For some reason, it seems that I like planes. Not in a Let’s Go And Stand At The Airport For Days On End And Note Down Their Registration Numbers way, but definitely in a Since We’re At The Airport Let’s Go And Have A Coffee Somewhere We Can See The Runway From way. It’s an interest, not an obsession.

Of course, the only obsessive bit of this interest is the Airbus A380. Scarce in Cape Town thanks to our thin taxiways, but always a pleasure to get on in Dubai and go to Manchester. This (mild) obsession resulted in me following British Airways A380 pilot Dave Wallsworth on twitter. I mentioned this to you on here almost two years ago.

Captain Dave  has now released a pair of YouTube videos showing exactly how an A380 takes off and lands. Yes, it’s a bit nerdy, in that it’s 10 minutes (each time) of real time footage, and it seems that aside from a few short words and actions, the crew don’t actually seem to do very much*, but it’s also annotated so that each thing that they do do is explained clearly.
If you have some spare time (and who doesn’t in early January?), it’s worth a watch:

And then, should you so wish, there’s the landing to look at as well.
WARNING: You will end up in Johannesburg at the end of this particular video.

One thing I did notice in both videos is that there’s an awful lot of looking out of the windows, presumably for other planes. I’m not sure if I find this comforting or not. Sure, a final check left before heading onto the runway seems like a pretty good idea, but should it really be necessary? I suppose that it takes minimal effort and it could make a huge difference, but I do wonder if it ever has. A bit like me looking left when turning onto the dual carriageway this morning, so as not to hit the utter twat of a cyclist going the wrong way. (An incident that was apparently entirely my fault with only a few months until the Cycle Tour, obvs.)

Having flown on these beasts several (or more) times, albeit never on a BA one or into Joburg, it’s really interesting to see what happens up front when we’re sitting in the back having our headphones and blankets collected and trying to find where our shoes have disappeared to.


* almost certainly because they’ve done an awful lot of things previously to make sure that they actually don’t have to do very much during this ten minutes.

New Gatwick flight

This almost snuck in under the radar (LOLz – aircraft pun), but here’s some great news for people living in Sussex:

British Airways has announced it is launching a new route from Gatwick Airport to Cape Town later this year.
The major airline is expanding its fleet or aircraft at Gatwick as new three-times-a-week flights are being added to its schedule.

And I suppose it’s good news for anyone in Cape Town too, as adding more flights means more seat, means less competition, means cheaper flights overall. This good news is tempered somewhat by the realisation that if you take one of these new flights, you will end up landing at Gatwick Airport though.

Have you ever been to Gatwick Airport?

You’ll probably recall that it’s almost 4 years since SAA stopped flying the Cape Town to London route, citing “dwindling passenger numbers” on flights to Europe from the Mother City. Something that doesn’t seem to have stopped Swiss, Turkish, Condor, Air France, KLM and (of course) BA from operating such services.

But, back to the new (Northern hemisphere) “winter only” Gatwick flights:

The three flights will depart on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 6pm, arriving in to Cape Town at 7.50am the following morning.

This winter BA will add a fourth three-class Boeing 777 aircraft to its Gatwick fleet, bringing the total number of Boeing 777s at the airport to 12.

Note that those are two separate lines: there’s no suggestion that the LGW-CPT flights will be on 777s – BA currently operates 747s on its Cape Town to Heathrow route (for the moment, anyway).

I’ll get in touch with BA and see if they can tell me what aircraft they are planning on using. It would be nice to move on from the aging jumbos. After all, we were promised 787s way back in 2013…


UPDATE: And here’s the answer – 777s!

Fullscreen capture 2016-03-30 022832 PM.bmp Fullscreen capture 2016-03-30 022916 PM.bmp

That does help, Jamie. Thank you.


It’s a sad thing, but the lovely Airbus A380 can’t use Cape Town International Airport. Given that we can fill a couple of Emirates 777s and two BA 747s each day (plus Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Swissair, Singapore Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Air France and Qatar flights), there’s definitely passenger demand for big planes. It’s just that, apparently, the taxiing bits twixt the main runway and the building where the people get off aren’t wide enough… or something.

That’s not to say that A380s haven’t visited the skies above Cape Town. Lufthansa brought theirs down here in 2011 [photos] to publicise their flights to… er… Joburg. And BA followed suit 2½ years later to get some shots to let people know about their new A380 service to… er… also Joburg. They went all over the general Cape Town area in G-XLED, even “buzzing the tower” at CTIA, but they couldn’t land.

No such issues for G-XLEC and pilot Captain Dave Wallsworth, who I am now following on Twitter. He flew all the way from Singapore to London Heathrow yesterday and he took this shot on final approach to runway 27R at LHR.


It looks a bit like a videogame , doesn’t it? It’s probably more difficult than that though. Probably.
I’m not sure how much Captain Dave and his co-pilot actually have to do to get the plane safely down onto the ground by this point, but given that I haven’t heard anything about a massive crash at the London airport, I’m guessing that he was able to happily and safely snap this sort of thing without too much of an issue.

For the record, BA now have 11 A380s, the latest one having been delivered earlier this month.

None of them will be coming to Cape Town any time soon.

UPDATE: Or will they…?

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Yes, Bryan races a plane, but…

BA are flying their new Airbus A380 aircraft on their Joburg route (but not Cape Town because the runway is too short) from February 2014 and they recruited local rugby hero Bryan Habana to let us know about that by racing the plane along the tarmac.
England Rugby captain Chris Robshaw came to watch, presumably to provide the Heathrow side of things, and Bryan also brought South Africa Rugby captain Jean de Villiers along with him.

Bryan takes Jean everywhere he goes. Except Toulon.

Here’s the video:

Wow! What a finish!!

But it’s actually not the finish that bothered me so much. It was the start.
Who was that waving the flag to get them going? Why, it was model Georgia May Jagger.
But again, it wasn’t so much the model that bothered me. It was the flag.

ba flag

It’s upside down.

We’ve been here before. And this isn’t great for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it’s just plain (no pun intended) bad form. Damn rude.

And, in addition, were BA’s creatives not aware of the specific instructions with regard to the use of the National Flag, as found in the Government Gazette 22356, Notice 510 of 8 June 2001? Obviously not, because otherwise the flag would not just have been the right way up, it wouldn’t have been there at all – check out section 15(d):resflag


Fortunately, no-one in South Africa is very good at remembering which way up the National Flag should be flown anyway. And they were far too bothered with Bryan Habana racing a big plane to notice that the flag was being used inappropriately and waved incorrectly.

Still, once this post is published and the South African public is awakened to this heinous act of disrespect, I expect outrage, several open letters, possibly an online petition and (almost certainly) a boycott. Oh, and accusations of some sort of -ism.

And in other news, I’ve just heard that Airbus have demanded a rematch. At 35,000 feet.

Cape Town third most popular with BA customers

After SAA withdrew their daily Cape Town – London flights last year, citing lack of demand, British Airways has announced that the route is its third most popular, behind New York and Miami, but notably ahead of the international hubs of Dubai and Hong Kong.

Out of 175 destinations worldwide, only New York and Miami attracted more bookings than Cape Town, with Dubai the fourth most popular choice and Hong Kong the fifth.

Yeah – that’s what I just said.

Anyway, the apparent upshot of this news is that Cape Town may well be among the first cities to see BA’s new Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft, which are due for delivery in May this year.

BA’s Dreamliners will be configured to carry 214 passengers, with 35 seats in business class, 25 in economy plus and 154 in economy.
Not only will they have the latest Thales in-flight entertainment system, with larger screens in all cabins, but they will also allow personal devices, including laptops, to be connected, using in-seat power.

Which is all very nice, but doesn’t really make sense to me, given that this is one of their most popular routes and that the Boeing 747-400s which BA currently uses on the CPT-LHR route can carry almost twice as many passengers as the Dreamliner.

Here’s a really popular route. Let’s immediately halve the capacity of our flights on it.

How very SAA.

And for those of you who are wondering why BA doesn’t go the other ways and use something really huge, like an A380 on the Cape Town run, it’s because BA don’t own any A380s at the moment (they’ll get their first one in August) (yes, I was shocked at this too). And even if they did, Cape Town’s runway is too short to accommodate the big Airbus.


While Air France and Lufthansa both use A380s on their Joburg routes, the only sight Cape Town gets of them is during ceremonial flyovers.