On the second of my two trysts with New Zealand, one enclave in particular attracted my attention, despite the weather being uncooperative both days of my stay. This year, when I should be galavanting around Europe to take in all I can before I commit myself to the insane asylum of localizing a manufacturing line to Charleston, I admitted defeat to there being too many unvisited places in Europe and booked a flight to New Zealand instead. I landed scrutinizing a rain shower and double rainbows to the north, but Auckland airport — and my luggage — remained, incredibly, dry.
When I flew back from New Zealand, I came across an article about interesting hotels of the world. Most were the typical exotic types: posh rooms and lavish spas with four-digit price tags. The one that caught my eye didn’t include either feature, and its price also wasn’t sky-high. Apparently, a little more than a decade ago, a 747 came to its final resting place not in an airplane graveyard but rather as a hostel. I figured the chance of a consensual nap in the cockpit of a 747 was going to be rare if not impossible, so I took the bait and booked the trip. As London had been, it was supposed to have been a quick weekend: two nights sleeping in the plane, then back to Germany. The drive to Munich started off cloudy, and the Alps weren’t visible as I flew on to Zurich.
Being so close to the mountains, I had hoped — and expected — that I could ski several times between December and April and figured that by the end of the season I would know enough about skis and my type of skiing to buy skis. A lack of being around in December and a dearth of snow in January made skiing a lot less common than thought, however, and by February I began to get fidgety about not being in mountains so close they are home. Thankfully, I was saved from the doldrums of valley life by… commercial aviation!
In the last year, I’ve been fortunate to fly on four planes I never figured I’d take: N777UA, the 747-8I, the 777-300ER, and, this year, the 787. Over a decade separates the first flight of the 777 from that of the 787, and although the two might look alike at first glance, it’s surprising how little the new plane seems to differ to the unsuspecting passenger. After all — a widebody is a widebody, right?