Saturday, 5 May 2012

Day Twenty Three - The End

Day 23 is the last day of our holiday (technically). It's the day that we packed up and boarded our return flight home on Qantas Flight QF12. However, this flight wasn't scheduled to depart until 2220h, so we had a whole day up our sleeve, and our travels home would take almost a day in itself. Like our last holiday, our final day in LA was dedicated to last minute shopping. What that meant was that I shuttled Maureen to various shopping locations around LAX, while I spent the day taking photos of aircraft (sorry Angela).

Anyone who is interested in aircraft photography knows that there are two Meccas for us to visit, they are (1) Princess Juliana Airport, Saint Maarten in the Dutch Antilles (that's the airport where people stand on a beach as aircraft fly at an altitude of oh, say about 10m above their heads, it's also the airport where crazy people get blown away by jet-blast)...

... and (2) the In-N-Out Burger Restaurant at Westchester directly adjacent one of LAX's main runways. Obviously, we went to location two.

At this location, you sit in comfort, eating Burgers, Fries and the occasional Shake whilst huge aircraft like the A380, and B747s, etc fly over very low and very slow; ideal for photography. So, here's a selection of pics that I and Kyle took. You won't be able to work out who took what, because Kyle, (like Schuyler) is a pretty darn good photographer.

The second-best aircraft we saw today.

Check out the bird near the RH Wing.

This bird decided to change its patch to avoid a collision.

Don, I hope this makes up for my lack of DC-8 recognition at Palmdale. I think that this is the first DC-8 that I have seen flying since as long as I can remember.

During the mid-afternoon, I recieved an early Birthday present from Maureen and the boys. It was a GoPro HERO 2, HD video camera, designed as a very compact rough and ready unit that takes great HD videos and 11 Megapixel stills. I first heard about the GoPro when my friend Dominique posted about them on her Facebook page. Here's what it looks like...

...and here's my first ever attempt at using it right out of the box:

After we finished for the day, we headed into LAX Airport at a distance of less than half-a-mile. We got in early enough to avoid the queues and our passing through check-in, customs and security was seamless, although Joshua had to undergo a explosives test. Actually, we did have a minor hiccup in that we went to the wrong Terminal. We went to terminal 4, when we were supposed to go to terminal 3 (or the Tom Bradley Terminal), no real biggy, it just meant a walk of around 100m back up the road. 

We camped ourselves at the Qantas Club, where the boys immediately got their WiFi fix. Schuyler, Maureen and I wandered downstairs to check out the Duty Free Shopping and our aircraft. The Duty Free shopping was almost non-existant and our aircraft was a Qantas A380, VH-OQA. For the uninitiated, VH-OQA is the exact aircraft that almost crashed when its Number 2 Engine suffered an uncontained failure inflicting damage to the nacelle, wing, fuel systemlanding gear, flight controls, and to the controls for engine No.1. It had only returned to service after undergoing a major repair to the tune of US $145M covering four new engines, 6km of wire changes and vast structural repairs.

Our aircraft.
We boarded the flight on time (2200h), but were delayed a little over half an hour due to passengers arriving from ajoining flights. The flight took a little over 14 hours and was much more comfortable in comparison to our flight to the USA on the B747. The A380 has a communal snack bar, better seating in economy, better seat pitch (equals increased leg room), better entertainment system  and is much quieter. We all managed to catch a fair amount of sleep (>6 hours), except for Schuyler, who was determined to push the entertainment system to the limit. Here's a short GoPro video that Schuyler took during the flight (note how quiet the aircraft is):

We arrived in Sydney at 0631h on Saturday 05 May 12, which means that for us, 04 May 12 was pretty much non-existent due to us flying East to West. The flight landed about 20 minutes behind schedule due to the earlier delay. We picked up our Rental Car and headed straight home arriving at around 1100h local.

All in all we had a great time, we met some great people along the way, especially the likes of Ted and Sal (and great conversations with Don over the phone from Anchorage, Alaska), but I would suggest the holiday was little bit too busy as well. I actually feel like I need to have a holiday to recover from our travels. It is great to be home, sleeping in our own beds and finally taking the weekend to relax and unwind. 

I sure hope you enjoyed our holiday blog, and I have really appreciated the numerous Facebook comments along the way..


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Day Twenty Two - Los Angeles and surrounding areas

Day 22 was our penultimate day in the USA. Noting the lack of airplane action on day 21, I thought I should make amends. First stop was the Western Museum of Flight at Torrance. Last time we were here, this was the first place we visited.This time, we were in for a treat because they had the YF-23 on display (which was missing last time). To me, this is the aircraft that should have been chosen over the YF-22 in the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition on sheer looks alone. One thing I also noted this time was the research library that they have at this Museum, there are thousands of books on aircraft, just a staggering collection. 

Also, about half a mile South of the Museum site stands a YF-17 Cobra, which was a contender in the original Light Weight Fighter competition against the YF-16; and a F-14 Tomcat. Here's a selection of pics:

The fantastic YF-23.

Schuyler getting a feel for the Pilot's seat.

...and again.

The one-of-a-kind YF-17 Cobra, which ultimately led to the development of the F/A-18 Hornet

Next stop was about 60 miles to the North to a place called Camarillo to a Confederate Air Force Museum. We intended to visit last time we were here on our drive down the West Coast between San Francisco and LA, but unfortunately, we passed through on the only day of the week that they are closed. This time, we did our research. We met up with a fantastic Docent called Jim (not as fantastic as Ted, though) who gave us a guided tour. The standout exhibit from my perspective was the Curtis C-46F Commando and we were given an up-close tour inside and out. We had a great discussion about the aircraft's fantastic capabilities and how some are still in operations around the world. The aircraft in question hasn't flown for around a year due to funding issues, but they are hopeful to get it up in the air soon. I would loved to have stayed and chatted longer, but even aircraft Museums have closing hours. Here's some pics:

Some of the stuff inside.

The C-46 Commando.

The Commando Cockpit and our great Docent Jim.

Another inside view.

Next stop was Hollywood, past the walk of fame for a whistle-stop visit. Strangely, our names weren't there, there must have been a mix up somewhere. Dinner was back in Torrence at a Restaurant called Pho '99 (soon to be changing its name to Pho Kobe (as in the Beef, not Mr Bryant from the Lakers). This Restaurant was good enough for me to make a special mention on this Blog, because price-wise, friendliness and food quality-wise, it was fantastic. LA residents or visitors should take note. 

Day 22, concluded with much packing and weighing of suitcases and boxes.

Day Twenty One - The City of Angels and the Baseball of the Angels

After a long day of driving on Day 20, we took a fairly relaxed pace in the morning, catching on some last minute shopping. As it stands, baggage allowance would appear to be a potential problem, but Maureen assures me that everything is under control. Personally, I am thinking Lavoisier's Principle of Mass Conservation which states that mass in an isolated system (our suitcases) will remain constant over time. 

One of our morning activities was a visit to Staples Center, in the heart of LA. The Staples Center is the home of the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA Basketball), Clippers (NBA Basketball) and Kings (NHL Ice Hockey). For Kyle, this was like visiting Mecca as he is truly a very one-eyed Lakers Supporter. Here's some pics at Staples Center:

Another of our stops was the Best Buy Store at El Segunda, which was our first stop on this holiday, so we feel as though we have now come full circle. Lunch was also at El Segunda at a place called Sam's Woodfire Pizza and it was great.

In the afternoon, we drove towards Anaheim which is the location of the Angel Stadium of Anaheim and home to the mighty Anaheim Angels Baseball Team. To be honest, I think that this was the first Baseball Match we had ever been to. Sure, we have all played Baseball at School and in the back yard, but actually watching a live match...nope. 

So on to the match which was between the mighty Anaheim Angels (I only say 'mighty' because I bought Angels' merchandise) and the Minnesota Twins. Thankfully, the Angels beat the Twins four - zip. As for the match, we had a great time and the atmosphere was very family-orientated. 

Driving home from the game reinforced that I am becoming quite adept in driving the LA freeways. It seems that every freeway, leads to another, so I think I counted seven freeways that took us from the Stadium to our Hotel near LAX.

Here's some pics from the Baseball:

Check out these crazy Aussies at the Baseball. Note the Monkey Hats (?)
Looking like a true Angels supporter.

Here we are ready for the match.

The view towards the Left.

The view towards the Right.

Some dude who plays for the Minnesota Twins.


A Twins Pitcher giving it his all.