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I started with Adastra in October 1967 as a Camera Operator out of Darwin. The crew had fired their operator as, on the only cloud free day he was badly hung over and couldn't fly. I was lucky enough to hear of this and found Bill Hay (Pilot) and Vic Petersen (Navigator) and, after I applied and was given a test flight in the Hudson, was awarded the job. A few days after I started our crew was sent to Alice Springs on the pretext of swapping RC8 cameras with a crew that had been based in Giles for some time. Actually I think they used this as an excuse to get together for a booze up which duly transpired. We did a test flight for the camera and took some great shots over Ayers Rock and then blew the starboard engine and had to dead stick it into Alice. On final approach I think Bill killed the port engine and shut of the fuel while Vic stood alongside him pipe in mouth, ostensibly to give me some assurance that all would be OK, me, well I was more concerned about all the potential missiles that were surrounding me, e.g. oxygen bottles camera magazines and various boxes etc etc. Just a few feet off the deck both Vic and I noted Abe Baker our engineer standing outside the hangar with camera on tripod no doubt hoping to get a news scoop! This didn't impress Vic who gave him a right serve that afternoon.

This mishap meant we had to wait for a few days in Alice and finally after about a week when it was verified that the RC8 was OK? we were sent back to Darwin on a 727. My first flight in a jet, leaving Abe to sort out the engine. Not long after, my friend and I continued on our safari around Australia, and courtesy of the crew I continued to receive wages (forwarded on to me) until such time as the Hudson was servicable again. I think by that stage we were somewhere near Broken Hill.

Well that was my introduction to Aerial Survey and I still remenber Bill and Vic and Abe as though it was yesterday and I thank them sincerely for the experiences I had with them.

A few years later I left the film and TV industry that I had been in and began work as a Camera Operator/Navigator with Civils, and over the next 20 years had a wonderful life in the industry both in Australia, Africa, Middle East, & New Guinea etc, and have flown with most of the Australian companies. That is another long story, and with many incidents and anecdotes to relate.

The introduction of GPS and at the same time the recession that we had to have, put and end to that career (and the house I had just built) and I retrained as a Structural/Mechanical draftsman mainly for the mining industry. Currently I am living on Magnetic Island North Qld (30 years now) still employed and am about to complete construction of a 12meter cruising trimaran which I plan will be my next home until I am no longer able to sail her. Needless to say my galavanting around the world in company aircraft has keep me single.

If any of the crew from the late 60s are still around I would like the opportunity to say Hi and thankyou. Also any of those aviators I have met along the way would like to get in touch I am listed in the telephone book.

John Ellerton
6 December 2009