Hong Kong. Kai Tak Airport.1993

China Air Jumbo.

I was sitting in a meeting on the 28th floor of a building in Hong Kong.

Outside it was a morning of drenching heavy rain as Hong Kong was buffeted by an approaching Typhoon, the rain lashed the streets pushed along by the strong and gusty winds.

Directly opposite the building across Hong Kong Harbor was Kai Tak airport.

Through the wind and driving rain I could see Jumbo jets taking off in the uncomfortable conditions.

A China Air jumbo appeared through the rain moving rapidly along the runway on the final part of its landing run, the aircraft partly submerged by huge spray of water being push along in front by the thrust of its reversing engines. I watched as it swerved a little left then right as it raced along the runway.

It looked unusual and grabbed my attention, I watched the impressive amount of spray being lifted forward as the pilot made an obvious futile attempt to stop the jet before arriving at the rapidly approaching end of the runway.

From across Hong Kong Harbor, through the thick glass of the building I could easily hear the thunderous roar of its four protesting engines.

The jet continued at speed as it ran off the end of the runway to slide into the bay with splash then continued to float slowly away from the rocky end of the runway.

The interior lights of the cabin were on and its passengers could be seen looking out of the windows, by now I thought they must know all was not well.

Just out a short way into Hong Kong harbor was a small tug, towing two large empty barges.

It slipped the tow ropes and set the barges adrift in the busy water way.

The tiny tug turned and maneuvered itself in front of the huge drifting jet, approaching it slowly, nose to nose.

A gentle touch halting the monsters progress.

Then slowly it moved the airliner back in the direction of the airport, the towering tail touched the rocky breakwater as it maneuvered the jet into a position where one wingtip passed over the bank, then the jet stopped moving.

At the same time the nose cone suddenly crumpled just below the cock pit, giving the appearance the jet had suddenly broken into a huge smile.

Stunned passengers began appearing stumbling along buffeted by the strong wind and driving rain as they made their way to the wing tip then slid down the back of the wing and  onto the rain sodden safety of mud and sand.


Hercules Flight PK-PLV from Hong Kong.


As Hong Kong neared the time for handing over owner ship from Britain back to China there was a small problem of what to do with the Vietnamese boat people who had escaped from communist Vietnam and were interned in Hong Kong.

These people had been interned for many years in very overcrowded holding camps while their history and identities were being checked.

Some of these boat people were processed and sent onto other countries.

It was decided those remaining would be returned to Hanoi.

There was much local protesting, but the Hong Kong Government remained firm with their decision.

A private Hercules transport aircraft from Pelita Air Services had been hired to begin the task of returning the Vietnamese boat people to Hanoi.

Each flight contained a number of Hong Kong officials to assist with the process of the handover.

At the end of the operation these officials were flown back to Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport.

The transport aircraft was fuelled with 45,000lbs of fuel, the second crew took charge of the transport and with both A & B flight crews on board for the return flight to its base in Tailand with a total of 12 on board.

The aircraft joined the usual line of Jumbos to wait its turn for take off.

After almost 18 minutes it was given clearance to line up and with a roar as each of the 4 engines spooled up to 5000lb torque the brakes were released and it began to move down the runway.

A call to the control tower from the next British Jumbo in line waiting for permission to use the active runway asked the controllers a minute or so later, if they would like them to hold position?

The tower queried the reason for the requested delay?

The waiting BA Jumbo replied politely, to allow the rescue vehicles to cross the runway, as the departing Hercules aircraft had just taken off, banked to the right briefly touched the grass verge and was now disappearing rapidly below the water in Hong Hong Harbour.

Of the 12 persons on board only 6 survived, the accident investigation revielled the propeller on no4 engine (extreme right) went to Beta mode (Ground Mode going to fine pitch and increasing the drag) possible cause, a broken throttle cable.

Lost in Translation.

Carnorvon Road











I lived in Hong Kong & China for a time.

Three and a half years to be exact.

Looking back I seem to have accumulated far more than three years worth of memories.

I managed two Quarries in China, One on Oi Ling Island to the south of HK the other just across the Lo Wu border north of the town of Shenzhen and Lyntong at Wo Shek Koo (Black Stone Quarry) where I had a small house on site. Well, no that really makes it sound far grander than it was, it was closer to a two bedroom prefab portable mining accommodation type unit.

Apart from having just the basics it was roomy and quite comfortable.

Made in Australia a metal plate proudly informed all it had been certified and Treated against attacks by white ants, termites and wood rot.

One night I woke to a rather loud noise from somewhere within the building. Thinking I might not be alone I crept about in the dark, completely naked as I investigated the source, my large Betty Boop alarm clock at the ready to defend myself.

I eventually came upon the ceramic wash basin laying on the bathroom floor surrounded by various toiletry items.

Two large holes in the wall along with the two taps remained to indicate where the basin had been previously attached.

Termites had eaten away the wooden wall studs, the supporting bolts simply fell out of what remained.

It was instantly obvious what had caused the problem.

The attached metal fumigation certification plate had been written in English and not Chinese.

The wash basin was joined on the floor by the wall mirror a day or so later.

I discovered by pressing an ear against the wall the termite work team could be heard gnawing away within.

The point of a Biro pressed against the wooden ply wall was all that was needed to test the wall structure, and could easily break through into one of the many tunnels where I simply inserted insect spray.

The surviving termites simply regrouped and set off in another direction, “we are Borg”.



For the first six months of my contract I lived in the company owned Stanford hotel in Mongkok, Kowloon, just a short walk to the Lady Street Market, and all the tourist shops one could ever wish for,

I quickly became friendly with the staff of the hotel.

Occasionally I would occasionally be joined at breakfast by some of my fellow ex pat managers and often became embarrassed by the way they ordered the hotel staff about over trivia or something they felt displeased with, obviously unable to make a distinction between staff and slaves.

I soon made it a point not to inform my fellow expats of my Hong Kong movements unless absolutely necessary.

Early one morning as I was finishing breakfast an American clergyman entered the dining room, he stopped at the notice board to read what was on offer, pulled out a small purse and after checking the contents held enough to afford breakfast sat at one of the tables.

Amused by his obvious display of impoverishment I wrote on a hotel note pad, “No blessing required” then as I left I arranged with William the dining room manager to put the cost of his breakfast on my bill, and to present the clergyman with my note.

Returning to the hotel later in the evening I was handed the note on which he had written, ”No blessing intended, just a thank you”.



I was also given two, 10m twin V8 powered cabin cruisers each with a captain and first mate to enable me to travel anytime to the island quarry on Oi Ling Ding about 30km south of Hong Kong.

After watching other company boats waiting to pick up their passengers from the Hong Kong public wharf all flying their country or company flags from the stern staff I presented both my captains with the green and yellow boxing kangaroo.

A short time later we were bobbing about inBoxing Kangaroo Hong Kong Harbor while waiting for the public dock to clear, one of my captains asked why we were flying a flag with a fighting rat, when my Chinese birth sign was the ox.

Obviously something had become lost in the translation.

Ooo the fook ay yoo?


The Hong Kong Chinese in 1992 were very different to their country cousins over the boarder in mainland China. HK Chinese enjoyed a modern western ideal and freedom.

In 1994 just across the border the PRC were gathering and waiting for the govenor Chris Patten and the British Government to finally hand Hong Kong back ending 150 years of British occupation of Hong Kong and the surrounding 235 islands they occupied since the 1842 first opium war.

I crossed the China / Hong Kong border sometimes 8 times a week and soon developed a nodding friendship with many of the PRC border guards who after the first few weeks of stamping my passport turned my officially stamped PRC work permit in to a large red blob stopped bothering to open or even look at my presented passport and simply waved me through the border with a bored nod.

Never being a smoker I began buying 500 cigarette cartons when passing through the no mans land duty free shop between the Hong Kong / Chinese border, these I often accidently left on the counter as I passed through.

During Chinese holidays the border became so crowded the cues often stretched back a kilometer or more, adding hours to the journey.

Patrolling guards often pull me from the cue and esort me past the crowd and through immigration and the border knowing they would more than likely gain a packet or two of cigarettes for their trouble.

I was waiting in a very long cue one day when a scuffle broke out a little way ahead, several PRC border guards moved in quickly.

I was some way back and paid little attention until two PRC guards I recognised approached me and after a moment hesitation pulled me from the line, showing a little more determination than usual in their task, formally escorted me toward the disturbance.

I came upon a PRC captain having an animated discussion with two Chinese buisnessmen in suits obviousely returning from Hong Kong.

Standing off to one side with three slightly uncomfortable looking PRC guards was an very agitated sightly built young woman in her mid twenties with long bush of bright red hair and freckles clutching a knapsack to her chest as though to prevent its theft.

Upon recognising me the captain stopped his conversation and approached.

I understood in my limited Chinese there was a problem with the red head woman, he shook my hand then escorted me to her, smiled then re returned to the two business men.

I introduced myself to the red head then asked her what had happened.

She looked at me with some suspicion for a moment, her voice still containing a trace of venom as she asked in a very broad Scottish accent, “En oo the foock ar yoo”?

I presented her with my business card as I informed her I knew the captain and guards they had asked me to help.

She began explaining the two business men behind her had grabbed her by the hair then tried to rob her.

I looked over at the two men in suits, both in their fourties and from overhearing part of their previous conversation with the captain were all speaking Chinese standard (Manderin) not the local Cantonese leaving me thinking they were more than likely from the mainland and not HK.

By now a more  PRC guards were gathering about us in a loose circle.

“Im here to help, you said they pulled your hair”? I asked, adding “Did they try to grab your bag”?

“Noo, ey ad a goot hold on it” she went on,  the red flushed colour in her face was faiding and returning her to a much whiter complection highlighting her numerous freckles.

The guards standing about were talking amongst them selves I was also catching parts of their conversation in Chinese.

“Should I point my gun at her”? One new arrival asked.

“Not without the captains permission” his mate said.

“Why ar yoo here” she asked.

“To help” I replied as the Captain and the two business men approached us.

“????!!?? only hair”,one of the businessmen explained as he drew near, I couldnt understand the first part of his conversation.

The red head moved behind me, wary of the approaching businessmen as well as being surrounded by chinese in uniforms.

“No one here will hurt you” I explained noticing the captain approach.

“Does he know her”? One of the guards asked another.

“They are both Bái yōulíng” His mate replied. I translated his Mandarin to mean Gweilo a common Cantonese slang term for foreigners meaning ‘white ghost’ or forigner.

“Oh ow do hey know Iy don no ya from a barh of soop” She explained.

“You explain, mistake” the captain asked.

“Mo man tai” I replied in Cantonese,“No problem”.

“We cross border” the captain added keen to clear the problem from the crowded hall.

“Cross border”? I replied to the captain.

He smiled and nodded.

I turned to the redhead and explained it was only her hair the businessmen were interested in they just wanted to feel your red hair, in China it is rare, unusual, red is also a lucky colour, western hair to the Chinese feels like silk compaired to their much thicher, courser black horse hair, long red hair like yours will attract a lot of unwanted interest, they meant no offence, it was only curiocity, they obviousely dont speak english other wise they would have asked your permission first, now if your going to spend time in China either get a hat, a hair cut or and hide it or you will just have to get use to the chinese wanting to touch it.

“I wonder if he is asking her for her address” one guard said behind me.

“Ask her to bed” someone answered.

“Shut up and form up” replied the captain.

“Soo whet heppens noow” she asked suddenly noticing the PRC guards were now moving to form a loose square about us.

“The captain has offerede to ecort us through immigration”, I replied.

“then?, wot, den n just oo the fuck are yoo really” she asked, suddenly becoming suspicious.

“You are free to visit china if you still want, Im no one, the captain doesnt want an international incident in his crowded hall and has agreed to let us through customs” I explained.

“How com yoo cn orda the Chineeze to do stoof, I dont know oo ya really ar”? she asked

“I cross this border four or five times a week and have done so for quite a while, they all know me, thats all, now please they would like to escort us to the border” I explained.

I was relieved to see her join us as the group moved off in a sort of very loose square formation.

As a group we walked the two hundred meters to the crowded immigration counter where people were cleared to allow me to present my passport, it was instantly returned without being opened, I turned and watched as she passed hers over, the guard opened it, found the large red visitors stamp and stamped his over the top then tossed it back without showing further interest.

The escort group moved on to the main departure hall where the captain finally halted, turned and smiled, I opened my briefcase and handed him a carton of cigaretts, he shook my hand then the group broke up and returned to their patrolling.

She stopped,”ee ei notced ee didnt even botha a look et yor passport, oo are you exactly, som sota a spy”? She asked.

“No” I smiled,”Im not some sort of spy Im exactly what it say’s on my card, I’m just a quarry manager working in China” I replied, walking toward the large doors that lead out onto the impossibly crowded streets of China.

She had stopped to read my business card once more before catching up with me just as the large doors slid open allowing the noise, sights and the dust of China to hit her full in the face all at the same time, she stopped in the crowded doorway.

I waited a few moments then taking her by the hand said,”Welcome to China, this way I’ll buy you a hat, and put you on the train to Guangzhou”.

Airlines and having a good ‘B’ plan.

The fat trainer

Having flown donestic flights almost weekly for at least twenty years I am often surprised by the actions of people toward other travelling passengers.

Flying has become a common every day event, almost a normal part of a many a working life.

Some people I notice seem to think by flying they become special, a cut above the rest.

I watched a national footballer being asked to place his seat in an upright position and switch off all electrical devices prior to take off.

Once the hostess moved on he lay his seat back and plugged in his tunes, only to be told once more.

A few moments later, as the aircraft rolled along the runway and everyone was seated he plugged his tunes back in and lay his seat back.

Had the aircraft failed to fly and brake heavily to avoid running out of runway he would have slid under the seat infront which more than likely put an end to his career.

I cant understand why airlines still have seats that lay back in the tight, crowded cocpits of todays airlines.

There are passengers who feel the need to lay their seats back on flight of less than an hour making life for the person directly behind difficult as they occupy their personal space.

A 2mtr (6′ 6”) tall friend and I were flying from Adelaide to Sydney when the “Lady” infront decided to lay her seat back on the 50 minute minute flight crushing both his knees into the back of her seat and causing him some pain, I politely asked her if she could return her seat to the upright position as my friend was now unable to move and in some pain. She simply said if he stopped pressing his knees into her back she would consider it.

Even with the flight attendent assisting it took us almost fifteen minutes to finally convince her to move after she explained it was her right to lay the seat back if she wanted as she had payed to use the seat.

When Joke Star first started flying in Australia the airline never allocated seating, once the terminal door opened there was a mad rush to board the aircraft. I noticed the elderly were usually the last to board and would end up with the seats all the way down the back of the aircraft.

On a flight to Launceston I was the last to board, the only seat available was at the rear of the aircraft.

Also on board was the Victorian Prahan Dolfins football team along with several trainers.

As I made my way to the rear I noticed several pillow fights were in progress between the players, one of the trainers I noticed was so large he spilled out into the isle blocking the access.

The young flight attendants were having great difficulty controlling the unrully crowd and by the time every one was seated and made ready, the flight was ten minutes late.

The preflight safety completed the hostess took their seats in preperation.

One of the players seated near the middle of the aircraft suddenly lept out of his seat as the player seated by the window threw up then passed out.

The flight preperation was stopped as the hostess moved along to investigate the problem.

The fat trainer rose from his seat to stand in the isle effectively blocking all access forward.

Other football trainers rose from their seats filling the isles as the flight attendant from the front of the aircraft attempted to also make her way to the problem.

It was instantly obvious not one of the standing trainers knew what to do and after making repeated please for every one to retun to their seats not one of them seem to take the slightest notice.

By climbing over passengers seats, trainers and players one of the girls finally managed to reach the comotosed player and called for the hostess in the rear to bring up the first aid bag and an oxygen bottle.

The Oxygen and bag were obtained from an overhead locker above me in the rear of the aircraft but with the fat trainer ignoring every ones request to return to his seat remained in place effectivly blocking all helpfull access five seats short of the comotosed passenger.

The odd pillow continued being thrown as the oxygen and bag were eventually passed along after instruction were given to each player as what to do with the arrival of the unexpected items being handed to them and slowly they made their way forward hand over hand.

Flight staff obviousely finding a common language managed to get a few of the spectators to return to their seats.

We sat in the aircraft as an ambulance pulled alongside the aircraft a half hour later the remaining spectators being now told to return to their seats allowed the medical team access.

Ten minutes later the passenger was removed from the aircraft.

Being near midday it was discovered the cabin cleaners were all at lunch so we remained seated, waiting another hour before the cleaners eventually arrived, the seat was dismantled and removed from the aircraft.

Having removed a passenger from the aircraft, a group of ground staff had assembled outside the aircraft as the luggage was off loaded in search of the passengers luggage.

A replacement seat arrived and assembled in place allowing the two remaining passengers to clear the isle leaving only the unresponsive fat trainer standing.

After a two and a half hour delay the fat trainer finally returned to his seat and the flight attendendants repeated the pretake off safety demonstration while ducking the occasional pillow.

As the aircraft finally moved off toward the runway, many of the players ignoring what they had just seen broke out their iphones and plugged in their personal tunes.

I decided in the case of an evacuation emergency I would break out the emergency oxygen bottle and smack the fat trainer in the back of the head with it as it would be far easier for the forty passengers in the rear to climb over him than attempt to go round.

The Chuck Glider



When I was ten or so my parents were in the habit of giving me ten shillings ( $1.00) when ever one of the family had a birthday.

This huge sum often supplemented with my unspent two shilling (20c) weekly pocket money allowed me to pop into the local emporium in Port Adelaide and buy a present.

By today’s standard these amounts may seem minuscule, petrol was 7d a gallon (4.54 liters)

My first task was to find a gift that would allow me to end up with at least 2/6d (25c) in my pocket.

Our house was built by my father in a corner of the last remaining paddock of the family farm only one and a half miles from Port Adelaide the farm known locally as Piggery Park, changed when suburbia encroached. The local shire after subdividing the farm and attempting to raise the desirability of the new housing allotments gave the farm a new name, Royal Park.

The last remaining paddock was almost 2 1/2 acres in size, when I grew up private housing ran along one side, a small bush track we called, “The Lane”, along another, an ice works on the third and my family home on the forth side.

My grandfather lived in the original family home diagonally opposite.

The only occupant of the paddock was an old farm horse named Minnie, a bee hive was kept near our back fence where a gate provided access to the paddock.

In the winter the low parts of the paddock flooded, it was here I spent hours floating all sorts of boats, tins and lumps of shaped wood, on windy days we used the fence as protection from the cold winter winds while we flew various types and size kites.

With my squirrelled away 2/6d I could purchase the latest chuck glider and spend hours in the paddock enjoying the gentlemanly art of aviation.

My family often gave me plastic aircraft kit for Christmas or birthdays, although these were fun to build, once construction was complete they were unable to fly and simply took up space and collected dust.

I enjoyed running over the open paddock chasing the flight path of the latest balsa glider which I observed sometimes became caught in a favorable gust of wind and flew past the confines of the paddock.

My father a keen fisherman loved boats and understood none of my strange interest in aviation.

One hot summer day my father was walking through the paddock, returning from a visit to grandfathers and stopped to watch me throwing my latest glider which was achieving good height and distance.

I offered him the glider and after demonstrating the correct launch angle stood back as he gave it a mighty throw.

We watched as the glider spiraled quickly up ward then leveled off for a few moments, it rocked about and continued circling as it drifted down wind still climbing noticeably.

We both stood and watched as it continued its rapid rise.

The aircraft quickly became a small moving blob of colour against the clear blue sky.

My father loosing interest turned to walk away and said I had better get my bicycle and chase it if I wanted it back.

I simply stood and watched for a long time as it slowly vanished from view.

This had never happened before, this was something new, something invisible had caught my glider and made it fly far higher than I ever imagined.

With nothing to see but an empty blue sky I ran back to my room and emptied my money box, with 10d I found in the back of a drawer I counted 3/2d. more than enough for another glider, I climbed onto my bike.

If I hurry I thought I could just make it to Rhodes Emporium before it closed.

A Big Thanks to Qantas


I would like thank Qantas for enabling me to write many stories between flights at Melbourne airport while waiting anywhere from 1 to 30 hours for connecting flights to Hobart and yes I did say 1 to 30 hours.

For many years (36) I worked as a FIFO (Fly in Fly out) miner and spent an inordinate amount of time sitting about Melbourne airport waiting for connecting flights.

On a number of occasions I left leave work at 7 am and arrive home in Hobart at 10 pm the following day.

But to give Qantas its just dues their best time was a 7am flight from Mildura with a 2pm arrival in Hobart due to a very helpful lady at the Qantas desk in Melbourne and a flight that had been delayed for two hours due to operational problems which allowed me to join it, great for me though there were some 100+ miffed passengers….sorry guys the problem wasn’t my doing.

Qantas regularly borrowed the 4.45pm assigned Hobart aircraft for the 4pm Coolangatta flight due to some dire technical problem associated with one of their aircraft during the course of the day, the replacement for the missing aircraft was performed by shuffling or leap frogging aircraft down the line when the 1pm Sydney flight took the aircraft allocated for the 1:15 Gold coast flight which then took the aircraft allocated for the 1:30 Canberra flight etc and so on down the line with the hope somewhere during the day a spare aircraft would become available to enable it to slip back into a slot and all would be well.

Hobart passengers who were on the end of the line would be simply told to expect a two or three hour delay due to an operational problem with their aircraft?? which most waiting passengers puzzled over having just seen it reassigned and depart for Coolangatta.

Im not complaining passenger safety comes first, I prefer Qantas perform vital maintenance on their aircraft as and when needed rather than have the embarrassment of having it break down during a flight and become stuck at 30,000ft.

The last Hobart flight for the day parked over night in Hobart and following the usual delays was often the last aircraft out of Melbourne before the curfew.

Alternate airlines ?

Joke Star airlines regularly ran two, three or more hours late and any Joke Star passenger arriving via a Qantas flight (me) had to leave the secure terminal pick up the luggage drag it up to Joke Star wait four hours because Joke Star will not accept check-ins until two hours before the intended advertised departure. Note to reader : the intentional use of the word, “intended”

Joke Star do not supply seats for waiting transient passengers with luggage.

Virgin Airlines should be taken to court for false advertising as I suspect many of their hostesses are not.

Tiger air is cheap, so is a cask of wine, both will produce a headache when taken.

Qantas for the most ran almost on time though occasionally though “unexpected” operational delays were forced to leave Hobart passengers stranded in Melbourne over night when the hijacked Coolangatta flight became delayed during the turn around.

Just prior to borrowing the Hobart aircraft Qantas would announce an unexpected terminal change for the Hobart passengers from gate-way 4 to what felt like a half a kilometer walk to gate 10.

Shortly followed by an announcement the Coolangatta passengers would now depart from gate 4.

Melbourne terminal closed down sometime around 10pm and after a five hour wait we would be invited to walk all the way back to the Qantas counter near gate 1 to be told the aircraft was unavailable then given instructions on which bus to hop on out side the terminal with our collected luggage where we were given directions to a near by motel along with tickets for a meal and breakfast.

Qantas then left the stranded passengers to find their own connecting flights and way home from there regardless of the colour of your Qantas Loyalty Pass.

Like I said I would like to thank Qantas for giving me a Gold Loyalty card and the time to write hundreds of short stories like this while patently waiting for the Coolangatta passengers to return the bloody airplane.

Bad Landing Practice.

wgc-pq-s “Go round again” the instructor said shortly after landing. I checked the area ahead was clear and opened the throttle all 130 horses attempted another impersonation of accelerate. The tail rose quickly offering me a better view of what lay ahead as the aircraft bounced along, the undercarriage bungees began to feel light, I tested a little back stick, the aircraft easily lifted itself from the ground as we began another circuit around the airfield.

A small group of watchers stood near the hangar, I knew by now they would be feeling a little disappointed, waiting in anticipation, my last three efforts had resulted in the aircraft landing smoothly with the two main wheels gently touching the ground followed by the tail wheel as the aircraft stalled on with no trace of a bounce. In an attempt to disrupt my approach the instructor had dumped the flaps just as I was about to flair the aircraft, I had somehow caught the descent and produced yet another smooth bounce-less landing, the third in a row

The Auster climbed noisily into the air roaring and farting its way round the circuit.

I turned onto final and set up the descent with just one notch of flap, settled the speed as I approached the runway for the fourth time in twenty minutes.

With the racket of the engine diminished Bruce the instructor turned to me and shouted,”I know you can fly this bloody aircraft, I’m not giving you a tail dragger endorsement until you demonstrate at least one bad landing”.

“We could be up here all day”, I thought checking the speed and the approaching runway.

The steel tube and rag Auster aircraft with its large wing and four cylinder engine is equipped with huge rubber bungees which act as springs for the fixed under carriage. An unwary pilot not giving the aircraft respect or their full attention during any landing would be quickly rewarded by the aircraft tossing them back into the air, usually with very little speed on the clock and even less control in the hand, the aircraft would make an uncomfortably rapid return to earth where the bungees would once again respond by tossing the aircraft skyward. This unbridled tossing and bouncing would continue for some way along the runway, much to the amusement of all onlookers until the bungees had either vented their wroth or lost interest in further agitating the shaken passengers.

With the airspeed pegged we continued the descent, the only thing preventing me from achieving my tail dragger endorsement was the fact I had never done a bad landing in an aircraft renowned for highlighting pilots bad practices and lack of manners. Just the mere thought of deliberately performing a bad landing was to me totally foreign.

I began to flare a meter or so higher than usual above the runway, the instructor his mind set on bad landings adding a boot full of rudder to the mix, holding it until the aircraft now flying sideways had almost stopped flying,”Your aircraft”, he called. I opened the throttle and kicked it straight catching the aircraft just in time.

I let the aircraft mush onto the ground, the wheels spread, the bungees stretched then quickly recovered by tossing the Auster back into the air with very little enthusiasm, we floated then bounced, rocked a little after landing on one wheel, the aircraft settled smoothly as it continued along the runway.

“Is that the best bad landing you can do”? Bruce asked as we slowed.

“I can try again If you like” I replied, my fingers ready to advance the throttle once more.

“Pathetic, its barely enough for a pass, it will have do, take me home” Bruce replied sounding a little peeved. We taxied to the apron and shut down.

The airfield manager approached,”What do you think? A pass”? He asked the instructor.

“He only just scraped though the bounce test, he has enough understanding of tail dragger’s to be endorsed”, Bruce replied.

“Good I need a tug pilot to cover the afternoons operations, come this way”the manager replied as he headed off toward a waiting Piper Pawnee.

“You’ll find the Pawnee has more power and is a lot lighter and easier to fly and land” the manager said as we approached the parked crop duster the club used to tow gliders, I had spent many hours being dragged about the sky behind this very aircraft, I was now about to fly it .

“Yes”, I replied, adding,”A lot easier, It has only one seat and no one interfering with the controls when your trying to land”.

Paranoia and cold beer.


Auster J1 Glenn Alderton Pic. glenn@warbirds.net

The pilot wiggled uncomfortably in his seat, it was something, something he simply couldn’t put his finger on, it had bothered him since they took off twenty minutes before, he hadn’t told his copilot of his concerns, just in case it turned out to be nothing just an old pilots paranoia, no need to cause trouble where no trouble existed.

He re-scanned the sparse gauges on the instrument panel for a clue one more time knowing full well they indicated all was well with the 60 year old engine the problem wasn’t the engine he knew from experience any mechanical problem would make itself known well before any of the instruments ever found out about it.

The feeling persisted.

The air was reasonably smooth surprising the pilot, they had climbed to four thousand feet and were cruising along comfortably.

Just thirty five minutes from home and they would be on the ground, he could inspect the aircraft.

He banked the wings left then right making it look intentional and normal as though he was were looking for something below or hidden above the high strutted wing.

The trim handle above his head wasn’t in its normal position, it was close but not exact, the small travel bag strapped to the rear seat must be slightly lighter than normal he thought giving the change in the trim position a logical explanation, wondering what they had left on the ground back at the airfield.

The tie down kit with its pegs had been packed and re-stowed in its normal position, the pilot was certain of it having packed it away himself.

Nothing else had left the aircraft during their stop over.

But it still didnt give him the feeling of wellness.

He wiggled once more, glancing up at the trim handle, he reached up and adjusted it, placing it in the normal position, the stick moved forward as nose slipped below the horizon, he moved the trim lever and corrected the descent, it wasn’t much, less than a quarter turn, lighter overnight bag maybe but it just wasn’t right.

The other thing that bothered him was the control stick, he checked the seat position, it was in its normal place and yet his hand seemed to rest just a little further back on his leg, it wasn’t much slightly less than the width of his thumb.

The aircraft flew normally fuel usage normal he had checked both tanks prior to take off tanks they were as he expected so why was the aircraft slightly nose heavy?

He turned in his seat to check behind, out of the corner of his eye he could see the tail wheel was still in place.

By now the copilot was becoming aware of his uneasiness.

“Problem” he asked wiggling himself upright in the seat.

“No, nothing I can put my finger on its just the stick isn’t in the right place and the trim handle is not where it should be normally its not out by much slightly less than a quarter of a turn, the pilot informed his number two reaching up to point out the normal position of the trim handle.

The pilot moved his hand forward slightly, the nose of the 60 year old Auster dropped slightly below the horizon,”This is where my hand is normally when I fly, to keep it level now my hand is here” he said letting the trim move the stick back, it was less than the width of his thumb.

“The aircraft is telling me its slightly nose heavy, we didnt leave anything behind did we” the pilot added.

The copilot confirmed he had everything with him he had prior to their arrival,”Tie down kit”? He asked.

“No its under the seat where its normally kept” the pilot informed him.

“Well? Nothing else left the aircraft except us” the copilot confirmed.

“It might just be me, we are only thirty minutes from home I can have a good look then” the pilot replied.

“Having flown with you for years I trust your feelings” the copilot replied.

“There are plenty of good size paddocks below, I know the owner of that farm over there, I once landed a glider in it, we could pop down say hello, maybe get invited in for a coffee, if landing in a paddock doesn’t scare you too much”? The pilot suggested.

“Lets do it”, the copilot agreed.

The engine noise reduced as the pilot throttle back, lowering the nose they descended toward the remote house.

A large paddock almost directly in front of the house appeared to be a good choice, a low run along the intended landing path confirmed it to be a good choice while it also alerting the property owner of their intention.

The Auster turned and made a regulation circuit the ground run ending close to the house where the engine was shut down.

“This could turn out to be just a wild goose chase” the pilot said once the clatter of the engine had finally stopped and normal hearing returned.

They climbed out and stretched their legs before slowly walking about the aircraft looking for something, a reason to explain the minuscule change in trim.

It all appeared normal, the wire bracing that held the tailplane was tight nothing loose the large elevator was undamaged nothing missing from the steel sprung tail wheel the two pilots scratched their heads, nothing.

The pilot returned to the cabin and opened the door to check every thing was as it should.

He closed the door and turned to face the rear of the aircraft out of ideas, he noticed the wheel marks on the bare earth made during their landing, with no one emerging from the house he guessed the occupants were away, better leave them a note he thought say hi as an explanation for the strange wheel marks in their paddock.

It was something he knew it still bothered him.

Looking at the aircraft he noticed a slight a slackness in the fabric on top of the tail plane near where it meets the fuselage, something he put away for attention later.

“Well I cant see anything” the copilot said interrupting his thoughts.

“Me either”, The pilot replied, walking to the tailplane to have a closer inspection of the slackness in the tail-plane’s fabric.

He bent to inspect it noticing the metal tubing that formed the shape of the tailplane appeared to have a small step about the width of the tubing.

He checked the other side where the tailplane met the fuselage it was smooth with no step.

Looking closer he quickly realised the leading edge of the tailplane had broken away from the support, the tubing had moved slightly upward and had jammed against the other side of the broken tube, the result was a minuscule change of the tailplane angle on one side, it was responsible for feeding in a tiny bit of down elevator.

A closer inspection showed the tubing had rusted completely though and broken away from the mounting.

“Well what do we do now” the copilot asked.

“Well lets tie the aircraft down and hope the owners have a cold beer in the fridge when they show up”.


During the late 1960’s I occasionally spent time with a cousin who drove tow trucks part time.

Tow truck driving in the 60’s was a very competitive business fights often broke out as tow truck drivers tried to win the business of towing away the wreck of someones unfortunate accident.

Not all towing companies were aggressive, regardless to some people they were all tarred with the same brush.

One very wet cold rainy winters night we and one other crew had sat in the towing office for eight hours and had not had one phone call or a report of an accident in our area, it was late, we were cold and tired the sort of tired you get from inaction and listening to the usual police traffic on the radio and the non stop rain on the tin roof.

By 2am we decided to call it a night, leaving the second crew to sit out the rest of the night, we headed home in the relentless rain in one of the tow-trucks.

We had driven about 200 meters when we stopped at a set of traffic lights behind a small sedan and waited for the lights to turn green we were in no hurry the traffic at that time was light.

The lights eventually turned green, the small sedan in front of us moved off, we began to follow.

A dark utility traveling at high speed suddenly appeared from the left racing through the intersection and ignoring the red light.

We watched dumfounded as it collided with the front left hand side of the small sedan sending a shower of sparks and glass into the air, the impact spun the small car around 360 degrees, the front and engine was torn away by the impact and hung on only by the twisted metal that was once part of the right hand side mud guard, the car spun and danced though the intersection before it came to rest at the side of the intersection in a field of scattered debris, smoke and steam began rising from the broken vehicle.

The dark utility carried on through the intersection veering sideways, for a moment it seem to balance on two wheels swerving wildly before rolling onto its side and sliding off the road and onto a council garden, accompanied with an impressive shower of sparks and coming to a rocking halt amongst the neat row of plants about fifty meters past the collision.

Shocked by the unbelievable scene we had just witnessed we sat for a moment then reacted, on went the orange flashing light on top of the truck while I climbed out into the cold poring rain, the driver stayed with the tow-truck sending a radio message back to our base hoping the other crew were still there to take the call.

I ran over to the small sedan.

The entire front of the vehicle had been torn completely from the car and now sat at forty-five degree angle to the car, the front passenger could have simply undone her seat belts and simply stepped out through the hole left by the missing part of the vehicle, unfortunately when I checked the passenger the left side of her face and head had been severely damaged by the side of the car during the impact, I watched as the falling rain washed the blood from the exposed bone, from the lack of movement I thought it highly unlikely she had survived.

The other side of the car had been twisted and shortened extensively, I moved to the driver who was seated upright still holding the outer rim of the broken steering wheel appeared to be pushed against his chest pinning him against the seat.

My partner ran up took a quick look at the scene and informed me the radio call had been answered and the ambulance and police were on their way then turned to rush off toward the rising smoke and steam from the dark utility.

I turned my attention to the driver, is eyes and bloodied head were rolling uncontrollably I doubted he was even aware of my presence in his dazed state.

I noticed the steering wheel he was holding had broken completely away and the control column appeared to have impaled the drivers chest.

He turned his head and looked at me through half closed eyes, before I could say anything he suddenly shouted, “I don’t want any ballerinas”.

His head rolled about for a few moments then fell forward and never moved again.

I became aware that the surrounding traffic continued obeying the lights and moved slowly past the accident scene crunching broken glass under their tires as they passed faces gazing dumbly from the warm dry interiors into the heavy rain no one offering to stop or help.

I stood next to the small sedan neither feeling the rain or the cold and just watching the moving traffic for a few moments when a movement caught my eye as a tiny head appeared from inside the broken rear window of the sedan, the small face turned and looked up at me then the voice of a four year old said,”we had a big crash”.

I was shocked and stunned for a moment then asked if she was hurt?

“It was a big crash,” she said ignoring my question and raising both her arms toward me.

“I know” I said adding, “I saw it’.

I reached out and lifted her very carefully through the missing window checking her over for injuries or any sign of blood.

She appeared to be unhurt and in no pain.

“Does it hurt anywhere” I asked continuing my search my fingers dislodging shattered glass from her hair and clothing.

“No hurt” she replied shaking her head side to side then noticing the glass falling from her hair each time she moved.

“Oh look broken”, she said.

“I don’t want you to touch your hair its sharp glass and you might cut your finger” I said.

“Ok”, she replied.

Unable to find any sign of an injury I turned and carried her to the tow truck and out of the rain, the engine had been left running the heater was still on. I told her to sit in the warm for a while then closed the door.

In the distance I could see the first of the blue flashing lights approaching.

It didn’t take long for a police car to arrive; stopping next to our parked tow truck filling the scene with orange, red and blue flashing lights that reflected of everything wet and seem to fill the sky with reflective color from the heavy rain drops.

Behind I could see more flashing lights approaching and a faint siren I hoped was the ambulance.

I instantly recognized the Sargent from other accidents we had attended as he stepped from his vehicle, he approached and stopped, his partner stopped behind to listen.

“A bad night” the Sargent said as he got close.

“Yes bad” I said, I think the two in the small car are dead; the driver of the other car is over there I informed him pointing to where my partner was standing, the driver of the Ute was bent over either in pain or throwing up I guessed from his stance.

The Sargent turned, his partner simply nodded then walked off toward the small car.

More police arrived just ahead of the ambulance; followed by a police motorcycle.

A car dove slowly past, we could clearly hear the music from the radio , both side windows were down, from inside the dark interior one of the occupants called out, “Fucking tow tuck leaches, cant wait for ya blood money, ya bunch of greedy bastards”.

The Sargent turned to watch the car as it continued to move away, he turned and raised his eyes toward me,”Helpful citizens”, he said.

He signaled to the motorcycle and waved him over.

The bike pulled up close, the Sargent said something I couldn’t hear and pointed to the disappearing vehicle.

The bike cop nodded and moved off effortlessly, blue light flashing.

The medical team arrived I walked over as they climbed out and told them what I knew, one headed toward the car while the other opened the back of the ambulance.

The third group of police arrived, the Sargent gave them various jobs before turning to me.

“I don’t suppose you saw what happened”? He asked.

“Yes, we were stopped behind them at the lights, were just moving off when the Ute came through like a bat out of hell and hit them.”

“How fast do you think he was going” he asked.

“Well Above the speed limit” I replied, unable to put a number on it.

The Sargent’s partner returned,”Both dead” he reported.

“I suppose the driver of the Ute survived,” he asked his partner.

“Yes that’s him standing next to the Ute” he said.

“That’s unfortunate” the Sargent replied.

The medical officer returned from his inspection of the small vehicle confirming both occupants were dead.

“I found a little girl in the back seat”; I said to the medical officer, “I put her in the front seat of the tow truck, to get her out of the rain, she was covered in glass”I added.

We moved to the tow truck and opened the door.

The little face turned and smiled then said, “We had a big crash”

I stepped back to let the medical team take over.

“Fucking cunts, Tow truck driver’s yawl a bunch of blood sucking bastards,” another voice called from a passing car.

The Sargent talked into his plastic covered radio for a few moments I watched as the heavy rain ran off his hat.

He turned to me and said, “I notice no one has stopped to offer help,” he said.

“Probably afraid of getting wet” I replied.

“The traffic cop I sent down the road is going to have a busy time”, adding, “If this keeps up I will have to send a second car down there to help”.

My partner arrived and joined us.

The Sargent looked at us then said, “Where were you heading when this happened”?

“Home” my partner replied.

“Well there is no need for you to hang around, we have the situation under control”

“Do you want a statement?” my partner asked.

“I know where to find you, go home, get out of the rain” the Sargent replied.

We climbed into the truck and brushed traces of glass from the seat.

We were soaked to the skin, water had filled my shoes, I felt chilled, wet and uncomfortable as I sat down.

As we drove away the driver turned off the overhead orange flashing light, good idea I thought, best not advertise the fact we are scumbags.