Aircraft and Aviation is in my Blood
To Fly Like a Bird.
When a young girl my mind focused on the sky and saw something that immediately clicked as the thing to be done at any cost. The technicalities of how it could be achieved was not a problem as somehow it would just happen. To be able to fly was not my greatest ambition but at that time in my life it manifested a keen desire to soar high above the clouds like a bird. Coupled with a notion to experience the mobility and freedom of flight and to view the world from 'up there' caused thoughts that could keep me awake at nights.
One day the ultimate surprise happened. A friend had suggested we visit the Flying School at Bankstown aerodrome. Dressed in our Air League uniforms we boldly fronted up and started to talk to pilots from the Royal Australian Air Force. They were improving on their flying and after a couple of visits one of them took me with him into the air.
We were in a two seater chipmunk, similar to the one pictured, and as the little plane taxied over the untarred surface out towards the strip the ground passing by was fascinating. Even the little ants were visible going about their business as we were so close to the ground. We were going and they were going and everything around was in motion.
Before any more time passed we were taxiing down the runway and then off the ground and moving effortlessly through the air. This was the type of motion and emotion that had occupied my dreams and which had suddenly come to pass. Needless to say it was wonderful.
Flying School Training
The pilot was in the rear seat and his training that day comprised circuits and bumps. That involved taking off flying in a semicircle around the drome, landing again from the opposite direction only to speed up and take off once more. We did this for an hour. It was simply marvellous.
The chipmunk was a trainer plane for air force pilots beause of its reliability, aerobatic capabilities and because it was manufactured by De Haviland to replace the Tiger Moth. According to Wikipedia "From 1956 to 1990 the Chimunks of the RAF Gatow Station Flight were used for covert reconnaissance by BRIXMIS over the Berlin area."
Although it was capable of the feat we never did things like loop de loop. My pilot friend was too serious about his training for that kind of a lark.
For me the flying school days represent a wonderful chapter in my life and many happy memories doing things like circuits and bumps. From the following week-end and just about every one following my three friends and I went back and became very good pals with these men. The one I had flown with at first instructed me on how to fly and then we joined the school and took proper lessons.
My problem was my age as my parents' consent was required for me to get a license. My father refused. In fact he was adamant. The fear of allowing his 14 year old daughter to fly these small planes was eating away at him. Perhaps he thought my life would be at risk when soaring through the air in a flying machine.
The more pleading on my part the harder against it he became until he said "when you are 21 you can do what you like but not until then." At that time if he had allowed it the chances of becoming the youngest pilot in the country was within my grasp.
So my air force friend continued to instruct me unofficially and he allowed me to fly the plane except during landing and take off. He taught me how to check the plane before take-off as well. This is essential as if something fails in the air you cannot get out and fix it as with a car.
To begin with you take a sample of the aviation fluid from the tank in the wing and examine it for impurities that might suggest oil contamination; you have to also examine the propellers for dents or cracks that might have occurred if the plane had previously hit a bird or something else. Inside the plane you test the ailerons, tail plane and make sure all the instruments are working.
One day at the flying school one of our pilot friends asked me if working at Qantas would help with my job dilemma? Would it, and how? He went on to say that he knew the Personnel Officer there and would write me a letter of introduction. That night the clouds were my bedclothes. Soaring above anything dreamt of prior to this time my life was about to change.
The image shown is from Wikipedia
At What Age Would You Let Your Daughter Fly?
Is 14 years old enough?
Flying a Chipmunk
My life now revolved around aircraft and every minute of the day was sheer joy. The Air League remained a great part of it as too the Flying school on week-ends and now Qantas for my everyday job. On arrival in the new job the Personnel Officer took me into a long office with some twelve or more typists and with an older woman supervisor at the front of it. She overlooked everything.
Behind her was a smaller office and a man seated there was the big boss of this section, which is called 'Tech Records'. The windows behind them looked down into a hangar where there was a mighty DC6. This was a powerful beautifully constructed piston powered aircraft that served companies like PanAm, Qantas, BOAC and Air New Zealand, It was also used as a cargo plane and military transport by many and it successfully competed with the Lockheed Constellation as a long range aircraft,
After a few months in Tech Records every detail of this plane's working components was known to me. From the tiniest nuts and bolts to the many journeys each plane would make and even to the weight it carried and the function of its galley, cargo hold and so on. Even the pilots who flew them were often introduced and it was a real honour to meet some of the passengers that flew in them.
Celebrities would often make the journey to Sydney and it was a thrill to see among their number Bob Hope, who quipped: "Everyone's around huh" on arrival in the terminal, the Inkspots, who gave me their autographs, and so on. They thrilled and delighted everyone and we often got complimentary tickets to their shows.
These planes were loved for their comfort, speed and abilities and I, for one, shed a tear when Qantas replaced them with the Super Constellation. The latter's arrival happened with enormous fanfare and just prior to my leaving Mascot Airport for Rose Bay Flying Boat Base after applying for a transfer.
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The Mighty DC6
The Great DC6 - An evergreen aircraft still in service
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Have you Flown in A Propeller Driven Plane?
What is your favorite?
The Arrival of Manned Flight
To get into the air a plane requires certain things. If you throw something up it immediately falls down due to gravity. Overcoming this force was the number one problem. The next was staying in the air and controlling the flight. Manned flight had also to overcome weight of another dimension as the size and shape of the human body increased drag.
Air is practically weightless and has nothing to offer except wind currents and thermals. To take advantage of those requires a large outstretched wing type of attachment that works only when airborne. But how does one get up high enough to allow the wing or wings to take effect? This was the puzzle that early aviators had to solve.
The principle of flight was studied by Leonardo Da Vinci as early as the 16th century. He even tested wings by jumping off a cliff as done now by modern day Para gliders. He studied birds and understood that currents existed but he did not master them. What he failed to do was to create lift in order to get off the ground. This required a force that would be centuries in the making.
The solution was mobility coupled with a wing with ailerons. The mobility part is derived from an engine and it was people like James Watt and others who were needed for that invention. The first aircraft engines had to be wound up to start, often by the pilot before he entered the plane.
On December 17th, 1903, it was the Wright Brothers who conducted the first heavier than air flight using a machine they invented. Through a clever adaptation, the three way axis, they were able to control the aircraft by steering it while maintaining equilibrium. This is still used on all types of fixed-wing aircraft. It was their reliable method of pilot control that allowed this technology to proceed. The picture is from Wikipedia.
They proved that it was not the power of the engine that took a plane into the air but the wind it generated along with the design of the wings and propellers. Wikipedia notes that: "Their first U.S. patent, 821,393, did not claim invention of a flying machine, but rather, the invention of a system of aerodynamic control that manipulated a flying machine's surfaces."
Once this was understood the rapid invention of improved aircraft was a matter of time and will. before long all types of aircraft were taking to the skies and many were making history.
My Flying Machine
From Propellers to Jet Aircraft
In post WWII the aviation industry had come a long way and the first jets were making an appearance in our part of the globe. My father had us staring skywards as the initial one passed overhead and left a trail behind and a lot of noise. Its speed was amazing, its shape something to be remembered for all time and its effect on things to come was unimaginable.
Whatever it was in my formative years that sparked the urge to get up there remains a mystery. It may have come from a combination of the times, the talk about flight in the community and the expression of fear heard from many about being lifted off the ground. A fear I neither shared nor appreciated. Then again it may have been deeper emotion ingrained in my senses from the environment in which I now lived.
As I watched that jet streak across the sky above that day something inside was telling me that one day I would soar upwards. When the day came sometime later when invited to the Richmond Airforce Base, outside of Sydney, I touched that jet, or one similar, and was awestruck by its power. This was a long way from my experience of planes either in the Fryling School or at Qantas. Here was the new boy on the block. You would never call a craft such as this by a female name.
Propeller or piston driven aircraft draw air into the wing to provide lift and manoeuvrability. A jet is less dependent on the wing and more focused on drawing air into the engine via turbines operating as huge fans for its mobility. The President of the USA has a jet.
The air is compressed and sprayed with fuel ignited by an electric spark in a combustion chamber. The expanding gasses are forced out of the rear through another fan like set of blades which activate the turbine shaft thus bringing in a fresh supply of air through the intake. It is this explosive force that drives the plane and delivers the thrust for forward motion.
These engines have great advantages over piston driven ones in that they are lighter, have greater power, use cheaper fuel and are far more efficient. Their fewer moving parts also make them easier and less expensive to maintain.
Now the majority of airline companies operate mainly jet aircraft that can now carry hundreds of passsengers, like the huge airbus in the Qantas fleet. Thanks to the jet engine and the many modifications to flying machines over the course of a century or more we are able to get from one side of the world to the next in a matter of a few hours instead of the several days it used to take.
The image is from Wikipedia.
The Age of the Jetliner
The last fifty years has seen a strartling change in passenger jet designs. From the first to the last there are awesome tales to be told and one of these concerns a plane that touched me deeply. The Comet II came to Australia during my time at Qantas and from the minute my eyes focused on its sleek shape it was the one for me.
During its time here it was parked in front of Hangar 58, where I worked, and to my delight my boss gave me permission to sit in the cockpit. There gazing at the instruments that were so very different to those of the DC6 and other craft made me feel like a giant. It was a long time ago now since that brief encounter and recalling everything is rather hard but here was something unique, extra special and it struck me that it would be a breeze to fly. The impression it made on me was that of a mighty fine and powerful aeroplane that would do Qantas proud were it to join the fleet.
Unfortunately a couple of days or so later that plane crashed on its return flight to England and there were no survivors. The pilots that had shaken my hand were also gone. The emptiness the event left inside me has remained for the loss of such a wonderful craft. The reason for the crash was put down to metal fatigue in the wings.
So Qantas bought the Super Constellations from Lockheed and then went to the Boeing 747 Jumbo jets. My children accompanied me to Europe in one of these beauties. Although it was never my privilege to enter the cockpit or to check out the mechanics it was a fine, comfortable plane to travel in. Now, of course, the Airbus 380 is the pride of the airliner and it will probably never be my lot to travel in one.
With any airline company it is about mobility. Getting people quickly from A to B with the least amount of delay and as efficiently as possible. The cost of running airlines today has blown out enormously and many companies have gone out of business or are on the brink and expected to do so. Companies whose planes were once part of my job to know, like PanAm, Air New Zealand, KLM, and even BOAC have faded into the distant memory of aviation and others have emerged.
The future for aircraft is taking a new turn now as spacecraft and rockets are being prepared that may see people lifted into space before arriving at their destination in a fraction of the time it takes today's aircraft to get there. In one way it will be sad not to see what the future will bring as my eyes may close before that time comes. But there is no doubt in my mind that what has already come and gone is among the best aviation and without it the future air travel would not be in the making.
There are still heaps to say about aviation and the mobility it provides but that is for another lens at another time. This one is about transport for passengers and not war, cargo related planes or helicopters..
The Comet image is from Wikipedia
Flying Without Wings
Still images from Dreamstime - click here
© 2012 norma-holt