice was getting picked up at Padstow station and hearing a happy “Daddy!” from the back seat. It’s good to be back.

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