Member Stories from the Melbourne Branch can be found below, most recently published first. If you have a story of your time in aviation or aerospace that you would like to share please contact the Branch chair at email@example.com.
Member Stories from other Branches can be found at the main Member Stories page.
Ron Austin has already contributed several stories about his flying career, the first of which was posted on the Melbourne Branch website on 19 April 2020. Ron accrued a grand total of 16,000 flying hours on all aircraft types, flying professionally for Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) from 1956 until retiring from the airline industry in 1985.
Ron Austin flew a total of 3,000 flying hours on Douglas DC-3s during his career with TAA. This article is the first of three which record some of his DC-3 experiences which he hopes will give you an idea of an airline in action in earlier days and a personal insight into a significant part of a commercial pilot’s life at a time when commercial flying was very different to the way it is today.
Unless indicated otherwise, the photographs used to illustrate Part 1 of Ron’s memories of flying DC-3s (all of which are airframes in his log book) have been provided by kind permission of Mr Bob Smith who set up and maintains the AussieAirliners website (http://www.aussieairliners.org/index.html).
In this modern age when many of us take instant verbal and visual communication across great distances for granted, it may be difficult to imagine how things worked when communications networks were significantly more limited. Such things as microwave links and constellations of geostationary satellites in orbit that enable TV signals and telecommunications to be relayed across the country and further afield simply did not exist.
In the early 1960s TV signals were broadcast via local transmitter sites to the viewing public and for specifc events relayed from and between major cities to local transmitters along terrestial cables. This cable network was limited geographically and did not extend far west beyond the eastern seaboard. In particular Adelaide was not connected to the network and relied on recorded footage broadcast at a later time.
On February 1963 a Royal Visit to Canberra was scheduled to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the naming of the city. The celebration ceremony was to be broadcast live on the television network and an aerial relay to Adelaide was to be attempted for this occasion. This story which includes personal recollections and historical information, explains what was required in order to achieve this milestone.
While the world today is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, a little over 20 years ago the general aviation industry in Australia was confronted with a very different, but nonetheless challenging, crisis - an unprecedented fuel contamination event.
As a CASA executive at the time, Richard Yates was intimately involved in managing this unfortunate event in which, as he explains, there were many uncertainties and unknowns. The impact on the GA industry was significant and some drastic actions had to be taken which, to say the least, caused considerable inconvenience to a great many people; it was certainly ‘an interesting time’.
In the lead-in to the last article (below), we asked if you could find a ‘slipper tank’ in one of the photographs that illustrate the story. If you look at the picture of VH-TVM on Page 4, you will see the tank beneath the port wing, outboard of the Number 1 engine.
Ron Austin’s second article ‘Flying the Vickers Viscount aircraft’ covers the period of his early career during which Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) operated a fleet of Viscounts, a four-engined turbo-prop airliner.
The initial batch of six Viscounts were ordered new by TAA on 19 August 1952 and the first two airframes arrived in Australia at Essendon Airport on 13 October 1954. The last TAA Viscount was taken off the Australian Aircraft Register in 1970; that particular aircraft (VH-TVR) was then donated to the Moorabbin Air Museum.
As Ron relates, his Viscount conversion training was undertaken at Mangalore, the night flying part of which included landing the aircraft without any landing lights; the only external visual reference available being the runway lights. Most readers will probably agree that it is a good thing that this questionable practice has long since been discontinued in the airline industry.
Ron mentions the use of ‘slipper tanks’ in his article which were used to extend the aircraft’s range. A slipper tank is visible in one of the photos used; can you find it? We will reveal which photo shows the tank when the next article is published.
DOWNLOAD his story here [PDF]
Following on from Jim Charlesworth’s first article below, his second article covering his experience of identifying potential sites for, and the subsequent establishment of, remote airstrips is now available via the ‘Download’ link below. As a reminder, there is a biographical introduction covering Jim’s background at the beginning of the first article above.
Who would have imagined in this day and age that determining the potential usability of a proposed airstrip would involve attempting to ride along it on a motorcycle at 60 miles an hour without falling off?!
Continuing the initiative by the RAeS Melbourne Branch to make available aviation stories reflecting member’s careers, Jim Charlesworth has kindly agreed to share his experiences of years gone by when he was flying in support of missionary organisations in West Papua and Timor.
First up in this series is Ron Austin's recollections of flying Bristol Freighters in New Guinea while working for TAA.
One of our favourite moments in this is the day Ron describes as 'just another day in the office'; involving shovels, road construction crews and best laid plans.
Editors note: This story relates the recollections of one of our long standing members and is not presented as an historical record. If there are inaccuracies, we know you’ll understand and trust you’ll enjoy the stories.