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.

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Hercules Flight PK-PLV from Hong Kong.

19940923-0-P-1

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”.

 

Breakfast:

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”.

 

Boats:

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?

Kowloon_Tung_Choi_Street

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

THE CHUCKY

THE CHUCKY

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

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.