On high

Wi-fi on planes is another one of those technologies which, like Falcon rocket boosters landing on drone ships in the middle of the ocean, will never cease to amaze me.

I’m currently 11,203m above the Free State, traveling at 905kph and I’m still getting 16Mbps.

The fact that I can even upload images onto the blog to show you this by pinging the pixels off a satellite tens of thousands of kilometres up above us is absolutely crazy.

To me, at least.

Now if they could just stop the plane bouncing around so much, and find some flight attendants who could smile, we’d be golden.

Long haul

We’re flying today. Total time in the air should be around 18½ hours (Cape Town is long way from anywhere), but then when you add check-ins and door to door stuff, you’re probably looking at nearer a whole day.

We could have gone on a much more direct route (and potentially avoided this), but that wouldn’t actually have saved much more than 3 or 4 hours and would have wasted half a day at the other end. It would have also cost a lot more (like almost double), and to be honest we would rather spend that money on experiences and beer than on a slightly more direct flight.

That slightly more direct flight would also be on a very old plane, instead of the shiny new ones we will be enjoying.

And although BA have now done away with their 747s, they are still running 777-200s mostly built in the last century, on the Cape Town route. Those outdated aircraft don’t offer much comfort for passengers, given that it’s their 5th longest flight at around 11½ hours.

BA’s longer flights are:
4: Gatwick to Mauritius (also on 777-200s and doubly awful because you start at Gatwick)
3: Heathrow to Singapore
2: Heathrow to Buenos Aires
1: Heathrow to Santiago

That discomfort noted, it’s worth remembering that BA have been flying to Cape Town for over 90 years now. The first flight (albeit operating under Imperial Airlines, rather than the BA name at the time) was on January 20th 1932. The distance of er… 6000 Miles… being a bit much for aircraft back in those days, there were numerous stops along the way, and the journey took 11 days rather than 11 hours.

Better book a bit more annual leave.

Dawn flight experience

Just a quick note for anyone flying at dawn. I’ve discovered something quite special.

You will need: A flight at dawn (I used FA128 CPT-JNB, but any early morning flight will work) and Ólafur Arnalds Island Songs album.

What to do: If, when you see that beautiful peach gradient beginning in the distance; that radiant glow stretching up from the horizon prior to sunrise, you switch on Ólafur Arnalds Island Songs album, you can enjoy a magical moment as the sun gently rises into view like some resplendent Nadorcott, accompanied by the mystical sounds of Ólafur and the Icelandic Chamber Orchestra.

It’s really quite something. I was lost in wonder for a few moments, and then when I glanced up again, sustained immediate and severe retinal damage. The sun comes up much more quickly than you might think, hey?

Maybe try to keep that fact in mind.

For me, flying – whether for business or pleasure – remains a special experience. This serendipitous discovery made this particular experience even better.

 

iWant

I caught the last half hour of the BBC series Planet Earth (amazing camerawork, breathtaking scenery, generally splendid) last night and now I want a Bobcat (Lynx rufus).
Much like my Mavic, they are accomplished flyers:

And you should know that hovering low over water is especially difficult due to the downward sensors sometimes becoming confused by the reflective surface beneath.

And thus, these things don’t always go to plan:

Actually, I think the faceplant makes it even more endearing, don’t you think? There’s a certain honesty to admitting that you’ve messed up and briefly surrendering in defeat – “Ah. Crap.” – while you muster your energies for the next attempt.

I want a bobcat.

ALWAYS ask for a window seat

Really? Well, that’s the advice from 500px:

You should always, ALWAYS ask for a window seat. Forget the trouble of not being able to get up to go to the bathroom, or the inability to stretch your legs.

Their argument is that you might just catch something as good as the 35 photos they share in their post. And look, those photos are good:

ws1

ws2Pragtig. Mooi. But the fact remains that there are around 100,000 commercial flights each day, and the 500px collators have managed to gather just 35 examples of amazing window seat photography (and don’t get me wrong, they are amazing).

There’s a problem with this. I’ve been doing some rudimentary calculations and assuming an average of 30 rows of seats per plane (seems reasonable, ne?), that’s 60 window seats per flight, meaning 6 million window seats per day. Even taking into account that not every flight will give the opportunity for amazing window seat photography (most routes bypass volcanoes altogether) and that not every amazing window seat photograph will be submitted to 500px, that’s not a great rate of return, is it? Because every window seat will definitely come with the trouble of not being able to get up to go to the bathroom, and the inability to stretch your legs.

So no, 500 px. I do appreciate the work of your contributors, but I’ll live the window seat dream vicariously through them while choosing to enjoy the (slightly) more comfortable leg room in my middle block aisle seat. (That’s a 6000 miles… tip right there.)