MALT to the rescue after catastrophic monsoon rains lash Myanmar
The Australian Defence Force has provided a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster and a Mobile Air Load Team (MALT) to transport Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) emergency humanitarian stores to flood -effected Myanmar.

The MALT is made up of six personnel and constructed about 1000 family kits onto air pallets at the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Subang, Malaysia on 9 August 2015, in preparation for onward movement to Rangoon, Myanmar.

Each family kit contains hygiene items, cooking materials, education materials, blankets, water containers, torches, basic footwear and an FM radio. The humanitarian relief supplies are being coordinated by DFAT, who are working with the Myanmar Government and humanitarian partners to determine priority items.

Royal Australian Air Force
From: Thomas Geoghegan, Folkestone
Sent: 03 August 2015 12:21 PM
Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #073115

Hello Tony,

Just a reaction from me to you regarding the National Airlines 747 Boeing incident (OBB #073115).

Hard to believe this day and age that what I witnessed could occur, never mind the Load Master who is the first you would think of but the remainder of the crew could have worked this out before flight. Skipper / First Officer are obliged to "walk about" better still a Flight Engineer who takes a lot of responsibility for the safety of his aircraft. Terrible, suppose it was most likely to happen on T/O which perhaps was just as well as it could have come down over a populated area. What a terrible waste.

Best Rgds,  Tod
Pictures Released of Tom Cruise at RAF Wittering
Paramount Pictures have released pictures showing the filming of "Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation" at Royal Air Force Wittering in November 2014.

The story for RAF Wittering began several months beforehand with the reactivation of the airfield in April 2014. This meant that Royal Air Force Wittering was a Station with a functioning airfield, but no resident flying squadrons.

It was an unusual set of circumstances, but one that made the Cambridgeshire Station ideal for the production crew of Mission Impossible 5. In events more in keeping with RAF Wittering's Cold War past, a series of clandestine meetings followed to determine the suitability of the historic base.  RAF Wittering was one of several air stations and airports in contention for the filming but the Station's long runway and wide taxiways, originally built for V-Bombers, made the airfield an ideal choice.
Weeks of intense work followed with personnel from Air Traffic Control, Operations Wing, Business Management and Support Wing furiously preparing the Station for the coming of Mission Impossible.

On 28th October 2014 the wagons and 300-strong crew arrived at RAF Wittering, joined soon after by a contingent from Airbus and the A400M transport aircraft which was the centrepiece of the filming.

After years of little aircraft activity, the arrival of such a large aeroplane did not go unnoticed and soon the world's media buzzed with stories of breathtaking aerial stunts at Cambridgeshire's most famous Royal Air Force Station. 
For Senior Aircraftwoman Emma-Jo Larney one particular evening proved very memorable. Emma-Jo was duty driver on the night Tom Cruise arrived by helicopter at RAF Wittering, she led a convoy of vehicles out to his helicopter. 
Emma-Jo said; "I didn't think that I'd ever meet anyone famous when I came to RAF Wittering, so it was a real surprise when I met Tom Cruise. He was really friendly and introduced himself to me, which I didn't expect."

But the end of filming did not mean the end of the film industry's interest in Royal Air Force Wittering.

Afterwards other filmmakers contacted the Station, interested in using the expansive airfield. Flying squadrons had moved in, however, and the window of opportunity had closed.

Group Captain Richard Pratley became the Commanding Officer of Royal Air Force Wittering in June 2015. He said; "Mission Impossible was a huge event in the life of this Station. The fact that the Station coped so well with a project of this size speaks volumes for the calibre of people we have here."
He continued; "Of course, it was great to have the movie here, but we have not lost sight of what we're here to do. No matter how famous this Station becomes, RAF Wittering is here to support deployed air operations and prepare future generations of RAF pilots."
From: Tony Mullen, Toowoomba, QLD 
Sent: 05 August 2015 1:56 AM
Subject: FEAF MAMS memories

Hi Tony,

Love your frequent newsletters. The latest with Bill Girdwood’s tales from Kuantan brought back a very memorable incident from those days.

I was tasked to take a team to Kuantan on one occasion in 1965. The identities of the  other team members I can’t recall but probably they were John Weir and the 2 Paddy Devlins!

The task was to travel up on a Beverley of 34 Sqn and load the equipment and ground staff of a Canberra Sqn that was returning to UK after a deployment at Kuantan. The freight and pax would be transhipped at Tengah onto a Britannia for the trip to UK. After loading the Beverley we were to remain at Kuantan to handle some other troop moves.

On arrival I found the Sqn Eng. O who proudly showed me the pile of crates and miscellaneous ground equipment that comprised the load. Unfortunately nothing had been weighed and there were no weights marked on anything! The Eng O said that should not be a problem as the total weight of the load when they arrived was 29,000 lbs so it should be the same on the return trip? There were no scales at Kuantan!

As a very young Pilot officer I was a little concerned to say the least and sent a priority signal to Mov ops at HQFEAF explaining the situation and asking for instructions. The reply came back very quickly. It merely said “Use Your Initiative”.

I then spoke to the Bev captain, Dave Ferguson, who was a drinking mate of mine, and suggested that all I could do under the circumstances was to estimate the weight of each item as it was loaded. Alternatively we could await arrival of scales from Singapore. This would probably result in a 24 hour delay and would also affect the Sqn move to UK. The Canberras had already left in advance of the ground crew and equipment.

He agreed with my plan and that is what we did.

Watching the Bev take off was a moment I will never forget. It took most of the runway to get airborne and apparently was very heavy and difficult to handle on the trip to Tengah. The Captain felt obliged to report the incident and the load was check weighed at Tengah. From memory the aircraft was about 7000 lbs over all-up limits.

There was a unit enquiry and I was in the dock! However, I never heard anything more about it and was not disciplined in any way. I assume that some staff officer at HQFEAF may have had a bit of explaining to do!  Morale of this story is - Never Assume!

Keep up the good work Tony. Now I am just about finally retired I hope to contribute a bit more to the website. I must dig out all the old slides and digitalise them.

Best wishes to you and all your readers.

Tony Mullen
Robberies on Civilian Passenger Aircraft
I would like to draw your attention to an attempted robbery on a flight into Hong Kong last week. With an hour to go, during the flight, I thought I noticed my bag being replaced in the overhead locker. I wasn't sure and decided it was probably a fellow passenger, moving it to access their own bag.

I dismissed any thought of any wrong doing, but upon arrival in HK, something told to me to retrieve the bag, just to make sure nothing suspicious had occurred. When I opened the overhead locker (not above me) and saw my leather bag was the only one occupying the space I knew there was a problem. I examined the contents, only to find all of my wife's jewellery, along with some cash had been stolen during the flight!

I raised the alarm and my wife and I quickly blocked both aisles to stop anyone at the back of the plane disembarking... there were around 120 passengers.

My wife and I both shouted for assistance from the stewards and stewardesses. Eventually a steward told me that security had been called but passengers were becoming very agitated and unwilling to show patience or understanding; they just wanted to get off the plane. My wife and I were the only people controlling the passengers
I pleaded with the passengers to check their own bags at which point three fellow travellers reported they had also been robbed. It was only at this point, did I see any evidence from the cabin crew that they were willing to provide any meaningful support.

I vaguely remember seeing a passenger wearing black, sporting a white base-ball cap and pleaded with the rest of the passengers to see if they could remember anyone fitting my description.

It turned out to be a passenger standing in front of me, who once identified proceeded to offload money, jewelry, camera equipment and false documents, running into tens of thousand, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stolen goods.

By this time security had boarded the plane, the Captain had been informed and was standing in the rear section watching the events unfold.

Eventually a policeman boarded the plane and I was able to explain the events leading up to my apprehending the thief. I have since been informed this criminal activity is reaching epidemic proportions and the authorities caught three thieves, just last week, (with 30 already on remand since early December) on flights into HK, with all the criminals coming from the same town in China.

It is estimated that only 5% are being caught judging by the reports of passengers contacting the police after they have arrived at their destination.  They sit in the back row of the plane observing where bags are behind or away from the passengers and systematically pull them from the overhead lockers, while passengers rest or watch movies, take them to the back of the plane and steal any valuable contents.

They prey on foreign airlines as the penalties are so lenient, the pay-off makes it worth the risk.

I naively have never thought of robbers operating on planes, but now I have experienced it first hand, there are a few takeaways:
Hand luggage should ALWAYS be locked.
Do not assume luggage under your seat is safe....last week one passenger had her purse stolen by the guy sitting next to her while she slept!
If in doubt, wear or keep any valuables ON YOU at all times!
Don't assume, like me, that everyone on a flight is a law-abiding citizen.
Do not assume business class travel is secure... robbers can be wealthy.
With permission from Virendra Shah - Facebook
From: Chris Roberts
Date: 8/12/2015, 4:09 am, EDT
Subject: Dave Roberts

Good Evening,

For anyone who knew or worked with my father, Dave Roberts, in the 70's, 80's and early 90's I'm afraid to say that he passed away this last Thursday 6th August.

He was MAMS for most of his career in the RAF serving in Cyprus (where I was born), Lyneham, Scampton, Stafford, Belize, Decimomannu and a number of other locations.

He retired to the US for a while, then ended up spending the last 10 years or so in Thailand.

Dave Roberts 1947 - 2015

From: Keith Parker, Bowerhill, Wilts
Sent: 17 August 2015 3:39 PM
Subject: Re: Dave Roberts


Dave was 50th Entry Hereford I believe. This is a big shock for me, I knew Dave very well from both Lyneham and Cyprus. Out of the blue Aug 5th I had an e-mail saying "Alive and well living in Thailand" so we hooked up and spoke at great length and he indeed sounded fit and well.

We shot the breeze for over an hour and then tonight... well my e-mail had been down over the weekend and amongst my 153 messages was yours. What a shock!  Daphne, my wife, is on the phone speaking with his ex-wife Shirley right now. Just goes to show you that you never know when your time is up. So we must all keep in touch, cheers for now.

Successful Flights Means More Access to McMurdo in Winter
Residents wintering at McMurdo Station saw a rare sight in June; a United States Air Force C-17 touching down at the Pegasus Airfield during Antarctica’s darkest month, which U.S. Antarctic Program officials hope is harbinger of things to come. 

The plane stayed for only a couple of hours before flying off into the night. It dropped off seven people and about 52,000 pounds of cargo and picked up eight people leaving the continent.

A month later, another C-17 descended out of the blackness, rounding out a three-flight, proof-of-concept program for future winter re-supply missions.  he two C-17 flights followed the landing of an Australian Antarctic Division-contracted Airbus A319, which touched down on April 18 while the skies were still dimly lit in the Antarctic twilight. It brought in 13 people to the station and carried 39 off the Ice.
Historically, McMurdo has had a nearly six-month-long blackout period between March and August with no scheduled flights in or out. These recent landings are the vanguard of a new winter flights program that planners expect will fundamentally change how the station operates during the continent’s coldest months.  “It’s a precedent-setting activity,” said Paul Sheppard, the operations and logistics systems manager for the National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs. “[The Antarctic Support Contract] is already planning on building it into the season plan for fiscal year 2016.”

Added Michael Raabe, manager of transportation and logistics at the Antarctic Support Contract (ASC), which runs the logistics operations for the NSF, “No longer do we have the mentality that the winter staff and the winter operation is a closed operation. We have the ability to fly in and out year round… We become more of a mature operation that can dictate, in essence, to the continent what we want to do and not let the continent and the seasons dictate to us.”

The Airbus flight demonstrated that it is possible to get passengers to McMurdo from Hobart, Australia, without going through Christchurch, New Zealand, the normal point of departure. It also tested the abilities of the Airbus planes to land late in the season and the effectiveness of the new LED landing lights at Pegasus Runway. A second plane, a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 cargo plane, was supposed to fly down as well, but delays and scheduling commitments prevented it from taking part.

Antarctic Sun
From: Glenn Ferguson, Newquay, Cornwall
Sent: 17 August 2015 9:13 PM
Subject: The Longest Day

Hi Tony.

During the First Gulf War (Op Granby) was possibly my longest day, and it has stuck with me all these years.

An American A10 had destroyed a British Warrior armoured vehicle, killing all of the occupants and Al Jubayl, one of the busiest airfields in the world at that time, came to a halt for the repatriation.

This was my first and unfortunately not the last in my career. I will always remember Derek Grayson, Tony Fowler and myself fitting the hush kit and making sure the souls came onboard and were laid with zero fuss and in the correct places.

The sound of a piper playing a haunting lament and the tears streaming down the faces of the men sending their brothers home is burned fiercely in my memory.  I can't tell you how long it took or how many souls we placed on the C130's floor
The dignity with which the ceremony was carried out and the respect shown by all was beyond measure. I will always be grateful to Derek and Tony for the emotional support directly after the aircraft had departed.

I honestly could not tell you how long the entire ceremony took, for me though, not so much physically but mentally, it was the longest day.

Glenn 'Fergie' Ferguson
From: John Holloway, Shrewsbury
Sent: 12 August 2015 4:01 AM
Subject: NSRAFA Cosford Branch

Hi Tony,

This month’s speaker was Janet Doody of the Brosley Shropshire Historical Society and she gave us a brilliant talk on Shropshire in Word War One with an array of photos of military camps in Shropshire both Army and RFC. Three airfields that were created were Monkmoor in Shrewsbury, Ternhill and Shawbury. Also featured were photos of lots of memorials from all over the county. There have been numerous TV programmes on WW1 this year and on one they showed a memorial board at a church in Welshpool and MY name was on it!

There is an interesting item in this month’s issue of our “Erk” magazine and I’ve attached a copy for you to see.



NS(RAF)A Cosford's Visit to RAF Brize Norton
Those members who were able to go to RAF Brize Norton had a most enjoyable visit. After a meal in the Chequers Pub in Brize Norton, we made our way to the camp where we were met by Sgt Becky Hall, the visit's Liaison Officer (and assistant to the SWO).

Following an introduction from Sgt Hall, the party made it’s way to No1 Parachute Training Squadron where the techniques and training used for the various types of parachuting were explained. Paratroopers don’t just jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane They do high altitude, low opening (HALO), low altitude, low opening (LOLO), and static line jumps, as well as jumping into the sea and into jungle.

It was explained that when laden with his parachute, reserve parachute, kit bag, weapon and ammunition and body armour, a paratrooper could be carrying in excess of 110 lbs.
The next visit was to 47 (SF) Squadron. Flt Lt Graham Prager, a Hercules Captain, gave an enthralling audio-visual presentation of the squadron’s activities that included a video of a Hercules being blown up by a Taliban IED as it landed. He explained that 47 Sqn flew C-130 J Hercules, and were the taxi drivers for the Special Forces; they had the job of putting SAS or SBS units on the ground wherever they were tasked. This often meant flying at low level to avoid enemy radar, often as low as 150 ft in the dark. That is low when you realise that a standard electricity pylon is 250ft high.

The final call was to 99 Squadron who operate the C-17 aircraft. This is the aircraft that was often seen on TV repatriating dead and wounded from Afghanistan. The party was split into four groups and they were given a walk round and salient features pointed out by a young female Flight Lieutenant who had just qualified on the C-17 and a talk on how the aircraft was loaded by an Air Loadmaster.

An explanation of how the maintenance and engineering was carried out by the Squadron Engineering Officer and lastly, a visit to the cockpit where one of the pilots explained the controls and digital instrument displays.

The Newsletter of the Cosford Branch of the NS(RAF)A
From: Wayne Flaherty, Winnipeg, MB
Sent: 17 August 2015 10:28 PM
Subject: The Longest Day

Hi Tony, 

The longest day I ever had was as a Loadmaster on our 707’s back in the early 80’s.  We were a VIP flight taking Prime Minister Trudeau to the Commonwealth Heads of Governments meeting in New Delhi. 

My day started at 0400 hours when I reported for duty.  We were scheduled to pick up the PM at 0800 hours in Ottawa which is about a 45 minute trip from Trenton.  After we arrived in Ottawa, the PM was not available for another four hours. 

When we finally left Ottawa on our way to Anchorage Alaska for refueling we had another eight hours to fly.  We landed in Alaska and of course all the local big wigs were there to greet the PM and invite him to lunch. 
We stayed on board waiting for the PM to return so we could continue our flight to Tokyo and a well deserved RON. This took an additional four hours before we started the leg to Japan. After another eight plus hours in the air and two hours on the ground cleaning the airplane we finally got out of the Tokyo airport and the one hour drive to our hotel.

Arriving at the hotel about 0900 local time, we were politely informed our rooms would not be available until approximately 1600 hours local. 31 hours from the start of my crew day and I had to wait for my room! I was one of the lucky guys and my room was ready after waiting in the hotel lobby for only four more hours. My clothes hit the floor, I hit the bed, and woke up about midnight local time absolutely starving. I went down to the main desk looking for the restaurant and was informed it was closed until 0700. Not a great day.

Needless to say, after that I always made sure I carried some canned food just in case!

The Ruag sponsored World Air Forces 2015 provides the latest worldwide military fleet data compiled from the Flightglobal databases and global fleet analysis from Flightglobal Insight. 

This is just a tiny insight into the report - if anyone would like the full report via e-mail in .pdf format please send me a request.
From: Chris Goss, Booker, Marlow, Bucks
Sent: 18 August 2015 5:11 AM
Subject: The Longest Day


One trip sticks in my mind for two reasons: long day and trims. 

I think it was Feb 1987 and it was a four man team; Tony Feast, Tony Last, Richie Holland and myself.  We were in Nairobi for Grand Prix/Strident Call from 8-18 February, arriving on C-130 XV300 and then coming back on VC10 XV104. 

One night we had to do from start to finish 2 x Hercs and 2 x VC10s but did not have access to the aircraft until late at night.  It was an all-nighter and we were knackered by the end of it.  I had to do all of the trims (Richie wasn't too happy doing four in a row having just passed his Controllers course), DbyD etc., as well as helping out with the loading (yes, we did have to do this once in a while!). 
There was so much work to do that for the last VC10 I asked the MALM if he could help as we still had loading to do - could he do the trim?  He replied 'Yes' but he would be reporting me to OC UKMAMS as 10 Sqn had been told that all trims would be done by the MAMS team. 

Exhaustion and frustration then took over - I said something and stormed off which was witnessed by the AT Detachment Commander who came over to me to ask what was up.  I told him what had transpired, to which he replied, 'So, if he does report you, you don't care less?'  I said 'Yes' and he said 'Leave it to me'. 

I am not certain what he said but within five minutes, a MALM rushed over, cap in hand, all apologetic.  Funny how I can remember this so clearly after 28 years!

From: Dennis Martin, Woking, Surrey
Sent: 18 August 2015 5:36 AM
Subject: Weight and Balance

Hi Tony,
There’s an interesting and informative article on the FAA website regarding weight and balance. I read about a few things that updated the 'angle of the dangle' days!


(Click on the image at left to download the .pdf file)
From: Charles Collier, Ewhurst, Surrey
Sent: 19 August 2015 3:55 PM
Subject: Electronic trim sheets

It was a delight when as a member of my transport institute I was asked being an RAF officer if I could go to RAF Brize Norton where a firm known as Thales were demonstrating an electronic trim system for RAF use.

It proved to be successful so I understand it’s been taken on.

The picture shows a modern trim clerk with laptop held noting the securement points for the containers being loaded.

All slightly different from our days with manuscript sheets. But before that it was scrap paper! 

All the best

New members who have joined us recently are:
Kyra Poole, Tindal, NT, Australia

Shawn Bellas, Bungedore, NSW, Australia
Liam Devlin, Port Talbot, Wales, United Kingdom
Rebecca Dixon, Comox, BC, Canada

John MacFarlane, Hamilton, ON, Canada

Bryon Barker, Wainwright, AB, Canada
Welcome to the OBA!
Stacy Warren, Trenton, ON, Canada

Brian Stein, Stonewall, MB, Canada
From: David Powell, Princes Risborough
Sent: 18 August 2015 2:08 PM
Subject: Re: The Next OBA Newsletter - The Longest Day

Hi Tony,

My Longest Day
This tale predates my time on MAMS but had a profound effect on my future career.  Wind the clock back 50 or so years, and apologies if some details are a bit hazy.  Easter 1964 was important for two events.  First, for RAF Equipment (I said it was a long time ago!) Officer Cadet training at Cranwell, months of classroom theory in air movements culminated in a visit to the real world for a week with the RAF Lyneham Air Movements Squadron. 

The second important event: just towards the end of the visit, fighting broke out in Nicosia between Greeks and Turks.  RAF Lyneham swung into ‘here we go again mode’ with evacuated families heading home, army refors heading to Cyprus and the departure of RAF cadets for Easter leave ASAP.  Except that I asked if I could stay on as a spare pair of hands for the weekend, which was agreed.  At least I think someone agreed.

So on the Friday lunchtime I was attached to Fg Off Simon Baker’s shift initially.  Then followed a blur of Britannia’s, mainly loading Landrovers and army kit.  I have a memory of the Saturday evening in the cargo shed dragging the load for a scheduled Far East cargo flight with just myself and Sqn Ldr ‘Dad’ Owens, the charismatic SAMO at the time, driving the fork lift. 
Sometime on the Sunday I was ordered to get some sleep and so ended my first and longest day on air movements.  And that was when I first fell in love with the whiff of avtur, the sound of Houchin ground power units, the glow of yellow sodium lights lighting the ramp, the adrenaline buzz of operations and the incredible characters who made it happen.  I wanted to be a mover!

David Powell

F Team UKMAMS 1967-69

p.s.  For those who did not know, we lost Simon Baker in February 2012, aged 72.  Simon was OC Tactical Supply Wing from 1979 to 1981 and retired from the Royal Air Force in 1990.
RAF Photo Competition 2015 - Your Chance to Vote!
Following on from the success of last year’s public vote, the RAF is again allowing the public to choose their favourite RAF photograph. Last year was the first time this unique opportunity was opened up to the public and it attracted over 12,500 voters, the RAF is hoping for even more this year.

Each year, stunning photographs are published following the RAF Photographic Competition and the winning military and civilian photographers are named. Again, the RAF is very keen to hear from the public and therefore the online vote has been re-introduced.

The nine contenders for the title have been chosen by a panel of three experts from the worlds of journalism and professional photography at the 2015 RAF Photographic Competition held recently at the RAF Museum in London. 

But now it’s YOUR chance to choose YOUR top shot from the contest.

You can vote NOW by going online to Polling closes at midnight on 6 September 2015. The winner will be announced at a Presentation Ceremony on 11 September 2015.
Man's Best Friend - SAC Connor Payne

Air Dog Hertz and his handler Sergeant Tanner pose for their photograph on a Puma Mark 2 helicopter, having recently completed a flight in one.  Hertz has been nominated for a Daily Mirror and RSPCA Animal Hero Award.
City of Bristol - Mr Paul Crouch

An RAF Atlas (Airbus A400M) ZM400 "City of Bristol" takes off from RAF Brize Norton.  The A400M, in service with 70 Squadron, will provide the Royal Air Force with a tactical & strategic airlift capability to support all three Services.
Unveiling - Sergeant Ralph Merry

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft, displayed in front of the Union Jack at Edwards AFB California, shortly before the standing up of 17(R) Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Future Force - Sergeant Ralph Merry

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft on display at Edwards AFB California, on the day of the standing up of 17(R) Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Synchro - SAC Tim Laurence

The Royal Air Force aerobatic team, The Red Arrows, perform a number of manoeuvres during their display, one of which is the Synchro Pair, flying inverted in close formation to one another, with just a few feet between each aircraft.
Dress-Off - Mr Paul Crouch

Personnel from 30 Squadron based at RAF Brize Norton practice their moves for the squadron's upcoming Centenary Parade.
Heat - SAC Tim Laurence

The Royal Air Force Typhoon Display Team rehearses for the 2015 Royal International Air Tattoo. 
Horsing Around -  Sergeant Ralph Merry

Squadron Leader Haley Norris from RAF High Wycombe, pictured with her horse, Alfie, at RAF Halton Saddle Club in April, 2015
Shoots and Giggles - Mr Paul Crouch

Troops taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior static line parachuting, board a Royal Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft prior to being dropped onto Salisbury Plain in April, 2015
Defence in the Media
From: Len Bowen, Chisholm, ACT
Sent: 19 August 2015 8:24 AM
Subject: RE: UKMAMS OBA OBB #073115

G’day Tony.

Thanks, as always, for the latest Old Bods Brief.  Excellent as always.

Bill Girdwood’s letter certainly struck a chord.  What he was kind (?) enough to not mention was that amongst the ‘handful of strangers’ he was working with to deactivate Kuantan was one Pilot Officer Len Bowen!  I had joined FEAF MAMS in late July 1966, after my year as MOVO at RAF Labuan, and very reasonably despite my ‘blooding’ (in more ways than one) in the air movements game in the Far East at Lab, my new CO, Sqn Ldr Pope, very reasonably decided that I should understudy one of the old MAMS hands for my first job with the Squadron.  As a result I flew into Kuantan on 1st August ’66 on Beverley 116 (back in service after the “OOPS!” at Sandakan on October the previous year) with Flt Lt Hugh Crawley as Captain. 

Bill met me on arrival and gave me a very good overview of the task that confronted us… and some task it was.  I couldn’t better Bill’s excellent tale in any way, but just to add a few of the highlights of my own that I recall:

1. Moving the bombs to the wharf.  The night before the first uplift by our locally-contracted drivers, who were already on site with their trucks, we had a film in the same open-air cinema where Rab Devlin had met the tree-fox.  Some bright spark decided that a good movie for the occasion would be ‘The Wages of Fear’, the French classic about moving truck loads of highly unstable nitro-glycerin over poor roads, in which at least one of the trucks disappears in a cloud of dust, debris and human body parts.  All the trucks in the film carry red flags and flashing lights... as, in order to comply “…with all sorts of constraints imposed by the local Malay authorities” did all the civilian trucks the following morning when we started to move the bombs!  Needless to say there was some considerable trepidation amongst our civilian drivers, and I seem to recall that the first load was not just escorted, but was actually carried in an RAF Bedford RL 3-Tonner driven by Bill with myself as his co-driver.  Memory may be playing tricks here, but I do know that we, the MAMS Team, did pilot the first convoy to the dock ourselves to reassure the drivers.
2. The (in)famous swimming fork lift.  Actually the only thing that prevented the fork lift from disappearing completely into the river after Derek Smith had very sensibly abandoned ship was that one of the tynes of the fork lift became jammed between the twin cables that lifted the LCH’s bow ramp.  While this stopped the vehicle submerging completely, it did little to aid the recovery, and when the vessel tried to pull away from the slip actually threatened to further drown the fork lift.  The RASC crew were not too unsympathetic in the end, however, and invited Bill and I back to their wardroom for a cold one - or three - when the loading was finally completed (see ‘Order of the Good Fellow’ attached).

3. I have a stack of photos of the loading of the LCH, but they are presently all on 35mm slides.  Once I master the intricacies of the slide digitalization machine that my two sons bought me for last Father’s Day, I’ll post a few on line to you.

4. Len gets sunburnt.  My fair Scottish skin didn’t take kindly to the sun when we were on the dockside from sun-up to sun-set for days at a time, and I finished up buying a large rattan coolie hat which I wore - with much mirth from the rest of the Team - until the LCH sailed. 
5. When I finally left FEAF MAMS in August 1968 it was suggested at my farewell party in the Seletar Mess that a NOTAM should be promulgated that Len Bowen’s red raw sunburnt nose was no longer available as a short-range NAVAID for homing onto remote airfields in SE Asia. 

Bill also makes mention of the Kuantan Hotel.  There was one up-side to the establishment; it was very close to another Kuantan instiution - ‘Mimi’s Red Light All Night Massage Parlour’.  So that we don’t reduce the next issue of Old Bod’s Brief to ‘adults only’, suffice it to say that I was just tour-ex after a ‘One-Year Unaccompanied’ tour in Borneo, and one of the charming young ladies I met at ‘Mimi’s’ often needed somewhere safe, dry and warm for the night when she had finished her evening shift!  (Sorry, but this is not blackmail material; my future wife Penny was then in UK in 1966, still at high school, and I didn’t meet her until 1969 … and she knows all about Kuantan … ALL about Kuantan, OK!)*.  

By the time we finally pulled down the flag and drove out what once was the front gate (on 26th August 1966 if my Log Book is correct), under Bill Girdwood’s tutelage I was confident that I could now lead a MAMS task on my own, especially as I had inherited Flt Sgt Ted Turner who would be my Team SNCO and strong right arm for the next two years.  Add Rab Devlin (sans tree-fox), Dave Oliver and a couple of others, and we were set for the next task, closing down RAF Gong Kedak in far northeast Malaya that September.  Thanks, Bill, for breaking me in so gently, and stopping me making too big a fool of myself.

Yrs Aye,

Len B

*She and her friends also proved essential in getting the knots and kinks out of my Team and I when we next visited Kuantan, returning to Seletar by road the following month from Gong Kedak.  Back and shoulder muscles really need a good massage after eight hours six-up in a SWB Land Rover … but that’s another story.
Some 40-odd years later I had a substantial skin cancer cut out of my cheek. I was then still in uniform with the RAAF Reserve, and the plastic surgeon, ex-NZ Army, asked me what my specialization was in the Air Force.  When I told him that it was logistics, with a heavy emphasis on movements and transport, and an even heavier emphasis on air movements, involving long hour in the open on airfields round the world, his comment was that that wasn’t a very good choice of career for someone with my skin pigmentation.  I replied that he was about 45 years too late with this clinical advice.  Maybe I should have kept my Kuantan coolie hat for all subsequent MAMS and MATU deployments!
RAAF advances airdrop capability
The RAAF has advanced its airdrop capability for the ADF at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia. The joint precision airdrop system (JPADS) combines existing airdrop practice with GPS technology, giving the Air Movement Group accurate delivery of payloads to a drop zone by using steerable parachutes.

RAAF C-17A Globemasters and now the C-130J Hercules can now drop a payload several kilometres away from the drop zone, and from an altitude of up to 25,000ft - or 7.6km. The recent trial was conducted by the Air Movements Training and Development Unit (AMTDU), a joint Air Force and Army unit from RAAF Base Richmond and involved a C-130J Hercules.

AMTDU Test Director FLTLT Justin Della Bosca said the ‘point of impact’ for the JPADS payload was programmed into the guidance unit by the aircrew during the mission planning phase. “The JPADS capability enables the precision resupply to ground forces from high altitudes and from long stand-off distance,” FLTLT Della Bosca said. “This reduces the aircraft’s exposure to ground-based threats as well as enabling an aircraft to launch re-supply to various drop zones from a single release point.” 
In February 2014, a C-17A Globemaster successfully conducted a trial JPADS drop using the latest available technology.  “The latest operational evaluation will introduce a JPADS training capability for the fleet of Hercules,” FLTLT Della Bosca said.

The JPADS kit can accommodate one tonne of any payload that will fit into a container delivery system. After ground and airborne trials with the JPADS load, the first trial drop was conducted on July 30. Flying at an altitude of 20,000ft with the C-130J’s ramp open required the crew to be on oxygen masks.

“The C-130J released an 800kg load at high altitude, about 18.5km from the planned impact point,” FLTLT Della Bosca said. “The load landed within 25m from the planned point of impact, and within six seconds of predicted flight time.”

AMTDU will make a number of recommendations from the operational evaluation, allowing for a limited JPADS training capability on the C-130J.

The next goal is to roll out JPADS on the C-27J Spartan and use JPADS in support of operations. Rigge supervisor SGT Mark Ferrer, of AMTDU, said the JPADS kit was reusable. “The complete system consists of a canopy, pilot chute and autonomous guidance unit,” he said.

“Recovery of the system requires a drop zone team on the ground - a minimum of four personnel - to lift and remove it. To re-use the system, three qualified parachute riggers and one checker need to re-service the kit, which includes inspection, and repair of any damage to the system if required. They will then repack the JPADS to a serviceable system for re-classification to fully functional, ready for next descent,” SGT Ferrer said.

Australian Defence
From: Don Lloyd, Calgary, AB
Sent: 23 August 2015 3:31 PM
Subject: The Longest Day

Hi Tony, 

I took a look in my log books and came up with three, what I found to be the longest days in my flying career on a Herc. 

The first was on my initial training course in March of 1965 from Trenton to Marville in 13.0 hrs. 

The second was from Gatwick to Trenton on May 9, 1968 in 12.7 hrs.

The last one was April 9, 1973 from Edmonton to Lyneham in 13.5 hrs.  

Of course we all did a lot of 11 plus hour trips back and forth over the pond, and even managed to throw in a few trips in the 12 hours plus category.  It will be interesting to hear from some of the other guys about their longest days! 

Cheers for now...


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From: Arthur Rowland, St Ives, Cambs
Sent: 24 August 2015 11:13 AM
Subject: The Longest Day

Hi Tony,

I think my longest day(s) was back in 1964 when I did my first MAMS trip. This was to Cyprus when an invasion was thought to be likely and we were tasked, among other things,  to evacuate families.

We had been working non-stop all day and evening, and, having said goodbye to the last outbound around midnight, the team repaired to the airmens' mess for a well-earned meal. We were just about to eat our sausages when in walked the movements officer waving a signal to say,"Sorry lads, another 16 sorties due, the first landing shortly."  I managed to quell the impending mutiny as the meal ended!

I saw two more dawns break before finally getting to the mess where I promptly fell asleep... in the bath!

All the best

(*360 Video not available on iOS 8)
From: Len Bowen Chisholm, ACT
Sent: 26 August 2015 3:19 AM
Subject: The Longest Day

G'day Tony, 

FEAF MAMS and MATU ALT1 have provided me with many and varied alarms and excursions round the world, often involving long hours in unusual and, at times, exotic locations.  My most rewarding task, however, was probably the shortest over-all deployment to the least exotic place (sorry New Zealand), but at the same time probably the single longest day, and also the most rewarding both professionally and emotionally. 
To set the scene, early in 1981 QANTAS introduced the Boeing 747SP into service.  Management’s reasoning was that as the aircraft had a much shorter fuselage than the regular 747-200s then in service, the 747SP would need fewer cabin staff on each flight. 

This led to an industrial dispute which culminated in all the QANTAS cabin crews going on strike - sorry, exercising their right to withdraw their labour - at the end of February.

This in turn resulted in a large number of passengers stranded world wide, and after some deliberation the government of the day decided that the RAAF would be brought in to recover several hundred people stuck in airports in New Zealand. 

Don’t ask me the political thinking behind why just from NZ - possibly because it was the shortest distance over which to employ the RAAF and make a political point at the same time, QANTAS then still being government-owned. (At the time there was a t-shirt available carrying the QANTAS logo and the wording ‘I Own An Airline’ - more of this later).
The decision was also based on the fact that most of the stranded passengers were elderly folk, pensioners and the like, who had spent their savings on holidays or with family and friends in NZ, but now had no money to do as most other well-heeled ex-QANTAS pax were doing - simply pull out a cheque book or a credit card and grab a ticket on any one of a number of other airlines that were still flying over the Tasman back to Australia.  We found this out when we arrived at RNZAF Whenuapai very early in the morning of 1st March on C130H A97-001 captained by WGCDR Henderson, the 36SQN CO. There were already several coach loads of middle aged and elderly ladies and gentlemen waiting to board our and several other Hercs just behind us, and in talking to them we found that many of them had been stuck in Auckland Airport for some days without any funds, being cared for by the Salvation Army and other charity organisations. 

As a result, they were VERY glad to see us. I freely admit that I got a lump in my throat when I climbed onto the first coach to give the usual PAX Briefing, starting with “G’day, I’m Len Bowen. We’re with the Royal Australian Air Force and we’ve come to take you home” - and received a standing ovation from the entire load of passengers!  That set the tone for the day, as Herc after Herc came and went with load after load of very happy ‘oldies’.
It was raining when we arrived at Whenuapai, and it didn’t let up all day or all night.  The situation was not improved when in the early afternoon the New Zealand Trades Union Council or whatever decided we were strike-breaking scabs, and in solidarity with their Australian brothers and sisters black-listed the RNZAF Base.  All this meant to us on MATU was that the passengers were now moved from Auckland Airport to the base in RNZAF and NZ Army trucks.  It did, however, greatly inconvenience the rest of the RNZAF personnel and families on Whenuapai as the total black-list of the place resulted in no milk, bread, food, POL or any other deliveries to the place, including the on-base married quarters, but that was “someone else’s problem”, and hence invisible to the MATU Team (the well-known ‘SEP Effect’* as espoused by the late Douglas Adams).

The Hercs kept coming and going, while the oldies kept arriving by truck and leaving by air … and the rain kept falling.  The latter did have one interesting side-effect.  Until the Unions black-listed the base, the whole operation was receiving minimal press cover, with just one young cub reporter from the local Auckland paper on hand to talk to the out-going oldies, and also the RAAF aircrew.  She had no trouble getting the aircrew to talk to her as (a) she was very attractive; about 5’ 4” in the old money and about 42C across the chest, (b) she was wearing a thin Indian cotton blouse over a rather flimsy bra, and (c) as the blouse got wetter and wetter in the prevailing weather conditions it also became more and more see-through!  By the time the rest of the NZ Press Corps arrived to cover the union protests at the front gate, she was already on her way back to her office in Auckland with an ‘exclusive’ and an interview from just about every crewmember who had visited the place!  She even got a brief interview with me between aircraft, later reported in the Australian press where I apparently said that the task of getting the folks home was really rewarding and "...much better than humping freight round the sky".  I meant 'hauling' freight, but the sight of those wet t-shirt-like 42C cups must have caused my Freudian slip.
As the day drew into evening we did ask how many more people we had to uplift, but were told that nobody really knew.  As each coach or truck load arrived, we explained to the passengers that the facilities on the Hercs were rather primitive, and that the flight would not be as comfortable as even the tightest economy class seat on the oldest aircraft in the QANTAS fleet.  Most seemed not to mind, and looked on it as a bit of an adventure with which to finish their holiday.  In fact one elderly lady was really chuffed; “I’m one up on my rotten little brat of a grandson”, she said. “He’s always on about how good he is and how he’s going to join the Air Force and be a pilot.  Well now I’ve got in ahead of him.  Maybe that’ll finally shut the little bugger up!”.  The skipper on that flight was a mate from the Richmond Mess Back Bar, and a word to him made sure that the old girl got one of the seats on the flight deck all the way back to Australia.  I hope that that was enough to shut her grandson up for good when she got home!

On another flight one elderly lady was carrying a teddy bear almost as big as herself.  As we helped her aboard I was joking that we would have to find a seat especially for the bear, when she burst into tears.  The toy was a gift for her new granddaughter, and she’d spent her last few NZ dollars on it just before they had been told about the QANTAS strike. She had then spent almost 36 hours in Auckland Airport living on charity, which was so alien to a lady of her years.  After we got her and the bear settled on the Herc, I noticed that my ace forklift driver Macca McLaren wasn’t looking very happy; almost to the point of tears himself.  “What’s the problem, Macca?”.  “Boss, can I go off and just give a unionist a good kicking, please?”  “Why Macca?”  “Well that old girl could have been my Mum or my Grandma and nobody should be allowed to let that happen to someone like her!”   This from a bloke six feet tall, 5’ 11” across the shoulders, and who, if our fork lift went u/s, could lift one end of a pallet all on his own.  The day was getting to be like that.
Interestingly enough, among all of the groups we only had one ‘passenger’ refuse to travel RAAF-Air.  A younger bloke, I think just hoping for a free ride home, took one look inside the Herc, said “I’m not travelling in THAT” and stormed off the pan, demanding directions for the front gate and the nearest taxi rank.  I wished him well, as we were by then several hours into the Union lock-down, and it was a long walk back to Auckland!

So the longest day - eventually - drew to a close.  Not because of how long MATU 1 and the RNZAF movers and ground crew had been working, but because all the available RAAF aircrew ran out of crew duty time.

Sometime well after midnight we were kindly driven to the transit lines at the old RNZAF flying boat base at Hobsonville, given a (very) late supper and several cans of cold Red Lion beer each.  Now I - and others - have been known to mock Kiwi beer as rather thin and weak, but after just two cans I was out like a light, and didn’t wake up until late the following morning, to be told that QANTAS had resumed normal service, and the RAAF airlift was over.  All in all we had uplifted over 500 passengers from Whenuapai, and MATU 2 had loaded just a few less from an RNZAF Base in the South Island.
We returned to Richmond late in the afternoon of the 2nd, on a 37SQN C130E, with FLTLT Rynstrom as skipper, I believe, but my team and I slept all the way home.  When we arrived at Richmond we found that the then Minister for Defence had visited the Base to congratulate all concerned and been presented with a newly printed t-shirt bearing the RAAF roundel and the legend ‘I Own a BETTER Airline’ - I wish we’d had a few hundred to sell at Whenuapai, we’d have made a motza for the Team beer fund!

Later, throughout my RAAF career and since, whenever I’m feeling that it was all a waste of time, I remember climbing onto the bus, already soaked to the skin, with “G’day, I’m Len Bowen. We’re with the Royal Australian Air Force and we’ve come to take you home”, and getting that reaction from the elderly passengers. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was still a Pom, in 1981 then not having been long enough in Australia to get my citizenship.

*In ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ Douglas Adams explains that if you want to make something invisible make it someone else’s problem - hence the ‘SEP Invisibility Effect’

Len B
In 1953, just eight years after the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) became the first air force in the world with jet transport aircraft, the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a jet aircraft and the first operator ever, civilian or military, to offer a scheduled jet-powered passenger service across the Atlantic.

The aircraft that made it possible was the breathtakingly beautiful de Havilland Comet 1A, a British design and the first jet airliner in full production. Canadians were at the leading edge of the new jet technology, regularly flying back and forth across the Atlantic a full four years before the first flight of the Boeing 707. Needless to say, the RCAF pilots of 412 Squadron (a Spitfire unit during the Second World War) considered themselves among an elite cadre.

Early in their service with the RCAF, the Comets were taken out of service, following a series of catastrophic inflight breakups of British civilian Comets. It took more than a year at a phenomenal cost to determine the cause of those disasters which claimed the lives of all on board.

Never before had designers encountered metal fatigue from pressurizing the cabin over and over again. Tiny cracks appeared in the metal skin, particularly at the corners of the Comet’s rectangular windows, which, over time, caused the skin to fail, resulting in catastrophic depressurization.

The Canadian Comet 1As were flown to England in 1956 and rebuilt with thicker skin material and the addition of oval windows. Upon their return to service the next year, they were re-designated Comet 1Xs. These continued to serve the RCAF as VIP flagship transports until 1963, when the two Comets of 412 Squadron were retired from service.
First, a word on the ‘airline-type’ operating procedures we used on the 412 VIP Transport Squadron de Havilland DH106 Comet jetliners. There were five of us in the cockpit; two pilots, a flight engineer (FE), a navigation officer (Nav) and a radio officer (RO). We did missions in full “dress” uniform, meaning tunic and tie. Tunics could be removed in the cockpit but had to be donned to enter an occupied passenger compartment (even just to go aft to the washroom); and hats had to be worn outside the aircraft. Our boarding door was on the port side aft of the wing and all cockpit crew (except the Captain) would board first and complete the pre-start checks while the passengers were boarding and getting seated. The Captain would board last; a ‘flight attendant’ then would close and lock the rear door and when the “door open” warning light in the cockpit went out, engine starting would begin. There was no cabin PA system so the Captain (facing the passengers from the front of the cabin) would give an informal short passenger briefing and by the time he entered the cockpit, removed his tunic and got organized in his seat, the aircraft would be ready to taxi.
We seemed to always have a full passenger load in both directions across the Atlantic and on eastbound crossings we quite often went into Shannon, Ireland for fuel. This commonly was on our twice-weekly “sked” flights to our fighter base at Marville, France, and for a few months we were doing weekly crossings to and from Pisa, Italy for a UN troop rotation (connecting with an RCAF North Star).

For a number of reasons the crew never minded “refuelling” at Shannon, and sometimes elected to do so when the need was at best questionable. The airport never seemed busy at our en-route to Marville early morning hour, and we always received good and fast service. Consequently our stops usually were quite short, even though from where the aircraft was parked for refuelling, the passengers had to walk some distance to and from the terminal. In those days the terminal building was a wooden-frame structure with a rather narrow elongated and well-windowed passenger ‘lounge’ facing the ramp. At one end there was a sort of gloomy closeted alcove with two or three vintage wood and glass telephone booths, so oriented that when using the phone everything was at one’s back and out of sight. Otherwise from that area one could get a partial view of the passenger waiting room, but not even a glimpse of the ramp outside. If making a phone call one could determine re-boarding time only by passengers departing the waiting room … which one couldn’t see!
From: Clive Price, Brecon
Sent: 18 August 2015 11:26 AM
Subject: The Longest Day.

My longest days were in Malta in support of an Army exercise in Libya.

Luqa airfield, living in tents with a daily ten-man pack of rations for fourteen men and that included the officers.  We were banned from using any facilities on the camp (cookhouse, NAAFI, showers & bogs).

Larger a/c flew in pallets of ammo which we unloaded and broke down into smaller loads.  These were then put on Argosy a/c and flown to El-Adam.  We worked 18-hour days for about a week.  It didn't help our mood when we found out the ammo boxes were practise loads packed with lumps of broken concrete.

We did nothing more than wash our faces and shave.  After three days I took my boots off to change my socks and found they were stuck to my feet with blood.

I remember Jack Murray making breakfast (two oatmeal biscuits to dip in your tea).  We moved to Libya for another two weeks and I went down with tonsillitis.  No way was I going sick there. On the a/c returning home once I felt we were in no danger of turning back I declared myself ill to the Loadmaster. He gave me one of the tablets they reserve for sick aircrew. Within ten minutes I felt ready to go wing walking!   Later on I found it was benzedrine - good stuff!

Sunday night admitted into sick quarters at RAF Abindon with two lovely nurses to look after me, Jack Murray bringing bottles of beer at night.  On Thursday the M.O noticed me and kicked me out. Like we used to say if you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined!

Taff Price (F Team 66/70)
(The fat Welshman who used to drink with Bob Turner)
Anyway, this day we landed for refuelling at Shannon on our way to Marville and on reaching the terminal I proceeded directly to a telephone booth, hoping to connect with an “acquaintance” in London (a British European Airways “crew member”). To my surprise and delight I was successful … and subsequently completely lost track of time in conversation. I suddenly realized this, and interrupted my call to get a view of the waiting room … it was empty! Oh “shucks” thought I … “everyone’s on their way out to the airplane”… so I quickly terminated my call and rushed out to the waiting room. Not a soul in sight anywhere, inside or out as I dashed outside … and discovered the Comet was sitting where parked, but all buttoned up with engines running, chocks removed, no stairs, power unit or anybody in sight. Panic … I was the Captain … and they were leaving without me!

I then spotted a small pickup truck more-or-less heading towards the terminal (possibly from the Comet). I ran out on the ramp sort of jumping up and down and waiving both arms frantically at the driver … quite improper of course … me being an RCAF officer in full uniform, service cap and everything! I guess the driver couldn’t miss seeing my bizarre performance so he headed my way … probably out of curiosity rather than in response to my antics. But he stopped beside me and to his obvious surprise I (uninvited) jumped into the cab shouting “Take me out to the Comet … hurry … I’m the Captain!” And when he hesitated (staring at me incredulously) … “Go, Go, Go!”
So he headed out … but what was I going to do? I couldn’t have the aircraft shut down … that would cause a major delay as we’d have to get the ground power unit, stairs etc., back out … and I couldn’t let the “world” know that a flight (a Comet no less!) of the RCAF’s elite and strict (3 minute tolerance on ramp departures and zero tolerance on arrival times) 412 VIP Transport Squadron was trying to leave without its Captain! No … I was going to have to somehow sneak on board … but how, on a closed up Comet with all engines running? Well another soon learned characteristic of 412 was its expectation that crews would find a way to overcome any difficulty surreptitiously … oops, I mean “quietly”… in fact it was a squadron culture of which we were all proud (secretly).

I instructed the driver to drive up close to the left side of the aircraft … we were coming up from behind so no one on board could see us. The Ghost jet engines on our Comets generated a very unfriendly loud squealing noise at idle power … which of course was even louder closer … and that’s where we were getting. “The engines are running”, yelled the anxious driver as we approached the aircraft. “I know, I know … drive up under the door” I shouted back … and he proceeded to do this in a rather catatonic state, looking up the tailpipes of the two “burning and turning” port engines far too closely. Not a place to be … even in a truck!
Things got worse as I tried to get out of the truck in the jet blast and barely saved my officer’s hat from playing tumbleweed across the tarmac. I fell back into the truck and with both hands worked my hat down tightly on my head to the point where the top of my ears protruded horizontally like little wings and the peak was so close to my nose I could only see forward by tipping my head way back.

I then struggled out of the truck in the deafening noise and jet blast, but with my pant legs flapping and uniform otherwise glued to my body I managed to climb into the truck’s box at the back. A minor achievement because already feeling battered (but with my hat still uncomfortably secure on my head), to even reach the door I was going to have to get up on top of the truck cab … in the jet blast. Being no gymnast and wearing leather-soled black oxfords (well polished in the squadron tradition) this proved to be difficult. Not as difficult, however, as trying to stand up after I did manage to get up there, on my hands and knees! But hey, I was a Comet Captain on 412 Squadron so I soon, but very precariously was on my feet, necessarily facing the engines (feeling like a small tree in a hurricane might feel?). The fuselage and door were somewhere to my right, but of course all I could see from under my hat was my nicely polished shoes.
Shuffling around to the right slowly, with very wobbly balance, I executed a not parade-like right turn to find the fuselage and door very close in front of me … (good driver!) … but with the bottom door sill just above waist height. Whew! But now I could support and balance myself with one hand on the fuselage and pound on the door with my fist, which I did…very hard!

A wide-eyed face appeared in the door’s small porthole-type window, staring down in disbelief (the small truck not being visible) at an apparition suspended in space … like the “Flying Nun” but not smiling sweetly like actress Sally Field always was in the TV series. Head full back trying to look up from under my crammed down hat peak, mouth open (a tendency with the head in that position-try it), I surely looked if not like an alien, a baby bird urging to be fed. Whatever, the door was soon opened … thankfully … but then this was 412 … and I was the Captain!

Not over yet though … due to the height of the door sill I had to hoist myself up and struggling, managed to crawl in on my hands and knees … not the approved entrance for a 412 or any passenger aircraft captain. Then, staggering to my feet, I quickly brushed off and straightened my uniform as best I could, pried the hat off my head (with difficulty) and with no word to the stunned “doorman”, I marched briskly forward up the aisle, eyes front. No passenger briefing (facing them) on this leg! I entered the cockpit trying to regain my composure while doffing my hat and tunic. No comments were exchanged and when I was settled in the left seat the departure proceeded as normal.
Of course the cabin crew thought I was in the cockpit and the cockpit crew thought I was in the cabin. The door had been closed by a cabin crew member after the last visible soul had boarded … not noticing that I wasn’t included. Door light out … start engines … SOP … and that part was all in accordance with 412 procedures … but leaving the captain behind was not, nor was the style of his eventual entrance!

So there I was … and here I am … quite certain that of all the RCAF’s “elite” Comet captains, I’m the only one that the aircraft and crew tried to leave behind! There was no mention of the incident during the remainder of the mission or to my knowledge at any time or anywhere in any manner thereafter. (The seated passengers couldn’t see the door so the only thing they might have been aware of was a delay in moving off … and perhaps a strange acting Captain?) The driver of the pickup truck probably wasn’t backward about regaling his buddies with the story (in the right setting), but Squadron pride and culture seemed to be such that the incident has never been revealed by any involved crewmember … except now of course by me with this article. But I know the carefully selected recipients of this revelation won’t pass it on to anyone! / thanks to Ian Envis for the share
A beautiful shot from 1953 of the newly acquired de Havilland Comet 1A (RCAF serial 5301) in fresh Royal Canadian Air Force “white-top” livery. We can see the rectangular windows which marked the early Comet 1As and which were the Achilles heel of the Comet design. One can only imagine the prestige that would go along with flying such a spectacular aircraft at a time when no other air force in the world had a jet transport. Photo: RCAF
After the Comet’s tragic early problems, the two Canadian Comet 1As were modified at de Havilland in England, returning to Canada as Comet 1Xs. With new oval passenger windows, the Comets looked even more beautiful. Here we see Comet 5302, the second of two Comets of 412 Squadron. In addition to these two flagship aircraft, 412 also operated the DC-3, Canadair CL-5 North Star and, in the last two years of Comet service, the massive Canadair CC-106 Yukon and CC-109 Cosmopolitan. 412 Squadron was then, and is still today, based at Uplands in Ottawa. Photo: RCAF
From this photograph, one can see how difficult it would be to attempt to enter the rear passenger door of a de Havilland Comet without the aid of a stairway. The door appears to be a full eight feet above the tarmac. With the sailors in this photograph and the design of the hangars, it is likely that this is at Royal Canadian Naval Air Station Shearwater, Nova Scotia. Note the old Canadian ensign on the tail. The Comets went out of service in 1963, while the present day maple leaf flag came into being two years later. Photo: RCAF
A nice shot showing the in-wing intakes for the Comet’s four Rolls-Royce Ghost engines. The Ghost turbojet had a fearsome reputation for an unbearable shriek at idle - standing behind them when they were running while you were trying to balance on the roof of a truck was not advised for many reasons! Photo: RCAF
Two Comet pilots prepare for flight on the ramp at RCAF Station Uplands, Ottawa. The standard seven-person operating crew for the Comet included pilot, co-pilot, engineer, navigator, radio operator and two stewards in the passenger compartment. Photo: RCAF
In the passenger compartment, things were exceptionally roomy, if a little smoky in 1953 and 54. Here we see officers and enlisted men of the RCAF bound for or coming home from service with the Air Divisions in France and Germany in one of the earlier Comet 1As of the RCAF (the rectangular windows tell us this). These were some of the first people to enjoy the benefits of jet-age flying over the Atlantic, as the RCAF was the world’s first air carrier with jetliner service across “the pond”. An RCAF Comet 1A flew non-stop, Goose Bay, Labrador to London, England, on 4 October 1953, in just under 6 hours-a distance of 2,500 miles. Photo: RCAF
Comet 5302 parked at the door to the 412 Operations Room at RCAF Station Uplands, Ottawa. Photo: RCAF
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