A Notable Qantas A380 & a War 40,000 ft Below

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

IMG_1761 - Nancy Bird Walton A380 542▲  Sometimes flights are interesting all the way. When I looked out from the Tullamarine Airport (Melbourne, Australia) terminal at the Qantas A380 I was about to board I could see its name just below the flight deck windows: Nancy-Bird Walton. It was the first Airbus A380 to be delivered to Qantas, named after a pioneering Australian aviator. In 2012 I posted on Qantas A380 names.

QF 32 Richard de CrespignyBack in 2010 Nancy-Bird Walton was the A380 which – as Qantas flight QF32 – soon after takeoff from Singapore had a catastrophic engine failure (an ‘uncontained failure’ in aircraft-engine-speak) which fired assorted pieces of shrapnel through the wing. The plane was nursed back to Singapore where it took more than a year to fix it, over 500 days in fact. I’ve posted on how long it takes to patch up damaged airliners as well!

So we flew to Dubai where the crew changed and who was on our new captain? Why Richard de Crespigny, the captain on that ill-starred flight in this same aircraft almost four years ago He’s even written a book about what went wrong and how he saved the day.  ►


We then had an aborted takeoff from Dubai – an unexpected computer error message – which meant we had to sit on the taxiway for half an hour while the brakes cooled down. And from there to London there was something to look at all the way.

IMG_6537 - Kuwait 542▲ First of all we flew just east of Kuwait, close enough to clearly check out the downtown area and waterfront. I visited Kuwait in 2012 and walked along that waterfront in the 40°C heat.

IMG_6543 - over Iraq▲ Then it was north over Iraq, passing close to Baghdad. Here’s the moving map on my screen.

IMG_6544 - Azwya on Tigris River, near Kirkuk 542▲ Frow where we flew north with the Tigris River just to the west of us. This bend in the river is at the town of Azwya, just west of Kirkuk. I travelled through the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq in 2006 and had some very uneasy moments as we drove through Kirkuk, a town partly under Kurdish control at that time. Azwya, and Mosul which we flew close by a few minutes later, have both been flashpoints for the ISIS takeover of parts of Iraq in recent weeks. It’s remarkable how peaceful everything looks from 40,000 feet. ‘Another glass of wine please, there’s a war going on directly below us? Oh really?’

IMG_6548 - Batman, Turkey 271◄  We continued north over eastern Turkey and there, directly below us, was the wonderfully named town of Batman.

I passed by Batman back in 2006, on my way from Diyarbarkir (just to the west) to Iraq and stopped to take a photograph of the Batman road sign. ▼Turkey, near Diyarbakir, Batman sign 542

We continued north, across the Black Sea and across Romania, close to Bucharest and just west of Transylvania – I visited both just a couple of months ago. Budapest and Vienna were just out of sight to the north, Frankfurt was obscured by cloud and finally we banked in across the English countryside to touch down at Heathrow. Nice flight!

IMG_6556 - approaching Heathrow - 542▲ Just east of London on approach to Heathrow. I really like the tail mounted Skycam which you can watch on your screen on Qantas A380s.