The first day of my New Zealand adventure began with two flights. The first flight was a relative puddle-jump on an Embraer 190 from Edmonton to Vancouver. We were supposed to leave town at 2:15 pm, but adjust that for winter conditions and apply the inevitable ‘Air Canada’ factor and we were wheels-up at 4:30 pm. Fortunately, I had ample time to make my connection in Vancouver.
The Boeing 777 is quite the piece of machinery. It was the first commercial airliner to be designed entirely on computer, using a CAD program called CATIA. It was also Boeing’s first ‘fly-by-wire’ airliner, and first to be designed with substantial customer input. This extended range 777-200ER flown by Air New Zealand uses two monstrous jet engines (each rated at over 400 kN of thrust) to propel its 300-tonne takeoff weight and over 300 passengers non-stop across the Pacific Ocean.
Once upon a time, back when cellular phones were decidedly un-smart and the Spin Doctors ruled the airwaves, I spent a summer work term at an aerospace company. One of the projects I got to work on was the production of an aluminum wing strut for the Boeing 777. It was about as minuscule of a role that a person could possibly play in a huge endeavour. But to this eager mechanical engineering student, it was a pretty cool experience. All these years later, this trip was my first opportunity to fly on a 777.
The flight from Vancouver to Auckland takes approximately 14 hours, depending on the winds aloft. We left Vancouver on time at 8:00 pm (Pacific time) Friday evening, crossed the equator about seven hours later, then the International Date Line shortly after that. After a fairly uneventful flight, we landed in Auckland at 5:45 am Sunday morning (NZ time). I was certainly glad to see the sprawling city lights of metropolitan Auckland after an eternity of darkness. Because of the date line, I didn’t experience a November 10th this year, but the day was banked for future redemption.
On the flight, I had plenty of time to sit back and enjoy a number of new records that I uploaded onto my iPhone for the trip. I was pleasantly surprised by the latest Smashing Pumpkins album Oceania – it seems much more musical and engaging than Machina and Machina II, from the era when the Pumpkins fell off my musical radar. Songs like “Panopticon” and “The Chimera” harken back to the mid-1990s glory days of athletic Big Muff guitars and that unmistakable voice. Elsewhere, the songs are refreshingly wistful, occasionally joyful, and even heart-on-sleeve romantic. My favourite song is the nine-minute epic title track, which at times sounds to me like Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii updated for the 21st century. The bass line even has a cool ‘New Order’ feel to it. A welcome surprise from the latest incarnation of Smashing Pumpkins.
After clearing NZ customs and immigration, I stepped out of the international terminal at AKL, took my first breath of moist South Pacific air, and embarked on a great adventure.
Song of the Day: “Oceania” by Smashing Pumpkins