We were recently contracted by Airbus to shoot video of the A350 XWB on its first arrivals into Sydney & Perth. The aircraft was MSN5 (the 5th test aircraft in the fleet) and it was in the middle of its world tour of route-proving flights, demonstrating that it could make the required long haul legs that its initial customers would be performing (including the all important turn-around times after landing).
While MSN5 had passenger seating, overhead bins, In Flight Entertainment, galleys & bathrooms installed, it also had plenty of test equipment on board including a large engineering station around the middle of the cabin & air data samplers through the various cabin areas. Copies quantities of raw information was captured covering the operation of the engines, the crew’s inputs, the flight computer decisions and the air quality in each section of the cabin. At the end of each leg of the flights the data was exported to a hard drive & sent back to France for analysis.
As the Sydney arrival was scheduled for 6am, we flew up the night before and stayed at the Ibis Budget Hotel near the domestic terminals. We knew we were in for an “interesting” experience as these hotels used to be the Formula 1 series and we certainly weren’t left thinking we’d missed out on the “Cell Block H” prison experience. Calling it a 1 star would be doing a disservice to the star rating system, to say the least…
The next morning saw us out on the tarmac eagerly awaiting the aircraft’s arrival. Well, almost all of us: I left my ASIC behind in Melbourne (DOH!) so I couldn’t join the guys out by the runway. Instead, I grabbed the train & went back to the domestic terminal then walked around to Gate 11 where media & guests were to be allowed in. As I was on the media list, I was able to get in to the special events area and set up well before the aircraft landed.
We spent the day filming the aircraft’s time on the ramp including all the media & guests being shown through the aircraft. We also managed to record a couple of audio interviews and I managed to get a few minutes in the cockpit with its amazingly huge screens (& great visibility). When it was time for those flying on to Auckland to go through customs & immigration, I went with some of the media to get a Visitor pass so I could join the general group going by bus to be near the runway. Steve & Paul stayed with the aircraft for the water arch departure from the ARFFies and then wound up out near the runway but closer to the likely lift off point.
Once the aircraft had departed, I joined Steve & Paul and we were dropped off at the domestic terminal to catch our flights home.After going to Auckland, the A350 was heading to South America and then back to France. It would next return to Australia on Sunday as it arrived in Perth from Doha. It was scheduled to stay in Perth for a few hours before turning around & heading back to Doha and then on into Russia & Eastern Europe.
For the Perth arrival, we also needed to take photos as well as video so Paul & I went over as camera operators while Steven Pam joined us as photographer. Our “WA Correspondent” Ben Jones also joined the team to help us with gear & ensure we kept a steady stream of content flowing on our Facebook & Twitter feeds. Steve stayed in Melbourne as he had prior plans for the weekend & couldn’t make it.
This time the aircraft was scheduled to arrive at 3pm so we were able to get away with a day trip. My first visit to WA and I arrived in Perth airport at about 10:30am & departed about 8pm. Oh well :)
For this arrival we sent Paul & Steven out to the runway to capture the landing while Ben & I stayed at the parking bay to get it coming in & parking. Once again we shot plenty of content around the outside of the aircraft and caught up Mike Bausor (Director of A350 XWB Marketing) as he came down the stairs. Mike has been accompanying the aircraft on every leg of the flights around the world which is an amazing thing as it’s only stopping for a few hours at each location. Fortunately the demo business class seats on board can go to horizontal for sleeping :)In Perth the aircraft was to be cleared of all staff although a group of guests were going through later in the afternoon. The Airbus media team on board would capture content from that visit so, as the aircraft wasn’t departing until 11pm, our work was done after a couple of hours.
At this point we headed back to the public areas of the terminals and went our separate ways. Steven Pam was heading home on an earlier flight and Ben was going back to his place while Paul & I went to the lounge to review content & work before our flight home. At least this allowed me to complete a full tour of Perth airport:
1) Arrive via Qantas at Terminal 4 (the Virgin flight was later than Qantas, leaving very little contingency time in case of delays)
2) Meet our Perth Airport contact at Terminal 2
3) Go airside
4) Go back to Terminal 1 to chat with Airbus staff after they’ve gone through Customs & Immigration
5) Leave via Virgin at Terminal 3
Aside from the freight area, I think I pretty much covered it all :)
Despite all the running around, being paid by Airbus to go and capture content of cool aircraft has been a wonderful thing. It’s like getting paid to do something you love and would have done anyhow if you had the spare cash to cover the costs. Sure, there’s more planning & liaising plus higher levels of responsibility, not to mention all the post-event follow up tasks (uploading “best of” content, preparing & sending all content on hard drives, client liaisons, etc) but that’s all part of the gig.