I don't remember
much about the old Adastra Hangar 15 except that it was small,
just big enough to accommodate a Hudson, that the Cat was just
nosed into it being worked on and Eric Haynes was Works Manager
and Jack McDonald was Chief Engineer.
The second time I worked for Adastra was in the relocated Hangar
13, Eric had died and Jack was the Boss. He was a hands-on chief,
not above getting his hands dirty or sweeping the floor. His philosophy
was that in aviation you could be Chief Engineer one day and out
of a job the next and had to be prepared to do any work to earn
a crust. Outside of airlines at the time that could certainly
The hangar crew always seemed to be a happy lot and practical
jokes the order of the day. A paper bag filled with acetylene,
lit and thrown under the table tennis table at lunchtime makes
a very loud noise. You had to be careful if you went into "Shifty"
Sheffield's workshop as leaning against the bench or touching
some innocent looking piece of equipment could result in a zap
from his cunningly set up booster coil. Even at the (in)famous
Thursday afternoon keg parties you had to be alert, as the icebox
tap handle was sometimes "wired up". Even after I left Adastra,
I went to see the boys one day and Scotty Wilson got me to hold
a piece of pipe he was hack sawing and zapped me!
Remember the Honour Roll of people who had donated kegs and the
list of the Crumpled Car Club that resulted from these? That was
before compulsory seat belts, drink driving penalties and today's
emphasis on safety.
I had an early model Morris Minor convertible which Jack was sure
he had seen racing at Mt Druitt and it was using a lot of oil.
Jack suggested I take the engine out in the hangar and take it
over to a workshop on North Shore to get it overhauled. So I did
and going over the Harbour Bridge in the old Commer van I just
barely made it over the highest point in the middle because the
engine was running out of water and seizing up. I was able to
coast down the other side and luckily at that time there was a
service station at the end of the bridge and I was able to top
up the radiator and carry on. Nobody had thought to warn me about
the water problem. Jack was probably right about Mt Druitt because
the Minor engine was over-bored 4mm and they had to insert sleeves
to bring the bores back to standard.
At one time, one of the Ansons that was not used anymore was parked
round the back of the hangar and the engines run up occasionally
to keep them serviceable. It was in a dilapidated state with fabric
hanging off it, but still mobile. It was suggested that it should
be taxied past the control tower, which at that time was nearer
the tarmac than the present one, to see what the reaction would
be. I don't think they ever did - did they??
Peter Kerr was an apprentice at the time when Nancy Leebold chartered
the Dragon to follow the Redex Trial around Australia. He was
learning to fly at the time and had strong views about not flying
with a woman pilot so Jack got her to ask Peter if he would go
for a flight with her. An embarrassed Peter still politely refused.
Maybe he overcame his prejudice later as the last time I saw him
a few years ago he was a Boeing captain.
When I was in Lae with Allen Motteram I built a control line model
of the SE5a World War One fighter and when I came back I stored
it up above the offices as I was living in a boarding house whilst
in Sydney. Bunny Hammond saw it one day and was interested as
he flew them during World War One. He reckoned that they were
a good gun platform. It eventually flew some years later.
We had to weigh the DC-3 after some mods and Barry Howe was co-opted
to do the CofG calculations. No electronic computers then but
he had a mechanical one which involved pressing keys for numbers
and winding a handle backwards or forwards, sometimes furiously,
for different functions. The first calculations put the CG way
back behind the wing so he must have wound that handle the wrong
way or the wrong number of turns. Another attempt came up with
a credible answer.
We saw some of the first Boeing 707's landing at Mascot from the
hangar door which was not far from the runway and I was surprised
at how small the B-17 was standing outside the Hangar, not much
bigger than the DC-3 in dimensions.
Not much more I can recall but I spent some of the best days of
my career in the hangar at Mascot.