It has been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately. Perhaps the early phase of blogging has worn off and the posts will come less frequently now. Or maybe I’ll just have to wait for more interesting things to post about.
I cannot promise that this one is going to be overly interesting, but I think you might think it is.
Last week our team from Sydney went on a drive down to the Sydney airport (Australia). The goal was not to take a trip but rather take a tour of the airport in a bus around the tarmac. Around thirty of us met at the airport near the heliport to start our 10 am tour. The group is from the Advanced Products Group in Sydney with a variety of job titles in the mix. Most are considered either developers or testers but there were some managers and even a technical writer and a web developer. This was the first team event for the former Aurema employees (who were brought in as part of the recent acquisition). We usually have some kind of event every quarter. Sometimes we skip quarters but we always eventually do something. Since we have been doing this for awhile it gets harder to find different things to do. Taking a trip to the airport was certainly different.
After some morning tea (how Australian!) the group was told to board the bus after a safety lecture. Apparently security has been becoming tighter and tighter over the last few years and it is now necessary to not only have a roll call but also have a special visitor badge that must be worn at all times. All of this is a bit odd considering that you are not allowed to get off the bus except for a security check that is performed as if you are going to get on the planes.
Airside Tarmac Tours has been running since 1998 and has a contract to continue until 2010. It is highly unlikely that they will be allowed to continue operation after that date due to ongoing security concerns. Our tour guide (which I unfortunately have forgotten his name) was excellent and knew just about everything that you would possibly need to know about Sydney Airport.
The two pictures above are directly scanned from the brochure we got before boarding the bus. You can click these images if you are more interested in the detail of why going on this tour is good. It even has some other options like being able to see it at night or being able to fly in an old DC3.
For those of you that like even more detail, I suggest staying for a few minutes after the tour and talking with the driver/tour director. He can reveal more of the ins and outs of what is going on at the Sydney Airport and make it even that much more interesting.
For me, the highlights of the tour were seeing disassembled 747s with missing engines (being serviced) and seeing the planes take off and land as close as possible (bus parked right next to runways). If it was not for our guide, the tour would not have been quite as interesting as it turned out to be. He knew everything cold and could handle any random element with ease. “Oh, that is the Qantas flight that is going to Melbourne at 11”. “That over there is the flight going to Peru in South America”. This guy was good. Exceptionally good.
It was sad to hear that they are not going to continue these kind of tours for much longer. Eighty percent of the riders in the bus are school children (which explains why everyone at the airport waves at the bus… pilots, air traffic controllers, you name it). These children are subsidised by the Sydney Airport Corporation as an act of goodwill to the community. The tickets are less than half price what they would normally be.
We got up close and personal with everything you could possible see at the airport. Not only that we had excellent commentary as we went. It really could not have been much better than that.
Our guide was pretty sure this is the only tour of its kind in the world. There were others but they were shutdown in the recent years.
So, if you happen to be going through Sydney and have a couple of extra hours to spend, I highly recommend taking the Airside Tarmac Tours. If you have young boys in your family, you would be silly not to go. Your son will be talking about that tour for years. I suspect even you will be impressed.