Wow. Spectacular, amazing and breathtaking. Some of the simple words I would use to describe today.
I was one of the very fortunate 150 passengers on QF787, the Great Southern Land Scenic flight that Qantas sold out in about 10 minutes when it went for sale.
The morning started on 10 October 2020 with passengers requested to arrive at the airport by 8.30am. Boarding started at 9.45am for a 10.30am departure. Departure gate and arrival gate at Sydney was Gate 10. A number of formalities took place at the Qantas Business lounge, where all passengers were served breakfast, drinks and given a set of pyjamas to wear on the flight. There was also a drinks station serving alcohol with Australian natives. For a Qantas flight it was interesting this stall used an old Ansett Australia trolley cart to serve the drinks off.
Anyway, moving to the food, we were served a bacon and egg roll. Not long after 9.30am the formalities started, with Jim Wilson being our MC. Jim Wilson, an Australian TV presenter now works for Channel 9, but was formally a sports presenter with Channel 7. Jim gave a quite thorough run down of the flight today, spoke with one of the Captains who gave a big run down of the flight path for the flight. Then, we had an auction for some 747 memorabilia. The items on auction were a 747 intercom phone, call panel, Exit sign. Other items included 2 787 flight simulator experiences and a NT experience. All up the auction raised over $12,000 for charity. Not bad for a 20 minute (if that) auction. Prior to boarding we were given entertainment by a member of Icehouse Iva Davies, singing two songs, one of which was 'Great Southern Land' and Shannon Noll, who also performed at the gate as we boarded. The Captain explained that the plane was actually woken up from her sleep last week to do this flight.
I boarded 'Emily' or Yam Dreaming, the Qantas 787 Dreamliner registered VH-ZND, MSN: 63390, Ln: 669 and took my seat in 51A. This was luckily my second flight on the 787, with my first one on VH-ZNC. The flight, QF787 then pushed back at about 10.35am with takeoff towards the south and then going around the city. We were warned by the flight crew that the power would cut so we could climb to 3000ft instead of 5000ft, standard so we weren't alarmed (I don't know the exact term but yup, the captain wasn't wrong, we were climbing and then the engines didn't make a sound). Hearing those engines roar to life during the take off was a sound I missed! Emily was woken up only a week prior to the flight and the crew did a test around Sydney the day prior. Firstly, we turned right over Kurnell and then headed around ANZ stadium before tracking through Darling Harbour before heading out and taking a left near Bondi before tracking north. Our tracking of the flight as per www.flightaware.com. As you can see we didn't climb very high only on certain bits where we were getting to our next destination.
The flight headed up north past Newcastle, and then up to Byron Bay via Ballina. We snaked our way up the coast before heading to the Gold Coast where we saw the beaches. The weather was amazing. After the Gold Coast we headed up to the Great Barrier Reef. We saw multiple places along the way, one of which included Whitehaven Beach. We flew over heart reef (which is very small) before eventually finishing up near the reefs and heading to Hamilton Island. Hamilton Island was only really seen on the right hand side. Once we finished looping around the reef and islands (apologies if they weren't in the right order), we headed to Townsville, before turning left heading inland to Mount Isa and then to Uluru via Alice Springs. Once we turned left after Townsville we were served lunch, created by Neil Perry. The food was amazing for economy class food. The time taken to Uluru was about 2 hours. We also watched the movie 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood'. It was timed quite perfectly. Once we finished we were over Alice Springs. Then came probably the highlight of the day, Uluru. The weather was perfect and we flew as low as about 1800ft (Uluru itself is already elevated. Captain Lisa told us it was about 1800ft once we took everything into consideration). Everyone on the plane was amazed. Others were more worried about people on the ground thinking we'd be crashing because we were so low. Throughout the whole flight the altitude was a lot lower than normal. A very amazing experience flying so low. Pictures really didn't do it enough justice.
After doing a few loops around Uluru and the surrounding national park, we then headed back for Sydney. Really powering up the engines, we cruised for the best half of 90 minutes before being told we are about to start our descent to Sydney. On the way back to Sydney we were treated to the movie Jumanji the next level. Scenery was breathtaking the whole day and flight. The entertainment on the plane was provided by the Pathfinders people, varying from a Austin Powers inspired parade to a sneak peak new line of apparel appearing on the Qantas Store website next week. Throughout the WHOLE day we were given commentary by the flight crew. Very valuable and insightful. We were also given a commentary by experts of the National Park and also the Great Barrier Reef.
We landed on the main runway at 7.09pm to claps and applause. We made our way back to Gate 10 before everyone slowly but surely disembarked. All up we were away 8 hours 26 minutes. So worth the money paid given the time away.
It was a long day, but it was so worth it. If anything it was inspiring to see what parts of Australia were like that I had never seen before. There was a bit of turbulence but you know what, no one complained. Would I do the next scenic flight? Just tell me where and when and I'll be there. I would like to thank the crew, both flight crew and cabin crew for making the day so enjoyable, memorable. Thanks also to the Qantas crew for organising the flight, Jim Wilson the MC and Neil Perry for creating the menu for the day. Everything went quite close to clockwork. To the flight and cabin crew, the professionalism and service you provided was top notch.