Monthly Display - June 2019
Some recollections about aircraft and/or flying, part 2 (continued from the previous page):
Every fortnight or so when I was a child, Dad used to drive the whole family to the Blue Mountains to see my Nan and Papa (Mum’s parents). For several years we would go past a silver aircraft set up in a field on the Great Western Highway. The aircraft was set up as part of an advertisement. I remember all of us children used to enjoy seeing the plane as we drove past, even though it wasn’t flying.
Nan told us about when she was young, working for Fox Studios in Sydney, being asked several times by Charles Kingsford-Smith (famous Australian aviator) if she would like to go for a flight in his aircraft. She said she always declined his offers. She said that she did find Charles Kingsford Smith to be a very charming man, but also thought that flying was a very risky pursuit.
Nan also told us about a later time, sometime during World War 2, when she and my Papa would be visited regularly by her two nephews and sometimes some of their friends. One of her nephews was a pilot in training, stationed reasonably close to where they were living. Nan told us that it was so sad, because quite regularly, there would be terrible accidents occurring with the young pilots – aircraft flying into overhead lines, etc. She said that one week she would meet some of her nephew’s friends at her home, and the next week, one or two may have been killed in various accidents. Such seemed to be the nature of learning to fly war planes in those times.
Every now and then when growing up, we (the whole family) would go out to the Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot in Sydney. It was always a fascinating place, with so many large aircraft taking off and landing, and lots of support vehicles driving around on the tarmac (catering, refueling, baggage trains, buses, etc.). There was always an air of excitement about the airport that I could feel even when we hadn’t got to the airport car park!
I had a thoroughly enjoyable flight to Canberra when I was in High School. It was part of a school excursion for about 80 students (I think). It was probably the first flight I ever experienced. I think I flew in a MacDonnell Douglas DC-9 jet aircraft to Canberra. I remember that the feeling of lift at take-off was simply amazing. In Canberra, we visited a number of important institutions/places, such as Parliament House (the old one), the Mint, the War Memorial, the Australian National Art Gallery, Lake Burley Griffin, etc. Our return trip to Sydney was then made by touring bus.
I remember going to the War Memorial in Canberra and seeing various World War 1 and World War 2 military aircraft – I especially remember seeing a mainly black painted Avro Lancaster bomber. I had built and painted a 1/72 scale plastic construction kit of an Avro Lancaster bomber, so it felt special to see a real one. It was amazing to see its size and height, but I can also remember being surprised by the compact size of the rear gunner turret.
I can remember going to an air show at Schofields Aerodrome in Sydney, N.S.W. and seeing several classic aircraft flying for real, doing special fly passes in front of the crowd.
I also remember going for a joy flight in a helicopter a couple of years later, with the helicopter requiring the unusual behaviour of needing to lean (seemingly quite significantly) towards the direction you want to fly.
In 1976, I went to Bankstown Airport in Sydney, N.S.W. for a joy flight in a small single-engine aircraft for my 17th birthday. The pilot took me and my father to get a view of our house at the time from the air, then on to the city. I remember being surprised by the amount of radio communications required by the pilot.
I visited the aircraft Museum in Port Adelaide, and enjoyed seeing a range of old aircraft there.
In 2002, my wife and I had a special flight in a Brazilian-built turbo-prop Embraer EMB-110P1 aircraft from Port Lincoln to Adelaide.
In 2008, I went to an excellent air show at Parafield Airport, called the Parafield Fly-In. I saw a Mustang P-51, Tiger Moths, a De Havilland Chipmunk, a T-28 Trojan, and other interesting aircraft up close. I also saw several older aircraft flying, doing special fly passes in front of the crowd outside Hanger 52.
I have flown many times between Adelaide and Sydney in Boeing 737 aircraft. I have also flown between Adelaide and Perth, between Adelaide and Melbourne, Melbourne to Launceston in Tasmania, Hobart to Sydney, Sydney to Brisbane, and Brisbane to Cairns. I have experienced a range of weather conditions, and flown during different times of the day.
I have flown to Amsterdam, in The Netherlands (and back), with my wife on Boeing 747s. We had stop-overs in Singapore for several hours. There were fascinating views everywhere. I remember that on the way to Amsterdam, at 1:30 am we were about 40,000ft up somewhere between Afghanistan and Russia, and I could see the sun coming up. I basically continued to watch the sun coming up until we were almost over Europe. As we came into Amsterdam, we flew in through and below the cloud cover to see an amazing spectacle of weak sunlight being reflected off hundreds of thin straight person-made canals surrounding deep green rectangular plots.
Flying into Singapore on our way to Greece felt sublime, as we flew (seemingly in slow motion) between huge columns of tropical air cumulus clouds. The movement and lighting between these huge 3D organic forms was breath-taking.
I remember seeing Uluru from my window seat, on one of our trips to Singapore! It looked amazing, as did all of the outback landscape in the sunlight, seen from an altitude of about 40,000 ft!
I have enjoyed all of the flights I’ve been on. I think I probably enjoy the flights a lot more than the pilots do, because I can just look out of the window and enjoy the views, and not have any of the responsibility to watch over the instruments, checklists, set flight plans, and Air Traffic Control directions for safe travel. I have always enjoyed the flights I’ve been on, and loved seeing the views from the windows in the aircraft. I know now that I’d much rather be a passenger with the freedom to look at the views out of the windows, rather than being the pilot and have to be concentrating on a range of procedures to fly the aircraft safely between various airports.
Flying at close to 40,000 ft above the ground in a modern pressurised airliner, I often find that the layers of clouds look like they are quite close to the ground.
I have often wondered what it would be like to float along in a hot air balloon amongst the clouds, and the prevailing weather, that generally moves in Australia from west to east. It would be a smooth silent trip, with outstanding views of the world below. The movement across the country would be continuous and virtually unstoppable, like being on a raft. We often see weather systems move across the country in a matter of a few days. Imagine experiencing the same type of movement across the country!
I didn’t take lessons to learn to fly real aircraft. When I was in my senior years at high school (1976-1977), I applied for a pilot training position in the Australian Air Force. I sat for various tests, went for a medical examination, and had an interview with an Air Force recruitment officer who used to be a pilot. After all of that, it was felt that my eyesight was not quite good enough for undertaking a position as a pilot in the Air Force. I felt devastated. I was so sure that I would go on to become an excellent pilot. Now it felt as though the responsible thing to do was not to become a real pilot.
I have however, learnt to fly using flight simulation on computers.
For people to fly, we have had to build highly specialised machines to fly in, whether they are aeroplanes, or helicopters, or rockets, or gliders, or hang-gliders. These machines have been developed from our understanding of aerodynamics, from our understanding of materials science and engineering, from a multitude of lessons learnt from accidents that have occurred, and from a lot of testing and revising. Our understanding of the world through science is crucial for safe flight.
I now know, largely from learning about flight through flight simulation, that we have developed a range of navigation techniques, air traffic control, and air traffic communications, to keep flights as safe as possible. We have reached a stage where we can have safe regular flights performed during just about any time of the day or night, and during any weather conditions.
Monthly Display - June 2019