4320 minutes in LA: V Australia challenges Aussies to weekend in Los Angeles

Now that the SydneyLos Angeles route is well populated with flights and good prices, Aussies and Americans alike can mull the concept of long weekends overseas. Much like New Yorkers jaunt to Paris or London for a weekend of shopping and hedonism, jetsetters can now cross the pacific for an action packed weekend between surf towns.

As part of the launch initiative, V Australia is kicking off a contest called 4320:LA , where one lucky trio will be given round the world tickets and three whole days (4320 minutes) to party like crazy, rock Los Angeles, and prove that a long weekend in the States can be done.

The catch? All entries have to be in the form of a tweet, that is, less than 140 characters, and you have to tweet the entire time that you’re there. That means that you’d better make the trip interesting — no tweets like “Watching TCM in my hotel room.” You also have to be Australian to enter.

Check out 4320:LA for more details on the promo and to enter.

Gadlinks for Wednesday 6.3.09

Welcome to Gadlinks! This is the inaugural post of what will be Gadling’s daily trip around the travel blogosphere. Aaron and I will be bringing you the newest and coolest travel news, updates, anecdotes, and insights from the world wide web. Just think of us as your very own travel link forum. You can count on us every weekday evening. Who needs the morning paper when you have Gadlinks?

Hooray for Hump Day! There’s plenty to be thankful for when it comes to our midweek travel news.

‘Til tomorrow, have a great evening.

For past Gadlinks, click HERE.

How to destroy V Australia’s $23M flight simulator

I thought that I was the luckiest person in the world when Ken Pascoe and Marty Khoury, two pilots from V Australia invited me, a lowly blogger, out to visit them and their flight simulator out in Australia last week. Sure, I edit a travel blog and I do run Linux, but that usually can only get me so far.

So I was thrilled to accept the invitation and join the crew out in Silverwater, just outside of Sydney, last Monday. As I detailed last week, Ken picked me up at the train station and showed me around the CAE facility and cockpit, then the safety briefing started.

“Should we lose power and the gangway not extend to the sim, the escape hatch and rope are just outside of the cockpit,” Ken explained.

“Furthermore, if anything goes wrong during the flight, emergency stop buttons are here, here and here.” He pointed to a spot next to each seat and to two on the wall of the cockpit. “But you won’t have to hit those — I’ll have probably already reset the system once you realize something has gone wrong. Now, grab a seat.”

Pulling my SLR camera out of its bag and stepping towards the left seat, I paused, and turned to my companion, thinking that it would be best for me to film part of the experience before taking my turn. And that’s when the lights turned off and everything ground to a halt. Think of the noise you hear when a subway or train shuts down, it’s eerily quiet and something doesn’t sound right. Or the sound of broken dreams. That’s the one. I had pressed the emergency stop button with my shoulder when I turned around.
Note, that there are two emergency stop buttons on the wall of the cockpit: there’s the “turn off the movement and relax” stop and then there’s the “pull the plug on thirty computers, rip the circuit boards from the machine and stomp on them” stop. That second one is the one that I pressed.

“No worries,” said Ken, “this has happened before.” And as we left the cockpit, he gave a nervous chuckle. “We’ll be up in no time.”

Ah, but we weren’t. After an hour of pulling circuit boards out of the machine, two techs determined that they might have to order another board. My session and a later, real pilot’s session were definitely canceled.

Later that evening I got a text message from Ken saying that they figured out the problem after replacing two circuit boards, and that I should swing back as soon as I could. But by that point I was already headed towards Auckland.

Maybe next time, V Australia.

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.


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.