I was watching Nope again the other night. I thought it was really cool that the UFO could go from dead slow to a sonic boom in about two seconds flat. See the end of this clip, sorry about the ads. I think Nope is a great movie, but I won’t say any more in case I spoil it for you. However I will say this: I wish we had planes that could move like that. I say that because of our recent family holiday in Australia. Our daughter lives there, and is now a citizen. We’ve been saying we’ll go see her for years, and finally got round to it at the end of March. That’s when my wife and I plus our two sons flew from Heathrow to Sydney via Singapore. We were on Qantas flight QF2, in a double-decker Airbus A380:
Airbus A380 image from Qantas A380s in 2023: Routes, Fleet & Retirement Plans – KN Aviation by Keishi Nukina
The departure time was 8:55pm, which was good because it meant we could get some sleep. What wasn’t good was that the overall flight duration was 23 hours 5 minutes, and we had to be at Heathrow 3 hours before departure. It’s 2 hours drive from Poole to Heathrow, hence to allow for traffic we had the airport taxi pick us up at 3pm. That was 6 hours before departure, and with 1 hour at the other end, the total journey time was 30 hours. Sigh. That is not family-friendly flying.
What a hassle that was
Something else that wasn’t family-friendly was Heathrow Terminal 3. It was scruffy, grey, and industrial. We had to check our own bags even though the tickets cost £6,249.84. What a hassle that was. Then after we went through security, the departure lounge was overcrowded. It was all low ceilings and no windows, with long queues at every place to eat. It was not a good start. But eventually we were at the gate, then boarding, then cussing at the selfish gits who block the aisle taking forever to put their hand luggage up. Then after a long taxi to the end of the runway, the engine noise rose and we felt the acceleration that took forever before we finally took off. Then we were climbing away into the night, then the seatbelt signs chimed, then the cabin crew were coming round with the airplane food and wine. The London to Singapore leg was 13 hours. It was not a good experience. The seats were cramped and the in-flight entertainment was disappointing, plus there was friction when people tilted their seats back. On top of that the toilets were an issue. There were constant queues, and the cubicles were super small. You’d think they could do something about that in a plane as big as an A380, but I suppose Qantas want their 484 seats. However we managed something like a full night’s sleep, the breakfast was OK, and we were feeling OK when we landed in Singapore at 5:00pm local time. We had a two-hour stopover to allow for refuelling et cetera. Unfortunately we didn’t feel like we had enough time to take the Skytrain to the Jewel Changi, but such is life:
Jewel Changi CCA 4.0 International image by Supanut Arunoprayote., see Wikipedia Commons
Soon we went through security again and got back on the plane again and took off again. It was like we’d experienced a very short day, and had another night flight. We slept some more during the 8 hours to Sydney. Hence when we arrived at 6:10am local time, we weren’t jetlagged at all. We had however lost a day. It was Sunday went we set off, and it was Tuesday when we arrived. One of our Mondays was missing.
You could see the deviation from the great circle route
Overall I’d say the journey went as expected. It’s said to be 6,765 miles from London to Singapore, and we were doing circa 570mph. That works out at under 12 hours, but you have to add extra for the take-off and landing, and for the detour south of the Ukraine. Then it’s said to be 3395 miles from Singapore to Sydney, which at 570mph works out at under 6 hours. However we flew about 1800 miles almost south from Singapore to somewhere near Karratha on the nose of Western Australia, then we doglegged south-east and flew maybe a further 2200 miles to Sydney. You could see the deviation from the great circle route on the in-flight map. I’m not sure why we deviated so. Perhaps it was to avoid some weather.
Nobody told me Sydney is a suburban tropical paradise
Anyway, we got to Sydney, collected our baggage and breezed through immigration, then as soon as we stepped out of the terminal we said wow. There were palm trees and tropical plants everywhere, plus unfamiliar bird sounds. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and there was a freshness to the place that was a total contrast to Heathrow.
Sydney airport image courtesy of Google street view
Soon we were in a maxi cab on the way to Bondi. We were pretty amazed by the greenery and beauty of Sydney. I’d always thought it was going to be a disappointment like some of the other famous places I’ve been to, but it was the other way round. Sydney is a suburban subtropical paradise full of parks and parrots and exotic plants. For example on the M1 from the airport to the city centre, there are trees everywhere, just about all the way:
Sydney M1 image courtesy of Google street view
I’m sure there are some not-so-nice places in Sydney, but I didn’t see any. Instead I saw golf courses and waterways and lakes and villas and gardens and shrubs and flowers and trees. Even the bindweed was beautiful. Check out Google maps and click your mouse on the little yellow man, then drag and drop him anywhere you like. What you see is greenery. It’s the same for Bondi Beach. Bondi has a good beach, and we had a good view of it. It’s not as good as Poole of course, but hey, we’ve all got to make sacrifices:
The water was however lovely, and the food was good too. It was all very homely. In some respects it felt like a parallel-universe England, like the Moscow in A Rough Draft. Especially since the Moon is upside down and the Sun goes the wrong way across the sky. Anyway, we went on a variety of trips such as a bus ride to the impressive CBD, where we took in Circular Quay, the Opera House, the Royal Botanic Garden, and the Harbour Bridge, which is absolutely massive by the way. I watched a double-decker bus go over it, it looked like a dinky toy. We also went to the Blue Mountains on a double-decker train, and took a FastCat ferry trip to Manly, which is actually better than Bondi. We also rode the ferry to Rose Bay, and Watson’s Bay. I really liked Watson’s Bay:
Watson’s Bay image from Cathy Jacob’s Watson’s Bay, At Last | Jacob Over-Under Tour 2012
Another nice trip was the walk down the coast path to Coogee Beach. There’s a succession of sandy coves down the coast, such as Tamarama, Bronte, and Clovelly, all very beautiful with chine-like parks. Everywhere you go there are myna birds, rainbow lorikeets, cockatoos, kookaburras, and lots more, including Australian magpies. The “complex, musical, warbling call” of the latter “is one of the most familiar Australian bird sounds”. I am reminded of the jungle sounds at the end of Aeon Flux. Very nice.
The plane banked hard to the right
Something that wasn’t so nice was our flight to the Hamilton Island resort in Queensland. It’s about a thousand miles straight north of Sydney. We’d been flying for just over an hour when the plane banked hard to the right. We were in a Jetstar Airbus A320, a much nippier plane than the A380.
Airbus A320 image courtesy of Jetstar
Even so, that banking turn was fierce, and I knew something was wrong. I saw the cabin crew scurrying around at the galley area near the front. They looked worried. Then the pilot announced that we had a technical issue and would be landing at Brisbane. It turned out that there was a water leak in the galley, and they were afraid it would affect the cockpit electrics. Fancy putting the galley next to the cockpit. But thankfully an engineer with a monkey wrench fixed it, and we got to Hamilton Island before nightfall:
Hamilton Island pictures from Booking.com and Tripadvisor
Hamilton Island is a tropical paradise with hotels and luxury houses. It’s “one of the only islands in the Great Barrier Reef with its own commercial airport”. You drive around in golf buggies. I was reminded of The Prisoner. It was great fun. Fun fact: the Great Barrier Reef is not as colourful underwater as in the pictures. They take the underwater pictures with superbright lighting to make it look like that. Hence and our semi-submarine ride and our snorkelling session in the stinger suits were somewhat disappointing.
Then the nightmare really began
Boeing 737 image courtesy of Qantas
But when we were flying home a few days later things were not fine. We got to the airport in good time for our 3:10pm departure, but at 2pm people started getting texts saying the flight was delayed until 4pm. We tried to find out what was happening but there were no Qantas staff anywhere. Then at 3pm the flight was delayed further until 6pm, though by this time the Qantas desk was manned. A polite but firm lady told us there was a technical fault with the plane, and they needed a replacement part which was being flown in. That’s all she would tell us. Was it a wheel? An engine? A wing? Is the plane safe? She wouldn’t say. Needless to say the issue was not resolved by 6pm. We were getting close to an overnight hotel stay when thankfully our Airbus A380 pulled up at the gate at 9pm. Halle fucking lujah. We took off about forty minutes later. Then the nightmare really began, because of the kid. The kid was maybe two, and was obviously accustomed to getting his own way, because when he didn’t, he shrieked, and he shrieked all the way to London. At one point I asked one of the air hostesses if it was possible to buy an airplane seat where there were no screaming children, and she gave a weary shake of the head. The poor woman had to put up with crap like that every working day.
Misery for ‘abandoned’ BA passengers as flight delayed for 26 hours in Spain
So, we finally got home, and talked about our bad experience. We learned that it was all too common. The wife’s sister had her plane from Denmark cancelled. A mutual friend had to spend two nights in a hotel at Istanbul airport, and then take a flight to Bristol and a coach to Gatwick before driving home to Poole. Recently there was a news story entitled Misery for ‘abandoned’ BA passengers as flight delayed for 26 hours in Spain, and another one entitled Holidaymakers’ fury as easyJet leaves them stranded for DAYS. The situation is not good, and it seems to be getting worse. Flying is not as good as it used to be. Before we got married I used to get a regular Friday night flight to Brussels. I lived in London then, and would nip down to Gatwick in half an hour, then buy a ticket at the desk and walk onto the plane five minutes before take-off. After we got married we used to go on PalmAir holidays from Bournemouth, where Peter Bath would see us off and we’d be in our Mediterranean hotel for lunch. The joy of flying was for real in those days.
The Qantas centenary safety movie tells you about a hundred years of aviation history. At 3:35 the hostess says welcome to Australia, and welcome to the 1960s, also known as the Jet Age. Qantas were the first non-US airline to fly the Boeing 707. That was in 1959, only 39 years after Qantas began with biplanes in 1920, and 64 years ago. Whilst flying is now more affordable, the future isn’t what it used to be, because fundamental physics has failed us. Aircraft have not developed much, and sadly, Concorde is long gone. That’s why I was pleased to see the news article about Boom Supersonic, but their proposed Boom Overture will only have 65 to 80 seats. It will also be expensive, and will have a range of only 4,890 miles.
Boom overture image courtesy of Boom Supersonic
Aircraft ranges are normally given in kilometres, and 4,890 miles equates to 7,870 km. The distance from London to Sydney is 17,016 km or 10,573 miles, so the Boom Overture isn’t going to cut it. The Boeing 777-200LR has a range of 17,395km, see the top 10 longest range airliners in the world. However it apparently turned into a white elephant because it wasn’t efficient enough. Which is why Qantas are flying Boeing 787 Dreamliners non-stop from London to Perth. That’s a distance of 14,498km or 9,008 miles, and the flight time is given as 16 hours 45 minutes.
Take the Qantas Leap – London to Sydney non-stop
The people at Qantas are of course working on the big one. I can imagine the blurb now: Take the Qantas Leap – London to Sydney non-stop. It’s called Project Sunrise, and they’re talking about late 2025 and a 19 hours 18 minutes flight time. The Quantas website says they “challenged Boeing and Airbus to deliver an aircraft capable of ultra long-haul flying”. it also says the Airbus A350-1000 was chosen as the preferred aircraft, and 12 aircraft were ordered in May 2022.
Airbus A350-1000 image courtesy of Airbus, see Flightradar24
I suppose they plumped for the A350 because there’s been reports of problems with the Dreamliner, which is a bit sad. Meanwhile I’m sure everybody is looking forward to knocking four hours off the trip, and hoping it isn’t too expensive.
There is however an elephant in the room, a fly in the ointment, and a Nigerian in the woodpile. It was brought home to me by the billboards at Sydney airport talking about their commitment to net zero by 2030. That really is pie in the sky, because there’s a thousand flights a day at Sydney airport. There’s a plane taking off or landing every 40 seconds. In similar vein the UK government wokerati are talking about a 2040 zero emissions airport target. They call it Jet Zero, FFS. These guys are so wrapped up with their precious virtue-signalling that they utterly ignore the bleeding obvious: overpopulation rather than climate change is what’s causing deforestation, desertification, habitat loss, mass extinction, and mass migration. The population of the planet is increasing by circa one billion every 12 years. But they won’t tell Greta Thunberg the inconvenient truth: instead of saving the planet for the children, we need to save it from the children, and all their hungry little mouths eating all the elephants. That’s because Net Zero is just a reverse-Robin racket that takes from the poor and gives to the rich. A racket that is making our lives worse, because the only way an airport is going to get to Jet Zero is to ground all the planes. Sustainable aviation fuel is no good. They’d have to cut down all the jungles in the world to grow enough palm oil. And even then, all those planes would still be pumping out megatons* of kerosene exhaust at 40,000ft. How can they tell you to lose your gas boiler and your petrol car when it’s fine and dandy to pollute the upper atmosphere? When air travel worldwide is likely to double over the next two decades? You can see what’s coming. Air travel is going to get a lot more expensive, and the number of passenger miles is going to go south. That’s what they’ve got planned for you. Bye bye Jet Age.
We need better planes
This is why we need better planes. Planes that use a better technology. You might think electric, but I think it would be more proper to say electromagnetic. We are talking about vertical take-off planes. Planes that do not contain batteries weighing tons like a Tesla. Planes that can rise up into the air like a dirigible. Then keep going up through the air to a place where there is no air. Then they’d slide around the curve of the Earth to get to Sydney in four hours, not nineteen. And for the cherry on top, these planes wouldn’t be pumping out any exhaust, because they wouldn’t be burning 250 tons of fuel. It’s all rather similar to what I was saying in Back to the Moon. I have now tidied up the garage, and now I have work to do.
* See Commercial airlines: worldwide fuel consumption 2023 which mentions 95 billion gallons in 2019. I make that 296 million tons. By the by, cruise ships caused more pollution than all of Europe’s cars last year.