Wednesday, June 17, 2009

QANTAS to Singapore

When I was approached to fly to Singapore to turn around and come straight back home on the first QANTAS plane from Brisbane, my family and I had been sailing up through the Whitsunday Islands. Clueless, I stood in Nara Inlet on the deck of our gorgeous 40’ chartered cat, and rang my radio producer to see what jobs she had lined up for me for the next week back on air. She screamed "IT'S PATTY! IT'S PATTY!!" to whomever in the office.

"Blimey", I thought, "someone is happy to hear from me."

As it turns out, I had to fly to Singapore in two days time, and I quickly rang my neighbours to see if our passport was still current, (it was) and the next day I flew back to Brissy, unpacked, showered, repacked, and drove to the airport to fly out on QANTAS. We couldn’t get hubby onto the same flight at no cost, he had to pay full fare, bugger!

As we boarded, I mentioned to the Steward who I was, as I was hoping to seat my excited hubby next to me, (as it was a last minute thing) when he whisked me straight up with...."the Captain is waiting for you" on flightdeck.

What the?

I waved goodbye to my confused hubby, and went to meet the Captain, and the Navigator promptly locked my 5-point harness...for takeoff.

Oh no, I thought, do I stay here for the entire flight?

After lots of 90% boredom 10% pure fear stories, I asked to be excused and made my way back to hubby, who by now, was waving a bottle of champers at me. Smashed off his face.

"If I have to pay my own business class ticket to Singapore, I am drinking the fare in champers" he declared, and with that, he passed out. 

Upon arrival at Singapore, we were in the company of the QANTAS PR girl, and spent most of the time wandering aimlessly waiting for the plane to refuel and take off again.

We had dinner that night with the Pilots, and when I phoned Australia to see how the children were, my neighbour (who was then a chief Steward for Ansett) casually mentioned on the phone that Ansett were going to try and beat QANTAS back from Singapore; they were flying in from Japan.

Race is on!

I pass this info onto the Pilots, who immediately proceed to gear up, and the staff ring all passengers to board 2 hours earlier than intended.


We load up after a rough nights sleep (prolly 2 hours) and by now I have been awake for 'what-day-is-it' and we take off, this time, me seated next to hubby, who promptly falls asleep.

I stay awake all night (over-excited schoolgirl) and just marvel at the lights, and I follow our progress via the in-flight magazine map, clearly seeing the islands and shoreline lined with bright lights.

I simply cannot sleep, as I am very worried too about the live broadcast the next morning.

Brisbane ABC Radio have had to 'patch into' Sydney blah blah blah so that Peter can speak to me live, as well as the Pilots, via their own radio frequency.

Very tricky stuff, never been done, and I am it. *gulp.

I stare out the window for 6 hours, and finally go quietly to the washroom and freshen up as best I can, putting on my ABC Radio t-shirt uniform, aware there will be loads of television cameras there. I apply extra lippy, just in case.

Going to the Pilots flightdeck, I again take my position in the jump-seat, waiting for Mr Navigator to strap me into my harness, but he never does. Oh well, suits me, I am free to bend down and fiddle with my phone and start to make contact with the Station.

I ring, and ring. And ring.

The time is now 4.30am, and we are very, very early, as we have to beat Ansett Airlines into Brisbane. No one is interested in coming second.

Apparently the story is that when Ansett went into Japan, QANTAS stole their limelight by landing a plane painted in aboriginal artwork, so revenge is on.


Party spoilers.

But.. as it is ONLY 4.30am, I can "see" Peter and Pam just sitting there having coffee and discussing the show. They aren't expecting me until the 5.30am 'cross'.


We ring, and Ring. AND RING.

Finally the sound engineer picks up, and by now we are all hysterical, and tired. It has to be a pre-record, which is fine IF YOU HAVE THE TIME, but as Peter was also about to go to air 'live' the whole thing is just getting silly.

S.H.I.T. B.R.I.C.K.S!!

Eventually we agree not to go "live" in the plane (all that tax-payers money down the gurgle, so sorry) but to go live as we land (great, but I am more interested in actually being safe than talking to the Pilots as he lands us down).

We continue to fly and I can see another plane, and hear it - in the radar loop.

"That's Ansett" the Pilots say, and we play a cat n mouse game of up and down to stay in front of them, for over an hour. :)

As they went down to "go under us" we went down too. If they went "up" we also went up.

As we get closer to Brissy, I again wait for the Navigator, but to be honest, we are all so stressed, and running on empty (the plane took less fuel to be lighter and faster) that I don’t want to disturb him too much. As it turns out, I never did get buckled up, as I was also too busy to do anything, so we land with my nose firmly pressed into the back of the Captain.


We finally land, and I do my first cross. I am at no stage allowed to say the word QANTAS, as the ABC is non-commercial. Oh yeah? You try it. Ha!

I have been awake now for what-year-is-it? I am running on nerves of steel.

As we taxi in, I can see the television cameras, all trained on us. The fire brigade are also there, with a water cannon salute, drenching the plane and christening the flight.

I say to the Pilots "Better smile boys, there will be a lot of people looking at you on telly tonight" and so they wave and smile, and sure enough on the news that night, there are the Pilots waving and smiling, and me, waving and smiling too, seated firmly behind the Captain.

So funny! As the doors open, there is the Queensland Premier to meet me and I thrust my ever-present camera to my hubby, who is so star struck he only manages to take one photo the entire time.

Good grief.

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