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by Wal Bowles


I flew as a pilot with Adastra for four years from 1960 until 1964. Even though the total period I was involved in aviation was some 40 years, without a doubt the most enjoyable period was when I flew with Adastra.

Reasonably early in my employment with Adastra, late July 1960, our crew, based in Melbourne with Avro Anson aircraft VH-AGA, was given the task of photographing the eastern foreshores of Port Phillip Bay. The authority who requested the task was interested in observing the movement of sandbanks, so they set certain criteria – the photography had to be performed in the morning; (so that there was no western sun reflecting off the water) at low tide; (so the sand banks or sand bars would be visible) cloudless conditions; (normal for aerial photography) and calm surface conditions. (As I recall, we used an RC7 camera, Swiss manufactured and owned by the authority, a plate camera which produced excellent results.) Now anyone who has ever lived in Melbourne would know that cloudless conditions rarely exist there, and to fly at a time when all the other conditions existed as well seemed an extremely difficult and perhaps impossible task. Add to that the fact that low tide occurs around the Bay at varying times, the task seemed closer to impossible than difficult. The fount of all knowledge, our Operations Manager, Ted McKenzie, suggested I talk to the authority to find out just how the tide functioned in the Bay. Truly good advice, but I couldn’t locate anyone who could do anything other than give me a tide timetable! But the tide timetable was useful, in that we (Navigator Kevin Pavlich and I) were able to figure out how the tidal flow moved concertina fashion between the high tide outside the bay to the water movement inside the bay. We figured that if we began photography at the southern end of the bay at low tide, and just before the sea surged into the Bay, hopefully we would fly our many photographic runs around the eastern foreshores just ahead of the tidal flow entering the bay. And surprise! surprise! Our planning paid off because on the morning we had a suitable weather observation and forecast of clear conditions, it just happened to be low tide when and where we wanted it and the surface conditions were smooth. Bill Mitchell had VH-AGA excellently maintained, John Collins produced his usual high quality photography and the navigation of Kevin Pavlich was spot on. It proved to be a most successful and personally satisfying operation. VH-AGA is currently suspended from the ceiling of an aircraft museum at Narellan, NSW.

Wal Bowles
11th February 2003



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