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Wing Walking on a 747! – A Trip to Longreach, Australia, on Qantas

Wing Walking on a 747! – A Trip to Longreach, Australia, on Qantas

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Old Dec 29, 11, 10:32 pm
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Wing Walking on a 747! – A Trip to Longreach, Australia, on Qantas

Wing Walking on a 747! – A Trip to Longreach, Australia


Looking up to the nose of the 747 at Longreach

This report features the following:


- Qantas Club Sydney (Domestic Lounge SYD T3)
- Qantas Boeing 767-336 to Brisbane in Economy
- Qantas Club Brisbane (Domestic Lounge)
- QantasLink Dash 8 Q400 to Longreach, Queensland in Economy
- Albert Park Motor Inn, Longreach
- Qantas Founders Musueum, Longreach
- The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Longreach
- QantasLink Dash 8 Q400 to Brisbane in Economy
- Qantas Boeing 767-338 to Sydney in Economy



Background

Ever since I was a small child I’ve always been fascinated by the Boeing 747. Before the Airbus A380 came out, it was the largest commercial passenger aircraft in the world, and arguably remains the most loved. I can remember my first flight on a 747. I must have been about 10 or 11. My parents had surprised my sister and me by announcing a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. They did this about a week before we were due to fly out (from Gatwick) so we were very excited! I’d only ever flown on short trips before, on single aisle aircraft. I don’t actually think that I was aware that we’d be flying on a 747 until we reached the gate. I remember being unable to comprehend the size of the thing, and I certainly couldn’t understand how it was able to get off the ground. It was a great flight, one of many to come on British Airways. I do remember my Mum speaking to the crew to ask if both my sister and I were able to visit the cockpit, which we did. There’s a Polaroid kicking around somewhere of us all in the cockpit, in flight (unlikely to happen again anytime soon).
Roll forward 20 years and I've had the pleasure of sitting in every cabin on this fantastic aircraft but I haven’t been able to visit the cockpit again and certainly I've not had the opportunity to climb into one of the engines, get up close and personal or wander around the cargo hold. These are all things that I knew it was possible to do; I just needed to plan a trip to do it.

There are several locations around the world where an aviation enthusiast can explore a 747 including (the places that I know of):

- The Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace at Le Bourget, France
- The Teknik Museum at Speyer, Germany
- Qantas Founders Museum, Longreach, Australia


I’d never managed to book a trip to the two locations in Europe during the whole time of living there, but now that I’d moved to Sydney, Australia and hadn’t made any plans for the Christmas break, the ideal opportunity arose to take a trip out to Longreach, the birthplace of Qantas.

I banded this idea around my friends and it turns out that there was a fellow enthusiast in the midst. So, it was to be, we’d take 3 days in December, between Christmas and New Year to travel out to Longreach, and fulfil a dream for both of us, to clamber all over a 747!


Why Longreach?

Well, Q.A.N.T.A.S. was founded at Longreach by Paul McGuiness, Hudson Fysh, Fergus McMaster and Arthur Baird, operating out of a hanger at the airport. The original hangar is still at Longreach today and forms part of the Qantas Founders Museum. The museum tells the tale of the founding and history of Qantas and has several aircraft in it’s collection, including the first jet aircraft for Qantas, the 707 as well as a 747-200 which was donated by Qantas in 2002.

If you’ve ever travelled on a 747 with Qantas, you might have noticed the word ‘Longreach’ on the side. Well, this is in reference to Qantas’ birthplace.


Longreach painted on every Qantas 747 in service

For me, the main attraction is the 747, with the opportunity to get up close and personal with this amazing aircraft and even walk out on to the wing!


Route



Longreach happens to be quite a small town, located in the middle of the Queensland outback, approx. 1200 km (740 miles) from Brisbane. Getting there from Sydney meant taking a flight to Brisbane and then connecting to a Dash 8 operated flight to Longreach, with a small stop in Barcaldine along the way.
Here is the full routing:

- Sydney T3 (Domestic) (SYD) to Brisbane Domestic (BNE): Qantas (QF), Domestic Economy (Y), Boeing 767
- Brisbane Domestic (BNE) to Longreach (LRE) via Barcaldine (BCI): Qantas (QF), Domestic Economy (Y), Dash 8-400
- Longreach (LRE) to Brisbane Domestic (BNE): Qantas (QF), Domestic Economy (Y), Dash 8-300
- Brisbane Domestic (BNE) to Sydney T3 (Domestic) (SYD): Qantas (QF), Domestic Economy (Y), Boeing 767



Sydney to Brisbane on Qantas

Just before the trip, it was Christmas, and just before that I had the pleasure of the company of Moomba for a couple of days before he headed off to be with his family for Christmas. I was lucky enough to convince my friend to take us out sailing on the harbour on Christmas Eve in his 23ft yacht. The weather was fantastic, beautiful sunshine, about 25 degrees and around 10-12 knots, perfect for a nice, relaxing sail. I think that it's fair to say that we all enjoyed it. Then Christmas happened. It was ok although I felt petty homesick. Australia just doesn't have the build-up that the UK does. I decided that next year I would fly home for Christmas.

Anyway, skip past boxing day, nothing much happened. On the morning of the 27th I was up nice and early, around 6am in order to catch the 08.35 flight to Brisbane. I'd packed a little the night before but still had a few last minute bits to sort out. I had already check in online the morning before, securing 23A at the front of the economy cabin on the 767 and then 3D near to the front of the Dash-8 to Longreach. Qantas doesn't allow seat allocation on the Dash-8 prior to check in, so I had to wait until then to select my seat. I advised my friend of my seat number but he wasn't able to secure seats near to me for himself and his wife, probably due to his lack of Oneworld status. Not that it mattered too much though, as we'd see each other before during and after the flight anyway.

It was a warmish day in Sydney, perhaps around 22 degrees by the time I was up. I was aiming for the 07.09 train from Milsons Point, changing at Central and getting me to the Domestic Airport at around 7.35. I scrambled out of my flat and made it to the train on time.


Milsons Point station


As you may expect on the day after Boxing day, there was hardly anyone around. I made the 07.09 train and after a quick change at Central, I arrived as planned around 7.35. Quite a few people had gotten onto the train at Central, armed with suitcases. I wondered if this was actually going to be a busy travel day.

After getting some cash out (thinking that it would be difficult to get cash at Longreach) I headed up the escalators to the check in area. As I'm sure you know by now, Qantas has replaced 'human' check in desks with electronic machines. These are pretty easy to use, and you can always go and see a real person at a real desk if you need to. There are plenty of Qantas staff roaming around to help people with the electronic machines if people are not familiar.


Flight information in the departure hall


Looking towards security

I checked in, using the machine, checked my seats and then printed my luggage tag. I've got the hang of this now, as the first time was quite tricky. I made my way to security and although it was quick I got the usual 'bomb' check. By 07.50 I was in the Qantas Club lounge and settled down towards the front of the lounge where there are views of the arriving aircraft, plus it's quieter.


My spot

I went off to the main food area to get some toast and apple juice, as I’d not had any breakfast yet. The Qantas Club offers a continental breakfast, with cereal, toast and pastries, fresh fruit and tea and coffee. The lounge wasn’t too busy, perhaps only around 30% full. I can’t imagine what it must be like on a Friday evening.


DIY toast


Toast and juice

As I sat, I was able to see a few longhauls come in, including a shiny looking Asiana 777 and a United/Continental 747 (in the new, ugly, boring livery).

It was getting close to boarding time, so I spent a few minutes wandering around the lounge taking some snaps. It can be quite difficult doing this, because a camera is always treated with suspicion. I usually attempt to get photos with people looking away, or buried in their newspaper. Full frontal face shots aren’t very polite!

As I have described previously, the lounge is rather large. It is separated into four or five main sections, including the central atrium which has the main food service area, reception, a small news agency, seating and the work centre. To the left and forward is the main bar with seats facing large screens showing the news and sometimes sporting events. Moving forward is the area where I like to sit, a large row of chairs, facing the runway. To the right is the children’s corner and then moving on down from that is the work centre. Moving further back is a large seating area and a second work area, bar and food service area. It’s a rather large lounge, comparable in size to the Melbourne Qantas Club.

Here are the photos:


Children’s play area


Looking outside, a 767 being pushed back


Central seating area and the news agency


The main food service area


The main bar area


Secondary (arguably bigger) work area


Large seating area, looking back into the lounge


Looking down on a 767 at a gate

At 08.20, I left the lounge and made my way to gate 3 for boarding. This was already underway and there was a long queue. Qantas has recently introduced priority boarding, however, it is only for Business Class passengers and those holding a Qantas Platinum or Oneworld Emerald card. As a BA Silver card holder (Oneworld Sapphire) I had to join the main queue.

The aircraft that I’d be travelling on today was VH-ZXA, the first ex-BA 767 to be received by Qantas in 2000.

Last edited by matthandy; Dec 29, 11 at 10:46 pm Reason: Minor corrections
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Old Dec 29, 11, 10:33 pm
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Sydney to Brisbane in Economy with Qantas

Flight: QF510
Carrier: Qantas
Aircraft: Boeing 767-336 - VH-ZXA
Scheduled Departure time: 08.35
Duration: 1h 30m
Scheduled Arrival time: 09.05
Class: Economy
Seat: 23A (front row of economy) (seat plan)


VH-ZXA at the gate

The queue moved pretty quickly and I was soon welcomed on-board by the CSM at door 1L. She used my name and pointed me in the direction of my seat. I find that a welcome by name is something that happens pretty consistently on Qantas, regardless of the route. I don't understand why for example, BA fails to do this often, even when travelling in First!

I stored my bag in the overhead locker, not before extracting my iPad and placing it in the pocket in front of me. 23A is a bulkhead seat, right at the very front of the first economy cabin on this configuration of the 767. There are only two rows, and these are reserved for Qantas and Oneworld elites.


My seat, 23A


Legroom

As you’d expect at the bulkhead, legroom was good. I’ve sat in this seat before, on VH-ZXB, all the way to Perth.

As the other passengers made their way on-board I was joined by an Asian family, with who I assumed to be the son and husband sitting next to me.

At 08.35, the Captain announced that we’d be leaving shortly. The weather was ok in Brisbane, a bit cloudy. We were expecting an on-time arrival.

I could hear that the doors were closed at about 08.40, with the air bridge detached shortly afterwards. However, we didn’t actually push back. A couple of minutes later the air bridge was re-attached. I could see that some paperwork hadn’t been handed over to the crew, so this was rectified and we quickly pushed back afterwards at 08.45, ten minutes behind schedule.

As we made our way out the runway I was able to catch a few interesting photos including a newly painted Virgin Australia 737-800.


A QF 767 reflected in the terminal windows


Qantas 747-400 operating to Perth


Virgin Australia 737-800 with a recently arrived BA 777-200 in the background

We took off from the Easterly runway (16L) out over Botany Bay. The take off was pretty smooth, with a short take off roll.

The seat belt sign was off quickly, and ten minutes after take off the crew came around to offer a morning ‘refreshment’. I’m not sure what the cut off is for a breakfast flight, but this wasn’t one. The refreshment was a bag with water, a nut bar, a cookie and some mints. Not exactly substantial, but it was ok. Tea and coffee was offered, although there was no general drinks service. The crew seemed ok, but not particularly friendly or pro-active. The man next to me had to ask twice for two cups of hot water for his relatives after being fobbed off by the first crew member (she didn’t listen and thought that he just wanted tea for them).


Take off - Sydney Container Port


Take off – Sydney coastline


Climbing through the clouds


Morning refreshment

The man next to me asked for tea for himself and then subsequently drank the milk UHT sachet and had the tea black. He couldn’t keep still for some reason and slipped off his shoes and stuck his bare feet up against the bulk head. A few minutes later he got up and fetched an eye mask from his bag, slapped his face a few times, put on the eye mask and attempted to dose. Not sure what the slapping was supposed to achieve!

At 08.35 Brisbane time (Queensland is one hour behind New South Wales as they don’t bother with Daylight Savings Time) the Captain announced that we were about to start our descent. He said that we should expect a bit of turbulence as we made our way into Brisbane. We were expected to land at 09.05, on time, although we’d be slightly late after taxiing to the gate.

We came in over the city and those on the left hand side of the aircraft (like myself) were able to get a full view as we made our approach to the runway.


Brisbane CBD

The descent was a bit turbulent, but not as bad as I had been expecting. We did have quite a bumpy landing though and the brakes were applied very sharply.

We were on the stand at about 09.10, just 5 minutes behind schedule. I collected my things and was soon off the aircraft and out into the terminal. I’d not been to Brisbane for some years so I was a little bit lost to start with. However, the overhead signs managed to direct me to the Qantas Club, where I was to spend the next hour or so waiting before boarding the flight to Longreach.


Verdict

A pretty standard flight, nothing really stands out to be honest. The snack was a little disappointing, I’d expected a little more, although it was adequate for the short flight. The man next to me was a little strange however!

Last edited by matthandy; Dec 29, 11 at 11:01 pm Reason: Minor corrections
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Old Dec 29, 11, 11:49 pm
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Great report. Very good detail. Made me feel like I was at the SYD domestic terminal!

I know many Australians are dismissive of QF's domestic short/medium haul product...but compared to anywhere else in the world, overall, it is about as good as it gets.
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Old Dec 30, 11, 2:04 am
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The Qantas Club - Brisbane

The Qantas Club is located down the corridor from gate 22. There was no queue as I entered the reception area. A friendly agent checked my boarding pass and welcomed me inside. The styling of the lounge is the same as Melbourne and Sydney, with wood panelling and the same furniture.

The lounge is spacious, and like the other lounges, split into smaller sections, although overall, it is about half the size of the Sydney lounge.

The main area houses the bar, the food area and a work bench. There is a proper work centre in the middle of the lounge, with several meeting rooms around the outside. There are seating areas around the outside of the lounge.

On offer this morning was the same as the Sydney lounge. Juices, soft drinks, toast, creal fruit etc.

On with the photos:


The bar area


Work bench, coffee and magazine racks


The food area

The lounge was reasonably busy, so I didn’t manage to get any other photos, as that would have meant pointing a camera directly at people.

A Sydney flight got called, and the lounge quietened down slightly.

I set up my iPad and watched a bit of ER whilst texting my friends to see where they were. We discussed trying to get them into the lounge. I had an allowance for one guest, and we thought about asking for another, but didn’t feel it was worth the hassle in the end.
They arrived at the airport at about 10am, checked in and then headed to the coffee bar at the food hall in the middle of the departure area. After a quick catch up we headed down to the gate area at about 10.30 (the flight was due at 10.50).

All QantasLink flights leave from a separate gate area which is downstairs from the ‘jet’ gates.


QantasLink Gate Area

We sat down and waited for boarding. Several Dash-8 aircraft could be seen outside. I wasn’t sure which one was going to be ours. I was quite excited about this flight. The Dash 8 – Q400 wouldn’t be the smallest commercial aircraft that I’d flown on, at 74 seats, but it’s always interesting to fly on a turbo prop.

At 10.45 boarding was called and we started to queue at the door. Our boarding passes were checked and then we headed out to the tarmac.

Last edited by matthandy; Dec 30, 11 at 3:53 am Reason: Minor corrections
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Old Dec 30, 11, 2:06 am
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Brisbane to Longreach in Economy with Qantas

Flight: QF2532
Carrier: Qantas
Aircraft: Bombadier Dash 8-Q400 - VH-QOX
Scheduled Departure time: 10.50
Duration: 2h 20m
Scheduled Arrival time: 14.00
Class: Economy
Seat: 3D seat plan)


VH-QOX on the apron


Loading the bags


Boarding

We had a short walk to the aircraft, the route was marked out on the apron for us. I was on-board at 10.45. My first impressions were that it seemed like quite a new aircraft. A bit of research discovered that it was actually only two years old. It seemed reasonably spacious inside, although not as much as the ATR-72 that I flew on in New Zealand. That felt like it had ‘proper’ airline seats whereas this seemed a bit more cramped.

The configuration was 2-2, although window seats had compromised leg room, due to the curvature of the aircraft. I’d secured seat 3D, a window seat on the right hand side of the aircraft. Row 3 is in front of the propeller, so I wondered what the noise might be like. I’d say that if you want to avoid the engines, then rows 4-13 are not for you. I stowed my bag in the overhead locker (it just fit, with a bit of pushing) and sat down, whilst boarding carried on.


Cabin overview


Seat 3D


Legroom – not bad, but note the restricted space near my right foot


Pitch – 31” apparently, although it seemed to be better than that

We pushed back at 10.57. The aircraft seemed to be about 75% full. I was lucky enough to have a spare seat next to me, as were my friends in row 14, so they were able to spread themselves over two rows.

The engines didn’t seem as loud as I thought they would be. A recorded safety demo was started, with a manual demonstration of the seat belt and life jacket. Interestingly, I don’t remember any discussion about oxygen masks, maybe that is just my lack of memory, or something to do with the fact that we cruise at an altitude that doesn’t require them? Maybe someone more knowledgeable can confirm.

The Captain came on at 11.10 whilst we were taxiing out. The flight time to Barcaldine was expected to be 1 hour and 40 minutes and then Longreach would be 15 minutes flight time after that.

We took off at 11.15, after waiting for a couple of other aircraft to take off. We took off in the opposite direction to the way we landed on the 767 earlier. I suspect that the wind must have changed.

Take off was quick, loud and powerful. In fact, I should say, very loud!


Aircraft on-stand at the International Terminal


Climbing out of Brisbane and into the outback

It took quite a long time to climb to our cruising altitude of 24,000 feet. All the time, the engines vibrated the aircraft. The noise was quite intrusive and I wondered if the crew had to wear ear plugs.

I stretched out and set up my iPad. My headphones helped to block out the noise of the engines.

We were supposed to get a ‘refreshment’ on this flight and I wondered what it might be. At 11.25 the two crew members came around offering a snack box. It was actually quite substantial. There was a savoury muffin, several biscuits, dried fruit and tropical mix. The crew brought the drinks trolley up to offer soft drinks. I asked for a coke.


Snack box

We had quite a bit of turbulence at around 12, which is interesting in such a small aircraft as we really got shaken about.

Looking out of the window, I was surprised to see that it was rather green outside. I was expecting this part of the world to be a bit drier and redder.

The rest of the flight was mostly uneventful, until 12.50 when the Captain came on to announce that we had started our descent into Barcaldine. I packed everything up in preparation for landing. The crew made an announcement for passenger about what to do when we landed. Those going on to Longreach had to remain on board. We landed about 10 minutes later, with a huge sweep over the mostly barren landscape to line up to the runway. The airport seemed like it was in the middle of no-where. It was possible to see the runway from quite a distance away.

The landing was quite hard but we pulled up quickly. Wow, is this the smallest airport ever?!


Barcaldine – A tin shed!

We pulled up at the ‘terminal’ and were met by the ground crew. There was a full complement of staff, even though this airport only had one arrival/departure each day. The staff were even wearing full Qantas uniforms. The bags were off-loaded from the forward hold and then the new bags were re-loaded. There are two holds on this aircraft, one at the front and one at the rear. This means that the bags can be separated. Passengers boarding at Barcaldine would be going onwards to Brisbane as the aircraft lands and Longreach before heading back.

I got up and walked to the back of the aircraft to see my friends. The cockpit door as open so I was able to get a quick snap. I thought about asking if I could get a proper photos but the crew seemed rather busy, so I didn’t bother.


A view from the back of the cabin


The cockpit

At 13.20, all of the new passengers and bags were loaded. I had managed to keep the seat next to be free. We taxied the length of the runway and then turned around and took off. Again, it was very loud and powerful.


Turning around


Take off from Barcaldine

The seat belt sign remained on for the entire 20 minute flight to Longreach. The distance by road is only 105 km. Our approach took us away from town and we landed from the North East, towards the airport terminal. It was a pretty turbulant landing by all accounts and it was obvious that there was a little bit of a crosswind.

By 13.50 we’d made it to Longreach and pulled up to the terminal, almost directly in front of the original Qantas hangar. Luckily, there was a little more than just a tin shed at Longreach airport, so waiting around for the return flight in a couple of days would be comfortable enough.

We were able to dis-embark at about 13.55. The first thing that I noticed upon leaving the aircraft was the heat. Wow! It was about 40 degrees outside, compared to 20 or so in Brisbane. Quite a shock!


Disembarking


Disembarking

I made my way into the terminal and waited for my friends. We all had bags to collect so started looking for the baggage re-claim. There’s no belt here, you simply step outside and the handlers bring the bags around on a trolley. As we did so, we could see the familiar 747 sticking it’s nose out over the bushes, spying on us.


Nosey


Collecting our bags

After we grabbed our bags it was time to walk to the hotel, the Albert Park Motor Inn, which was just across the road from the airport.

Verdict

A very interesting and enjoyable flight on this little Dash 8. It was pretty comfortable, the leg room was good, although it would have felt more cramped if the seat next to me was taken (I’d discover this on the return flight). The food was pretty good, better than what I got on the Sydney to Brisbane flight. The two cabin crew were friendly enough. Landing at a small outback airport such as Barcaldine was also a great experience. It made me realise how much the people that live there rely on the flight to keep them fully connected with people in the cities.

The only thing that I didn’t like about this flight, or this aircraft, was the noise. It was really very loud indeed. If I get the chance again, I’d like to try a different position, to see if it is quitter down the back.


Coming Up

A day at the Qantas Founders Museum including:

- Sitting in the cockpit of the 747
- Wing walking
- Climbing down into the avionics bay and cargo hold
- Standing in one of the engines
- Flexing the wing by doing some pull-ups
- Playing cabin crew!
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Old Dec 30, 11, 4:20 am
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Thanks for the first part of your TR to Longreach, very interesting, did not realise how close your local station is to sydney bridge, what a good pic that was. Loved all the other photos, and now look forward to your visit and your comments on the musuem.
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Old Dec 30, 11, 4:51 am
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I must say this is probably your best TR so far, although i have not seen the rest!

Great job with all the details to go with excellent photos. I cannot wait to read and see the rest of the report.
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Old Dec 30, 11, 4:59 am
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longreach trip

Another great tr Matt, I enjoyed your last trip to UK and look forward to Christmas 2012.

Dash-8 the flight attendants always wear the uniform. Your flt. seemed to be a bigger plane than what I used to take when working in Outback and flying Charleville-Roma-Bne. Can't say I enjoyed the flts. as much as you did on your outward trip. I used to wear my bose h.p's just to block out the noise as I didn't have them turned on but one trip was told to take them off for 'security reasons' even tho. they weren't on.

Haven't made it to Longreach, not far from it, and look forward to the rest of your trip. Good to see you are taking advantage of your time in Oz. to explore.
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Old Dec 30, 11, 5:15 am
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Originally Posted by NYBanker View Post
Great report. Very good detail. Made me feel like I was at the SYD domestic terminal!

I know many Australians are dismissive of QF's domestic short/medium haul product...but compared to anywhere else in the world, overall, it is about as good as it gets.
Thanks NYBanker. I have to agree, the domestic product is pretty good, although Virgin other some stiff competition, they are just getting stronger and stronger. Australian's love to bash Qantas, it's almost a national sport. I suppose it is similar to BA bashing that happens in the UK.

Originally Posted by BA5E View Post
Thanks for the first part of your TR to Longreach, very interesting, did not realise how close your local station is to sydney bridge, what a good pic that was. Loved all the other photos, and now look forward to your visit and your comments on the musuem.
Thanks BA5E! Yep, Milsons Point is just across the harbour. I can walk to the Rocks in about 25 minutes. It's a great location.

The rest is coming up soon, I'm working on it at the moment. Just sorting through the 100's of photos that I took!

Originally Posted by UA_Flyer View Post
I must say this is probably your best TR so far, although i have not seen the rest!

Great job with all the details to go with excellent photos. I cannot wait to read and see the rest of the report.
Steady on UA_Flyer, I haven't got to the good stuff yet .

Originally Posted by parsonstrish View Post
Another great tr Matt, I enjoyed your last trip to UK and look forward to Christmas 2012.

Dash-8 the flight attendants always wear the uniform. Your flt. seemed to be a bigger plane than what I used to take when working in Outback and flying Charleville-Roma-Bne.
Thanks parsonstrish. There should be another trip to the UK in the works around May time as well as my Emirates F flight to Auckland next week, so you'll have something to read before Christmas next year!

It was actually the ground crew uniforms at Barcaldine that surprised me. Such a professional set up for such a small airport.

We were on the Q400, the largest of the Dash 8 aircraft in the fleet (74 seats). On the way back we had the smaller, 50 seat 300 series and it definitely felt more cramped.
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Old Dec 30, 11, 7:27 am
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Albert Park Motor Inn



We’d all booked in to the Albert Park Motor Inn which is located almost directly opposite the museum. There was a bit of an issue with booking, as I had tried to book online at Expedia.com.au. About a week before the trip I got an email saying that my booking had been rejected by the hotel as I’d entered incorrect card details. I knew that this wasn’t right so I phoned the hotel directly. They stated that bookings made on some websites don’t go through properly, but didn’t explain why. Anyway, it wasn’t an issue as I made a booking directly with the hotel and advised my friend to do the same.

We arrived at about 2pm and were able to check in straight away with the friendly lady at reception. She informed us that the restaurant was closed until the New Year, which we knew about. However, they would be putting on a BBQ that night around the pool area between 6 and 7. She also told us that there was no hot breakfast available, so it was continental only. We filled in a pre-order sheet and handed it in. The breakfast items would be delivered that evening. There was a fridge in each room, so everything would be fresh for the morning.

I arrived at my room to find it rather hot so I immediately got the air con working. There was a very modern remote controlled system that seemed to do the job.

The room was dated in style, but in good condition and clean. I had no complaints. This was the outback, so five star luxury was not to be expected, in fact, it would be weird!


My room


My room


The pool

I spent 30 minutes or so settling in before heading to the pool for a swim. The pool was a bit nippy, but it helped cool me off.

The evening was spent by the pool, until the BBQ started up. There was a feast on offer. For $22 it was all you could eat. It included steak, sausages, home made burgers and chicken skewers as well as a selection of hot sides like dauphinoise potatoes, cauliflower cheese and cold salads. It even included a selection of desserts and ice cream. It was fantastic. We had a nice bottle of red wine with dinner before heading to my friend’s room where they had brought a nice bottle of Bollinger with them. We did discuss whether we should have that with dinner but eventually agreed that we’d look like pretentious city types if we did, so we decided against it! We tucked into the champagne before getting an early night. BBQ and Bolly, what more could you want?


The Qantas Founders Museum - QFOM



This was it. I was so excited. It was like Christmas again, but a good Christmas, when you still believe in Father Christmas and actually can’t sleep due to the excitement of it all.

I woke up at about 8am. We’d agreed to meet in reception for 10am. We were booked on the 11am tour, so we’d have a bit of time in the museum before doing the tour. My biggest fear for the day was rain. The weather had been variable, with rain in the early afternoon the day before. The forecast suggested that there might be a shower, but thankfully, none came.

I made myself breakfast (a toaster is supplied) and got ready. I met my friend and his wife in reception and we headed over to the museum. It didn’t seem very busy and I hoped that we’d end up with a small tour group. We were warmly greeted at reception by Kylie, who turned out to be our tour guide. My friends opted for the full works tour, but minus the wing walk. I wanted to do the whole lot, which was quite expensive at $125, but that included tours of all of the aircraft on display, the wing walk and entrance to the museum. And besides, this was the only place in the entire Southern hemisphere where it is possible to walk out on the wing of a 747!

I’m going to split up this part of the report into lots of different sections, because there is so much to write about and there are many, many photos.

The Museum and Original Hangar


The Original Hangar

We had about 45 minutes before the tour started so we headed to the museum and the hangar first. The hangar has been restored to it’s original form, and stands in the very same place that it did back in 1920 when four pioneers started up QANTAS with a single Avro 504K aircraft.


Replica DH61 Giant Moth – Used from 1929


Replica DH61 Giant Moth – Used from 1929

In the hangar was a replica DH61 Giant Moth aircraft, which would have entered service around March 1929. It carried 7 passengers and was significant, because it was the first Qantas aircraft to be fitted with a toilet!
We were able to climb inside and look around. It was very cramped indeed.

Also in the hangar was the ticket office and a number of engines and work spaces, indicating how the airline operated in the early years.

Next, we made our way into the museum and spent some time looking around. There were lots of displays, including engines from the 747 and 707 as well as a replica Avro 504K aircraft.


Avro 504K - Those of you who are observant will know that there is another replica of the Avro 504K sitting in the Qantas check in hall at Sydney Domestic Airport


A real, original 747 engine used on the 747-200B


Secrets of the 747 Tour

We all met in reception at 10.55, in preparation for our 11am tour. There was a small group of only nine of us, which was perfect. The guide, Kylie, told us that yesterday they had a group of about 35. That seems like way too many to me and I was glad that we had such a small group.

We started by heading over to the aircraft display area. Contrary to what I had previously thought, you cannot even look around the outside of the aircraft unless you are part of an organised tour, because the whole display area is protected behind a locked gate.


Walking up towards VH-EBQ – A Boeing 747-200B

The tour started at the nose of the 747 with our guide explaining the various bumps and lumps and can be found underneath the aircraft. She started off by pointing out the lavatory service hatch and then started on the various antennae. It was also interesting to note the TCAS detector, a round disc with holes in it attached to the top and bottom of the aircraft to warn of proximity to other aircraft.


Nose landing gear


ATC antenna

Looking up, she then talked about the pitot tubes which measure air speed as well as another external indicator which measures the pitch of the aircraft in flight.

She also pointed out the cabin air intakes, which open and close automatically, approx. every 13-15 minutes during flight. Then there was the water outlet, which heats up and vaporises and excess water which is drained from the passenger cabin, such as left over tea and coffee.


Pitot tubes for measuring airspeed – there are four on a 747


Cabin air intakes and the liquid vaporiser

What I found very surprising is how low the aircraft was to the ground. I’m not very tall but it was perfectly easy for me to touch the underbelly. All of the hatches underneath the aircraft were at a normal height for someone to open without any assistance.

We then moved on to the wing, and the engines. Each engine weighs around 6300 kilos, and there are of course four of them on a 747. The engines are attached by just four bolts at each mounting point on the wing. The wings themselves where then explained. The wing span on the 747-200 model is 59.64 metres and various attennae can be seen along the wing’s edge. In addition, there is a fuel dump outlet at the end of each wing. This can dump around 90 tons of fuel in 20 minutes or so.


2 x Rolls Royce engines on each wing – the nearest showing the ‘reverse thrust’ position


Edge of the wing

A volunteer was asked for an my friend was encouraged to step forward. The guide instructed him to take hold of the back of the engine cowling on the outermost engine and push up and down to try to get the wing to flex. I was amazed to see that it did, and it was actually quite easy!


Flexing the wing – using a 747 for doing pull ups


Overview of the underneath of the wing

At this point we all had our photos taken standing in the engine cowling. It was quite weird, as this is something that you’d certainly not get to do on a working aircraft.


Me – standing inside engine number 3

Last edited by matthandy; Dec 30, 11 at 8:19 am Reason: Minor corrections
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Old Dec 30, 11, 7:28 am
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We then moved back to the landing gear. There are 4 main sets of landing gear on the 747, and one nose gear. Each of the main gear assemblies has four tyres. The guide explained that each tyre cost around $5000 new and with 18 tyres on the aircraft that’s almost $100k in rubber alone.


Main landing gear


Main landing gear close up

We then moved on to the rear of the aircraft to inspect the rearmost cargo hold. There are three holds on the 747, one at the front of the wings, one at the middle-rear and one at the very rear. Actually, the rearmost hold is more like a separate section of the middle-rear hold. The guide explained that whilst all of the holds are pressurised, it is only the rearmost hold that is heated. This hold is designed for oversize articles and other special items such as animals.


Walking to the rear hold


Access to the rear hold and cabin through door 5R


Inside the rear hold

Whilst it was very interesting to see the rear hold, I was a bit disappointed to see that it was full of junk that had been removed from the aircraft. It would have been better if the hold was kept clear, so that people could see it as it would normally look.

This concluded our tour of the outside of the aircraft.

Last edited by matthandy; Dec 31, 11 at 1:08 am
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Old Dec 30, 11, 8:16 am
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After we had finished with the rear hold, we made our way to the very back of the aircraft and up the stairs to board.

Several rows of seats had been removed, as well as the ceiling panelling above the cabin so it was possible to see the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, otherwise known as the ‘black boxes’. The guide played a short video, which was presented by a former Qantas 747 captain. He explained the role of the black boxes and why they were placed in the tail of the aircraft.

As we looked up, it was also possible to see the rear pressure bulk head and some of the hydraulic cables leading to the tail.


Boarding


The ‘black’ boxes


Rear pressure bulkhead

As we looked around, our guide made her way up to door 3L and waited for us. I made my way slowly forward, exploring as I went. This aircraft is as big as I remember it. It possibly seemed larger inside due to the 2 class configuration, with large economy cabins. The aircraft was configured with 360 economy seats (including some on the upper deck) and 48 business class seats.

As we moved forward I spent some time looking at the galleys as well as where the overhead and floor panels had been removed, revealing their secrets. Above the cabin is a really rather spacious area containing various ducts and electrical wiring as well as carrying the hydraulic control wires.


Looking forward


Galley ovens


More galley equipment


Side and floor cutaway


Up above the passenger cabin


Up above the passenger cabin – you can clearly see the hydraulic control wires from the cockpit here

We arrived at door 3L to find that it had been stripped down to reveal it’s workings. The same captain was presented on a video that explained how it worked. Apparently, the slide raft is an Australian invention.
The guide also explained the green paint that could be seen everywhere. Apparently it was zinc based, presumably to avoid corrosion. Around 350 kilos of paint is used on the inside and around 750 kilos on the outside. Quite a lot of weight!


Door 3L – stripped down

The tour guide then gave us a few minutes to have a look around the middle sections of the cabin, whilst she moved forward into the nose.

I took the opportunity to act as cabin crew and sat in the crew seats at door 4R. I was apparently on the phone to the captain explaining that we had a passenger who didn’t like chicken or beef but hadn’t bothered to order a vegetarian meal. I was asking for permission to restrain him .

In the middle of the cabin was a solitary oxygen mask. I’ve never seen one before, and honestly, I hope that I don’t see one again.


Me, playing crew


Oxygen mask


Looking back, somewhere between doors 3L and 4L
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Old Dec 30, 11, 8:17 am
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As we entered the nose section, our guide explained that the radome was sitting behind the wardrobe in front of us. She also talked about the fact that the cockpit was directly above us. The overhead panel had been removed and it was possible to see all of control wires culminating at this point.

Despite the fact that there are two independent hydraulic systems, it is quite unnerving to see the bare wires, just running through the holes in the struts like that!


Underneath the cockpit


Business class – in the nose


Business class – in the nose – you can just see the hatch to the avionics bay in the bottom right hand corner of this photo


Looking back from door 1L all the way to the rear of the aircraft, probably around 50 metres or so

Our friendly guide Kylie continued to provide commentary. She mentioned the rather obvious hatch in the floor, just in front of door 1L, in the aisle between the seats. She explained that this hatch is used to access the avionics bay as well as the winch handle to manually lower the nose landing gear. Apparently the 747 can land without it’s main gear, but cannot do so safely without the nose gear, hence the handle. It would take around 40 minutes to lower the gear in the event of an emergency. Enough time to burn off some of the remaining fuel I suppose. We wouldn’t actually visit this area of the aircraft on this tour, but would do so on the ‘wing walk’ tour later.

We then made our way up curved stairs to the famous upper deck.


Spiral staircase


That means you!

The upper deck on this 200 series aircraft was rather small. I’ve flown on the upper deck on the 747-400 many a time and it is positively spacious in comparison. It may just be my perception, but the upper deck on the 400 seems wider and has a higher ceiling, with less curvature. In addition, overhead bins are installed.

Kylie popped on a video that explained some of the elements in the cockpit plus how they went about actually landing this aircraft at Longreach. A 747 normally requires a runway that is at least twice the length and width of the one at Longreach. The landing was practiced in a simulator and the crew actually ended up crash landing at least 29 times. Eventually it was figured out that the aircraft was just too heavy. The engineers set about stripping it out and coming up with a plan to carry as little fuel as possible. There would only be enough for two attempts at a landing before it would have to be aborted. As it happens, the landing went very smoothly, and the captain was so confident, he dumped the remaining fuel and cut two of the engines before touching down.


The upper deck – watching the video


The upper deck galley, including the cart lift and cart storage areas

After the video, we proceeded forward into the cockpit. On the way where the two upper deck emergency exit doors. I didn’t get a photo, but they seemed very small and the slide mechanism rather complicated. It was on a rail that had to be moved into position before opening the door.

Before the cockpit on the left hand side was a set of bunk beds, and on the right, a ‘crew only’ toilet, which actually backed on to the passenger toilet which was at the top of the stairs.


Crew bunks


Looking down the stairs


Looking back at the upper deck cabin

The cockpit itself wasn’t very large and it felt quite dated. After all, this aircraft was built in 1979 and it was before the Flight Engineer’s position was made redundant, so the FE’s panel was clearly visible.

On entering the cockpit, I wanted to get a shot of the emergency escape hatch. Here, the crew can escape out of the hatch by using intertia reels, located on a rack opposite the hatch. The hatch is also opened up and used to fly state flags when important people are on board. I would return to the cockpit later, for a more detailed look on the ‘wing walk’ tour.


Emergency escape hatch


Flight Engineer’s panel and the First Officer’s seat

After that, we all made our way down the stairs and out through door 1R to the ground, in preparation for the 707 tour.


The view from door 1R


See you later

That's it for this part - more to come later including a vist to the avionics bay and the actual wing walk itself

Last edited by matthandy; Dec 30, 11 at 8:31 am
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Old Dec 30, 11, 8:40 am
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Fantastic photos and story. Thanks for sharing. Your report brings back some very good memories of my trip to Longreach in 2003 or so.

Do you know if the wing walk is a relatively new thing? When I took a tour of the 747, I can't recall a wing walk being offered then.

Also, as a complete aside, I notice that your report indicates a feature on the The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame. Do you know if they are still showing the introductory video in the theater that includes, as I recall, some music with the lyrics of something like "We are the Pioneers"? If so, any idea who sings that song or what the name of it is?

Thanks again for sharing....
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Old Dec 30, 11, 10:59 am
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Awesome photos so far. I really envy this beast! I remember taking a 747-400 in economy on Singapore airlines way back in the late 80's. I tried walking up the stairs but the FA motioned me to go back to my seat (probably F/J passengers up there!)
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