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A Lifetime in Longhaul: Qantas Pilot Flying Stories

A Lifetime in Longhaul: Qantas Pilot Flying Stories

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A Lifetime in Longhaul: Qantas Pilot Flying Stories

323 Seiten
8 Stunden
Nov 20, 2012


This book is an opportunity to look into the fascinating world of longhaul aviation.
In 1965, Qantas Airways commenced the Qantas Cadet Pilot Training Scheme. Thirteen courses were completed over a period of seven years, with the last course graduating in 1972.
Bill Anderson was a member of 5 Course. He and twelve colleagues from that course recall their challenges both on the ground and in the air after 'A Lifetime in Longhaul'.
These men have some amazing tales to tell, from their early days as young men learning to fly, their entry into Qantas and on to the present day.
These stories contain humour and excitement, with some close calls and some very funny situations that arose during the course of those years. There are celebrities that find their way onto the flight deck and tales of cities that many will remember the way they used to be.
Nov 20, 2012

Über den Autor

BILL ANDERSON is a songwriter, country musician, longtime Grand Ole Opry member and performer, and inductee into the legendary Country Music Hall of Fame.

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A Lifetime in Longhaul - Bill Anderson



In 1965, Qantas Airways commenced the Qantas Cadet Pilot Training Scheme. Thirteen courses were completed over a period of seven years, with the last course graduating in 1972.

In March 1967, the company described it in the following way:

"Qantas decided on this scheme for three reasons:- to make sure of having sufficient trained pilots in the future, to maintain the Australian character of the airline by having Australian pilots and because Qantas believed the training of Australian pilots was in the national interest.

At the end of nineteen months the cadets will have their Commercial Pilot’s Licences with instrument rating and a pass in the theory subjects of the Flight Navigation Licence. They will also have completed courses in emergency procedures and aviation medicine.

The scheme is now well established and producing pilots who will be the supersonic Captains of the future."

Heady stuff indeed and more so at nineteen years of age!

Retired Captain Jack Bird, was the Manager and his deputy was retired Navigator, Jim Cowan. Both these men brought an enormous amount of Qantas operational experience to their roles. In addition, the ground and flight instructors who provided the day-to-day training, had diverse backgrounds and were extremely well qualified.

Nineteen young men were selected to join the number 5 Course, commencing in August 1967. Having come from all over Australia, our first meeting was at the theatrette in Qantas House, Sydney, and from there to the Qantas College at Rosebery. Qantas had arranged accommodation for those of us from interstate. This was by way of billets with families located in the southern suburbs of Sydney.

It was a very tough syllabus and not suited to everyone. During our course, five cadets were terminated for different reasons and one very well qualified fellow was accepted in the final six months. As each course was completed, a graduation ceremony was held at the Qantas Jet Base at Mascot Airport, with our number 5 Course graduation being in March, 1969. Post graduation, Qantas wanted each cadet to accumulate about 1000 hours in command prior to pulling on a Qantas uniform.

A secondment scheme was put in place with a wide range of flying organisations. For a period of about twelve months, each cadet was seconded to one of these companies. Qantas was clearly expecting a period of expansion requiring commensurate promotion and the 1000 hours would play a role in later promotional criteria within the company. Their plan and reality were proven to be very different!

Anyone who has had the thrill of flying an aircraft will have adventures to remember and tales to recount. The aviation industry has many career paths, all exciting and none without misadventure and incident. Those young men who applied and were selected into the Qantas Cadet Pilot Training Scheme chose to enter the strand of aviation known as RPT (Regular Public Transport) and further, by electing to fly for Qantas, they were heading for a career in ‘Longhaul’.

Qantas has changed shape over the last twenty odd years. Choices now exist to jump between the ‘Longhaul’ side of the company and the domestic or ‘Shorthaul’ operation. Of the fifteen young men who graduated in March 1969, only two resigned to pursue other goals. Thirteen of us have remained with Qantas for our entire careers and are now rapidly joining the ranks of retired pilots. Most of us have flown over 20,000 hours on the Qantas network. Perhaps this is testament to Captain Jack Bird and his selection criteria. As a group, there is a strong friendship with each other and our families.

During those forty years I have known so many skilled Qantas Captains, who were such engaging characters, to retire and never be heard of again. A bloody shame and so it is important to me that my course mates have an opportunity to tell their stories, or some anyway!! You can now enjoy their stories through their eyes.

We all agree it has been a terrific career, as each of us had

‘A Lifetime in Longhaul.’

Bill Anderson.... Retired on 01.07.07


The process of collating the various stories has proven to be a very absorbing and enjoyable process. I have known my cadet pilot course mates for forty years and although we have crossed paths and spoken many times, a great number of their recollections were completely new to me. It has been a lot of fun using the atlas and Googling to better understand where some of the incidents occurred.

It took a good deal of urging and encouragement to extract their recollections but once in the mind-set, they each produced wonderful stories of their lifetime in longhaul.

My primary aim was to allow my mates the chance to record some of the highlights of their careers. Distance and other constraints meant that a few of them submitted their own typed notes, but for the majority, we spent a couple of hours one-on-one with a tape recorder.

These interviews were a fascination to me. Without exception, the blokes had some prepared notes but as each interview developed I could identify that their memories were flooding back. Although we have all walked the same career path, the variation in experiences along the way has been extraordinary and I listened with relish. I hope you gain that same pleasure as you read each chapter.

Aviation is a very broad subject and comes with a great deal of jargon and anachronisms. I have attached a glossary to help explain some of these, however my aim was to produce something that is not only accurate but easy to read.

Not surprisingly, there are many references to ATC (Air Traffic Control) with some being serious and a few, quite humourous. The protocol of language as used by ATC around the world is English. Of course the standard of English varies enormously and Qantas pilots become, with time, very adept at interpreting controllers’ words as countries are overflown. That said, I would love a dollar for each time I have heard a random, staccato instruction, completely unintelligible and looked at the other pilot and asked, What did he just say?

Slip ports and the many memories they held amongst the fellows were fondly recalled...the barbecues and sailing in Mauritius seemed to be at the top of the list. To keep the whole thing in perspective, let me say that in the 1970s, Qantas was a relatively small airline with a commensurate number of aircraft. On the basis that you could not fly if there was no aircraft, crews had some quite long slips, whilst waiting for the next scheduled flight. I will quote a line from one of my mates, who said, ‘These were the halcyon years’. With the increase in passengers, destinations and therefore aircraft, the slip times became less, with twenty-four to thirty-six hours more the norm.

I have quoted the flying hours that each one of us has accumulated. I did this to reflect the depth of experience that resides under the title of Qantas Captain. Perhaps I need to point out that flying hours are recorded from brakes off to brakes on, at the end of the flight. The actual duty time from sign on to sign off is a far greater amount of time and of course there is no accurate way to reflect the days and weeks away from home that is necessary to achieve the flying hours.

Finally, I have noticed that in each story there has been some reference to our wives. Even though this book is about the fellows, it is very clear to us all that the role of wife, mother, manager, and soulmate has been integral to our happiness and the success of our careers. We owe them a great deal, so hats off to all you ladies and thank you.

In the 1960s Qantas advertised with some very colourful and patriotic brochures, seeking applicants for their Cadet Pilot Training Scheme.

John Sumner

Qantas Pilot: 1967-2007

Flying Hours: 23,111

Gunnedah, NSW, is a thriving country town about a five hour drive from our home in Kurrajong. John and his lovely wife, Jan, own some wonderful farm country just south of Gunnedah. The interview with John took a little bit of coordination to be able to enjoy lunch here at home and allow some time to have a relaxed talk together after that. It was always going to be a family sort of day...I married John’s sister, Sherrin, thirty-nine years ago and so there was plenty of chatter on the day.

As an aside, the third and youngest Sumner, Mark, is employed at Qantas and currently has a command on the A380. Until John and I retired in 2007, the three of us flew in Qantas, all Captains on the 747-400.

Now over to John and his recollections of a fascinating career.....

Mum and Dad owned and ran ‘The Cecil’ guest house in Katoomba for forty-five years and we all grew up there. It was a great place and I enjoyed the ever changing faces of the guests that stayed with us. I did not move from Katoomba until I commenced a degree at the University of Sydney. My schooling was all done in Katoomba, initially at a very small private school run by Miss Long. I then moved to Clairvaux, the junior school for St Bernard’s College and then the secondary years were at St Bernard’s, which was run by the De La Salle Brothers. We are not Catholics, but Dad just believed it was the best school available and as I did very well through all my classes under the old system, I graduated with the Leaving Certificate in 1963, aged sixteen. Because of my age, Dad had fought the system to get me into high school a year younger than anyone else. I was then accepted by Sydney University and completed a three year Science degree majoring in pure maths and physics. I was good but not brilliant, as it was a very difficult course, making me realise that there were not many openings in that field unless you went overseas.

It was about that time that Dad noticed an ad for the Qantas Cadet Pilot Training Scheme in the paper. He had always wanted to be a pilot himself and had applied to the Air Force before the war, passing all the tests with flying colours and being accepted for training. Shortly afterwards, he received another letter saying there were no further vacancies. So as I was growing up, we had spent a lot of time together, building model airplanes and flying them on control lines.

Flying as a career had been discussed and I knew it was difficult and expensive to get into, but I thought, gee, I would love to fly. I realised that even though I had an academic background, it was in the right subjects, physics and maths and because I was also pretty athletic with good hand/eye coordination yet still only nineteen, I just might qualify. To be sure that I was on the right track, I paid for a few lessons at the Illawarra Flying School, about six hours worth and the experience really whet my appetite.

I applied to Qantas and went through the battery of medical and psyche tests, followed by the interviews......the acceptance letter had my start date as 28.08.67. I remember some of the tests and questions and clearly recall being the last one in the exam room when all the other fellows had left and I was still writing away. I apologised to the supervisor, concerned that I was taking too long. I must have passed though! There were also numerous questions about girlfriends, marriage, flying and being away from home; all that sort of thing.

5 Course

It was a well run course and there were some very good instructors, some being exceptional. The mustachioed Frank Wood was an ex RAF navigator who really knew his subject. Some of the topics we did were quite difficult conceptually; navigationally you were dealing with a lot of spheres, a round earth and some difficult concepts using spherical trigonometry and what you did with position lines. I think we pretty well tested the instructors like Frank with some curly questions. He was fairly difficult to get around, knew what you were asking him and was able to reply straight to the point. Because of my studies at uni, I was familiar with a lot of these configurations and by far the most difficult, FEAC (Form of the Earth and Aeronautical Charts), tripped up a lot of the blokes.

We had Ross Argue for engineering - a traditional style engineer, John Shenton for meteorology and flight standards officers, Ron Croft and Bob May .....they were all extremely competent. Then there was Jack Bird and Jim Cowan at the top, trying to oversee these guys.

I found the flying training was just as thorough and as well organised as the ground school. I flew for most of the time with Geoff Paull and also Jim

McNeice and Jock McCorkell.

There was only one incident from this period that I remember well and that was with Jim in the Mooney M20. We had left Essendon heading to Bankstown when cloud formed over the hills pretty soon after we had taken off. We thought we had found a gap, but finished up in and out of the clouds and we could not stay visual. It was clear we weren’t able to continue, so we called the radar controller for assistance to return to Essendon. After landing there, the shit hit the fan.....we had broken the rules because we were not licenced to fly in cloud. We were initially grounded by the Department and an investigation was launched. When we arrived back at Rosebery, there was more explaining to do and a lecture was given by Captain Bird, but really he acknowledged that we had done the sensible thing.

The rest of the course was good and I was pleased when Graduation Day came and we could move forward.

Author’s note:

John did not raise this at the interview, but it is important. His level of understanding of the maths that were involved was so thorough that on a few occasions there was a ‘blackboard debate’ between Frank Wood and John over some principle of mathematics. It was done in the most genuine and interesting way, by two blokes who really knew what they were on about. The rest of us could only watch and wonder!

John graduated as the well deserved Dux of our course.

Bush Pilots Airways

After graduation, I worked in the publications area on the tenth floor at Admin.1; that lasted a couple of months until I was on my way to Cairns to join Bush Pilots. Despite the rather cavalier name, it was a very well run outfit and numerous cadets had worked for them. Warwick Tainton and Richard Hodder were the first, from 1 Course and several followed in their footsteps.

I was only in Cairns a short while when I was sent to Melbourne to complete a Class One Instrument Rating out at Moorabbin Airport with Schutt Aviation. John Pilkington and John Correll were my instructors. This was in the winter of 1969 and I remember returning from a flight and hearing the radio playing in the hangar. It was July 21st and that momentous occasion when Neil Armstrong was taking ‘one small step’!

Once back in Cairns, I went to work and the workhorses were the Cessna 310 and the 402. Most of the charters were done in the 310, and the 402 was the load carrier. The wet season started and I could see why they wanted me to have an instrument just could not operate those aircraft to the schedules without being able to fly in cloud.

There were some very experienced people in Bushies. The Chief Pilot was Col Sheddon and the Operations Manager was a red-headed bloke, Ernie Girault. Chris Braund was a senior pilot; he had been a WW2 test pilot and had a lot of time on Spitfires. Chris had a pretty bad stutter and the local air traffic controllers gave him a unique dispensation. The Bushies aircraft had their three letter registration that all began with B.P. and then something, like A or X. For Chris to call on the radio and say Bravo Papa Alpha was difficult....b b bbbrrrravo--p p ppppapa and so he was the only pilot that was allowed to give a single letter call sign, using the last letter of the aircraft he was flying......xray!

There were some very unique lessons to be learnt. Not least was the formal process to check the correct loading and balance of the 402, but given the short turn around during these multi-sector days, that took too long. However, there was a way....the Bush Pilots way and Chris Braund taught me this. Experience and common sense gave you a mental plan of how to distribute the load and although the passengers were not weighed, you had a pretty good idea of the total. The passengers would board through the rear door, and we always put the heavier folk in the front seats and then loaded all the freight. When everyone was strapped in, we would go back down the staircase onto the tarmac and make a small leap up to the tail plane and hang on. If you could hang there and the aircraft supported you, then it was loaded within the correct limits. Re-board, close the door, into the left hand seat and off we went!

I almost came unstuck on one station run when this foolproof system let me down. I had a full load of freight and passengers and at the last property before Cairns, I was asked if I would carry some machine tools in the cabin. I explained about the full load and apologised that it was not possible. They said that they understood and unbeknown to me, loaded the tools onto the aisle floor, before they closed the door. I took off and immediately the aircraft began to pitch up and down, the control column was coming out and back, stronger than I could hold. It only took a second to guess what the problem was, so I shouted to a few fellows to unstrap and move forward. There were a few exciting minutes for everyone. I regained control and had the bloody tool box moved forward....I said a few words later to those responsible for the tools.

There was so much flying that you occasionally reached the monthly limit and did a few days at the airport, on duty in the office. I was there one morning when the telephone was the local Air Traffic Controller.

John, your aircraft, flight 713, has just landed and cancelled SARWATCH (Search and Rescue Watch) at Batavia Downs.

I replied,

Batavia is deserted and the strip is closed!

We know that, and we thought you might like to know.

There was further discussion and we agreed that the pilot must have mistaken Batavia for the Moreton Telegraph Station which is very close by and on the other side of the Wenlock River. I knew that Batavia was covered in termite mounds and small trees and how he had landed without damage would be a question for later!

It appears our hapless pilot soon realised the error, thanked his lucky stars that nothing had been damaged and realised that he would not be able to take off as things stood at present. The passengers, American tourists, were deplaned and listened, no doubt with great interest, to his predicament and subsequent plan.

It transpired that a truck arrived with a bunch of local aborigines who had some hand tools. Everyone, and I mean everyone, passengers included, was set to work clearing the mounds and small trees to make a suitable take-off strip. Whilst the pilot then managed to take off and fly across the river to Moreton, the passengers had to wade across. A few had to make two trips, to ferry all their gear across. This was exciting, because at the time, the river was in flood and home to many salt water crocodiles. This particular flight, 713, had seventeen legs to fly during the day before arriving back at Cairns before nightfall. This ‘small’ delay meant an overnight at the Cooktown pub, with the journey being completed the next day. Apparently, the Cooktown hospitality was outstanding.

The aircraft arrived in Cairns the following morning and we were amazed at the turnout. All the important people from management , including the General Manager, Mr. Ron Entsch, met the aircraft, intending to apologise to the passengers. As each one stepped out, they were ecstatic at their experience.....

Don’t apologise man, we had a great time; you promised us adventure and we had plenty of it!

They were thrilled to bits, seeing rivers and stations at close quarters and the pub experience at Cooktown absolutely topped it off. The pilot escaped a serious investigation due to the exuberance of the passengers.

Bushies had a Cessna 310-B for a while. Not only was this 310-B an early model, but this was one of the very first was quite ancient! It had augmentor tubes on top of the engine nacelle to give added power and was carburetted, not fuel injected like the later models. The engine noise was enough to leave you deaf for about three hours after a short flight. One day I had to fly this thing, empty, back from Georgetown to Cairns, so I saw it as a golden opportunity to practice my asymmetric flying. I feathered one of the engines and was happily tootling along on one engine. This meant a significant drop in airspeed and a longer flight. When I went to do a restart, I had underestimated the difficulty in starting one of these old engines when it had become cold. So I ended up with a very extended flight on one engine far longer than I had planned. I only managed to start it approaching Cairns and after I landed I was met by our Operations Manager, Ernie Girault who said,

I had a report that you took off from Georgetown some time ago.

Yes that is correct, Ernie.

Then he said, with a bit of a wink,

Had a bit of trouble finding the place, eh ?

Well, yes, it was a bit difficult, and to this day I think he believes I was lost for a while.

Bushies was a great experience and for a time I went back every few years for a week or so. Management still made me welcome and allowed me to do a few legs with the guys. I really enjoyed my time there.

The 707 and the Network

I spent seven interesting years on the 707. After the ground school, I went down to Avalon and my first flight was with Captain Alan Emmerick. I understood that we were taxying out and he would fly a demonstration circuit but as we lined up on the runway he turned and said,

Away you go, son.

I asked about the circuit and he just replied,

You know what you are doing, take off and climb to 15,000 feet.

Wow, pushing the four real thrust levers forward for the first time and hearing the noise of the jet engines was terrific. Of course, the aircraft was very light and the acceleration down the runway and the tremendous rate of climb was something I had never experienced before. Alan asked me to do a few turns this way and that and I was having so much fun, concentrating on the controls. Suddenly I managed to look out the window and there was this huge wing with massive engines coming with me. Up to that point, I was just flying my tiny aircraft in front of me, then to realise what was responding to my control inputs had quite a psychological impact. It was a beautiful aeroplane to fly.

My choice of flying was to get the trips with the maximum number of sectors to London and back. There was a pattern that had sixteen sectors.....Melbourne/Singapore/KualaLumpur/Calcutta/Bahrain/Vienna /Frankfurt /London and home the same way or maybe through Delhi. It was a ten day trip and in my first month, I did two of these and had logged nearly one hundred hours flying with ten days off. I could not believe how easy airline flying was! In Bushies, I would have had to fly just about every day to reach the maximum of one hundred hours.

Youth is a wonderful thing as you recover from long, irregular hours and different time zones reasonably quickly. In my last few years, the London trip had four sectors instead of ten and even that was tiring! The 707 was an early jet aircraft in terms of crew comfort, as there was no auxiliary power unit and so the flight deck was Hot as Hades when you spent time on the ground in summer. Cold, wet flannels on the head were handy. The crew rest was just two seats and a leg rest across from the galley. We still loved the aircraft.

Another really good trip was across to Bermuda. At the time, with eighteen days away, it was the longest in the network and at one point I did two in a row, with only two days

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