have spoken to Dad this morning. His time with Adastra was before
and just after his marriage on 8th May 1948, so he was with Adastra
from 1947-1948 for about twelve months. He flew with Harry Morrel
who you have later listed as an accountant and pilot Gordon Bigg.
They surveyed Mt Isa and this was very well received by the locals,
especially given the geography of the area. They also worked in
the west of Victoria and NSW, Queensland (Townsville in particular)
and the Kimberleys in WA. Harry Morrell operated the camera from
the nose and Dad travelled as the aircraft maintenance mechanic
and was responsible for ensuring the aircraft met compulsory inspection
requirements. He was also responsible for cameras and reels. In
the floor of the Anson there was a circular hole cut, through which
photographs were taken.
He remembers fondly the respect in which Eric Haynes was held during
his time at Adastra and later. Dad replaced Tom Carpenter (who had
a uniform which Dad didn't get) as Chief Inspector. He remembers
Miss Morell as working in the front office before he started there
but says that they were so busy working that they rarely saw the
front office staff. Harry Morell is described as a nice bloke who
never married, invested wisely and freely gave advice to colleagues
on the best share options.
He remembers with sadness the 1957 VH-AGO crash. Overall Adastra
must have been a great experience and place to work because his
face lights up and he becomes very animated at the mention of the
name or on production of a photograph.
His other aviation background in brief:
He started work as an Office Messenger Boy at DCA in 1938 at the
age of 14 working for a Mr. Hedgecock. Miss O'Connor, who was the
assistant, put in a good word for Dad to Leo Turl and Leo apprenticed
him as a Ground Engineer with Airflight about 4-6 months after he
started as messenger boy. Airflight had two hangars at Mascot and
he ended up working on the running side doing extra time. He worked
splicing cables for Airflight as they won the contract for seat
harness cables for Beauforts (Fred Armstrong was the ground engineer
at Airflight at this time) and another woman worked wrapping and
checking the cables. During the war he was in charge of civilians
older than him because of his trade experience. At the end of war,
like many others at Mascot, he was laid off.
After this he went barnstorming with Alan Murray and Leo ???? in
Goulburn. He slept in a hangar on Goulburn aerodrome in the winter
of 1946 (very cold). They flew over the Rocky Hill memorial in Goulburn
and dropped a wreath on Anzac Day 1946. He then moved back to his
parent's home in Pagewood when he joined Adastra. After Adastra,
he moved to Wollongong and South Coast Airways in 1948 as Chief
Engineer and also spent time at East-West in Tamworth. He worked
for East-West until October 1953 when his father (a Gallipoli and
Western Front veteran) died and Dad and the rest of my family returned
He joined Kingsford Smith Aviation in 1953 but only stayed a short
time and soon joined TAA until about 1965. He held a joint licence
on both airframes and engines so he was often called upon to go
to Melbourne to TAA's "College of Knowledge" for orientation on
About 1965, he joined Victa as Chief Inspector and was involved
in the design of the Victa Air Tourer (a two seat enclosed cockpit
trainer) and in developing the Air Cruiser. Shortly before Victa's
demise, he joined DCA again, this time as an Airworthiness Surveyor/Inspector
and became Senior Airworthiness Inspector before his retirement
in 1983. He worked from Bankstown, Mascot and from Sydney and was
with them when known as DCA and DOT (Air). At DCA he worked with
Des Hardy who you have listed as a former Adastra staffer. Des had
a large collection of MGA/MGB cars in perfect order and lived at
Sandy Point on the Georges River.
Other career highlights:
Dad and another fellow took a trailer down to Melbourne to recover
a single wing enclosed aircraft, the Desoutter, and pulled it with
a jeep back to McKellars Garage in Wollongong to rebuild it and
repair wing damage etc and install an altered engine, a Gipsy Major.
This plane then went into service for South Coast Airways and ended
up at Bankstown and is now on display in a museum at Launceston.
While restoring this plane, he met my mother and fell in love.
In 1949, when with East-West as Chief Inspector when the company
was flying Ansons and then Hudsons, he remembers pilot John Rentall
pranging at Tamworth as a result of wasps getting into the fuel
line when the engine was being overhauled. Rentall survived, and
although he lost a leg, he continued to fly. During this time, my
parents and siblings lived in an old RAAF building on the old airport
which was originally the racecourse.
In 1959, my father was part of a TAA crew which brought back (the
seventh?) Fokker Friendship for TAA from the factory in Amsterdam.
In his later years as an Airworthiness Inspector, Dad's path crossed
with some of his former Adastra colleagues but in the different
context of investigating accidents and issuing Certificates of Airworthiness.
He is now on the Committee of the Earlybirds, an organisation for
people involved in aviation pre WWII.
This was gathered from just a brief conversation with him and has
triggered his memory. I will sit down with him soon and record more
of his memories. Many thanks for the opportunity. Great website
keep up the good work.
18th July 2004