Select Page

I was never Luke Skywalker – but I was young once …………………
I joined the AAL (Australian Air League) in 1964, at the tender age of ten.

{Side note 1: I was a founding member of the Clemton Park AAL Squadron in fact – establishd by Mr Bell and the Russell brothers (big kids – sixteen, seventeen or so).
Side note 2: We were later amalgamated with Marrickville Squadron. }

So what – you ask – or perhaps don’t ? Well, our first “outing”, a small group of 12 of us, with a couple of “father officers”, was a trip to YSBK, in it’s hey-day.

I had been looking forward to it for weeks. Keen as mustard, as excited as hell.

I had my Kodak instamatic camera, two flash cubes, two fresh AAA’s, and, two vp-126 cartridges of, wait for it, not just B&W film, but Kodak Ektachrome slide film, that had cost me a WHOLE month’s pocket money, plus a “secret supplement from mum” – don’t tell your father !!).

The day finally came, I awoke, I jumped out of bed like an olympic high-jumper, I looked out the window, and then I felt instantly depressed.

It was a filthy day weather wise, rain, low cloud, and windy, and I mean real windy !!

But I was not deterred.

Mum had her doubts, but she let me go anyway.  After all, I wouldn’t dissolve in the rain, nor run the “unacceptable” risk of getting one or more of a possible zillion imaginary ailments, not like modern kids.
Modern mums would not have let me go, no way.

But back then, we kids didn’t mind getting wet, or dirty, nor did our mums, really.
It was “normal” then – wasn’t it ?

I walked the well worn path to the Clemton Park Public Primary School (the assembly point), of 400 metres (it was “yards” back then, bloody yards !! – OK !!), in uniform, in the rain.

As I walked, hopped, skipped and part jogged off on my way, the neighbours waved, and I waved back.
That was normal then too.

One by one, the others arrived, all excited and rearing to go.

Eventually, two cars pulled up, and we all piled in. Two car loads – we held the record for the number of kids squeezed into Mr Bell’s beetle !!)

No seat belts, no air-bags. (air-what’s ?). None of that stuff then.

Me and my mate, being the two youngest and smallest, were prone in the boot, with the lid cocked up about a foot by two bits of four-b-two and secured with two “belt-straps”, and off we went !!
(For those who don’t know where the boot is in a beetle, do a google.)

“Ops Normal Officer” !!

Could you just imagine what would happen today, if a Highway Patrol Copper saw that ?

Assuming he recovered from his heart attack, he would have to “call it in” to Highway Patrol Command. Such a situation is way, way, way, way beyond a senior constable’s discretionary decision matrix today. It would require a deputy commissioner level decision – minimum.  Far too risky for a “pull over – stop” – what if the driver bolted ?
Any pursuit would be out of the question – career ended.  Even a “follow at a discrete distance and report” would be way too risky in a lolly-pop-car. He would have to call in an unmarked job for the “trail”.

Mean time, Central Command would have Polair one, two, three and four all scrambled (ironically out of YSBK), the Commissioner would be informed, the TRG called out, the Police Minister and Premier informed (there will be one hell of a media storm to weather once the nine and seven and ten news helos get wind of it) road blocks will be set up, ambo’s put on alert, local hospitals alerted, DOCS informed, negotiators called out………..

God, I am getting sick just thinking about it. 😳

You know it would happen.  If we could still scan the airwaves like in the old days (all the services have encrypted radios now) we could laugh our guts up, and maybe, be motivated to do something about the lunacy of operations in the “PC” world of today, but it is hidden, few people know, or care, and none act, effectively.

I digress – sorry ……….

Just one barb: CASA – eat you heart out !!

Now, where was I ?

Oh yes, I remember ……

We started off at 8am and arrived (safely) at YSBK by 8:30am.

We did the rounds of the hangars.  It seemed like dozens of them.  All hives of activity, mechanics, pilots (real ones – with wings on their shirts – and a “huge” Dakota – with Masling – on it), and lots of student pilots and instructors.
We were shown everything, climbed in and out of aircraft (they were “aircraft” – not “planes” – we knew that !) lots of aircraft, big and small, tail dragers and “tri-cycles”.

We sat at the controls, had all the dials (instruments) explained ( most of it in one ear out the other – you understand ) red levers, blue levers, white levers, switches, lots and lots of switches, and head sets, and microphones – it was amazing.

People everywhere, all anxious to fly!!

But the lousy weather was unkind, everyone was grounded, waiting for the weather to break.  Would it, or wouldn’t it ?
No one knew.  Everyone had forecasts and weather maps.  I had never seen one before.  It had highs and lows, and a real big nasty line on it, with little triangles on the right side.  I was told it was a “cold front” and the reason the weather was so crappy.
I (innocently) asked why it did not just “bugger-off” and let us go fly, and all the “grown-ups” just started laughing.
Anyway, we moved on, more hangars, more aircraft (NOT planes), and more people, lots of people.
I Used up my two flash cubes too quickly !! ( only eight shots mind – bugga).

Then, we went outside to watch an engine “run up” on a biplane.  It was a DeHavilland Rapide.

Time moved on.
By early afternoon the rain had stopped mostly, just occasional showers, but the wind had got worse. Lots of people were giving up any thought of a chance to fly that day, and were starting to go home, but not all.

 Around this time, we kids got a real treat.

You must understand that we had been told in no uncertain terms weeks before, that the one thing we WOULD NOT be able to do was visit the tower, because it was so busy and there were RULES about such things, so don’t ask, in fact, don’t even think about it !!

Mr Bell suddenly announced that he had got a message from the control tower.

Long story short. The guys in the tower had observed us kids doing the rounds during the day, and since there was no flying, they rang up the hangar we were in at the time, and invited us up to the tower!!We could not believe it, but down to the tower we went. The door opened and after a few “rules” were laid out by the controller, up the stairs we went, in leaps and bounds!
The head controller (there were four from memory) then showed us around and explained how everything worked, but nothing was actually happening.
 Then, a radio call came in.
It was on the speaker, so we all heard it.  It was the chief pilot of the aero club asking what the winds currently were.
one of the controllers spoke to him and said something like 45 gusting 60 or similar.
(As I mentioned above, it had been bloody windy all day, and was now even stronger than in the morning).To everyone’s amazement, including the controllers, he said he was going to fly !He taxied out in the Chipmunk, very slowly and very carefully, with a man sitting on the front of each wing near the tips.

Eventually he got to the runway, and lined up, into wind, obviously.
The two guys on the wings got off and ran away.
The Chipmunk just sat there for a while, with the tower now giving the wind almost continuously.  We were all watching, and there were lots of people outside watching too!!
Finally, he decided to take off and requested clearance.  The tower said ok, and he started to move forward.
Almost instantly, the tail came up and he was level, at walking pace!  He went a little faster and took off and climbed.
Forward speed was bugger all.  It almost looked like a helicopter, we were all transfixed.
He got to about 100 feet.  Then he put the flaps down. We saw him suddenly put them down.
Then, to our utter disbelief, he slowly started moving backwards!!  He “reversed” in the air, about 100 yards or so, then pitched down and landed, and stopped, BEHIND where he had started from!!
The two guys then ran over and got on the wings again, and then he slowly and carefully taxied back in again.

Everyone cheered, and I for one was stoked and hooked.  I decided I was going to fly one day, even though we were poor, come hell or high water or both!!Now, that is how it happened, whether you believe it or not.  It is as clear in my mind as yesterday.

Could you imagine what CASA would do, if anyone even thought of doing that today?

I gave the police example above for a reason. Now you know why.

I went to YSBK often in subsequent years, both with the AAL and ATC-RAAF, and made a few “contacts”.
As a result, I got a few “free flights” by flying as “ballast” on a number of occasions, when pilots were getting new endorsements from 182’s to 206’s etc (self loading ballast required for max weight). I never flew there as a pilot though, since I went for gliders at Camden (a financially driven decision).

Many years later, (January 1978) I faced a serious wind problem in an L-13 Blanik, which had both me in the glider and the tug pilot in a Piper Super Cub in a bit of a spot.

There was a storm many miles away, ten or more, that didn’t appear to be an immediate concern.  But it nearly got us.
What I now know to have been a microburst (didn’t know then) which was way stronger than anything previously experienced, and much-much stronger than anticipated, came out of the storm, and hit the field, whilst we were on climb!!  We were suddenly in unexpected conditions almost as bad as that day at YSBK.
He landed OK, so he said later in the pub, but on the limit.  So did I, BUT way over our wind limit.
If you have ever flown a Blanik, I had 80 kias short final with half to a third brake and 800ft per minute down before “rounding out” for a wheelie at 60 kias full brake estimated ground speed 20 knots, with the pucker factor way up!
Ground roll was “short”.
Obviously I could not taxi, nor could I get out. With 40 to 45 knots IAS, stationary on the ground, with full stick forward to keep the nose on the ground, I had to “fly the ailerons” until help arrived, thankfully, in about 5 minutes, in the form of three guys with a car and a tow rope. One guy on each wing and one driving the car, slowly, with me still strapped in “flying”, all the way to the “tie-down”. Very exciting, too bloody exciting!!

Flying was cancelled for the rest of the day !!Last year, 50 years after my first “visit” I drove out to YSBK to buy some charts, as part of my MH-370 work.

I drove around for a while, slowly, down to the control tower (it still looks pretty much the same – from a distance), up and down all the “ways”, past the hangars.

All the hangar doors are closed.
Gates, lots of gates, all with security keypads.
There are no people around.
It was 2pm on a Wednesday, and the place was deserted.
I worked my way back up the hill towards Marion Street, and come across this car place, a workshop, the dyno-tune car performance place, I forget it’s name, and eventually found the “chart shop” nearby.
I parked, got out, and stood, and looked around. I saw nothing, and I heard nothing, aviation. No aircraft, no engine sounds, nothing, just the wind.
And then, suddenly, the sound, of …… I presume, a V8 screaming it’s head off, on the dyno.
Not a Gypsy major or minor, or anything that could ever turn a prop.It may sound spooky, but it reminded me of a movie I once saw.  I can not remember the name of it, but it was a war movie. It opened with an old man, standing in a English field, with the remnants of an old control tower to one side, and as the credits rolled up the screen, the camera slowly panned vertically up to the clouds, and as it panned back down slowly, the music and the credits ended, and the scene was now of a vibrant WW2 bomber base – and the movie went on.
At the end, the reverse occurred the credits rolled by, the scence went to the clouds, and then back to the old man in the field.
He then slowly walked away, off camera, stage right, and fadeout to black – “The End” – in white. As I looked around, all I saw, was what is now a toxic aviation wasteland.
Image result for bankstown airport today
Toxic in every way, chemically, commercially, financially, politically, legally, ethically, …….. lots of “lly’s”.
Too many “lly’s”.YSBK is indeed now riddled with those zillion ailments, but unlike years past, they are now real, not imaginary, and, tragically, they are incureable.Just like the ailments once beatable by antibiotics, like rampant staff infections in our hospitals, that now easily defeat the antibiotics, a situation brought about by the inappropriate and gross overuse of same by an all knowing self richeous and unaccountable medical clique, YSBK as the hospital, and GA as the patients, are being decimated by aviation’s plague of inappropriate, illogical, unreasonable, nonsensical regulations, and worse, the gross, purile, and zealously vindictive overuse of same, by another unaccountable “aviation clique” – CASA.The prognosis is grave.
GA is at death’s door.
YSBK will soon be “condemmed” as an empty graveyard, ripe for redevelopment.

One must ask.
Was that not the “game plan” from the beginning ?

Schofields, Hoxton, done and dusted.

YSBK soon ?

YSCN next ?

Perfect political subterfuge ?
Who remembers ?
Who sees ?
Who knows ?
Who cares ?
Who will write the epitath?
Will anyone bother ?
Will anyone read it, even if anyone does bother to write it ?

Senator Fawcett, Heff, or Zeno ?
Perhaps, it should really rank a Ministerial ?

The Miniscule could ask Mrdak to get Beaker to draft it for him……. perhaps….. ?

Was it not he, before he entered the ATSB, who gleefully wielded the syringe, by his own hand, that injected the infection – (sic) correction – the toxic immunisation inoculation, that is so successfully, slowly but surely destroying the hospital and turning it into a graveyard ?

Is it not also he, who as head of the ATSB, has been shown to willingly and deceptively assist the prime “aviation clique” in it’s selective and vindictive prosecution and persecution of certain GA targets, by ensuring that his supposedly ICAO compliant “independent” reports have been “spiced” with a certain flavour, most paletable to the “aviation clique” ?

After all, he knows best…… does he not ?

Surely he must ?
He is always telling the good Senators he does, does he not ?
Remember his retort to Heff’s remark about him climbing his own water tower ?

I am not a patch on Yoda.
I am more of an elephant type.
But reality is, I am now Just an old man, standing on a rise, looking down on an old control tower.

Fade to black.
The End.

{ P2 comment: Congrats ventus & a dozen chocfrogs for this effort and the nominated AP forum ‘post of the month’ award – :mrgreen: }