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Ron, Rebecca and Maureen Cuskelly

(In Catalina ZK-PBY over Wanaka in 1998)


As I am asking all the Adastra people to bare their souls for the website project, I suggested to Kevin Pavlich that perhaps I should do likewise so that you all have an idea of just who it is that you are trusting with all your treasures of Adastra's past. I am the odd man out on this project as I never worked for Adastra. I did, however, develop an interest in the company while I was still at high school. By this time I was already interested in aviation and I used to ride my bicycle to Brisbane's Eagle Farm Airport every Saturday morning to admire DC-3s, DC-4s, Viscounts and Electras. On one of these visits, I saw a handsome, green, twin-tailed aeroplane which I could not identify. A distictive feature of the aeroplane was the four windows in the nose. I couldn't rush home fast enough to consult my reference library which, in those days, was predominantly made up of a well-thumbed copy of "The Dumpy Book of Aircraft". Janes it ain't, but it did have a drawing of an aeroplane similar to the one I saw and it did have the distinctive four windows in the nose. This aeroplane was a Lockheed Hudson and I thought it had character. (In retrospect it must have been VH-AGS as this was the only Adastra Hudson with four windows in the nose.) I was hooked! It wasn't enough to know about Hudsons in general. I had to know everything about this particular Hudson, and where there any others? This quest led me to become involved in the Aviation Historical Society of Australia and I have been a member ever since.

Like most kids who were interested in aeroplanes, I was also a keen modeller and I assembled many of these dust-gatherers in my early years. When the Airfix company released a 1/72 scale model kit of the Hudson, I naturally had to complete it as an Adastra aeroplane. A letter to Adastra seeking details of colours and markings brought a very comprehensive reply from Lou Pares which included a small ink bottle filled with genuine Adastra green paint. This letter can be viewed here. During a subsequent visit to Sydney with my parents I visited the Adastra office in Vickers Avenue to thank Mr Pares in person (bet he wasn't expecting me to darken his door!). It was then that I learned that all the "spadework" in his letter had been done by a Mr Murray. Regardless of who was responsible, it was, and still is, a remarkable piece of P.R. which continues to bear fruit to this day, witness my predisposition to volunteer for this assignment. The model still exists, more as a treasured repository of genuine Adastra green paint, than as a tribute to my modelling skills!

When I left school in 1967, I applied to the Qantas Cadet Pilot Scheme and even progressed as far as the eye test. Many years later I was to have considerable trouble with my eyes, so my rejection by Qantas was not without justification! The following year I joined Qantas as the office junior and worked my way up through sales and reservations, eventually gravitating to the airport. After all, that's where the aeroplanes were. Eventually I found my niche in Load Control, later becoming the first and last Load Control Superintendent at Brisbane Airport. When the company decided that less supervision was the order of the day, I went back to being a line load controller, which I never regretted. In 1999, Qantas decided to centralise all load control functions in Sydney and they made me the proverbial offer I couldn't refuse and I took early retirement.

Undoubtedly the greatest benefit of my 31 years with Qantas is that it facilitated meeting my future wife Maureen, who was then a Senior Flight Attendant with Air Pacific, the national airline of Fiji. After we were married in Fiji in 1984 Maureen migrated to Australia. Our only child, Rebecca, is currently studying for a science degree at the University of Queensland. Rebecca also plays trumpet with Queensland Wind and Brass. Maureen works in retail jewellery while Ron enjoys a role reversal as Mr Mum!

Through my interest in the Aviation Historical Society of Australia I became a founding member of a local branch which soon decided to broaden its horizons by collecting real aeroplanes (or 1:1 scale as I like to think of them). Thus was born the Queensland Air Museum which is now in its 34th year. For all but one of these years I have edited the Museum's newsletter. Currently I am Vice-President and Webmaster for QAM www.qam.com.au

In addition to the Adastra website, I also have several other websites devoted to aviation history:

The Lockheed File - Lists every Australian Lockheed aeroplane and its history.
Squawk Ident - A chronology of significant events at Brisbane Airport.
VH-JET#1 - The Boeing 707 in Qantas service.

I also maintain an online census of extant DC-3s in Australia and New Zealand on behalf of my late friend and DC-3 research specialist, Allan Bovelt:

Australasian DC-3 Census

The Cuskellys live at Carseldine on Brisbane's northside where we share a house with Memphis the cat and the nose door and starboard fin from Hudson VH-AGP.

Update 2021:

Several years ago I retired as Vice-President and Webmaster of the Queensland Air Museum but I continue to serve as the QAM Historian. Daughter Rebecca is a science and mathematics teacher now living in Switzerland with her husband who is a professor in medical science. Maureen would expect me to record that in 2012, I was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to aviation, all without ever having become a pilot! Sadly Memphis the cat passed through the big cat flap in the sky many years ago.

Ron Cuskelly, OAM


Another update.
Annual update!
Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.
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