Sunday, October 24, 2004

757 gets a Seven

Some Video Clips (

I'm a plane spotter.

No, I don't wear an anorak (it's more like a wind breaker) and write down the registration numbers or anything like that. But I do look up every time I hear an airliner passing over. GA planes and fighters are fine, but to me there's something special about a jet airliner. They're tough and practical -- they really are "airbuses" in the true sense -- and yet at the same time they can't help but be graceful, even elegant to watch.

There's an airforce base not far from where I live in Auckland, New Zealand. It houses their transport squadron. Recently they replaced two aging Boeing 727s with a couple of relatively new Boeing 757-200s.

Apart from Paul Allen's 757 that popped in occasionally for the Americas Cup, 757s were never seen here until we got these two about a year ago. So anyway, I'd heard that there was going to be a reunion of old squadron members at the base this weekend. There was no mention of an associated airshow, but I went along and camped out (sat in my car) just outside the fence -- just in case.

Finally, as luck has it, I could see all the old codgers emerge from the main hanger and watch as a 757 and a couple of Hercs started up and taxied out to show off. Even the choreography of the taxi and takeoff was impressive; that special kind of precision you only see now in the military.

They re-appeared and buzzed the airfield really low in a tight formation, then split up and showed off individually. The Hercs were great, don't get me wrong, but the 757 really rocked. It did about seven passes in all, slow and dirty; fast and sleek; rejected landing; zoom climb, you name it.

I'm sure that they were operating well within its design limits, all the same, I never knew that a Boeing could be flicked about like that! I caught a lot of it using the movie mode on my digital camera. It's the first time I've really used that feature, and I'm quite impressed; nowhere near as good as a proper video camera but it beat taking stills due to the sound, which is really half the experience.

So for a Boeing nerd like me, this was bliss. The pilots must have had the time of their lives. Makes me wish I'd faked the colorblind test all those years ago. Never mind. Today I fired up Microsoft Flight Simulator, chose runway 03 at Whenuapai and my RNZAF 757 and flew roughly (and I mean roughly) the same routine. I chucked that plane about far more than I ever have in the past, trying to emulate the videos; hats off to those guys and their plane.

In flightsim I also moved the tower view to the location of my car and the playback was SO much like the video, but much smoother, framerate-wise. What a great app.

It was a sad day when they sold off the old 727s for scrap; I always rated the 727 a ten on the coolness scale -- what with those wildly swept and clean wings, the speed, and the T tail. But I'm rapidly very warming to the 757...

I'll give it a seven.


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