….and not a soul stirred.
This, as my Australian sufferers will tell you, is going to have something to do with Sir Reginald Myles Ansett, a great Australian, and pioneer aviator. For anyone who doubts me QANTAS has an A380 named for him. You can’t get better than that! (says he smugly)
and heres a photograph of the QANTAS A380 -VH-OQH, Reginald Ansett coming in for a landing at LAX otherwise known as Los Angeles International Airport.
Reg. Ansett was the most amazing man I ever worked for, and believe me I’ve worked for many, there is much written about him, so I’m not going to go into great detail, but give just enough to arouse the curiosity of those who may be interested in the story of a great Australian.
You’ll note that I’ll always refer to him as Reg, everybody did. Naturally I didn’t when speaking to him; although I always had the strong impression that it wouldn’t have bothered him one bit, had I have addressed him that way. When talking he always looked you straight in the eyes and there was obvious interest in his, and when he smiled or grinned his eyes grinned with him.
Now a brief history, Reg: in 1926, at 17 years of age being an enthusiastic sort of bloke got himself a private pilots licence, number 416. In 1931 he bought a second hand Studebaker with what little savings he had, and started a service car business. The government of Victoria took a dim view of this, he was cutting into their business and gave him the Kyber.
So what did Reg do? In 1936, he bought himself a 6 passenger, Fokker Universal Monoplane and started a regular service between Hamilton and Essendon Airport, Melbourne. He also used this aircraft to do a bit of barnstorming, and selling joy flights to those willing to cough up a few bob or quid, not that they’d be many quids around back then!
Reg was certainly a goer! 😀
In 1937 he listed his company on the Melbourne Stock Exchange,. He ordered 3 Lockheed L-10A Electra’s, a portent of things to come.
I went to work for Ansett-ANA, in 1960, after turfing in the insurance industry. I’d never worked for a fairer, more honest, company. Over the next four years or so, I learnt a lesson that stayed with me; how to treat those that work with, and for me, with the respect and dignity that is their due!
Next on this ramble is Sir Ian Potter. Without doubt the most delightful man I’ve ever come across. He was a leading, if not the leading stock broker in Melbourne, and possibly Australia; and when he had to fly in Australia, he would only fly Ansett.
In 1960, when I started as a ‘Traffic Office’ at Essendon, computers had not been heard of, and we in the traffic office handled every aspect of every flight, except for the aircraft allocation/movements, and flight crew placement.
Besides the passengers, we were responsible for the freight and luggage distribution, and trim of the aircraft, the overall catering, cleaning, the refuelling, in conjunction with the ground engineers for this bit, and it never ceased to excite, never palled!
The Melbourne/Sydney flights were top priority. In Sydney it was the other way around, and were serviced by the top aircraft of the fleet. VH-RMA, VH-RMB & VH-RMC.
Three Lockeed l-188A Electra’s! VH-RMA the flagship; ‘Romeo Mike Alpha’ aka ‘Reginald Myles Ansett’. The Golden Goose! I digress back to Sir Ian.
Whenever I was on duty at Essendon, it became my lot to handle the MLD/SYD flights; would you believe, back then, there was but seven scheduled flights, each way, 7 days a week to Sydney; on the even hour starting at 08.00, Flt 304. (After nearly 3 years, I was promoted to ‘Tarmac Controller’; and boy, did I enjoy strutting my stuff.) 😈
I’d start manning the passenger counter usually about 07.20 when the passengers would start to drift in, setting myself up on the No 1 spot with the ‘Passenger Waybill’, check my list for any XV Pax. (VIP Passengers); they’d be invited to use the ‘VIP Guest Lounge’.
By the bye, the full load on the Electra’s was 33E/48F: 81 pax. total!
Sir Ian would always arrive in plenty of time, join whatever queue there was, anything over 3 waiting passengers I classed as a queue. He rarely had luggage, up and back in a day. I’d greet him and offer him the use and privacy or the VIP lounge and he’d always refuse very politely saying that wasn’t necessary, he’d be quite comfortable waiting in the main terminal.
On the rare occasion that there was going to be a delay on Flt 304, I’d check with the TAA Traffic, see if they had any available seats to take any of my VIP Pax’s, they would do the same, if there was any delay to their 08.00 service. There was a very good, co-operative relationship, between the two airlines, at that time.
In such a case, I’d offer the first seat to Sir Ian, and not once did he take up the offer. He’d thank me, or any other T.O. very graciously, and say that he was quite happy to wait, again decline the offer of the VIP suite. He’d simply take a seat along with the plebs, open his briefcase, and do a bit of work whilst waiting, and not once get up and ask when the flight would be departing.
The perfect gentleman and the perfect passenger. Respected and admired by everyone.
But not all sailing, is smooth.
Which brings me to today’s last subject; Rodney George Laver AC MBE. (a Leo for those interested in such stuff) 👿
Fortunately, I only had the dubious pleasure of meeting Mr Laver the once. Was way back in 1961, and I was handling Flight 330, the 12 noon service to Sydney, Brisbane with connections to North Queensland ports. This was at the old original terminal.
Mr Laver was booked through to Brisbane, I’m not sure if he was going on to Rocky (Rockhampton) or not, I have the feeling he was, but it’s of no great moment with regard to this narrative.
He checked himself in, and I told him that the flight was on time and that they would be boarding at 11.50, and he took a seat directly in front of the ‘Traffic Counter’; just sat that seeming to be watching all the activity going on there. Not that there was that much to watch at that time of the day.
Promptly, at 11.50, I got the call from the ‘Tarmac Controller’ “call the flight”. So in my best English (read Cockney – I was still quite broad then) accent took up the mike and announced the following, all the time keeping my eye on one Rodney George Laver. “Ansett ANA Flight 330 the 12 noon service to Sydney, Brisbane with connections to North Queensland ports is now ready for departure. All aboard please!”
Nothing could be simpler. There was no gate numbers back then, the passengers would just stroll across the tarmac and climb the steps. First class would use the back and economy the front steps. Don’t forget I”m talking prop aircraft not jet. It was more relaxed and much more pleasant back in those days.
So all the passengers started out, all except one. He sat there watching me and what was going on at the counter. At 11.55 I made the final call, same as the first call except this had the words ‘Final Call’ added; collected my waybill, the ships logbook, and out I went to the aircraft.
Went to the cockpit and advised the Captain of the number of passengers and any other info that he needed, he signed the book, I got my copy, actually it was the original; then checked with the ‘Senior Hostess’, on th number of pax, we didn’t tally she was one down. I knew who it was so told her to hang on I’d give him one final call.
I went down the front steps, the rear steps had been pulled away,and door closed and sealed. Gave the ground engineer the thumbs up to start the motors and went back into the terminal.
There was no way I was going to go into the terminal lounge, grab a recalcitrant passenger by the scruff of the neck, and drag him out to a waiting airplane. No way!
Taking the mike and looking directly at him I paged Mr Rodney Laver passenger on flight 330 to please board the aircraft. Nothing! I went back onto the tarmac, mounted the front steps, took the waybill from the SH, put a line through the name R G Laver and the letters FTL beside it. Told her to close up and got off the plane quick smart.
The engineer instructed the Captain to start the last two motors, I gave the skipper the thumbs up salute and went back inside, pretty damned annoyed.
When I got back there was a man waiting for me at the counter who asked me when his flight was going. I pointed through the window and said ” See that aircraft taxiing?”, “Yes”, ” well that’s your aircraft and you’ve missed it”.
Blank stare, I told him to wait, went in back and rang TAA, they were delayed on their noon service, and they had a seat and would give it to him. I went back and spoke to him in words that you use to a child ” If you go out side turn to your right”, holding up my right arm to show him which was right, “and walk to the desk you will find our senior driver, and he will arrange for a vehicle to take you over to the TAA terminal and they will give you a seat on their airplane, Okay?”
“Okay” says Mr Rodney George Laver, and that was the last I saw of him. The passenger from hell! 😈
On the 14th April 1964 I saw Reg Ansett for the last time. I did a post some time ago where this is recorded, for anyone interested. I think that GG has read it! Heres the link;
A little extra on Reg.
When he relocated to Melbourne, in gratitude to the people of Hamilton, who had supported him throughout all his struggles, he pledged that as long as he had the means, he would ensure that they had their daily service to Melbourne.
During WWII he had to suspend all his services as his aircraft were needed to assist the US; so he did, he suspended all services except one.
Everyday throughout the war a service operated between Hamilton and Melbourne, never once failing.
Through the years 1960 to 1964, when I had the pleasure of working for Reg Ansett, everyday, without fail a DC3 Skyliner would be lined up on the tarmac, and do the round trip to Hamilton. Most days it would go out empty and come back empty, But it went out every single day!
Hence the title of this post.
“Flight Two, Two,Two, to Hamilton is loading through Gate 13, All aboard please……
….and not a soul stirred.
Reg Ansett was an honourable man.