Cargo passengers ?

Some months after Ollie’s weather forecast incident I was again on nights, but this time with another colleague, when we received a message from the inbound aircraft that they had an emergency.

We asked for details, and it was not an emergency of the aircraft, but a passenger problem. Knowing the aircraft was a freighter, why did they have a passenger problem? 

Frt deck

To give you an idea of the inside of a freighter the above picture is of a B727 which is smaller than a B707, but the principal is the same with the ‘ball bearing’ roller beds to roll palleted cargo to the correct location.
The larger planes of today can carry a higher payload than the B 707C. (C=cargo)

B747

The above is the main deck of a B747 freighter, as you see they can now load pallets side by side rather than one behind the other.  During my BOAC days the pallets were pushed in to place by airport loaders, whereas today it is mechanically controlled.

There are aircraft that are called QC – quick change – which means the passenger seats can be stripped out and pallets loaded in their place.

B_737_QC_2-13-695x461

This is a B 737 QC – note that the passenger overhead lockers are still in place only the seats have been removed to make room for cargo.

Of course you don’t have to remove the seats if you don’t want to . . 

B737 cargo

The above is a B 737 where the seats have been left in place, but protected, and cargo loaded instead of passengers. Thanks to Covid-19 this system has been used a great deal due to the lack of passengers and the demand for cargo aircraft.

Back to the emergency on BA 066 freighter from New York to Manchester and finally London.
We asked more details of the emergency and what we could do to help.

Part of the cargo on this trip was a live dolphin –

dolphin

The dolphin would be in a hammock, which was in a water tank, the ‘passenger’ would be accompanied by a ‘handler’. 

tanks

I have included this picture to clarify the ‘hammock’ system, which shows a ‘multiple’ system. Obviously every care would be taken for the health and welfare of any animal.

The emergency was the dolphin, it had given birth earlier than expected, and this was perhaps due to it being her first flight. . .

The request was for a smaller tank for the calve, and can we have it ready for their arrival?

We asked how large will the tank have to be?

Not smaller than about 45 inches (1.1 mtr) we were told, at that time the UK was still measuring items in feet and inches.

The two of us at the BOAC base put on our thinking caps – a baby dolphin, 45 inches long, the tank has to be large enough to hold the dolphin and a certain amount of water . . . . who would have such a tank?

So, being resourceful (as we thought) we rang Manchester zoo and asked if they could possibly bring out a container for a newborn baby dolphin born on a B 707 over the Atlantic? . . . . . click!

They didn’t believe us. . .

Never mind we will ring Chester Zoo, they are a much larger concern and we were sure that they would know what to do . . . click! again.

The dolphin was consigned to a zoo in Yorkshire, so we rang the Yorkshire zoo, but the zoo did not answer the phone.

I suppose ringing at 3.00 am didn’t help. . . .

Then we had a brainwave we would ring up an undertaker for a waterproof coffin that could hold the dolphin and the water. We rang a few and didn’t get anywhere, well, we thought it was a good idea.

Thinking caps again, and the aircraft was getting closer and closer . . .

Finally, we thought outside the square – just a little outside, by offering a largish sum of money – who to ring – Scotland of course! (A very un-pc thought in today’s world)

We rang our office at Prestwick airport (they were awake) and had a chat and suggested the coffin idea – they agreed and said they would let us know.

Eventually our Prestwick office found an undertaker who was willing to take a chance that we were telling the truth.

So now it was up to us – we called up BA 066 and explained the problem that we had in getting anyone to believe us in Manchester and suggested that they divert to Prestwick where an undertaker with his plastic lined water tight coffin was waiting.

There was a long silence until at last we heard the Captain telling us that he had been in contact with air traffic control, and he was diverting to Prestwick, but he would not be calling at Manchester after Prestwick because he would be out of hours if he did, and would not be able to take the aircraft to London.

We agreed, and told him that we would deal with the cargo agents in the morning – well to be exact, dealing with the agents who were going to be as mad as anything due to their cargo being in London, would not be our worry as we signed off at 7.00 am and went home to bed.

The cargo would be trucked from London to Manchester and would arrive the following morning.

Both mother and calve survived and were trucked from Prestwick to the Yorkshire zoo, and everybody was happy including the Scottish undertaker.

Yorkshire

Perhaps things have changed, because I have read that Yorkshire now advertises boat rides for visitors to visit dolphins in their natural state rather than going to a zoo.

More diversion problems . .

a small monkey eats bananas in a national park. Asian jungle with monkeys
 

On one diversion that had monkeys as cargo we had to remove them from the aircraft to have the hold cleaned and also to feed and water the animals. Unfortunately, one of the monkeys escaped and ran across the warehouse floor to the wall and within a few seconds had scaled the wall and was now sitting on one of the roof beams.

This was a huge problem because we did not have any idea if the animal was healthy or what deceases it could spread amongst British animals and humans.  

How to get it down . . . use bananas of course – a monkey will do anything for a banana, or so we thought.

We tried to tempt it down with various fruits in the hope that we could capture the animal.
Ollie, one of my colleagues, was adamant that we should do our best to keep the problem in house before we called in a sharp shooter. 

rifle

Ollie tried his best to entice the animal down and spent a considerable amount of time placing fruit at strategic places. The animal did come down partway and took some of the fruit, but it was always just out of reach of being captured.

Ollie was very concerned and kept telling me that it was only a matter of time before the animal would trust him . . . 

Finally Ollie did get close to the monkey, which emptied its bowels and threw some of the contents at Ollie and hit him in the head – Ollie was upset to say the least, so he rang the police for a sharpshooter muttering about the ingratitude of monkeys. 

The monkey was shot with a tranquilliser dart from memory, rather than a bullet.

asleep

Found the picture on the internet of a tranquilised monkey.

I’ve called my colleague Ollie, which was not his name, I haven’t seen him for over forty years, but I do not wish to cause him any embarrassment if he sees this post.

Ollie

I named him Ollie, because he reminded me of another Ollie, not in looks, but in ‘off set ability’.

One night Ollie and I were on nights together (there were two of us because a freighter was due from New York), I was working on the load plan for the final leg of the flight to London and I’d left Ollie to listen on the radio.

Our call sign was ‘Speedbird Manchester’, and the inbound flight was ‘Speedbird 066’ (i.e BA 066). 

Around 3.00 am the aircraft was still over the Atlantic, and they called us for the local weather to assist them when landing.
Normally we would ring the airport control tower for a full weather report because the aircraft dealt with us rather than the tower.

This night Ollie decided to go outside to see what the weather was like, and then wandered back to the radio.

‘Speed 066 this is Speedbird Manchester, – it’s raining!’ this in a strong Bolton accent

There was silence from the aircraft, until the aircraft replied and asked if we could be a little more explicit!

What they wanted was cloud height, wind strength, and wind direct etc.

Ollie held the microphone and said ‘Speedbird 066, this Speedbird Manchester please hold . . . ‘
after which he wandered outside again and on his return to the radio he said – ‘Speedbird 066 this is Speedbird Manchester, it’s pissing down!’

After that night I refused to work nights with him ever again.         

Damn the dams in Laos

LA

In 2010 eight of us (four couples) from Sydney thought it was time that we visited Indochina, and one of the countries on our list was Laos.
We flew to Thailand (Bangkok) and then domestically to Chiang Mei.

From Chiang Mei to Luang Prabang, which is in Laos, we decided to fly with Laos Air.

Loas Air

It was not a large plane, but I have flown on smaller, and not as modern.

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Coming in to land at Luang Prebang – Picture thanks to KI.

After clearing customs and paying USD$30 each for a visa on arrival, we were met by the hotel transport, which was a large minibus, for the trip to the hotel.

delux

A modern day picture from the hotel’s website for a Mekong Delux room.
The room is much the same as the rooms that we had in 2010

The Grand Hotel overlooked the Mekong River, hence the name of the rooms.

M river

View from our bedroom.

Hotel

Part of the hotel’s gardens.

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Breakfast was outside and it was often cold first thing in the morning – we were there early March . . . pic thanks to KI

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Yours truly wondering why the water in the river was so low. I was told later that it was due to Chinese dams being built upriver, the flow had been considerably reduced.

M river02

We booked one of the boats for a trip to Pak Ou Caves also known locally as the caves of a thousand buddhas – the trip would include lunch.

M river03

A further indication of how low the water had become. We just boarded by climbing from the sandy riverbed into the boat.

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Not far from where we boarded the river boat we saw the above boats just sitting on the bottom due to the low water.

It was an enjoyable boat ride to the caves.

Homes

A home along the river bank, they did not have many modern day conveniences but they did have satellite TV, which is more than I do :- o) 
Other homesMore homes along the bank.

approach

Approaching the caves, as you see they are popular

inside

Inside the caves . . it was quite cool.

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There were a large number of statues in the caves. 

After the caves we returned to our boat to cross the river for lunch.

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The old white-haired guy is being very careful going down the stairs – pic thanks to GD

Lunch

Lunch – with a beer or two of course – very pleasant, overlooking the river.

MT village

After lunch we were shown around a small village, but due to the heat (early afternoon) most stall holders were inside – they did come out when the ladies showed an interest in a particular item.

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                           Of course we found the moonshine man  . . . . pic from KI    

   

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                      We watched the booze being made . . .pic from KI

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                                                            The moonshine man . . .pic thanks to KI

Bottles

I was offered a free drink of locally produced wine, which was pleasant, but I did not fancy a pickled scorpion – even a free one! 

 

M river05

On returning to our boat we were able to appreciate just how low the water had become. 

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Our boatman had moved our boat to a small pier, which highlighted the low water – Picture thanks to GD

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Luang Prebang main street – following pics are thanks to KI

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   Main street

   

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Plenty of restaurants and we found the food to be tasty, very fresh and ‘sharp’. Beer, wine & spirits were available in restaurants & bars at good prices – of course the locally produced beer & wine were cheaper than the imported drinks.

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The Night market came in handy for small gifts to take home. Pic thanks to GD

 

 

 

More tails of . . .

Fog 01

If London was fogged in, the first alternate was Manchester, and winter generated quite a few ‘foreign’ visitors. If they were in the BOAC partnership ‘camp’ we would handle the aircraft, if they were Japanese Airlines, Thai or US airlines then these airlines would be handled by an agency called

Servisair_logo.svg

that were located across the road from the BOAC warehouse and have since gone out of business. The airlines below, at that time, were ‘family’, there were more, but I cannot remember them all.

East_African_Airways_Vickers_VC-10_Groves-2

East African Airways

Nigeria

Nigerian Airways

QF

Qantas

SQ

Singapore Airlines

Air_New_Zealand_Douglas_DC-8_SYD_Wheatley

Air New Zealand – in 1973 the Southern Cross on the tail was removed.

b707

and of course our own BOAC aircraft

As soon as the aircraft had taxied to the appropriate area we were out there waiting to board. Our first consideration would be Queen’s Messengers, 

QueensMessengerpassport

did the aircraft have a QM on board and if so, was he escorting diplomatic mail stowed in the hold or only via a locked briefcase attached to his wrist. 

greyhound

The symbol of a Queen’s Messenger is the greyhound. The British Royal Messenger can be traced back to the 12th century. Messengers from King John, Henry III and the first three Edwards can be identified and named thanks to Mary C. Hill book ‘King’s Messengers 1199-1377′.
Charles II appointed four men to carry messages to loyal subjects in the Royalist forces and as a sign of their authority the King broke four silver greyhounds from a silver bowel and gave one to each messengers, which is how the greyhound became the symbol of a Messenger of the Monarch.  

If the diplomatic mail was in the hold, we would unload it and secure it back at base – if via the locked briefcase he would be escorted through customs and immigration and looked after via the ‘system’.

Queens-Messenger-406690

All normal mail sacks would be removed and taken back to our warehouse to await pick-up by the GPO. 
The GPO mail had a different manifest and separate paperwork than cargo, so we had to find the purser (then called the chief steward) to sign a receipt that we had accepted the mail and he was free of the responsibility for the mail. 

Our next concern was livestock – did the aircraft have livestock in the hold, if so what type, and did they need watering.  
The standard aircraft before the B 747 had belly space which was allocated for passenger baggage, cargo & mail. Livestock came under cargo. Each area was sectioned off by netting to ID the area and also stop items flying around.

Pan Am

 

If the aircraft was a B707 (see above) there is seepage of warm air from the passenger deck into the hold area, which helped keep any animals comfortable. 
This seepage was welcomed by the airlines unless the aircraft was carrying a 200 kgs gorilla, or 300 kilos of live monkeys (in cages of course). The reason for not putting the gorilla or monkeys in the same area as other animals is that they stink in a confined area, and if the seepage of warm air can drift from the passenger area it can drift into the passenger area, which would not be acceptable for a trans-Atlantic flight or a long-haul to Singapore or Australia.
The way round this was to place the unacceptable guests in hold five – I’ve marked hold five with a green circle. This hold does not have any seepage in to or from the passenger area. Everyone is happy.

On checking if the diverted flight had livestock, we would ascertain what livestock and only open the cargo door a little to make sure any animal has not escaped its cage. On one flight we opened the cargo door and we were met with a large dog that was quite upset because it had chewed its way out of its wooden cage. As the door opened, we saw him standing looking at us and he appeared to be all teeth and bad tempered.

We called the police and asked for a sharpshooter, because if the dog escaped it would have to be shot due to the strict quarantine regulations at the time.  The police arrived and one officer moved slowly to the dog talking to it all the time in a low voice, while his mate lined up his rifle. 
The quiet talking policeman took off his police cap and placed it just inside the cargo door while still chatting quietly as the dog paced back and forth until it stopped near the policeman’s hat and defecated in to his hat.  The Policeman was ‘upset’.
The dog wasn’t shot, it sat around and waited until someone clipped a chain to its neck and trotted off to the RSPCA where they had a new box for it for the flight to London when the weather cleared. 
The hatless policeman was shouting at the sharpshooter that he should have shot the dog . . . .    

dog

Like many people the dog did not like flying  . . . it was frightened.
(the picture is not of the dog in question). 

At other times we had to deal with tropical birds, which unfortunately caused one of our staff to become seriously ill in hospital.

He had attended a diverted flight from Africa which had tropical birds as cargo, mainly parrots. He caught a disease known as psittacosis, which is more commonly known as ‘parrot disease’ which can damage the lungs. 

800px-Psittacus_erithacus_cucumber

The staff member’s name was Richard Byrd, so of course he was ‘Dicky’ Byrd to the rest of the staff and when he was in hospital in Manchester we would ring the hospital to ask after his health . . . the problem was when the hospital asked his name and we said Dicky Byrd, and what was his complaint asked the hospital ‘Parrot disease’ we answered and the hospital hung up on us. . . . . 

We eventually worked it out to ask for ‘Mr. Byrd’ and to give the correct medical name (psittacosis) for his complaint . . . once we knew his ward number it became easier to get through the switchboard.

We live and learn . . .          

Tales of woe

When I joined BOAC there were about 23 or 25 staff made up of office staff and warehouse staff.

We worked a three shift system 7 am to 3 pm, 3.00 pm to 11.pm and a night shift, and certain staff worked office hours (day shift).

On Saturday & Sunday we had one office person and two warehouse staff on duty from 7 am to 3.00 pm and the late shift consisted of one office worker (this was before H & S had been invented).

Night shift was one office worker unless there was a scheduled freighter due in when there would be two office staff on duty.

Most of the office staff would ‘play’ with a forklift until they were proficient because cargo would be delivered for export outside normal hours, and someone had to operate the forklift to unload the cargo.

In addition, we often had the general public walk / drive in with heavy suitcases or packages.

One late Saturday afternoon when I was in duty a car pulled up and the driver and his wife wanted to send excess baggage to India as they were flying there later in the week.

This was not unusual so I told the driver to drive around the corner and in to the warehouse and to park near the scales so that the baggage could be weighed & measured.
Cargo was sold by the kilo or by the volume – one volumetric kilo was (is) 6000 cubic centimetres, but in the 1970’s it was also sold as 427 cubic inches = 1 kilo.

I walked across the warehouse to the parked car and noticed that the rear springs were nearly touching the floor, the diver must have something heavy in the boot.

I was told by the customer that he had a suitcase to send in advance, and because he had a ticket, he was entitled to 50% discount off the cargo rate – which was true.

I asked him to place his suitcase on the scale – he opened the boot and struggled to unload the suitcase and eventually managed and put it on the ground. I tried to pick it up by the handle to place it on the scale – it was so heavy I could not pick it up, because I was concerned that the handle would break. The suitcase weighed just over 44 kilos.

I asked what he had in the suitcase and was told it was clothing and some personal effects.
I then switched to Hindi (with my Scouse accent) and asked with a smile if it was so heavy because he had stolen all the dobi walla’s work.
(Dobi walla means ‘washerman’, as in laundry man).

At least this brought a smile from the customer, so I asked him to open the case and show me the contents – he was reluctant but realised that he did not have a choice.

On opening the case I saw that it was a Triumph Herald gear box, or something similar.

TH

Triumph Herald car, circa 1970

gear

Triumph Herald gear box packed in the suitcase. 

No wonder he had a struggle getting it out of the car . . . but he insisted that it was his personal effects, so I asked him with a smile to wear his personal effects if he wanted the 50% discount.

There was a long silence until I told him that he was exporting car parts and he should have an invoice.

He looked blank at me until I explained that if we coded his shipment as car parts it was a lot cheaper than the 50% excess baggage.  The light dawned and he and I entered the office and I made out the document (Air Way Bill) to accept the shipment as car parts and he sat at another desk and wrote out an ‘invoice’.

The full kilo rate was around £10 per kilo, so by claiming the 50% discount the customer was expecting to pay £5 per kilo, but be reclassifying the cargo as car parts the price was about £1-10-0 per kilo. (£1.50/kilo).
The UK did not change to decimal currency until February 1971. 

awb

AWB =- the above code of 406 denotes the airline, so the BOAC code number would be 125 – followed by a unique number for tracking the shipment, by telexes not computers.
At that time all paperwork was completed via the typewriter because computers were in the future. We had to press hard to produce, I think from memory, eight copies of the original via carbon paper between each copy . . .   later the AWB paper was produced with the ability not to require carbon paper. 

The customer paid and we left on good terms. As I processed the paperwork, I heard a loud bang and crash from the warehouse.

The customer had driven in to the warehouse via the ramp, but on leaving he had exited via the truck loading bay  . . . 

drop

This is to illustrate the drop – it is not a picture of the BOAC warehouse.

The car was balanced part in the warehouse and the front part delicately balanced in mid-air. As soon as I realised what had happened, I fired up the fork lift and drove down the ramp and placed the forks under the front of the car to stop it tipping any further. I shouted to the driver to put the car in neutral.
I then slowly raised the forks of the lift and eased the car back into the warehouse. 
The driver was shaking, but I do not think it was from the experience of nearly driving over the edge of the warehouse, but from the torrent of language and arm waving from his wife. She was not happy!

I pointed out the ramp to the driver and left them to have their domestic . . . 

————————————————————-

Life can be strange – working for an airline we sold cargo space in pounds or kilos – dead weight or volumetric weight. We converted it to kilos for shipping and charged in pounds, shillings and pence at so much a pound . . . .we used ready reckoners to work out the totals.

Consider 43 kilos at £2-6- 7- 1/2 (Two pound six shillings and seven pence h’penny / kilo), but don’t use a calculator!   

In 1969 /70 we were on the cusp of the personal electronic calculator at a cost that the individual could afford. 

gettyimages-90774931-2048x2048

Ready Reckoner – having used both & I prefer the calculator 

Ringway

Manchester Ship Cana_2_5882501

Manchester Ship Canal in the early 1900’s.

Over the years Manchester had a number airports, the first being built near the Manchester Ship Canal, and it was called Trafford Park Aerodrome. It opened in 1911 and closed in 1918.

This was followed by Alexandra Park Aerodrome, which can be seen below.

Alexandra_Park_Aerodrome_1923

Manchester’s second airport 1918 – 1924 –
there isn’t any trace of the airport left because it has been built over for housing, and a main road was built at the eastern part of the site.

Woodford Aerodrome or Manchester Woodford Aerodrome came next, which was a former private aerodrome for Avro aircraft manufacturing. This company built the

Anson

Anson

Lancaster

The Lancaster bomber

Vulcan

The Vulcan bomber just to name three famous aircraft from this company.

The aerodrome was expanded in the 1930’s and after the war the company was bought by Hawker Siddeley, and years later became part of British Aerospace.

In the meantime, Manchester created a municipal airport called Wythenshawe in 1929, which was the first municipal airport in the UK.

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Wythenshawe Aerodrome

This airport was always only temporary and only lasted a year.

  1280px-Aa_rackhouse_streetscene_00

What Wythenshawe Aerodrome looks like today.

The penultimate airport was Barton Aerodrome or City Airport Manchester.

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Four grass runways, 9.00 am to 8.oo pm operation, and this airport is still open today, and all the original buildings are now ‘protected’ because they are grade two listed buildings, which are often used as setting for films & TV.

As this airport was opened in 1930 another airport was being considered, and construction began in 1935 and completed in 1938. The airport was located near a small parish called Ringway.

240px-Ringway_-_Saint_Mary's_Church

Ringway Chapel

Ringway in Cheshire has a recorded history going back to 1173, and the first time the chapel was mentioned was in 1515. The chapel was used during the English civil war 1642-1651.

In 1776 the original chapel was demolished and replaced with a new red brick building. In 1863 Ringway chapel became Ringway Parish church, and in 1894 it was demolished and rebuilt and consecrated in 1895.

The airport is still referred to as Ringway by locals, and when I worked there it was called Ringway, but when dealing with people overseas we called  it Manchester Airport.
The airport official changed its name from Ringway to Manchester Airport (MAN) in 1954.

During the war the airport was known as RAF Ringway.

The hanger / warehouse where BOAC cargo was located (which is where I worked) used to be the training hanger for RAF Ringway, where they trained parachutists during WW2.
I’ve read that 60,000 soldiers were trained, in this warehouse / hanger, to be parachutist.
The troops came not just from the UK, but Poland, Canada and other allied countries.

Parachute_Training_at_Ringway_Art.IWMARTLD5635

I found the above on the internet, which illustrates how they trained the recruits in the basics of parachuting.

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As far as I can make out by using the internet, I think the hanger where I  worked is now the check-in area for Ryanair and KLM. The airport has completely changed since I left in 1980.
At least I was able to find the pubs on Google maps that we used frequent . . .

airport pub

The Airport Pub – which we only visited very occasionally, because it was very close to work, and noisy due to the aircraft, but I note that the pub has now made the noise an attraction . . . .  

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Back garden of the Airport Pub . . . 

Tatton ArmsThe Tatton Arms
Close to the airport for a quick lunch time pint and a pickled egg, the picked eggs were very good.

ship inn 01

The Ship Inn was further away from the airport than the Tatton Arms, and it had a  different ‘atmosphere’ altogether. 

ship-history2

The Ship Inn dates back 350 years and used to be a store house for manure until the farmer started to brew beer.
The wisteria plant that grows outside is claimed to be 260 years old.

I started this post with a picture of the Manchester ship canal, which was opened in 1894, 134 years after the wisteria was planted . . . . 

wisteria

Just a reminder of wisteria in bloom . . it is not The Ship Inn wisteria.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

In late 1968 I resigned from a life at sea and decided on a life with B.O.A.C.

So life would change from water to air.

BOAC VC 10 at Manchester Airport

BOAC – B707

BOAC B707 freighter – my introduction to containerisation.

The airline pallets (containers) can be seen loaded on trolleys – they would be towed to the aircraft and a scissor lift would load them to the correct level and then labour would pull the loaded pallet in to the aircraft. We would load thirteen pallets per aircraft of mixed cargo. In addition, cargo would be loaded in the belly holds and secured with nets or rope. Any dangerous cargo would also be loaded in the belly of the aircraft.

Part of my job was the supervision of the loading of cargo into passenger & freighter aircraft.

Later I became responsible for the load and balance of the aircraft. This means that I worked out the balance of the aircraft so that it would take off safely.
I would produce a chart, which I presented to the captain of the aircraft with suggested aircraft settings based on the runway length, the maximum weight of the aircraft, which included fuel and cargo (passengers) and the weather conditions.

There were a number of considerations to take in to account, and this was well before computers, so it was all completed by hand, and the chart was made of Perspex, which showed my calculations in pencil and the result as a lined graph.

To complete the ‘graph’ I had a list of the actual gross weight of each pallet and the weight of the cargo stowed in various parts of the aircrafts belly. I would make sure that the heavier pallets were as close to the centre of gravity of the aircraft as possible. I also had to be aware of the current weather conditions and the height above sea level of the runway.

For example, the heat of the Persian Gulf would restrict the maximum take-off weight because the higher the temperature the thinner the air, which had to be used to create lift so the aircraft could fly. In addition certain airports around the world, which were built several thousand feet above sea level would also have thinner air.

To divert a little to illustrate the importance of the weight of cargo and air temperature, I once flew from Apia, in Western Samoa, to Pago Pago in American Samoa. Both islands are in the Pacific Ocean.

Samoan Air, twin otter

Because certain Samoans are larger than an average western person, some of them were weighed and some of us were not. The aircraft was small, so every kilo was counted and recounted, and a full load was twenty passengers, and Western Samoa is HOT at certain times of the year.!
The flight from Apia to Pago Pago was not long, about fifteen minutes, but it was still an international flight.
Our baggage was stowed behind the last passenger and of course the aircraft did not have any toilets.
On the plus side it was a very scenic flight, if low . . . .

Back to Manchester and the weights involved – the maximum weight for any aircraft is the maximum taxi weight. The B 707 at Manchester would burn off 1000 kilos (a ton) of fuel just taxiing to the end of the take of runway.

The B 707 with a flight number BA 537 originated in London, transited Manchester for Prestwick in Scotland before crossing the Atlantic to New York. After which it would fly on to Kingston (Jamaica), Antigua (Antigua & Barbuda), Bridgetown (Barbados), Port of Spain (Trinidad), Georgetown (Guyana).
Every time I processed the paperwork for this flight I couldn’t help thinking of pirates, pieces of eight & Treasure Island.

Each cargo manifest had the code for each destination from MAN (Manchester), PIK (Prestwick), JFK (New York), KIN, ANU, BGI, POS, GEO all fairly obvious, but the ship’s bag (as it was called) bulged with the amount of paperwork for each stop.

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The aircraft terminated in Georgetown and was made ready for the return journey as BA 538. I’ve underlined the stops in the Caribbean using a green line.

The VC 10 BA 607 was destined to Canada – London, Manchester, Prestwick, Montréal and terminating in Toronto.
The IATA city codes were not a problem until you reach Montreal, which becomes YUL & Toronto becomes YYZ.

You may ask why the three letter codes for most cities can be worked out – LHR, MAN, BER, SYD, MEL, TYO,SIN etc

So back to Canada – Before IATA was created, Canada had a network of weather towers near their airports, and as air travel increased in the 1930’s pilots wanted to know if a particular airport had a weather tower.
The authorities had already issued IDs for each airport using a two letter code so they added a ‘Y’ (as in ‘YES’) before the two letter code to show that this airport had a weather tower.
At that time Montréal-Dorval airport radio call sign was UL so, because Montreal had a weather tower it was designated as YUL!
Just to confuse a little more, the radio code of Malton in Canada is YZ, and Malton is close to the city of Toronto, so we now have Toronto’s IATA code as YYZ.

Because Canada already had many of their cities designated with a weather tower that required a Y for YES, they decided to use the letter Y for the first letter of the new IATA code system for all Canadian airports.

This seemed a good idea except that not all airports had a weather tower so those without a weather tower did not have a radio code.

Not to be beaten, they decided to pick on the railway system, which already had two letter codes for railway stations, so for Edmonton the railway code was EG, so they added the Y to EG and now IATA recognises Edmonton as YEG.

Certain cities can be recognised with a little thought by thinking ‘railway’ thoughts – YVR is Vancouver (VR being the rail code for that city); QB is Quebec, so the airport is YQB and so on.

YYZ

Toronto (YYZ) 70 year old weather tower.
Leaving on a jet plane. . .

London

 

Ticket As I sat in the transit lounge at Tehran airport & scanned my ticket – it was a BOAC ticket, but the the airline was Qantas.

Boarding pass

As was the boarding pass

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The aircraft in 1968 was a B 707 /138, which had been modified by Qantas with a turbofan and they renamed their modified aircraft as V-Jets – the V from the Latin word vannus meaning ‘fan’, or to be pedantic  “thing that blows against the grain”.

Qantas Airways was the new name, because up to 1967 Qantas’ name had been Qantas Empire Airways .

The route from Sydney to London is traditionally known as the ‘Kangaroo Route’, and Qantas had various ways of getting to London in the 1960’s.

boardin

Boarding was via a set of stair – the idea of an aero-bridge to assist passenger boarding  of the aircraft was in its infancy.

The aircraft that I was to board had arrived from Sydney via Manila, Hong King and New Delhi, and from Tehran our next stop would be Athens and finally London.

In 1966 you could get to London from Sydney via the Fiesta Route, which was via Fiji, Tahiti, Acapulco, Mexico City, Nassau, Bermuda, London.

Don’t forget at that time the in-flight entertainment was the airline magazine or you chatted with the passenger next to you, or you read a book, because movies on demand was years in the future and even the pull down public screen for everyone to watch the same film, was also in the future.

The cost of my ticket for a one-way trip from Abadan to London was $288.50 USD or in today’s money USD $2,187 (AUD $3,124). It was an expensive one-way flight in economy.

QFG seatingPicture from the internet of the inside of a Qantas B707/138 economy class seating, and the one thing you hoped for in economy was that the centre seat was unoccupied.

dress code

At that time you dressed appropriately for international travel – the above is just an illustration.

Uniform

Stewardess’ uniform for Qantas in 1968

QF menu

Once I sat down I was presented with a breakfast menu.

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Of course in 1968 smoking onboard was acceptable . . .

smokeSASand even encouraged, because some airlines created cigarettes so that the smoker became advert once they left the aircraft. Many airlines gave away matches and cigarette lighters with their name and logo imprinted on both.

We arrived in Athens at 5.00 am (05.00 hr) and as we were only on the ground for forty five minutes so I doubt that we would have left the plane as it was refueling, but we were not allowed to smoke.

ETA London was 8.15 am.

On arrival I had to transfer from Heathrow to Euston railway station in the city, to catch a train to Liverpool – I was hoping for a steam train experience of my childhood, but I’d forgotten that the line had been electrified in 1966.

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Liverpool Lime Street still had the old feeling and the ‘smell’ of steam, which could have been just my wishful thinking.

A fortnight after I arriving home British Rail ran the last scheduled steam train from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria, and then on to Carlisle before returning. This last service was in commemoration of the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester line in 1830, which was the first public railway system to use only steam locomotives.lms_5mt_45110_barton_moss_15_gns_spcl_11-08-68_edited-2

The above is the actual 1968 train, and the picture is off the internet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khorramshahr

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With such a long time at anchor off Doha, Qatar, there was not any excuse not to write home – at least we didn’t pay for the postage. We handed our letters to the purser or chief steward, which was then handed over to our agent, along with any Company communication. The Company mail was bagged for head office in London and posted. As you see everything was what we call ‘snail mail’ today – life without the internet.

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We sailed from Doha for Kuwait after our thirteen days of hanging around at anchor and only working cargo for a day.

Leaving Doha on the 12th July, we arrived off Kuwait at 4.00 pm on the 13th and of course we anchored . . .

Kuwait from the air

Kuwait from the air – picture from the internet.

We stood anchor watches (the same system as at sea), so I was on the mid-day to 4.00 pm and the midnight to 4 am. I remember recording the temperature at 4.00 am as I completed the ship’s log  37 c ( 98 F), It was a warm night, but not as hot as the lunch time report, which listed the temperature as 45 c (113 F) mat 1.00 pm, and we didn’t have air-conditioning and everything that was metal was too hot to touch, which meant most of the ship outside the accommodation.

The following day we moved alongside to work cargo. An uneventful day of heat and dust and the smell of oil, but what would I expect being in the Gulf?

To reach our next port we would be sailing up the Arvand Rud if we wished to discharge in an Iranian port or the Shatt-al Arab if we wished to do business with Iraq. Both side of the river were ‘touchy’ as to how we named the river.

shatt_al_arabAs you see Kuwait is at the bottom of the map and our destination was to be Basra in Iraq.
Khorramshahr & Abadan are both on the Iranian side of the river.

Shah

In 1968 the Shah was still in control at that time and things did not change until Khomeini

Khomeini arrived in 1979.

From Kuwait we sailed to Basra, the plan being to call at the Iranian ports on the way south – this was our normal procedure.

We arrived in Basra on, I think, the 17th July, which was the day of the Ba’thist bloodless coup d’état in Iraq

Sadam

and this gentleman became Vice President. The photo is of when he was a very young man and became more recognizable later in life

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Saddam Hussein in 1980

From memory, the change in government did not affect us and after working cargo we sailed for Iran.

On arrival in Khorramshahr (Iran) on Saturday 27th July, I received a letter from the Company that I was to fly home because my contract for two and a half years on the eastern service had come to an end.
I don’t think I’d ever packed my bags as fast as I did that day – goodbye heat and sand!

My relief walked up the gangway and I warmly welcomed him and offered him my last cold bottle of beer. . . .what a sacrifice!

The ship’s agent drove me to Abadan to catch a plane to Tehran for the connecting flight to London.

727100

Iran Air B727 /100 had been in service with Iran Air for a couple of years before I flew with them in 1968, configuration was 106 passengers in two classes, I was of course in economy.
seating

B727 / 100 seating – I was near the back.

As I checked in for the flight at Abadan airport I was surprised at the large amount of hand baggage  that passengers were allowed to carry in to the passenger cabin considering how small the cabin was, in comparison to today’s aircraft.
I’d flown around Asia & Australia to join various ships so I was aware of the restrictions re cabin baggage, but Iran Air didn’t seem to have the same restrictions.

1921_Primus_poster

One person had a small primes stove.

After we had taken off and the seat belt light had been switched off the man with the primes stove squatted in the aisle and lit the stove to make his tea . . . .

Nobody reacted near the tea maker, and as I had an aisle seat I undid my seat belt to tell the tea maker to put out the naked light. Before I had had gone two steps there was a blared movement of a stewardess (one could use this word in 1968) moving from the forward part of the aircraft to the tea maker. I’ve never seen a crew member move so fast before or since.

The flight was IR 800 and we left Abadan at 10.45 pm (2245 hr), flight time was about 90 minutes.
We landed at Mehrabad airport, which at the time was Tehran’s primary airport. The link will give you an idea of ‘yesterday’s’ travelling – it is silent. There weren’t any aero-bridges at that time.
The aircraft in the short film was not the aircraft in which I flew.
My connecting flight was due out at 02.55 hrs (02.55 am) Sunday, it was going to be a long night.

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In 2007 a new airport opened in Tehran for international flights. It is called
Imam Khomeini International Airport. (Picture from the internet)

 

 

 

B.H.S

 

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B.H.S = Boredom – Heat – Sand (and for my British readers BHS is not British Home Stores!)

We sailed from Muscat for Doha, but for some reason, which I can’t remember, we were diverted to Bahrain, which is 130 km ( 81 miles) as the crow flies from Doha, but a little longer by sea.

The above map shows how close most of the ports are to the Straits of Hormuz.

Before we arrived at Bahrain we were diverted again to Dammam, which is in Saudi Arabia. I have underlined Dammam with a green line. Again, not all that far as a diversion but . . .

The problem for us was that we had loaded the cargo in a set way for discharge i.e Doha, Bahrain, Dammam, but by making Dammam our first port of call we had to move the Bahrain & Doha cargo before we could discharge Dammam cargo – a small detail that had to be taken in to account.
Due to delays in Bahrain I think our Gulf agency was trying to avoid further delays by unloading Dammam before Bahrain.

Dammam was, and still is, an oil port, so there was little incentive to go ashore, plus Saudi Arabia was ‘beerless’.
We had to contend with sandstorms mixed with dust and the overpowering smell of crude oil. I thought I’d left that particular perfume when I left tanker life in 1963.

It was not a happy stay because we had to constantly check the cargo being discharged. The supervisors failed in their jobs to identify cargo destined for Dammam, as against Bahrain or Doha.
With a language barrier (supervisors were expected to speak & understand English but didn’t), and the heat and dust, while  standing on the wharf sweating pints to get the labour to reloaded certain cargo was a ‘trying’ time.

I was told by one supervisor that he was a fine fellow who had worked on many British ships . . . biting ones tongue so that we were not in this port any longer than necessary, was a huge effort.

There was a suggestion made that we should ask Australian exporters to write the contents of each box in Arabic, because this might stop the labour breaking in to as many boxes as possible to find something worth stealing.
We had cartons of tinned peas, and other vegetables, which were broken in to, and the cans were opened by the labour, who then drank the liquid and threw the rest away. The pictures of peas & vegetables on the cans didn’t mean anything.
Cartons of liquid detergent were also broken in to and the detergent consumed, at least the thieves would have been ‘regular’ thieves. . . .

I think we were in Dammam for two long days before sailing to Bahrain and anchoring off while waiting for barges to come out to us.
Bahrain did have berths for deep sea ships, but the only time I was on a ship that went alongside was on my first ship in 1962, which was a tanker. So, I think the berths were tanker berths, not general cargo berths, which is why we anchored.

AradFort

Arad Fort Bahrain – built in the 15th century, before the Portuguese arrived in 1622.

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Manama Bahrain in the late 1960’s – Manama is the capital.

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Manama today – Picture is from the internet.

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Another shot of Bahrain in the 1960’s – we liked Bahrain because it allowed us to buy Red Barrel beer legally. Buying a beer in the Gulf was always ‘hard work’, unless you had access to private clubs such as the British Club in Basra or you went ashore (via dhow) in Bahrain.

It was very pleasant to sit ashore and drink a cold beer, a different feeling than drinking the same beer on board ship – small pleasures.

Our next port was Doha, and we arrived at 4.00 am and anchored. We hoped that we would begin discharging cargo at daybreak, but we just sat at anchor all day. To keep cool we would shower, but not dry off but just stand in the shade on deck allowing the water to evaporate to cool down.

doha

Doha in 1968 – picture is from the internet

coastal

Coastal strip in 1968

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Today . . .

Qatar, the capital being Doha, gained independence from the British in 1971, after being a British protectorate since early in the 20th century.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani signed a treaty with the British in 1868 that Britain recognised Qatar as a separate status at the end of the Qatari – Bahraini war of 1867–1868.

In 1867 the ruler of Bahrain sent his brother with 500 men and 24 boats to attack Qatar. The attack was joined by a force of 200 men under Ahmed al Khalifa, and the Abu Dhabi ruler also sent 2000 men in a further 70 boats.
Doha was sacked and basically wiped off the map, the houses destroyed and the people deported.

The following year, 1868, a Qatari force counter attacked Bahrain, and destroyed 60 ships and 1000 people were killed.

Lewis

British Resident at Bahrain Lewis Pelly – Lt General, KCSI (Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India) awarded in 1874. Click on the link to read of an interesting life.

Lewis Pelly, accused Bahrain of breaking maritime law by attacking Qatar in 1867 and he fined Bahrain 10,000 Iranian Tomans.

One Iranian Toman was the equivalent of 10,000 dinars or about £740 British pounds at that time.
So the total fine was around £7 million (GBP) in 1868, which allowing for inflation, is about £125 million (GBP) today. A large sum for a small area like Bahrain that had yet to find oil . . . .

The official currency of Persia was (is) the Rial and 10,000 rials would equal one toman, which itself is a Mongolian word due to the Mongolian invasion around 14 AD, but spelled as tomen, which in Mongolian means ‘unit of ten thousand’.

The current Iranian currency can be referred to in two ways as rials or toman, which for a foreigner is confusing, but the actual notes and coins are the same.
In 2019 the Iranian Government passed a Bill that the currency would change from rial to toman and this would take place in May 2020, and the change over will be phased in over the next two years.

Back to 1968 . . .

We sat at anchor for days waiting for labour to come out to us and discharge the cargo. With temperatures around 40 c (109 F) at 4.00 pm in the afternoon, life was a little tedious to say the least.

We did have one high moment – a group of us where outside around 4.30 pm having a beer (in the shade) when we heard a loud shout from the Chief Engineer – he’d just had a telegram from England that his wife had given birth to their first child – it was party time!

We lay at anchor for thirteen days, the sea like a mirror and our position was sheltered from any cooling breeze. It was hot!

We did experience a ‘small’ distraction when another BI ship anchored near us – she was the MV Chyebassa.

Chyebassa

Any diversion from the heat and boredom was welcome. On the day of the Chyebassa’s arrival I was on duty, but the other officers went across to her and many stayed the night, and the following day MV Juna reciprocated the hospitality.

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MV Juna

It was a pleasure to rekindle friendships with two cadets that I’d sailed with when in MV Bankura, in 1966 on the India to New Zealand run and the second engineer I’d sailed with when in MV Pundua in 1967 on the India, Hong Kong, Japan run. It was have another beer, and ‘remember when’ time . . . . a very pleasant interlude.

Bankura

MV Bankura

Pundua

MV Pundua

Thanks to the heat during our time at anchor I think we were Allsopp’s best customers in the Persian Gulf,

beer

and when we eventually sailed for Kuwait we didn’t have any regrets leaving Doha, even though Kuwait was not on our holiday list.

hisoty-of-kuwait_0

Kuwait maybe on certain people’s holiday list today, but I doubt that it was a holiday destination in 1968.