On final approach into Hong Kong International Airport's runway 25 right, our brand new Boeing 747-8i had just passed Tin Liu Village (Ma Wan Park) and Tai Lung when we were challenged head on by a powerboat (as seen in the photo below). The giant whale's landing speed of around 160 knots (184mph) was just a bit too much for the poor soul (who must have been going at around 90 mph).
Ready for action...another long haul flight. This time on-board the Boeing 747-8i - longest aircraft in the world.
At 76.25 meters, the Boeing 747-8 is officially the world's longest aircraft (cargo or passenger usage). It can accommodate a maximum of 605 passengers (in an all economy class configuration), or around 400 passengers (in a 3 or 4 class configuration). The freighter version of the aircraft has a cargo capacity of 30,177 cu ft (854.5 m3). 53 aircraft are currently in service, with 36 of those being freighter versions. Currently, Lufthansa German Airlines is the ONLY two airline that operates the passenger version with 9 aircraft in active service, and a further 10 on order. It was a pleasure to be on this rare gem, nick-named the 'Queen of the Skies'. There is talk that the current Boeing 747 aircraft used by the President of the United States of America, nick-named Air Force One, will be replaced with the Boeing 747-8i in the near future.
The aircraft I flew on today entered service on the 26th of July 2013 (aircraft Reg: D-ABYK), and this was it's 5th flight since entering service with Lufthansa. No wonder why the interior had a smell like that of a brand new Mercedes car!
While most of the legacy European airlines (BA, Air France, KLM, Iberia, Alitalia, TAP, SAS, Finnair, and Aer Lingus), are going through an 'economic sufferage', Germany's national flag carrier, Lufthansa German Airlines, can be proud that it is one of the few airline companies in the Western hemisphere that is doing well. News earlier in London that the new UK Government is thinking of scrapping plans for the third runway at Heathrow, the world's busiest international airport, will have wide repercussions for airline manufacturer Boeing, who have bet on the 'more flights more often' mantra in developing the 250-330 passenger 787 Dreamliner.
With no ability to increase aircraft movements the prize must go to Airbus who bet on the 526 seat Airbus A380-800 (nicknamed the 'Super Jumbo'). Lufthansa was the 2nd European airline to operate the A380, and has 10 aircraft currently in service operating on high density routes such as Beijing, Johannesburg, and Tokyo.
On December 6, 2006, Lufthansa placed an order for 20 Boeing 747-8I airliners (the longest aircraft in the world), becoming the launch customer of the type. The airline currently has 9 aircraft in service, each with 386 seats; and has a further 10 on order. I had a chance to fly on this relatively brand new aircraft (which first flew on June 1st 2012). Lufthansa is the only airline that currently flies the passenger version of the Boeing 747-8i. Korean Airlines, Air China, and Arik Air have placed some orders for passenger version of this aircraft.
The last time I was here was in February 2010 on an official press trip. This time it's a short stop-over for a few hours before the next flight to Hong Kong. Since the global economic crisis began in 2008, Germany has been one of the few European countries that has had a stable (and somewhat growing) economy. At the moment of writing we were made aware that the German economy rose 0.7% between April and June 2013- a sign of good things to come for the rest of Europe? With Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, and most of the Mediterranean having unacceptable high levels of unemployment, and a shortage of money to balance their account books, one hopes if the Germans can be the saviors of the EUs suffrage.
One of the advantages of flying out of Heathrow (especially if you are departing out of the easterly runways') is that you get treated to some marvelous views of the capital (weather and visibility prevailing!). Though it must be said that with a take-off speed of around 250 knots/287mph (and increasing!), and an increasing altitude, it doesn't offer hope that the views will last for long- especially as it takes only around 6 minutes to get from Heathrow to the other side of London! The views never fail to captivate (camera ready at hand, I even managed to get a photo of my home as we flew over it for a final goodbye!)
I decided to take a photo of the customs security point at Heathrow Airport for a report, and immediately I was told to delete the photo by the custom officers (they watched me delete the photos on the spot, and I had to show them that I have actually deleted the photos). I have had the same experience at other airports. Now, without being stereo-typically negative, in my experience normally you are likely to get that response in a country such as Russia or somewhere in the Middle East...but thanks to some idiots on 9/11/2001 you are likely to get that response at every airport in the world (irrespective of what color or race you are- seriously). Why is it that the places that sell the most cameras than any other - airports - don't let you take pictures? I mean ...you can't take a photo of the Security and Immigration Officers working. Why? It's not as if the area is out of bounds of the public...
(note: showing a Journalist pass sometimes makes them more angry)
A two mile long road will just take you upto two miles...but two miles of runway will take you ANYWHERE!
The sight of a Egyptair Boeing 777-300ER landing at Heathrow's Runway 27R caught my eye as I made my way in order to catch my flight. Despite the serious civil unrest and chaos that the country is going through, the airline is still flying normal schedules without any issues. Egypt's sea resorts, especially Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, are popular holiday destinations for many Europeans (July and August are the hottest months of the year at Sharm el-Sheikh, and become a beehive for avid scuba divers). The pristine waters of the Red Sea (it's actually turquoise), the year around sunshine, the great Egyptian hospitality and the delicious food all are key reasons why so many Europeans escape their boring and dull lands in search of sun, sea, and sand.
The land of the people who were one of the first major civilizations to codify design elements in art and architecture is going through a tough time at the moment. While there may be enhanced security in places such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada (where I guess most of the passengers in the plane above would have come from), the country is going through a phase of continued unrest and the evolving political situation.
In Cairo on the 14th of August Egyptian security forces ended sit-in protests at Nahda Square close to Cairo University in Giza and at Rabaa Al-Adaweya mosque in Nasr City. This resulted in at least 500 deaths. Violent clashes also occurred near Mostafa Mahmoud Square in Mohandiseen, Cairo. It’s very likely that there will be further protests in Cairo- and let's hope that
Great family run English pub and restaurant located close to the Northern Perimeter Road at Heathrow (just off Bath Road, and behind High Street Harlington). Perfect for pre take-off (or post-landing) English food - the Pheasant never fails to please.
'Fresh beer battered cod served with homemade chips and salad'- REAL English food never tasted so good. Wash it down with a pint of Windsor & Eton Conqueror Black IPA (or just water if you are flying!)
If you are looking for a place to dine outside on a lovely summer's day (irrespective of the British weather!), and with one of the best views of London, then head to the Côte Brasserie at the Hay's Galleria. The food is not bad for a chain restaurant - just as good as the marvelous views. Highly recommended!
One of the most interesting observations I have made in London is the sight of rickshaws (normally a mode of transport associated with developing countries such as Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam etc.) being used as a tourist attraction/ 'mode of transport' in the City of London (perhaps not the place you would expect a rickshaw to be in if you are a tourist coming from a country where you use it for your everyday commute). Hundreds of rickshaw drivers offer short trips to tourists in the West End each night, providing an estimated 4,500 journeys.
The rickshaws in London are branded as being sustainable and eco-friendly (well, of course they are....they are powered by a human). There have been arguments that are both for and against the use of the rickshaw in London. While they provide an adequate source of income for the immigrants who operate them (usually from Romania, Bulgaria, and Moldova), they are also considered somewhat dangerous.
Last year Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London said even responsible operators “cannot ensure the safety of their passengers” and are adding to night-time traffic jams. He wants new laws that would give him the power to sweep the unlicensed and often uninsured pedicabs from central London. On that note, a transport expert (who wishes to remain anonymous), told me that the taxi and bus industry globally is one of the most corrupt cliques there is. I am not sure what to make of that comment - but this man surely does!
Scotland's Tartan Army flocked to the heart of London ahead of the friendly match with England. Around 30,000 Scottish football fans travelled to London for the friendly match at Wembley Stadium - the nation's first meeting with 'Auld Enemy' England since 1999. The capital became a sea of blue as Scotland supporters - many wearing kilts and ginger wigs - gathered in Trafalgar Square.
The English eventually won 3-2 of the Scots to take victory in a match. If there was any joy for the Scots, then thankfully the weather changed just in time to make them feel more at home in Wembley - the sunshine experienced earlier in the day turned into a cold and cloudy evening.
I grew up in the days before London City Airport (LCY) was built. The airport is a Short Take-Off and Landing facility (STOL) located in the east of the city (next to Woolwich, and the Docklands). Back then, in the early 1980s, the site where the current runway is situated was nothing but a long stretch of concrete which was occasionally used as a docking port by container ships (hence the name Docklands).
The airport is surrounded by the water-filled Royal Albert and King George V docks to the north and south respectively. Due to the airport's proximity to Central London, and the surrounding residential areas, it has stringent rules imposed to limit the noise impact from aircraft operations. This, together with the physical dimensions of the 1,508 m (4,948 ft) runway and the steep glideslope (it's at 5.5 degrees as opposed to the stranded 3 degrees approach angle at most airports including Heathrow), limits the aircraft types that can use London City Airport.
The size and layout of the airport and overall complexity caused by the lack of taxiways mean that the airport gets VERY busy during peak hours. It poses a challenge for the air traffic controllers because there is only one runway in use with a limited taxiway. Operations are restricted to 06:30 to 22:30 Monday to Friday, 06:30 to 13:00 on Saturdays and 12:30 to 22:30 on Sundays. These restrictions are related to noise.
You may think that living in a quiet London suburb 15 miles away from the airport, such as Dulwich, would not be an issue when it comes to noise. Well, it does pose a problem, especially when LCY is using runway 09 (due to the Easterly winds, which account for around 40% of the year...around 90% of which falls in the summer months)...then it causes problems because landing aircraft come in LOUDLY over South-East London before turning around over Central London to land at runway 09. From my experience I find the main noise issue is with the older aircraft (BAe 146, and the Fokker 50) whose engines make that screeching noise as they speed in over SE London at a speed of around 200 knots at 2,800 feet.
When the airport originally opened, the airport's officials promised the London community that noise would be kept at a minimum because they would have aircraft operating with 'quieter' engines. While that may have been the case with the likes of the BAe 146 and the Fokker 50 back in the 1980s...it is no longer the fact because these aircraft are far more nosier than the modern jetliners of today's era (Airbus A318, and some of the private jets that fly into London City Airport are quiet).
However, for the moment, residents in South-East London can only hope that runway 09 is not used as much (I am sure the same problem occurs for residents of Barking and Dagenham when runway 27 is used for around 60% of the year). It's not that bad on the whole because the noise activity only happens during peak hours...but imagine having a BBQ in the garden and a jet screams past overhead every 5 minutes or so!
Since it's introduction 6 years ago, the Airbus A380-800 has become a regular visitor to Heathrow, with Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines all flying this beast into London. Soon British Airways will start flying the A380 from LHR.
She's not as beautiful as the Boeing 747, however two things do stick out about the A380....she is remarkably quiet, and her enormous size (wingspan and length of fuselage both just under 80 meters)...which means that while you may be having a chat with your friend in a cafe, she will surprise you while gilding past quietly in the background..it's gets me every-time...almost as if a huge whale is in the sky...
Wanna know what's she's like inside? Here, read THIS, and if you ARE flying First Class on her, then try the showers (can't beat a shower in the sky..)
Seen here, Dwayne Malone of Emirates takes her out of Heathrow...back to Dubai.
...shopping in Sainsbury's supermarket in Croydon...and he's emptied the shelves of ALL the cereal bars, crunchy nut corn flakes, and PG Tips teabags (oh, and Nutella jars as well...which costs at least RMB75/GBP£8 a jar in China...in the UK it costs around £2.30 a jar (about RMB20))! Shopping for groceries never felt so good (!)
Yes, in Hong Kong, Suzhou, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities with an expat population we can get such goods, but they are mostly imported (i.e. they've most probably have been on a container ship for at least 3 months), and cost at least 3 or 4 times the price we pay in the U.K. (Tesco in China is nothing like the Tesco in the U.K. - it's localized to the Chinese consumer).
When you are living for 90% of the year in a country where not many local retailers understand why foreigners drink black tea with milk at 4pm with cakes and biscuits (I can't live without it!), and why we eat cereal with milk every morning, your homesick body craves for such stuff when living 6,000 miles away (my Chinese/Australian/American and other expat friends who live in the U.K. do the same when they go back home for THEIR holidays to their countries).
The crowded skies over London are some of the busiest in the world. With low level traffic from the five London airports', helicopters (police, ambulance, and others), private aircraft, AND the HUNDREDS of aircraft crossing our airspace everyday, it is no surprise that on a lovely summer's day the beautiful art created naturally by the aircraft contrails is enough to make the most prolific of artists jealous.
Below is a photo of a Delta Airlines Airbus A330 passing at 38,000 feet over London on it's way to Paris. How do I know this in detail? I saw it on Flightradar24.com!
A giant rooster - the symbol of France - has taken up a perch beneath the admiral's statue in Trafalgar Square, which celebrates Britain's 1805 defeat of Napoleon's armies.
The 15.4ft fibreglass artwork took its place on the vacant Fourth Plinth today and will stay up for 18 months. London's mayor Boris Johnson unveiled the ultramarine blue sculpture, named Hahn/Cock, on the 25th of July, alongside with the German artist Katharina Fritsch.
'I definitely never thought about the French thing. But it's a nice humorous side-effect to have something French in a place that celebrates victory over Napoleon,' Fritsch told The Guardian newspaper.
If you love art (or even if you don't) then it's a delight to see this blue bird in the heart of London.
Never expected my neighborhood to be in the GLOBAL news (check this), but it happened.
Woke up to go and get the bread from the local Sainsbury's, and was shocked to see that the immediate area around Herne Hill had been submerged under a metre and a half of water when a main from 1925 burst. Most people were trapped in their homes after the 88-year-old pipe failed at around 5am. Cars, bus stops and shops were half-submerged and residents were told to stay indoors as the water rose above waist height, forcing the fire service to launch their rescue boat (which was weird to see in the middle of a South London street..)
While Herne Hill (and Dulwich) are both quite affluent areas, however, it's another sign of the U.K. being the Western world's cleanest (almost) 3rd world country (!)...old tacky infrastructure (but one that has lasted so long...until today).
London never seems to change a bit no matter how many months or years you are away (I call it the Western world's 'cleanest 3rd world country'- a reference to the crumbling infrastructure, and a weakening economy.). On a good note, one of the things that has not changed in the past 27 years, and should not change, is the on-going legacy of Andrew Lloyd Webber's magic of keeping his musicals' alive after so many years. It's a delight to see the Phantom of the Opera's trademark poster of 'House Full' in reference to the seats being 100% sold out!
While it is exciting and fun to live as an expat in China, the problem is that it is so far away from HOME (well...some may say it's only a 12-hour flight). My parents live in Dulwich, and like most expats who live thousands of miles away from their parents and other loved ones, it's always a difficult choice to make when deciding to live abroad. There are over 3 million of us Brits living outside of the U.K., the highest number of expats from any one country within the EU. People live in countries other than their own for various reasons (study, work etc.).
Flying in between the U.K. and China may be fun, BUT (and it's a BUT with capital letters), the older you get the more you start thinking if you want to keep living as an expat forever (!). I love the romance of living in a place such as Suzhou, and Guangzhou; but also miss home- so I am always suffering from culture shock (and REVERSE culture shock!)- can't have the whole world.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is a Chinese expat living in London (from Chongqing) about this subject. He is experiencing the reverse (i.e. his parents are in China, and he lives in London working as a Doctor).
The good thing of coming back to Blighty is that you get to get to spend time with your parents...
Many thanks to my friend Captain James Nixon of Emirates Airlines, (And late of Ansett Australia, Air Malta, and Vietnam Airlines), for sharing the above video link. NASA has released videos shot from onboard the Space Shuttle's Solid Rocket Boosters in the past, but you've never seen one prepared as masterfully as this.
It's a sad change of the times I'm afraid that we live in an era where fine magnificent technological marvels such as Concorde and the Space Shuttle are no more. James' paragraph on the subject in his book touches the core of where we stand, and where future generations will wonder (our grandchildren may never believe us that there was once a world that made such fetes happen in times in memorial):
'Future generations will forget that, for fifty short years, men and women from earth rose on a thundering, ground-shaking plume, sitting in a tin can on top of a flame that, this day, was brighter than the rising sun.' - James Nixon (extract from page 23 of his book 'OnTour')
A British expat is back in town from China and he wants to try some good (British) steak. So therefore, following a strong recommendation from a friend of mine, who happens to be an Aussie expat living in London, I decided to go and check out one of London’s latest eateries (Meat. An Aussie man and his steak…anything except a steak or a barbie for an Aussie is not real meat, so I took his advice).
SLABS caters for those with a passion for good quality burgers, authentic salads, and sandwiches (oh, and of course, steaks). While London is not even close enough when it comes to the sheer elegance of Shanghai (in my opinion), the high quality of the food at this eatery is worth every penny spent. It did, however, remind me of Shanghai's high-end KABB Bistro bar. The surroundings blend in well with the lovely ambiance of the eatery, and do posses more of an authentic British charm to it (which ironically, and sadly, is rare to find in London these days)
With offerings such as lobster burger, and Spanish burger, food never tasted so good in London. Give it a try if you are here!
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