Saturday, 24 January 2015

DAY 45 - Home Sweet Home (Aka The End)

Hi y’all and welcome to the final Blog for our holiday coming to you from home.

Our Aircraft
Shouldn't someone be out there checking on the fuel pump?
This day started at around 0020h at Terminal B, Gate 55 at LAX as we sat in rows 64 and 65 onboard flight QF108, a Boeing B747-400 (VH-OJM). We were supposed to be pushing out for our departure at 1150h, but were sitting on the ground for an extended period due to a faulty fuel pump being detected. The mechanics were dispatched and apparently got the problem sorted, allowing us to depart only a half-hour past our scheduled departure time.

Some more night shots as we waited for our flight

After an extremely long taxi to our take-off runway (a actually thought we were going to drive to Sydney), we lifted off crossing the west coast almost immediately and continuing south westwards, homeward-bound. I watched an Australian Movie called ‘The Little Death’ which was really quite funny, before getting some sleep. I was briefly woken by the noise of a late night supper being served, but I pressed on with my sleep, managing to get around six-seven hours of fairly light sleep.

Whilst I was sleeping, Schuyler tried his hand at night photography outside the aircraft's window achieving some great results.

Tracking south of Hawaii, midway across the Pacific Ocean
On the negative side, I placed my glasses on magazine carrier of the seat in front of me hooking the side arm over the seat pocket. Somehow I must have inadvertently knocked my glasses out and onto the aisle where they were probably stood on half-a dozen times and finished off by the Supper Service trolley. The frames were cracked and one of the hinges broken, so it would be a slightly blurry remainder of the flight (as my other glasses were in a bag in the cargo hold).

Kyle and I. Tired and glasses-less
Around two hours before our scheduled landing in Sydney, the Captain announced that the previously repaired fuel pump had become unserviceable early in the flight, meaning that they didn’t have access to all of the fuel tanks and accordingly, had less fuel. But they had pressed on hoping to make changes to the route and cruising altitude. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough fuel to reach Sydney and elected to divert to Brisbane for a quick refuel (or more correctly a splash and dash), before heading off on the one-hour flight to Sydney. This meant that we were more than two hours later than our scheduled arrival time.

About to land at Brisbane
About to land in Sydney
On arrival at Sydney, clearing customs and emigration was pretty straight forward, although the queue for passengers with goods to declare (some wooden items we purchased) was not only long, but completely disorganised. We then collected a Rental Car from Avis. We needed a Rental car as there was no way that both our luggage and children could all fit into the Captiva, besides it would make it easier for me to collect the Captiva which was in long-term parking at Victoria Army Barracks in Sydney.

So Kyle and I headed out in the Rental Car to Victoria Barracks to collect the Captiva, Kyle would drive my Captiva and I the Rental. We then headed back to the airport to collect the remainder of the luggage and family before heading off on the 260 km drive back home. Again, Kyle drove the Captiva with Maureen and Schuyler onboard and Josh and I in the Rental. We managed a short stop in the outskirts of Sydney for fuel and lunch, as well as an emergency bathroom stop about one hour into the drive.

We finally arrived home at around 1530 h and commenced the unpack of the cars before taking the Rental car to Canberra Airport.

Again a big thank you to Steve, Margo, Sal and Ted for your generous time, help and the sincere warmth that you showed us.

Thanks to Steve, ...
...Margo, ...
...Sal, ...
 ...and Ted
Also thanks so much to Pop for your help when we departed Australia.

I also appreciate the lovely comments received on this blog. It’s been fun (but very time-consuming) to write up and I hope you enjoyed it. My plan is to actually turn the blog into a photo-book (both text and pictures) as a keepsake of our holiday.

So, that’s it for our holiday, it goes without saying that we had an awesome time.


Friday, 23 January 2015

DAY 44 - It's The Final Countdown

Hi y'all, and greetings from the One World Business Lounge at LAX. I guess this means that technically, we have left the USA (I think).

Today was a very relaxing day in preparation for our 12 hour haul back to Sydney, followed by a two-and-a-half hour drive back to Canberra. We essentially did two things today after splitting into two groups; the Shoppers and the Spotters. Kyle and I became the Spotters after we dropped the Splitters (sorry, I meant Shoppers) at Westfield Culver City for one last retail therapy fix.

The weather was beautiful today and perfect for spotting. This is probably reflected in the 450 photos I took today; but, thankfully I will spare you having to see the majority with just a select few dozen.

After the two groups had rejoined we headed back to the airport where I dropped off the family at Terminal B and returned our trusty Rental Car. I did make one expensive mistake though, I forgot to refuel the car before returning. Let's just say that Hertz Fuel prices are not currently at an all-time-low. After rejoining the family we then checked in the 9 pieces of luggage. Our limit for each piece was 23 kg (around 50-pounds) and I swear that six of the nine were 23-point-something kilograms. But we managed to get away with it. Whew!

Clearing security was as usual, no one said the 'B' word, so all was good. Josh didn't manage to get the free pass that he was accustomed to.

As soon as we arrived we checked into the One World Business Lounge and started to organise some leisurely showers to freshen up for our flight. We might be noisy, but we certainly aren't stinky. Afterwards, I headed downstairs to try my luck at some night shots around the terminal.

Well that's it for this, the penultimate blog for our holiday. I promise one more blog for our experiences on the return journey home. For those who are interested (Mel, you know you are) we are on flight QFA108, LAX to YSSY which is a Boeing B747-400 VH-OJM

DAY 43 - I-OW-A Big Thank You To Ted

Hi y'all and welcome to today's Blog which is also (again) brought to you from Los Angeles.

Today was technically our last full day here in the US as tomorrow we are heading back home at 2355 h. Our plan for today was pretty simple, meet up with my friend Ted at the USS Iowa Museum in San Pedro for a tour, and anything else for the rest of the day.

The drive to San Pedro from our hotel in Hawthorne was a daunting 20 minutes, with no rest stops. We arrived at the Battleship USS Iowa Museum around 0945 h-ish and Ted arrived shortly after. Whilst waiting, we gave Josh some driving time in the car, but was restricted to the Museum's carpark.

Ted is a previous volunteer with this museum and was involved in the ship's refurbishment to a state in which it could allow tourists onboard and he also undertook Docent duties as well. We really appreciated that Ted took some time out of his busy schedule to give us an insight into this great ship.

Ted and I

The giant Battleship USS Iowa makes for a pretty impressive background
The Battleship USS Iowa is essentially a ship that's sole purpose is to carry three large gun turrets, each housing three 16-inch cannons.  She is the lead ship in her Class (the Iowa-Class ships) of which there are three; Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri and Wisconsin and was launched in 1942. She served in WWII, the Korean War and the Gulf War, being decommissioned four times and recommissioned twice before finally (or should I say currently) being struck from the Navel Vessel Register in 2006 allowing her to become a Museum ship. Much of her refurbishment was undertaken in San Francisco before being towed down to San Pedro, just south of Los Angeles in 2012. Ted actually had an opportunity to be onboard for its final repositioning in San Pedro.

As I mentioned, the ship is built around three gun turrets housing three 16-inch cannons. The turrets are able to spin 300 degrees at a maximum of four degrees per second. They could also travel vertically up to 45 degrees and down to minus five degrees. The cannons are 50-feet long and could fire a projectile up to 27 miles. A single projectile weighed in at 2700 pounds which is equivalent to the weight of a jeep (plus passenger). She is taller than the Statue of Liberty and weighs in at over 57 000 tons. The turrets were each operated by a team of 79 men and weighed more than many other ships die to the 17 inch thick steel armour protection that was part of their design. In later years Tomahawk and Harpoon Missiles would be added to it's weaponry and self-protection systems such as Phalanx Guns also added.

One of USS Iowa's three turrets...massive

Kyle stands next to a 16-inch projectile

USS Iowa's battle honours

One of the many walkways throughout the ship

Joshua, Maureen and Schuyler checking out a playful Seal swimming nearby

The Bridge is also protected by 17-inch armour plating. Imagine trying to steer this ship by looking through those tiny viewing slits

One of the Phalanx Anti-Missile/Aircraft Guns can fire 3000 rounds per minute

One of the ship's Chaff Dispensers for its self-protection
We all had a great time at the USS Iowa and Ted's great commentary ensured that we had an increasing audience as we progressed on our tour. As the tile says, we owe a big thank you to Ted. Thanks mate!

Next we headed to the nearby Western Museum of Flight at Zamperini Airfield in Torrance. The Museum is very small and a little bit cluttered; but, it contains one of only two Northrop YF-23 Stealth Fighter prototypes, the sole remaining Northrop YF-17 Cobra which eventually was developed into the very successful F/A-18 Hornet and a Northrop JB-1 Flying Wing. The museum is located at the site at which the famous aircraft company Northrop started.

The Western Museum of Flight

The YF-23 was the aircraft that lost in a competition against the YF-22 for the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition. Many believe that this was the better aircraft of the two competitors.

Northrop YF-23 Gray Ghost

The YF-17 Cobra was pitted against the YF-16 in the Lightweight Fighter competition - the YF-16 won and went on to sell thousands in the USA and many overseas Nations. The US Navy became interested in the YF-17 and said that if there were some modifications made to the YF-17, they may be interested. The modifications were made and the aircraft was developed to become the F/A-18 Hornet of which Australia purchased 75 examples.

The Northrop YF-17 Cobra future development led to the F/A-18 Hornet

The JB-1is one of only three flying wings designed by Jack Northrop remaining on public display.

Northrop JB-1 'Bat' Flying Wing Glider

The Western Museum of Flight also has a Grumman F-14A Tomcat, Northrop F-5A and a North American F-86 Sabre and numerous other aircraft and artefacts.

Grumman F-14A Tomcat

Northrop F-5A

The F-5A's Cockpit

This gives some idea of the clutter of this museum

North American F-86 Sabre

Not many people get excited by things like this artefact; but I do

We then headed back to Amoeba Records near Hollywood so Schuyler could get his last vinyl-fix. Whilst there I managed to get to the roof of a nearby carpark to capture a spectacular sunset looking towards Santa Monica as well as reflecting off the buildings in downtown Los Angeles.

Amoeba Music Record Store

The view towards Santa Monica

Downtown LA

Finally we headed to Santa Monica for dinner again at Bubba Gumps as well as a rematch Basketball shooting competition in the games arcade on the Santa Monica Pier...which I'm pretty sure I won.

Funky drinks at Bubba Gump Shrimp (Prawn) Restaurant

The Basketball shooting rematch
Well that's it for this blog and again a big thank you to Ted. Today is officially our last day in the USA before we head off tonight. We are planning some last minute shopping as well as some hours of spotting at the In-N-Out Burger at LAX.

Oh and importantly, a very big Happy Birthday to Marion. Love ya Sis!