OTHER SURVEY OPERATORS

MAC.ROBERTSON MILLER AIRLINES (MMA)

 

Although there was no known association with Adastra, the pioneering Western Australian operator Mac. Robertson Miller Airlines (MMA) did conduct aerial photography operations with Anson and DC-3 aircraft. Some of these operations are known to have been in conjunction with Kevron Photographics Pty Ltd of Perth.

Under the headline Air Photography in The Freighter, the MMA Staff News of April 1955 records:

 

The amount of work done by M.M.A. for the Lands and Survey Department has increased following the completion of modifications to the freighter. *

In recent weeks, aerial photography has been carried out for the department over the Pilbara district, around Carnarvon and in the South West.

After consultation with Douglas Aircraft Company and Pratt & Whitney, it was decided that aerial photography in the freighter could be done if necessary beyond 20,000 feet.

The necessary camera equipment has been designed so that it can be interchangeable between a Douglas and an Anson.

This posed many problems for the engineering staff at Guildford but they were all overcome.

In the Douglas, the camera installation employs a drift sight mounted aft of the First Officer on the right-hand side of the fuselage. The camera itself is mounted towards the rear of the cabin on the right-hand side adjacent to the door. The camera mounting is designed for the use of 6in lens for high level photography, 12in. for medium level, and 25in. for low level.

Because of the distance between the crew and the camera operator, it was necessary to install two inter-communication systems, one for high altitude work and the other for low level.

An oxygen installation has been put in for high level work. Camera operators prefer to work in a Douglas because there is more room and the working time is more or less unlimited.

In a Douglas, the camera installation is supplied with electric power from the aircraft system, while in an Anson, it is supplied from two batteries which need re-charging on the ground after about six hours operation.

* Ed. The term "The Freighter" was commonly used within MMA to describe DC-3 VH-MML so it seems that this aeroplane was modified for photography as early as 1955.


Under the headline DC-3 Chartered From TAA, Slipstream of October 1956 records:

 

M.M.A. has chartered a Douglas DC3 from Trans-Australia Airlines for three months to help cope with a big increase in the demand for aerial photography by the Lands and Survey Department.

The aircraft, VH-AES (Alpha Echo Sierra) was flown from Melbourne by Captain George Meadows, F/O Ray Hames and Chief Engineer F.B. Colquhoun.

While here, the aircraft will be used only for photography. On arrival from Melbourne, it went into the workshops for four days for modifications to take the photographic gear.

Two of M.M.A.'s DC3 aircraft VH-MML and VH-MMF are fitted out for aerial photography but they could not be spared because of scheduled traffic commitments.

The aircraft which will be flown and maintained by M.M.A., will be used for medium and high level photography (from 5,000 feet to 18,750 feet above ground level) covering large sections of the State from Wiluna down to Esperance and across to Albany and Bunbury.

In all, some 50,000 miles will be flown before the immediate job is completed between now and Christmas.

Before bringing VH-AES back from Melbourne, F/O Ray Hames ferried Anson VH-MMC to Sydney. The Anson has been sold to Papuan Airways of Port Moresby.


MMA Bulletin of January 1957 records the return of VH-AES to TAA leaving "a considerable area of the south-west tip of the State to be photographed by DC-3 VH-MML and Anson VH-MMH." While with MMA, VH-AES flew more than 250 hours and was crewed predominantly by F/O John Pierce assisted by F/O Eric Parr, both of whom were experienced survey pilots. Various captains were rostered on the aircraft during the charter.

MMA Slipstream of October 1957 records an aerial photography project on behalf of the Lands and Surveys Department involving an area of 60,000 square miles stretching from the Monte Bello Islands to Lake Disappointment, an area almost as large as the state of Victoria.

Slipstream of April 1958 records a project for the Lands and Surveys Department which saw DC-3 VH-MML based at the remote Giles weather station near the South Australian border. The aeroplane was crewed by Captains Jack Murray and Bill Anderson and F/O John Pierce. The remoteness of this base necessitated trucking fuel from Alice Springs and positioning spare parts, engineers and oxygen bottles on the aircraft from Perth. While based at Giles, all personnel were accommodated in tents which were also flown in on the aircraft.

Slipstream of March 1959 records that Anson VH-MMB is to be sold leaving VH-MMH as the only Anson remaining in the MMA fleet. VH-MMH Harding is "being retained for low level aerial photography work."

Slipstream of April 1959 records that VH-MML spent a month at Giles soon after which the aircraft spent nine days on a photography project in the Port Hedland area. It is also stated that "a pre-fabricated darkroom is installed before each project."

Slipstream of April 1960 records that DC-3 VH-MML departed Perth at midday on 16 March 1960 for a 20,000 square mile key strip photography project between Carnegie and Carnegie under charter to Kevron Photographics Pty Ltd on behalf of the Lands and Surveys Department. For this project the aircraft was based at Carnegie. Included in the crew were Kevron's experienced photographers Kevin Radford (the Kev in Kevron) and Alfred Wozencroft. The camera used was a Wild RC8 (9in x 9in). The pilots on this project were Captains George Meadows and Ray Brindley with First Officers John Pierce and Brian Reid. MMA engineer Charles Scale provided maintenance coverage. In addition to all the usual supplies that had to be flown into this remote location, the aircraft also carried two railway lines which were intended to be dragged by a tractor to grade the airstrip! The MMA Annual Report for 1960, in referring to this project, states that "MMA operates two aircraft which may be readily converted for aerial photographic work."

In August 1961, Kevron Photographics Pty Ltd of Perth was awarded a 43,000 Commonwealth Government contract for a photographic survey of 60,000 square miles in the Kalgoorlie-Forrest-Esperance area. The aircraft used was MMA's DC-3 VH-MML with two pilots, two camera operators and a navigator. Flying commenced on 22 September 1961 and ended at Christmas that year. MMA's Jetstream of July 1961 stated that the aircraft was fitted with two-stage superchargers and "special propellors" which allowed it to "operate safely as high as 28,000 feet." Reference is also made to "modified heating systems ... to maintain an average temperature of 68 degrees in the cabin and camera room at high altitude."

Jetstream of July 1962 records the retirement of MMA's last Anson VH-MMH Harding which concluded its last operational flight at 1024 hours on 29 June 1962. Captain John Pierce had just completed an aerial photo project in the Hammersley Ranges, Onslow, Roebourne and Mount Magnet areas. It is stated that VH-MMH was able to take any one of three different types of camera. On retirement, VH-MMH had completed 4,360 hours. On 11 August 1962 VH-MMH was ferried to the Kingsley Fairbridge Farm School at Pinjarra where it was elevated on concrete blocks in the school sports area. Although no doubt done with the best of intentions, the inevitable result was that the aircraft became derelict by 1964.

Jetstream of November 1962 records that the DC-3 freighter VH-MML was being converted to a high density passenger aircraft to meet traffic demands. The conversion was performed in-house by MMA and included a demountable buffet for use on longer flights. As shown below, VH-MML was fitted with 34 seats while still retaining its convertible survey capability.

MMA Captain Reg Adkins operated several aerial survey flights during his 32 years with the company. He retired in 1986 with 21,000 hours to his credit. His survey flights are recorded in his log book as follows:

09MAR64
VH-MMF
Perth - Kalgoorlie Area - Kalgoorlie overnight.
10MAR64
VH-MMF
Kalgoorlie - Esperance area - Kalgoorlie. Overnight.
11MAR64
VH-MMF
Kalgoorlie area - Perth.
18NOV64
VH-MML
Perth area - Hi Altitude 25,000 ft for Kevron.
19NOV64
VH-MML
Cancelled due cloud (after 55 minutes flight)
02DEC64
VH-MML
Hi Altitude Photo for Kevron - Bencubbin, Tambellup, Narrogin, Lake Grace.
13DEC64
VH-MML
Hi Altitude Photo. Cancelled due cloud (after 1 hour 20 minutes)

 

In October 1964, Reg Adkins received the following letter from MMA.

DC-3 PHOTO SURVEY....Kevron charters with one dedicated a/c. MML fitted with 34 seats, for Rottnest flights, and two speed blowers for hi-alt survey. Had Mosquito type Paddle Blades. Letter to Adkins etc., 16-10-1964.

 

 

MMA's Survey Aircraft

Type Registration C/N Name Remarks
Avro Anson VH-MMH W2088 Harding Withdrawn from service 29JUN62.
Douglas DC-3 VH-MMF 12540 Fortescue To Ansett PNG 09MAR70.
Douglas DC-3 VH-MML 32945 Lyndon To Ansett PNG 10JAN69.
Douglas DC-3 VH-AES 6021 Hawdon Chartered from TAA SEP-DEC56

 



KEVRON PHOTOGRAPHICS

Kevron Photographics Pty Ltd was established in Perth, WA in 1956 with Kevin W. Radford as their Managing Director. In May 1963, Kevron purchased their first aircraft, Cessna 185 VH-KPA. It was initially operated and maintained by the Royal Aero Club of WA who at the time were temporarily based at Perth Airport (Guildford) due to the closure of Maylands aerodrome and delays in opening of the new Jandakot aerodrome. The Aero Club provided a commercial pilot for Kevron. During 1963, this Cessna 185 did extensive survey work in the Alice Springs area and also in New Guinea. In April 1966, Beech Twin Bonanza VH-KPB was imported from the USA, by which time Kevron were operating their aircraft themselves. In March 1968, Beech 56TC Baron VH-KPY was added. Later came other aircraft, for magnetometer survey and overseas contracts including a large project in Iran during the days of the expulsion of the Shah. By then, the Chief Pilot was Ken Jones and the company had a large staff. In 2001, Kevron was taken over by the Fugro empire which was founded in the Netherlands in 1963 as Ingenieursbureau voor FUnderingstechniek en GROndmechanica.

 

 

Thanks to Reg Adkins, Geoff Goodall and Roger McDonald.

 


MMA DC-3 VH-MML Lyndon at Fossil Downs, Derby, WA on 24 October 1957.


Photo: Geoff Goodall Collection
MMA Aerial Survey DC-3 VH-MML Lyndon at Giles, WA in 1959.


Photo: Reg Adkins Collection
The crew of MMA Aerial Survey DC-3 VH-MML Lyndon at Giles, WA in March 1958.


Photo: Reg Adkins Collection
Taken from the MMA Annual Report for 1960, the caption to this photo describes it as the "photographer's position in MMA's Aerial Survey DC-3". As it differs significantly from the VH-MML installation shown below, it is possible that this is VH-MMF.


Photo: Roger McDonald Collection
Camera Operator Bruce Melrose at his station on MMA Aerial Survey DC-3 VH-MML Lyndon.


Photo: Reg Adkins Collection
MMA DC-3 VH-MMF Fortescue at Adelaide on 14 March 1970 on delivery to Ansett PNG.


Photo: Nigel Daw
TAA DC-3 VH-AES Hawdon at Essendon in 1954. Two years later it was chartered briefly by MMA.


Photo: Ed Coates
MMA Anson VH-MMH Harding at Perth in 1961. The aircraft was retired the following year.


Photo: John Hopton

All images are linked to larger versions.

 

 

Issue
Date
Remarks
4
03JAN13
Added C/N column to table of aircraft.
3
23DEC12
Added images of VH-MMF, VH-MMH and VH-AES thanks to Ed Coates, John Hopton and Nigel Daw.
2
22DEC12
Considerably expanded with information from the MMA staff newspaper (known successively as Staff News, MMA Bulletin, Slipstream and finally Jetstream) sourced by Roger McDonald.
1
18DEC12
Original issue.