2009 On Tour Pics

Chin Pakistan border Map
Chinese Pakistani Border

The A380 chart feature displays a moving map. The route is indicated by the red line overlaid on the white air route. The light blue rectangle shows the transition airspace where crews change from altitude in metres (China) into altitude in feet (Pakistan and the rest of the world except Russia). The top left airspace belongs to Afghanistan, the bottom left Pakistan, the bottom right India and top right China. The red numbers are the reason for the photo. 292 at the bottom right is showing that, in that grid square, the minimum safe altitude is 29,200 feet, above the mountain K2 which is 28,251 feet high. Everything east of that is in the Himalayas. The 27900 feet minimum safes (MSAs) are above the Karakoram Range. Hopefully, this spectacularly beautiful, but troubled, region will see peace in the next decade. Though a cursory glance at the history books makes me doubt it.

Beijing At Night
Beijing, China

China’s capital sparkles under clear skies. The bright spot to the right is the airport. China is going green. Five years ago I regularly flew over southern China and never saw the ground due to the smog and haze. At the start of the year 8.5% of total energy consumption was from renewable sources, (it’ll be 15% within 10 years). It is also on track to reduce its power consumption by 20% in the five years to the end of 2010. Their initiatives include building high-tech, comparatively cleaner, coal-fired power stations right down to more environmentally friendly ways of farming pigs. They are also placing 700,000 hectares are under forest. According to an HSBC report, 5% of its gross domestic product is spent on green projects, (221 billion USD in 2008). New 2020 targets are a five-fold increase in electricity from wind power and ten-fold increase in power from solar.



Got One!
My mesmerising approach lighting worked.

Monaco From Above
Merry Christmas

Of all the presents Santa could deliver, I wouldn’t mind a nice apartment in Monaco, overlooking the harbour with a garage, stuffed with a Porche, and a bank account large enough to run an adequate lifestyle for the next 50 years. I have been VERY good during the last year ... see the Approach Lights, errected on the balcony ... just in case.

Dubai Xmas Tree

Main Street Seoul Korea
Winter In Seoul, South Korea.

It must have rained before we arrived in Seoul. The city’s streets and buildings were sparkling. At minus 11 overnight and only minus 4 in the warmest part of the day, you needed to be rugged-up. Well, I needed to be. Some people were walking around in normal business suits. Christmas decorations everywhere. 26% of the population are Christian, 23% Buddhist and 49% report no religion ... but that’s not true. Their main religion is Automobile. City streets 10 lanes wide. Police, Fire and Ambulance have no priority, they just sit in traffic, lights flashing and no sirens. Don’t have a heart attack in Seoul.

!0 Lanes Of Traffic - Seoul

High MSA Tibetan Plateau
Tibetan Plateau

With the Tibetan Plateau to the right of track, the A380 Navigation Display shows the Minimum Off Route Altitude (in magenta) as 28,900 feet within 40 nautical miles. The terrain mapping function shows green indicating no terrain at, or above, our level (41,000 feet). The highest ground it is targeting is 22,400 feet. Whatever, in any emergency we’d be turning left, away from the high ground.

Sunrise Over The Karakoram Range, China.
Above The Top Of the World

For the second time ever, the A380 slides over the Karakoram Ranges bound for Seoul, Korea. The rising sun touches some of the mountainous peaks, 60 of which are above 7,000 metres.

Dundas Place Cafe
Centre Of the Universe

Albert Park’s Dundas Place Cafe, under new ownership, remains the centre of the universe. Bianca, Cheryl, Alex and Aya ... (Cheryl’s a customer).

Dundas Place Cafe in Albert Park

Avenue Bookstore Albert Park
Avenue Bookstore, Albert Park

In a special promotion Australia’s best independent bookshop, Avenue Bookstore has a limited number of promotional copies of ON TOUR : Travels With An Airline Pilot in stock. Move fast to secure a copy.

Thunderstorm Over Colombo Sri Lanka
Colombo, Sri Lanka

A massive thunderstorm, associated with the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, sits south of Colombo in Sri Lanka. Sneaking around the upwind side it is apparent that a number of towering cumulous clouds are becoming active, giving the impression that the single storm will last for hours. In fact it’s a series of storms becoming active one after the other.

Thunderstorm Over Sri Lanka 2

Perth At NIght from 34000 feet
The City Of Lights

As Astronaut John Glenn described Perth, Western Australia during his Mercury spaceflight, becoming the first person to have orbited the earth. Everyone turned-on their lights to welcome the spaceman. The most remote capital city on the planet, Perth clings to the Indian ocean. Populated mainly by British migrants who alighted from their ships; the first landfall after their encounter with the Roaring Forties; vowing they’d never get back on a ship again. This pic taken when coming from Sydney, our A380 overflew Perth enroute to Dubai.

Kangerlussuaq Fjord, Greenland.
Kangerlussuaq Fjord, Greenland.

On the west coast of Greenland the entrance to the Kangerlussuaq Fjord is not easy to find from sea level. At the end of the 185 km body of water lies the town of Kangerlussuaq and the famous Søndre Strømfjord Airport, Greenland’s largest airport. Pilots like to fly close by, safe in the knowledge that there is a nice healthy airport, if needed. But if it’s minus 50C will the passengers, in their shirtsleeves, be happy to disembark? Methinks not.

 Kangerlussuaq Fjord 2

Dubai Window Cleaners Towers
Dubai Window Cleaners

Every six months you get your window cleaned in Dubai. Mostly it is done using automatic machines, or at least with cleaners using mechanised scaffolding. In rare instances blokes on ropes abseil down the side of buildings, cleaning as they go. The tallest building in the world is about three times higher than this one, and was initially cleaned using the same method. Watch a video of it HERE.

Dubai Window Cleaners

Sydney Commuter Surfs Home From Work
Sydney Commuter

At Manly Australia a commuter finds a method of transportation even cheaper than the cost of a ferry.

Trivandrum from Avove At Night

Or Thiruvananthapuram as the locals call it, southernmost city in India, slides under the nose of the A380 returning from Sydney. The capital of Kerala, Trivandrum has a high literacy rate, compared to the rest of India; but also wrestles with high rates of suicide and unemployment. It seems that every taxi driver in Dubai is from Kerala as a huge number of men leave home as expat workers. Their income, as expats, is, on average, five times what they’d make back home.

Toronto Skyline
Toronto Canada

Dominating the skyline from Toronto Island is the CN Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the world for 31 years until the Burj Dubai raised above its 555m height. CN stands for Canadian National, the railway that built it. The island; cross national park, adventure playground and tourist resort; is connected to the city by a ferry service that closes over winter. Great place to hire a bike when the weather’s nice.

Dubai on a foggy morning
Dubai In The Mist

Returning as the Augmenting Crew from a Sydney Auckland trip allows a great opportunity to capture Dubai in the early morning. The Dubai creek, Burj Dubai, Burj Al Arab and Palm Jumeriah are visible in the mist.

AKL Departure Board with spelling mistakes
Spelling Mistakes Abound

It seems sad that the sound associated with the beginning of an airborne adventure will soon vanish. As kids in the 1970s we were enthralled by the automatic airport departure boards; the unique mechanical sound as the information changed coincided with the introduction of the jumbo jet. Sadly most airports have moved to the digital board, some even have advertising. The Auckland one looks like it’s on its last legs. Either that or the operator’s made a mistabe ... um, er ... mistake.

HMAS Sydney Foremast Bradley's Head
Bradley’s Head, Sydney Harbour

The foremast of HMAS Sydney at Bradley’s Head isn’t from the aircraft carrier, which decommissioned in 1973 after seeing action in both the Korean conflict and Vietnam war; nor from the light cruiser lost in the battle with the German cruiser Kormoran in 1941; but the first HMAS SYDNEY, commissioned in 1913. It scored two firsts: destroying the German cruiser Emden in 1914, the first naval success in WW!, and for having the first rotating aircraft launching platform ever installed in a warship, (why they just didn’t turn into wind for flying operations like all subsequent carriers I’ll never know). She was decommissioned in 1928. Her bow is built into the northern wall of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sunset Over French Mountains
French Mountains

The setting sun, mountains and daily afternoon cumulous cloud combine to make it look like the mountains are on fire.

Marina At Cannes during the film festival
The Nautical Hangover

In Cannes, the day after the film festival ends, all is quiet in the Marina. The worst thing about waking-up after a big night out is the sore neck ...

Sleeping Sailor At Cannes

Rich boat owner gets an apetite
As Long As You Eat At Home

F1 Grand Prix spectators spent the day watching the antics of some uniformly-clad girls lounging on a boat on the other side of the track. The skipper of the boat next door sneaks a peek while his wife watches the cars. Old adage: It doesn’t matter where you get your appetite from ... as long as you eat at home.

Juan Bauista hits a home run
Jose Bautista

Hitting his second home run for the night playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, Juan Bautista gives this correspondent a spirited introduction to baseball. If you get a chance to see how slick and professional a sporting event can be, go to the baseball. The cleanliness of the venue, quality of the catering and high standards of service are second to none. Cricket Australia could learn from baseball’s clever marketing techniques and nifty ways of including the crowd in the event.

Airbus at 43000 feet
A380 Service Ceiling

The A380 acquires 43,000 feet, the highest this aviator has ever flown. The box around ALT CRZ indicates a mode change on the FMA, the flight mode annunciator. The mode also puts the aircraft into ‘soft mode’, allowing minor altitude variations to provide a smoother ride for the passengers.

Dubai Skyline From The Metro
Dubai Metro

A trip on the new Dubai Metro, the largest automatic rail service ever completed, dispels any ideas that the city is a white elephant. This is a world class engineering feat of which city fathers and all those who worked on it should be proud. The stations and carriages are state of the art. The ticketing system would make Melbournians weep, and the staff are excellent. A twenty minute trip from the airport to the Dubai Financial Centre, in the VIP compartment at the front of the train, cost 62 US cents, (67 Australian cents).

A380 takeoff
Dubai Airshow

The most spectacular flying display at the Dubai Airshow was that conducted by the pilots of the Airbus A380. Its versatility, showing high bank angle, low speed turns within the airport boundary drew gasps from the crowd. During a steep turn just after takeoff the retraction of the 20 wheels allowed spectators a close look at the sequence in which the 27 tonne landing gear is fitted snugly into the belly. The gear weighs the same as 270 passengers.

A380 Landing Gear Retraction

Equator presentation
Crossing The Line

The three inertial navigation systems and two global positioning systems in the Airbus A380 combine to present the pilot with an extremely accurate Mix Position. Here the Latitude is the left most figure and expressed in degrees, minutes and decimal fractions of a minute. This night, at 911 kph, the crossing of the equator happened in a flash. Luckily pilots crossing the equator for the first time don’t have to follow the same ceremony as their nautical brothers. Over two days they partake in a particularly messy ceremony at King Neptune’s Court as they make the transition from Pollywogs to Shellbacks.

100% New Zealand

It’s rare to witness a gin-clear day enroute to New Zealand. Usually, as James Cook observed, it’s the land of the long white cloud. Landfall is made just north of the Manakau Heads (above) before overflying the city of sails: Auckland.

Auckland NZ

Auckland Busker
Auckland Busker

New Zealand punches well above its weight in musical terms. Queen Street Saturday morning. A cold wind whips into every crevice but this guy is totally oblivious as he peppers passers-by with stunning, haunting chords. Just enough echo made every note sing, no fractured or crushed chords. Everything perfect. His version of Take Five was enticing, one man replicating Jo Morello’s rythyms, Dave Brubeck’s chords and Paul Desmond’s sax solo. Was this a setup? One of the world’s best guitarists out to con us? Who cares? Those of us stopped in our tracks were just grateful to witness his talent.

Virgin Blue 737 Goes Around At SYD
It Was Never Going To Work

Wednesday 12th November 2009, 09:05 am. Runway 34 Left at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith international airport. A Cathay A330 thunders down the runway during takeoff and the tower controller realises that the arriving Virgin Blue 737 is too close for comfort. It is sent around. Inside passengers feel like their plane is going vertical, their vestibular systems tricked as they transition from a three degree descent into a climb. It’s a perfectly safe maneuver, performed daily at airports around the world; and practised by pilots during every simulator check.


Cannes Red Carpet Paparazzi

You never see any actors in Cannes during the film festival. Well, not walking down the street anyway. The local paper and radio station give daily updates of their movements; who’s been swimming in the hotel’s pool before breakfast, which restaurant they ate last night. The red-carpet paparazzi, with their chairs and ladders, prevent any access by the adoring fans. But don’t give up, it’s a great festival and the happy-go lucky atmosphere has to be witnessed.


Sydney Harbour

Arguably the most spectacular harbour in the world, many Sydneysiders never see it. Of the 4.3 million inhabitants more than a million live people live west of the inland city of Paramatta. Once an old timer living in Auburn, then the geographical centre, declared that he had never been to see the bridge. Why not? “...Cos everything I need is right here!” If you find yourself with a spare few hours, wander down to Darling Harbour or Circular Quay and grab a ferry ... to anywhere. A day ticket is very cheap but the views are world class.


Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?

Juan Les Pins, on the Côte d'Azur between Nice and Cannes, holds an international jazz festival in July each year and is home to some very nice looking beaches and dress shop assistants. Don’t expect any bargains. The place was immortalised in song by Peter Sarstedt who wrote a number one hit in 1969. It was about a girl growning-up in poverty in Naples and becoming one of the jetset crowd. Many thought it was about Sophia Loren. Instead it was about a girl he loved who died in a hotel fire. Watch him perform it HERE.

Tweeting On A Jet Plane

Two Northwest Pilots appear to have been too busy ‘doing other things’ to land their plane at their destination. Click HERE to hear how one satirist has dealt with it.

Thirsty Work

On a hot summer’s day this Dubai crane driver retrieves a cold bottle of water brought up on the hook. The cranes are like triffids, they move along the horizon, stop, pause, then magically appear to pull a skyscraper out of the sand.

Your Life in Your Hands

In Mandelieu, France, Cees and Maria Van Dooren invested in an all-singing, all-dancing, adjustable, vibrating bed. Suggestion: if you can’t read the instructions, (they’re in French), get an interpreter.

pink rose
Image stolen from the internet
Oak’s Day

Ladies’ Day at Flemington Race Course, Melbourne. It’s flower is a pink rose. A traditional day for the girls to go the races and party hard. The famous Michelle McCormack, (where is she now?), said: “Come on boys, if you can’t pick yourself up a Melbourne girl at the Botanical Hotel at 6pm on Oaks Day, there’s something wrong with you!”

Niagra Falls Cloud

Instant Cloud Over Niagara Falls

As the super chilled air of an active thunderstorm passes over the Canada’s Horseshoe Falls the latent heat in the mist condenses into a mini cumulous cloud. It’s very easy to get very close to the top of the falls. Don’t waste your time visiting unless you take the Maid Of The Mist boat trip. The awesome power of the falls leaves you feeling very small and humble, a similar experience to seeing the Great Pyramid Of Giza, (see 2006 photos). Your many questions about the falls are best answered HERE.

Niagra Falls Oops

Melbourne Cup Polo

Once again expat Aussies celebrated Melbourne Cup day breakfast at the Dubai Polo Club. Arranged by the Australian Business Council in Dubai and sponsored by Allied Pickfords, the day was a roaring success as people discussed the effects of the global financial crisis since this time last year. One businessman joked that he had jumped from the frying pan into another frying pan while one top management consultant has started her own innovative business ... watch this space. We agreed that the world’s perception of Dubai should be a tee-shirt slogan: “Live, Party, Crash!” Really, it’s not that bad, and those who remain are committed to the future. Meanwhile, it’s 30 degrees and sunny and looks like a nice beach afternoon ... to get over Shocking’s unexpected win.

Hamilton Robbed In Abu Dhabi

As the sun set on the world’s first twilight F1 race and the dusk gave way to an almost full moon, World Champion Lewis Hamilton charged off in first place and held the lead until being told by his team on lap 21 that his car had a dangerous brake problem. He retired immediately leaving Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber to take first and second places. The World Champion elect, Jenson Button, toyed with Webber in the last few laps but the Australian held him off.

Bike Thieves Downunder

In St.Kilda Melbourne, a carefree bohemian walks past a plundered bicycle in the main street, Fitzroy Street. Unlike in Bristol, UK; where they would have used the jaws of life to remove the lock and hence, the whole bike; here they have just taken two weels, the gears, the chain, the handle bars, the brakes, the seat and reflectors. Nice of them to leave the pedals though.

Inventive Waiters At SGB

The crotchet-shaped sign reads: ‘STEELY DAN needs a new guitar, please give generously.’ The steel-wool pad had only scored 10 cents after two hours’ trading, proving that the audience is too young to remember Ricky Don’t Lose That Number with any affection. St.Kilda Grocery bar (known as SGB) is in Fitzroy Street St.Kilda and does a great breakfast.

Springtime On South Melbourne Beach

The first warm day after a long winter attracts the beachgoers. The girls suntanning are oblivious to the drama unfolding as the four-wheeled drive utility becomes bogged in the soft sand. Things were going well, until the tide started coming-in.

North Atlantic Sky

Every day, hundreds of airliners make their way across the North Atlantic, separated by the NATRAK air traffic control system. The morning skies are spectacular.

Lucky Horse

In the south of France this horse is made exclusively from horse’s shoes, and is going nowhere. Meanwhile in Melbourne, Saturday’s Family Day (red roses thanks) sees the end of a spectacular week of horse racing at Flemington. Sheikh Maktoum’s horse Crime Spree came second in the Melbourne Cup, (when will he get a win?) 82 year old trainer, Bart Cummings, defied logic and won every major race of the spring carnival except the Melbourne Cup and the Emirates Stakes.

Human Hand Baggage

At the check-in counter in Auckland you have to watch out for people trying to sneak their kids onboard without buying tickets. Hope he made it through the Xray.

Polite Roadbuilders

In Al Barsha Dubai the officials are ever so polite. In most countries a car that snuck into a work zone and parked on a road prepared for construction would be found, weeks later, in a pound, or scrap metal yard.

Flying United

Two United 777s leave the United States on the same airway, separated by 1000 feet vertically. You can hear the woosh as they go by. At night you can tell which brand of aircraft you’re passing because the Airbus strobes double flash compared to the single flash Boeings.

Smart Signs

Every now and then you see something for the first time that makes such blinding sense that you wonder why it hasn’t always been this way. On a tollway in southern France, one speed for dry conditions, 20 kph slower if it’s raining. It’d make the drive between Melbourne and Sydney almost pleasurable. All it would need is a campaign teaching people the legal definition of rain, then hitting the speedsters with huge fines on the first week it rained, and it’d be sorted.

Beirut By Night

From 37,000 feet, under a full moon, there is enough light to photograph the city of Beirut in Lebanon.

De-Icing JFK New York

The A380 takes 45 mins and at least four de-icing trucks to de-ice. After all the ice has been removed a special fluid is applied which prevents ice forming on the wings and treated areas for up to an hour. Once the aircraft is prepared pilots have nothing to do until the treatment is finished except follow the progress on the camera in the tail. On this night three units treated a small Jet Blue A320 near us in only fifteen minutes.

morning glory-clouds
Twin Rope Clouds

Usually called Morning Glory clouds, and appearing off the warmer coasts; these parallel roll clouds, called Rope Clouds, preceded the gust front of a southwesterly change that swept through Sydney. Here, they are 65 nautical miles east of the city and the band of cloud associated with the cold front can be seen in the distance. Thanks to Sue Lawrence from the Australian Bureau Of Meteorology who set us straight and included the satellite pic from the following morning that also shows the clouds.

Rope Clouds Sat Pic

Morning Ralph

It rarely happens across the north Atlantic, usually the westbound flights are much further north to avoid the headwinds. On days when the wind is weak, the great circle route is preferable. The great circle is the shortest line between to points on a sphere, and concave to the nearest pole. Here the eastbound A380 from New York passes 1,000 feet above. Both airbuses are doing 0.86 Mach, 86% of the local speed of sound, which varies with temperature. At these altitudes it is isothermai, (it doesn’t decrease anymore), at minus 56 or 57 degrees Celsius. An understandable reason why the exhaust air condenses to form a contrail, it’s about 1500 C.

The World Champion

Australian racing driver Mark Webber won his second grand prix at Brazil, giving Jenson Button enough points to win the World Driver’s Championship for 2009. In this picture Button slices around St.Devote at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, and below, receives the applause of the Flag Marshalls - the unsung heroes who patrol 100m sections of the racing surface.

Victorian Bushfires

Elvis, the Skycrane helicopter, races to a fire to bring hope, and a 9,000 litre rainshower, to trapped victims. Read (and listen) to my personal Ash Wednesday story. It seems like it was only yesterday ... HERE. 

Noisier Than A Jumbo Jet

Some guys, including Director Stephan Elliot wanted to make a movie about some Sydney transvestites on a bus trip, using their favourite Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes. Sadly the descendents of Mr.Hammerstein refused, so they used their next choice, the music of Abba. The subsequent movie, Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, was a huge success. For their next movie, money was no problem, and all of a sudden the Hammerstein family thought they were a good risk and let them use the songbook. Elliot decided that the Australian Language was dying and the next movie was going to be a time-capsule of the distinctive phrases of early Australia. The great Australian actor Rod Taylor agreed to be the star, as well as Barry Humphreys and others. In 1997 the movie, Welcome To Woop Woop, was released.
The opening scene showcased brilliant Australian cinematography by Mike Molloy, and although the movie is based in the outback, they chose to open with stunning images of New York City, with about six Sulphur Crested cockatoos flying along near-empty streets. It was magnificent. Sadly, no-one told the audience about the reason for the film … and no-one told them to wait until after the credits to see the end of the film. The innovative ending was a world first, but no-one got it. So it bombed. Now you can’t even get a DVD of it. Which is a pity. As a time-capsule of the Australian Language before it became Americanised, and as a showcase of Australian cinematography it stands alone. And the real stars? For me it was the screaming, squawking Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. The loud, destructive, cheeky Aussie mimics who live for about 60 years, choose a partner in their first few years, and stay together for life. If you have a second, check out this incredible photo essay about a crippled female Cockatoo and her boyfriend, courtesy of photographer Julius Bergh, HERE

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