A PERfect ride to the Southern Lights

JohnM

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Well, tonight it's off from PER on an 11 hour ride in a QF B787 for a bit of Aurora Australis rubbernecking.

Here's the likely path for the ride.

Map.JPG

ETD is 2000h; ETA 0705h Sunday.

Here's the seat plan. There is no pre-allocation of seats. 1A is set aside for some interloper who is going to tell us stuff. Oh well, I'll just have to be content with somewhere between the rest of row one and row eight.

Seat plan.JPG
Fingers crossed for a good display.
 
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drron

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Though the next few weeks are going to be rather poor for the Southern aurora.That far south you will see them but possibly not anywhere near their best.
How would I know.Well as soon as I arrived in Tassie I checked the predictions with the facebook group.A really good show the night before I arrived with one fellow even posting what he saw from the middle of Launceston.
But then the administrator posted the future predictions-nada.
 

JohnM

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Though the next few weeks are going to be rather poor for the Southern aurora.That far south you will see them but possibly not anywhere near their best.
How would I know.Well as soon as I arrived in Tassie I checked the predictions with the facebook group.A really good show the night before I arrived with one fellow even posting what he saw from the middle of Launceston.
But then the administrator posted the future predictions-nada.

Luck of the draw. I checked a couple of aurora sites earlier today and saw that activity was predicted to be low. C’est la vie.
 

Daver6

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Luck of the draw. I checked a couple of aurora sites earlier today and saw that activity was predicted to be low. C’est la vie.

Look at you, taking a red-eye flight :eek:

My experience in Norway was reality and predictions differed a fair bit. Even though nothing great was predicted for my time north of the Arctic circle, we saw the lights most nights. Now for a local, they might not have been the most amazing, but for someone who had never seen them before it was amazing.

Here's a pic to whet your appetite.

DSC_9111.JPG
 

Catweazle

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...Here's the seat plan. There is no pre-allocation of seats. 1A is set aside for some interloper who is going to tell us stuff. Oh well, I'll just have to be content with somewhere between the rest of row one and row eight.

View attachment 247403
Fingers crossed for a good display.
No pre-allocation of seats? However, assuming that people can only sit in the class that they've booked i.e. if you're on the wing with minimal views on a discounted fare, you'll get one of those red seats, not a purple seat?
 

JohnM

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OK, back home.

As predicted, the display was poor and sporadic. One of the things that I felt made it particularly difficult to view was that the cabin could not be sufficiently dimmed. The seat number lights looked like they were blazing and the seat adjustment panel light also made things difficult.

It was necessary to get hard up against the window to cut out the extraneous light.

IMG_8610.JPG

As can be seen in earlier posts, I was on a window for the first half and the lady I swapped with in 7F was a stranger. She made no attempt to lean across me or ask if I would vacate the seat temporarily to view while I was on the window. It was, however, evident from commentary and pax reactions that there wasn't a lot to see. That may have constrained her.

Anyway, once we swapped I made little attempt to look hard out of the window as it would have involved leaning right in front of her or asking if she could briefly vacate. This aspect of the flight was of course not an issue for couples or friends. It's something to bear in mind.

I imagine that if the display had been spectacular and long-lasting, there may have been more incentive to vacate for the person opposite. Or if the display had been good throughout both halves of the flight (unpredictable, of course) there would have not been much need.

As it turned out, the most spectacular display occurred just after we turned for return, A large, intense curtain lit up the sky and could be seen quite well from the aisle by just bending down and only extending slightly forward. That indicates a good display would overcome a lot of the limitations of the extraneous light and swapping/sharing the window with a stranger.

I'm not deeply into photography and serious gear is needed to take good pics. I installed a slow shutter app on my phone but in the absence of intense displays I gave up trying to take any pics.

My understanding was that the professional photographers on board are to make their pics available to pax but no web link was provided and I can't see links to earlier flights out of E ports on the company website. Maybe they will email a link after sorting the pics; otherwise I'll chase them up in a few days.

So, with the caveat that the poor display (in intensity and constancy) may have severely coloured my impressions, I would be hesitant about recommending the flight because of the extraneous light issue and the potentially greater limitations of going as a solo traveller.

Funnily enough, I'm wondering whether there may have been some upsides of being in whY compared with being in J. 🤔o_O
 

JohnM

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No pre-allocation of seats? However, assuming that people can only sit in the class that they've booked i.e. if you're on the wing with minimal views on a discounted fare, you'll get one of those red seats, not a purple seat?

I just realised that I phrased that badly in post #1 and it's now too late to edit.

The seats are allocated, but it is not possible to select seats in advance at all. You get the pair they decide and your seating (within the cabin chosen, of course) is only revealed at check-in.

So, I was allocated 7K outbound and swapped with 7F inbound.
 

JohnM

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A few pics of the ride.

Hauling out of PER.

IMG_8586.JPG

IMG_8589.JPG


I got all teary and emotional when I saw Picnic Cutlery(TM) and NP Rabbit Food(TM) after so long...

IMG_8592.JPG
IMG_8591.JPG

😛😛

The chardonnay was a strong colour but tasted fine. The food was good. I had the tuna tartare and the pork cutlet.

IMG_8594.JPG

IMG_8599.JPG
 

JohnM

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Do you think you might have had a better view in Y - with less hardware between the aisle seats and the windows?

That's what I'm thinking. That possibility really just dawned on me while I was composing post #11 and that's why I dropped the idea in at the end of that post.

Not only less seat hardware to negotiate, but less light from seat numbering and seat controls.

Speculation only, but perhaps something worth thinking about.

Of course, the seat rotation pattern would need to also be considered (see post #1).
 

JohnM

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A few more pics to show the path.

IMG_8600.JPG IMG_8608.JPG IMG_8613.JPG

I may post some of the pro pics if and when I can get hold of them, but anyone can find pics of the Aurora. The main purpose of the TR is to give information for peeps that may be thinking of doing one of the flights.

My motto is: 'Always be prepared to be disappointed.' It has never failed or let me down in my long and miserable life. 😜

The flight was disappointing principally because Nature didn't put on a big show. But it isn't possible to do these sorts of things at short notice.

I had previously seen the Aurora Borealis in Iceland, so it wasn't as though it was the 'once-in-a-lifetime' thing.

And, it was good to get on board and go for a decent ride after a very long time - although mask-wearing is an absolute PITA .
 
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Daver6

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I think the J setup is actually a poor option. All that "privacy" really does make it hard to see out of the window unless you're in a window seat.

Were they happy with people hanging about the doors to see out?
 

JohnM

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I think the J setup is actually a poor option. All that "privacy" really does make it hard to see out of the window unless you're in a window seat.

Were they happy with people hanging about the doors to see out?

If the Aurora had been cranking, then I'm confident that all would have been good. But I think it would have to be putting on a big show (bright and persistent) to overcome the downsides.

I suppose a good way of looking at it is by comparison with my flight over Antarctica (PER-Antarctica-PER: over the ice in Ice.). In that case, there was plenty of time to see the sights - but they were continuous over about the same length of time we spent zig-zagging around looking for something ephemeral. In that case, many people, after the initial rush, were often content to be more casual in viewing - and being daylight made moving about easier.

And, very important perhaps, the Skybeds in the B747 made it much, much easier to share the space compared with 'suites'. 🧐 I had not thought about that aspect in advance, but after experiencing both it really shows up the limitations of the new J seating for these sightseeing flights. 🤔

Last night was a game of searching. They had someone from the company who ran it on the flight deck. He would give the alert that something was in view, which side, what angle and so on and the pilots would jink around to give both sides a view. The problem was most instances were pale or short-lived. There was no real opportunity to just sit staring out the window for some time just taking in a continuous show. The caveat being, of course, that we had a dud show. I have no idea how a good show runs.

Of course, I don't know how good a good show is and what that does for the overall viewing experience. I seem to recall another AFFer had booked from SYD or MEL but can't recall who and whether they have been or are yet to go. It would be very useful to get a report from someone who went when the display was good.

The people in 6F,K were a couple and they could and did lean heavily over each other constantly - almost to the point of being a little irritating. It would have been highly uncomfortable and inappropriate for me and the, ahem, largish lady who I swapped with. Similarly, I noticed that the lady and the gent in 8F,K were not known to each other either and were similarly restrained to me and my seat-swap.

They did say not to mill around the toilets (max two waiting) or in the galleys. I'm not sure how well that was adhered to, but I suspect quite well at least in J. I didn't try that option.

I guess the bottom line is: Would I do it knowing what I now know? Probably not.
 

JohnM

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I might also mention that it was something of an accident that caused me to take the flight.

I had a quite chunky deposit sitting with Travel Directors for a pretty pricey trip to the Kamchatka Peninsula (Kamchatka: Nature's Tour de Force | Travel Directors) in 2020 that was cancelled. As time went on during Covid, it was clear that it would be a long time before I could contemplate that trip - and that getting travel insurance may make it nigh on impossible, with age now not on my side.

They started to develop tours within Australia but there was nothing in their offerings that appealed. I was also wondering about their viability longer term and whether my deposit was likely to go south, so I wanted to try to use it.

When one of their email newsletters came out mentioning the Aurora flight (not run by them, only acting as travel agents), I called into their office one day to check it out. I drive past it every time I go to and from the beach. Their agent phoned the operators (Chimu) and there was one seat left in the premium J cabin, so I took it.

So, under normal circumstances, I probably would not have gone out of my way to book the Aurora flight - and especially with what I now know.
 

drron

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Normally the best place for a flight would be from Perth.here is where the Aurora Borealis can be seen at different strengths.
1620555191992.png .

From-http://www.aurora-service.net/
The Kp value last night was <1 so was very little chance of a great display.Though on the Facebook aurora group a fellow from the Davis base posted a good video from friday night.

here is one from Tasmania 7 weeks ago.

and a beauty from October 2017 which is a time lapse of an hour of a much longer event.
 

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