Premi-Air at 30,000 feet

Qantas Disney’s Planes

I attended a movie premiere today. A real movie premiere with a red carpet and stars, photographers and everything. But this was no ordinary movie premiere. There was a jumping castle, a water cannon salute and the screening was on an iPad.

Well, that doesn’t sound like much, does it? Wait, there’s more!

You know those “4D” movies at amusement parks where, in addition to the action on the screen, you feel the environment as well, a rush of wind, a sprinkle of rain? Well, this premier took it to a new level. A whole new level. 30,000 feet in fact.

Alex, my almost five year old son, and I were fortunate enough to receive an invitation to the Australian premiere of Disney’s Planes on board a Qantas 767-300. We turned up at Qantas Hanger 96 adjacent to their domestic terminal 3 at Sydney Airport to be greeted by the very friendly Qantas staff. Along with two boarding passes I was surprised to be given a lanyard labelling me as “Media”. I guess I am in a sense, even if I just report on it freely and for fun.

After entering along the said red carpet, Alex’s eyes were immediately drawn to the Disney-Pixar Cars themed jumping castle and slide. But first he had to grab a bottle of juice. He’d been asking me in the lead up to the event if they’d serve orange juice on the plane. I wonder if he still remembers that time, back when he was almost two years old flying alone with me to Singapore, when he drank most of my orange juice during the flight.

Red carpet pose


Jumping castle

While he queued and slid, queued and slid, my eyes were on the colourfully Planes decorated Qantas 767-300 sitting in the middle of the hanger. Also there was a QantasLink Dash8-Q400 and a fluorescent yellow airport fire truck. I wandered over to find Jay, the guy who had invited us to the event, and asked him if he was responsible for choosing this particular aircraft, VH-OGG.

“What do you mean?”

I pointed out the name of the aircraft – Rockhampton. We both have a history with that city.

The Qantas 767-300 with Planes livery


He told me that OGG was soon destined for the desert and that’s why it had been available for this event. I’ve made a habit this year of flying on Qantas airport scheduled for retirement, the 737-400, 747-400 and now the 767-300. I rather like these older models and will be sad to say goodbye to them after so many wonderful memories.


I used to digitise my music as oggs

The Aussie racer

Dash 8

Fire truck

View of the crowd

The plane

Our way out!

I spotted some celebrities in the crowd, people that I could name and others who looked familiar without a name attached. The real stand outs were the flight attendants in the new Qantas uniforms. Even Alex had commented how much he liked their uniforms when he say a picture of them online. I have to say they look both striking and elegant.

Alex posing with Melissah

I chased down some hot dogs and very tasty mini hamburgers for Alex, who was getting a bit hungry by now. There was a big multiscreen display set up showing tweeted images, including some of mine, and video clips from Planes. Crazy Alex started dancing to one of the musical clips.

Lightning McQueen

Tweet tweet!
My little cupcake

The call came to be begin boarding the aircraft up the forward and rear stairs. We were directed to the former and were some of the first aboard, seated in 32 J and K. The spot was perfect, just forward of the wing in a mini cabin behind Business and a larger Economy cabin. The seats in front of us were largely missing a window.

Admiring the aircraft

Celebrities first!

The joy of stairs

Business class


In our seat pockets, along with the Australian Way magazines, safety cards and sick bags, were Planes activity packs and iPads. I had thought that perhaps the 767 was chosen for this event as some were still equipped with the centre projection screens, or had been last time I flew them. I believe that those models are all gone now, replaced with entertainment streamed to supplied iPads.

Safety first!

Activity book

iPad mount

The iPads had to remain in the seat pockets for the time being, unused until cruise. First came the tow out of the hanger and the safety demonstration and I watched Alex taking it all in, though he knows much of it off by heart now. Captain Lisa introduced herself, it turns out that she requested to be the pilot for this flight. She described our planned flight path north up the coast as far as Noosa Heads, then a turn back down towards Sydney, over the Hunter and the Northern Beaches “All subject to air traffic control clearance.”

The cabin, with Pearly serving and a Sky News cameraman

Backing out

 There was a special treat waiting for us as we passed the other maintenance hangers and Terminal 3 gates with two fire engines giving us a water canon salute, the first I’ve ever seen or experienced from the inside. Then it was a long taxi out towards the third runway.

Waiting to give us a spray

Showers approaching

This is it!

Abstract art
Cabin lights out

Virgin ATR-72

Qantas A330

Scoot landing

We took off towards the north, but quickly turned away in an easterly direction, of the golf courses, warehouses and beaches. Alex was thrilled to see it all and I was loving in sharing his excitement.


You said you wanted a golf kit Alex…

It felt like Captain Lisa was holding off on full thrust, giving passengers time to admire the Sydney skyline, surging, then dropping back, keeping us below the cloud layer for longer than usual. It felt a little shaky, shakier than I remember 767s normally, and I was glad to be near the centre of gravity of the aircraft.

Smoky day at Bondi

Over the sea

Then the seatbelt lights were switched off and the crew came through handing out nice big Panasonic headphones. We switched on the iPads and I noted that they were of the latest high resolution screen type. I helped Alex hang the iPad on the rear of the seat by threading the cover through a fabric slot and using velcro to keep it in place, we were asked not to play the movie until the end of a countdown.

iPad in place
Back over the coast

Jessica Marais, who had voiced the character of the local version of the movie, counted down from ten, then we were off!

Planes is an animated Disney movie about a crop duster who wants to compete in a round the world race. The basic plot is the same as any other underdog chases sporting dream story. I’m not the world’s biggest Disney or animation fan, but I have to admit that I rather enjoyed the movie. It’s nothing original, but it’s a rather easy watch, perfect for a flight and for its target audience of younger kids. Alex seemed to like it quite a bit. The graphics looked rather nice too, with highly fluid flight animation.

In his dreams…

…In reality

Our lunch came out early due to my honey free dietary request, though I’m not sure it was any different from the standard meal. Despite the presence of Neil Perry in the cabin there were no traces of his culinary skills in this meal. Inside our cardboard box was a ham cheese and lettuce sandwich on multigrain bread, crackers and cheese, a small Boost chocolate and a bag of yummy chocolate chip and orange biscuits, familiar from my Canberra flights. Later on in the flight we were served chocolate coated ice creams, popcorn, corn chips and apples. I think Alex was rather full from the earlier food in the hanger, so he stuck mainly to the junk
food and fruit.



Popcorn and ice creams

We had to make a special trip to the aircraft toilet to appease Alex, especially as the last time he flew a Qantas 767 he was too scared of the vacuum noise of flushing and wet his seat. But that was a long time ago now.

It’s a loo. Are you excited? I’m not.

Outside the scenery changed from long beaches to dry inland farmlands. I admit that I wasn’t paying that much attention to the view out the window this time as it was my duty (and pleasure) to watch the movie. I did notice that, all the way from Sydney, the air had the reddish-brown tinge of smoke haze. It’s been a hot winter and promises a terrible summer for fires.



Movie over, it was time to head back to Sydney. I broke out the amusement pack for Alex. Finally he is old enough to properly enjoy both colouring in and simple puzzle and tracing activities. He’ll be starting school next year.

High above

Keeping busy

He was soon falling asleep, so I asked for a pillow, promptly delivered. As well as looking so smart in their new uniforms, the cabin crew were wonderful, full of smiles and sharing in the joy of the event. I reflected that this whole flight was not a very efficient use of resources, but, damnit, it was fun and you’ve gotta have fun in life. This was the usual pleasure of flying Qantas magnified tenfold, so that’s a lot of fun.


Our return path took us over the open cut mines of the Hunter region, then out across the coastline of the Northern Beaches. The pilot circled to allow both sides of the aircraft an opportunity to appreciate the view, though of course I believe the southern beaches are better! 😉


Smoke haze

Descending towards the clouds

and through them

Beaches all the way down

Up near Palm Beach

Turning over a sea of white horses

Hazy beaches

And cloud

The descent back into Sydney airport was along a more conventional paths, down through the puffy cumulus over the northern suburbs, past the Olympic Centre at Homebush, down past the familiar red building at Annandale, pointing out the trains at Sydenham to Alex, then touching down on the third runway towards the south.


Rain and haze

Looking towards Homebush

Parramatta River


Terminals 1 (international) and 2

Control tower

Sydney city

It was a long taxi back to Hanger 96, but it was lovely to see a line of those staff members who had stayed on the ground waving us in. Then the tug took over and we crept inside the hanger.

Yananyi Dreaming

Welcome back!


Goodbye shot

There was one last surprise waiting for us. As we readied to leave the hanger we were given bags containing a Planes poster, hat, bath sponge, Kinder Surprise, sweets, sticker book and, best of all, a desk model of the Qantas 767-300 in Planes livery.

Goody bag

So ended a truly fantastic movie premiere. I saw nothing but smiles from everyone involved in the event, be they Qantas staff or passengers and guests and both Alex and I agreed that we’d had a lot of fun. Many thanks to Jay from Qantas’ Digital Communications team for giving us the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful event.

Filed under: