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QANTAS

I know there is an obvious typo with this caption on The Age website.

However, I couldn’t help but think about the irony, given all the agitation and allegations about how Alan Joyce is cutting corners on maintenance and driving the airline into the ground.

So, I wonder how much can you get done on an A380 for $139.

(I note the typo got corrected soon after I took this screen shot.)

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I live very close to Moorabbin Airport. The airport was here long before I was so, to that end, I have never made a big deal about aircraft noise. However, after this morning’s effort, it is time to make some noise of my own.

Prior to 6:00am this morning, or 0600 hours in pilot speak, about a dozen aircraft took off into the south. This is the direction where there are houses that are closest to the airport, including mine. Conditions were benign, which meant that those aircraft could have taken off to the north or on the cross runway.

You may find this surprising, but my wife and I actually prefer to sleep a bit later than 6:00am on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that opportunity this morning.

You need to show a bit more respect to the local residents, Royal Victorian Aero Club. What happened this morning was disgraceful!

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Fox Sports in Australia has a program called The Back Page, a reasonably relaxed hour of looking at the week in sport, with different panellists each week. I got to the point where I would have a brief look each week – if Peter FitzSimons was one of the panellists, I’d turn it off straight away. Otherwise, I’d sit down and watch it. I even got to the point of e-mailing Fox Sports about him – his habit of talking over people all the time and making the most absurd, unrelated comments used to annoy me immensely.

So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I bought Charles Kingsford Smith & Those Magnificent Men by Peter FitzSimons, at the Borders “use up all your gift vouchers before we go completely broke” sale. Which wasn’t really a sale at all obviously, given I paid $38.99 for the book, in its paperback form.

I have always wanted to fly as a profession, but the timing just wasn’t right in terms of the scholarships being offered by TAA and Ansett (yes, I am that old), and I was always worried that, if I did it via the RAAF, some idiot prime minister would send me off to get myself killed fighting someone else’s war. It’s certainly no coincidence that I live so close to Moorabbin Airport. Thus, any quality book on Australian aviation is going to be well received by me.

In the Introduction, FitzSimons explains that Ian Mackersey’s book, Smithy: The Life of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, is “outstanding”. While I agree with him on this, I’d found it particularly tough going when I read it a few years ago. Hence I was looking forward to seeing how FitzSimons managed the subject, given my experiences of him on The Back Page.

While the book title clearly references Smithy as its main subject, this book is actually a history of global aviation from the very beginning, in 1894, through to when Smithy disappeared in Lady Southern Cross in November 1935. In fact, Dick Smith, a noted Australian business man, conservationist and aviator says it is “Undoubtedly the best aviation book I have ever read”. And while he has probably read way more aviation books than me, I completely agree with him. This book, even at 610 pages, was a great read.

There are some great sub-plots throughout the book, in addition to the thorough coverage of Smithy’s life. I loved reading about Anthony Fokker; how he was an integral part of the German aircraft production line during World War 1 (in which Smithy was a recognised pilot) and how his life progressed to become a major American-based aircraft manufacturer. I also enjoyed re-visiting the establishment and development of QANTAS, something that might surprise some of you who know what I think about that airline these days.

And what of FitzSimon’s irreverent style that had so frustrated me when he was on The Back Page? For some reason, don’t ask me why, I really found it enjoyable in this book. Perhaps a subject so dry, as demonstrated by Mackersey’s book, needed the odd flippant reference like “the circular filing cabinet” and “Well, hell, Thel” to lighten it up. Thankfully, unlike it did do on The Back Page, it didn’t detract from this narrative of how aviation grew up.

In summary, this is a really excellent, readable chronology of Smithy’s life, from his birth in Sydney in 1897 through to his presumed death in 1935, somewhere between Rangoon and Singapore. The story is interspersed with a myriad of excellent sub-plots that detail the history of world aviation during that period. Thoroughly recommended and definitely worth the $38.99.

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One of the things Carol and I worry about, living so close to Moorabbin Airport, is having a plane drop out of the sky onto the house.

There was such an event on Thursday night, but thankfully over on the northern side of the airport. The plane came to a standstill in Capital Golf Course, very close to Centre Dandenong Road, which is right on the boundary of the airport. What is really odd is the lack of damage in the general area – it’s almost as though it’s just dropped in there. There’s a hole in the fence, presumably that the firies have cut to get to the plane. Other than that, not really anything.

It’s pointing away from the airport, suggesting an overshoot on landing. But that’s a big overshoot. I guess it could have spun around on impact, if it was landing from the north, but the lack of damage suggests that’s not the case. Anyway, I guess it will all come out in the ATSB report.

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I live just to the south of Moorabbin Airport. In fact, our street intersects with the southern boundary of the airport. Just about every time I head out, I have the opportunity to check out what aircraft are parked at the airport. Seeing this unit is always a good sign.

It’s a Bell fire fighting helicopter. As you can imagine, it certainly stands out from the other side of the airport with its bright orange doors. I always appreciate seeing it there, because it means it’s not out dumping water on a fire somewhere.

Interestingly, I took a photo of a similar aircraft earlier this year.

It is the same sort of aircraft, but is obviously a different helicopter with a different registration. What is odd is they have the same identification number on the side.

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