Inside V Australia’s Boeing 777 flight simulator

When I was invited out to visit V Australia‘s 777 on it’s maiden voyage from Seattle – Los AngelesSydney earlier this year, poor Amanda Bolger from public relations had no idea what she was signing up for. Sitting in the cockpit with Ken Pascoe, the pater familias of VA pilots, we took a couple of photos and he casually mentioned “Hey, if you come out to Sydney we should take out the simulator.”

Oh, but I was coming to Sydney, Ken, and after a few pestering emails, he finally gave in and invited us to come out to Silverwater, just outside of the city to take the simulator out for a spin.

Meeting Ken out at the Strathfield station earlier this week, we drove up to CAE, where V Australia had a small suite of offices and a simulator installed in a rear, cavernous room. This is where all VA pilots train, both in instrumentation at a computer console and in actual flight operation, inside of the 23 million dollar simulator.

The front of the cockpit is replicated in exact detail to a “white tail” aircraft, a generic 777 that still hasn’t got the exact installed features of VA equipment. A little bit later next month, they’ll be making those upgrades. Behind the pilot and co-pilot seats are an additional three seats where an instructor and observers can curate the flight.

As far as operation, Marty Khoury, another V Australia pilot on hand explained that the graphics and performance are so lifelike, even to the bump of every light in the runway, that sometimes the pilots forget that they’re even inside of the simulator.

So how did Gadling’s flight experience go? Disasterously. But I’ll tell you about that next week.


Score some $500 tickets to Australia with STA Travel

Jealous of all of those blokes who got in on the first round of tickets to Oz on V Australia? It’s true, some of us snagged sub $500 fares to Australia late last year when The Pacific’s newest airline started selling tickets, but it’s not too late to cash in your chips.

The latest installment in STA Travel’s “fast finger fares” give students one last chance to score that dream vacation down under. As a bonus, a welcome package with two nights of (dorm style) lodging, meals and extras is also included in the price. That’s a steal. So how do you get in?

  • Twenty packages will available at exactly 12PM on Monday, the 9th of March. That’s tomorrow.
  • You can only book the packages by going to your local STA travel or by calling (800) 360.9273, so you either need to get to your local office and sit on a travel agent or use four cellphones and call non stop starting at 11:58. Yes, you can wear your Kappa Kappa Gamma sweatpants to the STA office. No, they don’t make your butt look big.

In the worst case scenario, if you miss out on the twenty best deals, STA still has Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne on sale from Los Angeles for about $650, which isn’t a bad deal.

You can read more about the sale at


Behind the Scenes of the V Australia 777 tour

When any Virgin company throws a party, it’s usually in your best interest to show up. Whether this is a Virgin American inaugural flight with Victoria’s Secret models, a Virgin Galactic tour in the Mojave Desert or plain old marketing schlep, you’re almost always guaranteed to meet a few friendly faces, have a few drinks and learn something interesting about the Virgin brand.

Last week’s introduction to V Australia‘s 777 in Los Angeles was no different. Members from all branches of the media were on hand to witness the aircraft’s arrival from the factory in Washington, and to keep us entertained at the Flight Path Museum (just off the LAX tarmac,) organizers had a DJ, snacks, all sorts of literature and even a faction of the USC marching band and cheerleaders (?!) on hand to play a few tunes.

Most interesting, however, were the people. As usual, our old friend The Cranky Flier was on hand to deliver the down and dirty on all of the recent airline gossip (“OMG OMG did you hear about the Virgin America numbers??”), Juliana from Jaunted was armed with her Twitter entourage and suits from Expedia, Hilton and other travel brands were on site. On the flight’s arrival, Richard Branson also brought a few celebrities, including Australian celebrities, Brett Godfrey, the CEO of V Australia and other fancy headliners. Cranky also swears that he saw Chase from House MD, but I think that was just the Wild Turkey talking.
%Gallery-44370%Once the tour of the aircraft started, I found myself walking towards the airplane with Richard Branson and Godfrey, the former of whom barged up the steps towards the door while the latter ushered me up. And as I passed the first class cabin and rounded into the aircraft bar, I suddenly found myself standing in the compartment alone with Branson.

I asked him if we could jump on the beds. In my defense, the invitation that I got from V Australia specifically said that we could, but I doubt that he knew that. Branson looked at me like I was some sort of squirrel and replied “Sure… In a minute,” and promptly opened up a bottle of Champagne.

Then the mayor of LA, Antonio Villaraigosa, showed up and ruined all of the fun, sucking down a glass of Champagne and spouting off some senseless marketing drivel. With him came the rest of the media, including questions like “Will trips to Australia be non-stop?” (Answer from Branson: Well, it’s over the ocean, so I should hope so.) so I headed to the back of the aircraft to meet some more people and take some pictures.

Finding myself in the cockpit, I ran into Ken Pascoe, one of the pilots of the aircraft who was currently sitting in the right seat. After a couple of pictures and some plans to visit the 777 simulator in Sydney, we took this video:

Overall, everyone seems really excited about the new service that’s coming up. Once the 777 reaches Australia, the airline is going to spend a few weeks acclimating, training and preparing their crew, then first flight is later this month. Stay tuned for a review of the inflight service.