Memories of the early days.

by Bill Fishwick

Retired Qantas Engineer


A young Bill Fishwick enjoys a smoko at Avalon c.1959.
Photo: Bill Fishwick

Bill Fishwick (right) with fellow engineer Robert Phillips at Longreach with VH-XBA on 10 June 2007.
Photo: Norman King

(Images are linked to larger versions)


These notes are written about memories and events of some 48 years ago. Any errors and omissions are mine, and for that I humbly apologise.

On the 6th September, 1956; Australian Government approval was given for Qantas to purchase seven Boeing B707-138 aircraft. About that time the Chief Executive, Cedric Oban Turner came to Hangar 85 and  all the engineering staff were assembled there to hear him give a talk about the reason why the Boeing aircraft was selected.

Later, all engineering staff were given a Boeing produced A4 size 70 page booklet that gave basic descriptions and layout of the aircraft systems. Those selected to go to the new Boeing 707 section were given courses on airframes, engines, electronics and instruments according to your trade at the Engineering Technical School in Hangar 20. I did the airframe course, and another on basic electronics, as the B707 was state of the art at that time. New was the 115 volt, 400 cycle power system and transistors etc. It was in this era that transistor radios came into vogue.

Those that were selected to join Boeing Servicing and go to the new aircrew training base at Avalon near Geelong in Victoria went to a meeting that gave us details of accommodation and pay rates, they were generous.

In the Qantas Super Constellation era, flight crew training was carried out at Narromine about 300 kilometres northwest of Sydney, and sometimes at the RAAF operational base of Williamtown, 140 kilometres north of Sydney. With the advent of the B707, another airport at Avalon in Victoria was selected to be the training base.

Why Avalon was selected I do not know, but the training regime that I saw in the first four months was extensive, flying operations from 7am until 11pm. At times there could be two aircraft in the circuit alternating on ‘touch and go’ landings. This could not have happened at Williamtown, being an operational RAAF base, or at Narromine, the airport being close to the town, as the locals would not have been impressed with jet engine noise.

Another factor would have been the number of people involved and where to accommodate them; Geelong near to Avalon was a city and had numerous hotels and boarding houses available. Lack of accommodation at Williamtown and Narromine probably ruled them out. This is just a surmise on my part.

Avalon airport was some 55 kilometres west of Melbourne and 19 kilometres east of Geelong. It was in a location away from a populated area. Avalon was a Government Aircraft Factory site and had a single 10,000 foot long north to south runway, but the only aircraft I ever saw using it were our aircraft. This was the place that the Air Force aircraft were built; the CAC Sabre was in production at this time. There were four hangars about a kilometre from our operating base, we were told one was Plant Five, ’TOP SECRET’, and never to go there.

The first 707 to arrive in Sydney was EBB on 2nd July, 1959 at 1.48pm. EBA was the first delivered to Qantas in Seattle, but stayed there whilst the rudder mechanism was changed from air assist [like the ailerons and elevators] to a power boost system. This is what I believed but later learned that the delay could have been to certify fifth pod operations. EBC was delivered to Sydney on 9th July, 1959. It scraped the #3 engine pod on landing; the engine assembly was changed as a precaution. I heard on the landing that the Boeing personnel on board were concerned and ready to exit the aircraft.  EBA was delivered to Sydney on 20th July, 1959.

On the day before the first aircraft arrived I was sent to assist Laurie Acord, a very quiet speaking man, to get things ready for the arrival.  On the big day of 2nd July, 1959 I was a member of the arrival crew. Why I was selected is a mystery to me. At that time I was a happy engineer working on Super Constellation aircraft on airframe servicing. Laurie Acord was in charge of the engineering arrival team, I think the tug driver was the senior driver, George Higbid, and there were two more engineers. Bill Hoffman could have been one of them.

We were all dressed in white overalls with caps. Before the aircraft arrival Tom, who was in charge of the new Boeing 707 Servicing Section gave us a talk. There must have been three engineers besides Laurie, as Tom said that we were to be stationed with one at each wingtip and one at the tail. His comment was ‘That you are there to protect the aircraft in case the crowd rushes it’.

On arrival I was sent to stand at the right wing tip. Later in looking at the engines I saw a couple of oval panels on the right engine side cowl of #3. I pushed on one a bit and it fell into the space between the cowl and the engine. I could not refit it. Actually it was a knock in panel that could be used to stick a fire extinguisher in to quell an engine fire.

When the aircraft was towed over to our new base, [just a shed as the hangar had not been erected], I was assigned to the flight station to operate the brakes.

After arrival, a couple of pilots came into the flight station to have a look around.  The Captain's sliding window was open and one of them tried to run it forward and close it without releasing the hold open catch. The result was it came off the tracks and into the flight station but there was no damage done to it.

I was eager to get home and view the arrival on the television. During wash up in the locker room, I left my new white officers type cap behind. It had to be returned to stores, so later next day I went and saw the Personnel Officer, Jack Parker. He understood my problem and gave me an old cap he had in his office. I handed it into stores and there the matter rested.

A couple of weeks before the first Boeing 707 arrival in Sydney some engineers were sent down to Avalon to set up the base. There was a building away from the hangars along the Melbourne to Geelong road that was our office headquarters; it was referred to as ‘Qantas House’. It contained an office for the engineering boss Don Smith. It was also used as a workshop to where we removed worn tyres from the wheel hubs and fitted new tyres.

Qantas had sent down a couple of International Harvester Wagonair station wagon type vehicles, specially built for Qantas. They were used for transport from Geelong to the Avalon airport, a distance of 19 kilometres. We also did servicing on the Wagonairs there.

The road from ‘Qantas House’ went down a grade for about a kilometre to the north end of the runway. Here the Oil Company had a big fuel farm. Near it was an open fronted shed that stored the ground power units, start cart and tugs. Toilet facilities were also located there.

Our base at this end of the runway was an old bus. It never moved and the interior had been modified to be an office, with a workbench, aircraft manuals and seating with a table at the rear. A radio was fitted if contact with the aircraft was needed. Blokes being blokes, we had put up pin-up pictures out of magazines on the inside bus walls.  We also had a jeep as a general run-around vehicle. It could tow a start cart, but several times towed a ground power unit, it weighed a couple on tons and that really strained it. You would be driving it and one of your mates would put the gear lever into neutral as soon as you went back into gear they would put the transfer case 2WD to 4WD into neutral. Mates!!!  Driving from ‘Qantas House’ in the morning to where the aircraft was parked you could see rabbits sunning themselves in the morning sun. We were told never to touch them as the airport was a test station for the 1080 poison. One of the GAF workers caught a couple, but did not pass a bag search leaving the airport. They were that dopey from the poison, that it made it easy to catch one. There were also tiger snakes on the airport but we never saw one.

Tracking back a bit, EBB arrived on a Thursday afternoon. Next day some of us had to go to Avalon via a regular Constellation flight between Sydney and Melbourne. The Connie should have arrived in Sydney in the late afternoon, but was delayed so we did not leave Sydney until about 10pm. On the way down you could look at the #2 propeller which seemed to be stopped. The rotation of the propeller was in synchronisation with the red rotating beacon on top of the fuselage. This made the propeller seem to be stopped when the red light hit it.

We got to Melbourne Essendon Airport about midnight. Driven to a hotel in Melbourne, where there was a bit of confusion after check in. We did not know that the hotel was built with two levels, up to fifth floor and up to ninth floor. I was lucky with my room being on the fifth but some of the others got into a lift, went up to the fifth floor where the lift stopped and could not find a floor higher than the fifth.

I was awakened about 5am by the noise of the garbage trucks at ground level. After breakfast we bussed out to Avalon airport where Don Smith gave us a quick tour and then into our accommodation in Geelong. This was to several hotels and boarding houses.

Sunday was a day off, so we went for a walk and someone suggested we visit an RSL club as he was a member and all the hotels were shut but we found all the clubs were also shut. I did five trips down there and was accommodated in the Sydney Hotel or the 42 guest house. With the amount of people sent to Avalon, the town of Geelong must have had a great a great income boost.

Some of the fellows were in the Criterion Hotel, where the owner had a private bar. After working into the early hours of the morning they would get back to the hotel where the owner let them use his private bar for a few beers before retiring. They would settle the account next day.

Opposite the Sydney Hotel was a used car yard. I was standing there one morning around 5am awaiting the Wagonair to get to Avalon. I placed my bag near the kerb and had a wander looking at the cars. Next a car arrived, it was the police. They questioned me and took my name, asked why I was there etc, and left. Nothing more was heard about it.

Two shifts were operated. Dayshift was 7am to 3pm, and the afternoon shift was 3pm to 11pm. The dayshift crew were picked up around in 5am in town outside their accommodation and off to Avalon. Two or three were left at the aircraft to get it ready to fly, and the rest went off to breakfast in the GAF canteen, where it was always two poached eggs, bacon, toast and tea for breakfast. Because of this, to this day I hate poached eggs! The fellows left behind would put the start cart and ground power unit in position, power up the aircraft and refuel it. Then the breakfast people would arrive to take over as the air crew arrived and the early starters would go and get their breakfast.

We gave up drinking tea in the GAF canteen at lunchtime after seeing the fellow who collected the used cups pour any dregs back into the pot!

On afternoon shift after the days flying was finished around 11pm, half the shift would go back to their accommodation and the others would stay on into the wee small hours to ready the aircraft for the next days flying. We did this each night in rotation.

Our Industrial Award stated that when doing overtime we had to be provided with a meal. By 11pm, the GAF canteen was closed, so a Wagonair was sent into Geelong to pick up a load of pies in an insulated box. When the pies arrived they were nearly stone cold after a 19 kilometre trip in wintertime.

Roger and I shared a room at the 42 guest house on one trip. We would get home in the early morning hours, later that morning the owners would give us breakfast in bed around 9 or 10am. Nice people.

From Avalon at night the lights of the Aurora Australis could be seen in the southern sky.

To keep an eye on the aircraft on take-off and landing, two positions were placed beside the runway at half point and at the southern end. It was a tent with duckboards inside so you did not get wet feet. There was a radio to talk to the aircraft in case anything went wrong. I did mid strip duty only. The aircraft would come past heading north into an easterly cross wind, canted left wing down, the left main gear struts compressed and the right one extended, the right side wheels would touch the runway sometimes and you could see the bogie truck shake.

On the first flight down to Avalon in a 707 we were enjoying the vibration-free cabin, compared to what it was on a Super Constellation.  Some of us were putting pennies on their edge on the horizontal surface of the armrest ashtray. They would stay that way for a few minutes. The aircraft were that much smoother that an altimeter vibrator was fitted to the instrument panel near the pilots altimeters. It gave out some vibration to stop the altimeter pointers sticking due to some inherent friction.

In the U.S.A., I think it was the Qantas Chief Inspector who filmed the prototype B707 landing. They were using a mineral oil as a hydraulic fluid and had a brake fire. For this reason Qantas opted to use Skydrol 500, a phosphate ester base fluid. Skydrol was more resistant to catching fire, its weight was a bit more than the mineral fluid, but its greatest drawback was if it got into your eyes, or any part of the body that had tender skin, then it would really sting. You had to be careful when going to the toilet if you had not washed your hands first!

Another new innovation in the hydraulic system was the use of flareless tube fittings in place of flared fittings.

With the new Skydrol oil, care had to be used regarding the ‘O’ sealing rings used in the hydraulic system. Because Skydrol was a synthetic oil, we had to use Butyl type ‘O’ rings identified by a green stripe or a yellow and white dot. The Fluid 4 as used in the Super Constellations was a mineral oil that used Buna-N  type ‘O’ rings identified by a blue stripe. Using the wrong ‘O’ ring with the wrong type oil meant that the ‘O’ ring would swell up. Fluid 4 was a red colour and Skydrol was purple. A similar situation applied to the engines when a mineral engine oil of 120 grade as used on the Connies Wright engines  was replaced by the synthetic oil of Esso TJ 15 in the Pratt and Whitney JT3-6 engines.

I used to play a trick on a new recruit into my crew later on in the 70s and 80s. I would ask them if they had ever tasted Skydrol, then wipe my index finger in it, and place it in my mouth for a taste. I would then invite them to do likewise whereupon they would find the taste not too good. A drink of water soon cleared the taste as it was a minute amount. What they did not know was that I wiped my index finger in the Skydrol and placed my second finger in my mouth.

Late one night the jeep was despatched to pick up the man who had been on watch at the south end of the strip as the aircraft was making its last landing. Down the strip they came with the aircraft on short final behind them. The jeep did not like anything above about 50 kilometres an hour as it developed a horrendous case of the shakes but they made it safely.

An aircraft took off one morning and then the Captain came on the radio to give the tower a piece of his mind. He said ‘you told me the cloud base was 1,000 feet; I am at 800 feet and in cloud’.  Meteorology is always a bit of a guessing game. In the first month or two, the exhaust nozzles on the engines were replaced to give a thrust increase from 13,000 pounds to 13,500 pounds, a couple of aircraft were modified at Avalon. There was really no trade demarcation when down there, we always pitched in and helped each other if needed.

When the first aircraft EBB arrived at Avalon, on landing the pilot noticed the aircraft dragging to the left. It was found that a wheel bearing had welded itself together, due to due to the grease not being able to take the temperature. The bearing was stuck on the truck and was unable to be removed. The aircraft was taken to the hangar and a truck change was done. I was not involved as it was the opposite shift to mine.

We had a minimum of spare wheels at Avalon, an aircraft was sent back to Sydney one Friday with tyres about on the limit for wear, hoping that Sydney would change them. No such luck, it came back Monday morning with the same tyres fitted. I suppose that Sydney had the same problem.

Some weeks later, during an afternoon shift on EBD when flying had finished for the day, I did an inspection of the landing gear to find that the #1 rear brake rotors were glowing white hot. I placed a fire extinguisher aft of the gear and went on with the inspection. It took a long, long while to cool down. I mentioned the fact to the leading hand and suggested that the wheel be removed to check the bearing. I had this in mind after the EBB incident but he was not receptive to this suggestion. The aircraft went training next day. Later in the afternoon it returned to Sydney where a hot truck was found. So another truck was changed, this time in Sydney.

The Oil Company was asked to develop a grease to stop the bearings welding together. Some years later they came up with grease called WTR [Wide Temperature Range I think] that was a dark blue colour and cost about a pound in money for a pound weight of grease. Not cheap. In the meantime, it was found that Grease 6B did the job, and was used on all aircraft in the fleet until I left in 1991. The WTR was used eventually on the monoball operating rod of the engine turbo compressor on the 707-338C aircraft, only a small amount was needed.

When we got our first pay packet at Avalon it was found that the shift penalty payments were missing. Reason was that Qantas had sent down a young time keeper from Head Office and he had no idea of Industrial Awards and shift penalty payments.

Often, by 7am on a cold winter morning, we had the aircraft ready to go, Technical Crew on board, steps removed, 90 KVA ground power unit running and start cart ready to be fired up. The training Captain would spend a half hour giving instruction before he decided to depart. A cold, near frozen ground crew was waiting all the time.

The aircraft did four training sessions per day, from 7am to 11pm, coming back for servicing and refuelling after each session. Some were ‘touch and go' landings and the others were air work; we would not see them until they returned.

After the flying operations for the day had finished at 11pm, a crew of workmen went out to repair the runway. I do not know details of any damage to the runway, but heard that it cost £1000 pounds to repair a ten foot by ten foot [3 metres by 3 metres] area by night. Who paid for it I do not know.

My first flight in a Boeing 707 was on EBC back to Sydney. We took off heading north. All was fine until there was a sudden noise. It was the sound of the main landing gear doors opening and the landing gear retracting. It takes ten seconds for the doors to open, gear to retract and doors close. This noise was not heard on the piston driven aircraft as the gear retracts into a wheel well behind the inboard engine which was out on the wing. The noise level could have been louder than normal as the floor carpets had been removed. Originally when the 707 was designed there were some small doors that were located along the forward edge of the main landing gear wheel wells. On gear retraction and extension they projected into the airstream to reduce air noise, but for some reason never were on the production aircraft.

Next surprise was when the nose was lowered and the sense of acceleration seemed to cease. It was because the water injection thrust augmentation had been turned off.  The water injection tank was located between the main gear wheel wells. It was the height and length of the wheel wells and about 30 centimetres wide. The injection pumps were at the bottom and aft end. They were positioned in a fore and aft line. One pump served the engines on one side and the other the engines on other side. The pumps had to be switched off after take-off before the water ran out, as the forward pump would run out of water before the aft one and this would cause the aircraft to yaw.

The water was injected into the engine at two places, in the engine intake just forward of the first stage N1 compressor blades and where the fuel injection nozzles were positioned before the combustion chamber. At low ambient temperatures the addition of water to the intake was deselected as it would cause icing. The Flight Engineer had then to open an electrically operated drain valve to drain out the residual water. Failure to do so before the aircraft got into colder air meant that the valve would ice up and the operating shaft would shear. This was a problem for the next line station to deal with. The valve was located just aft of the pumps and could only be closed on the ground. One of the engineers came up with a solution to run a tube for warm cabin air to blow on the valve, this kept it warm and cosy. Problem solved!

The water used was demineralised as any minerals in the water over a period of time would cause damage to the turbine blades. On a couple of occasions in Sydney we had to use local town water when the demineralised water was unavailable.

After the first 707 went to Avalon, there were photos of the take-off in the Sydney newspapers, showing the large amount of black smoke that the aircraft put out on a water injection take-off. Some local airport housewives were interviewed, and complained that they would have to do their clothes washing again.

The engine bleed valve was located on the left side of the JT3C-6 engine. When power was reduced for descent, the noise of the air coming out of the bleed valve could be heard if you were sitting forward of the wing on the right hand side. To basically explain, there are two compressors on the engine, N1 the low stage and after it N2 the high pressure stage. At low engine speeds the N1 puts out too much air for N2 to accept. To keep the engine operating smoothly at low engine speeds, some air from N1 is dumped overboard via the bleed valve. This is the noise to be heard. At higher speeds the bleed valve closes. Failure of a bleed valve when doing engine runs on the ground can result in loud bangs from the engine, and momentary flames from the rear end and the intake as the gas flow reverses.

On one flight home at cruise altitude there was a sudden noise of escaping air from the back of the cabin. Everyone sat there thinking, what is this? One of the Boeing Company engineering representatives went down the back and soon the noise diminished. After landing I went to see what had happened, the door seal at the bottom of the galley loading door had blown out at the bottom for a short distance. There was a rubber decorative trim seal at the bottom of the door escape slide. He had fashioned a wire coat hanger to fit between the trim seal and the door sill and although this did not cure the air leakage it certainly reduced the noise level.

Some of the return flights to Sydney were made at night, coming up the coast off shore from Wollongong to Sydney. We had a nice view of the lights of the suburban areas along the coast as we descended.

Two of the flights that I was on left in the afternoon. Qantas had been doing a sales promotion in Bendigo, so we flew up at a medium altitude and then did a number of circuits of the town. Over the town in a banked attitude, level up for a few seconds, down with the other wing and around again. This happened a couple of times.

The other occasion was when we left Avalon about 4 or 5pm. When we arrived at Sydney we went over the airport at cruise altitude. The idea in those days was to arrive at altitude and then come down to airport level in two big circuits. This was known as a ‘Jet Penetration’. It was very nice to see Sydney as you went around and around getting lower and lower on the descent. We then went over Sydney Airport as a missed approach, back up to altitude and off to Brisbane. Same approach into Brisbane, and then off to Sydney again for a landing. Total time from Avalon to Sydney was around four hours. Why the ‘Jet Penetration’ method of approach was abandoned I do not know, but as a passenger it was an interesting procedure to view in daylight.

On one landing at Avalon to the south, we turned around for the long 10,000 foot taxi back to our base. The Captain put some power on and we came back down the strip at a very fast speed. There was only one runway at Avalon and no adjacent taxiway, so we had to back track down the runway.

There was a rudder defect that needed inspection of the rudder power control unit that was located halfway up the fin. To get to it, a crane was hired and someone sent up in a bosun chair arrangement to remove a half metre by 25 centimetre panel for inspection of the power unit.

In the piston aircraft era the wheel well interiors were painted silver. The 707 wheel wells were painted white which was much better from a light point of view when working in them, especially at night.

Eventually, as the introductory training of air crew wound down, Sydney ground engineers were not required. Avalon was still used but ground engineers were sent out from Melbourne as required to service the aircraft. This continued into the B707-338C and early B747-238B times. As simulators came into fashion, the need to use aircraft for flight training ceased.


A few tales regarding Geelong.  Monday to Friday, the shops in the main street would close smartly at 5pm. Ten minutes later there would not be a person to be seen on the streets.  As it was winter there were gas heaters overhead the shop front awnings. This was where you would stop to talk to friends in the warm air from above.

Princess Alexandra had visited the Geelong Botanical Gardens around the time of one of my visits. I saw the gardens after her visit. People had stood anywhere to get a glimpse of her, and so the place was in a mess as all the plants had been trampled underfoot.

The Holden FC model had been released around this time. The local Holden dealer had removed all the trim from a new model, covered the paintwork in a floral fabric, and refitted the trim. It was in the showroom with the motto of ‘Step into Spring with a Holden’

I will not go into what some Qantas engineers did after work, but will relate a tale of one fellow who had a few too many to drink and wandered off to find his hotel after dark. He saw a taxi cab, got into it and told the driver to take him to the ‘xxx’ Hotel. The cabbie did a U-turn in the street and said ‘There you are’.

On a day off, a few of the fellows were in town when they were asked by the Police if they would assist by being part of an identity parade line up. They did so, and whilst waiting for the witness to arrive, one of the Detectives walked into the room, pointed to one of our fellows said. ‘That’s him’. The Detective was having a bit of fun, but our fellow did not think it amusing at the time.

One of our engineers was due to rotate back to Sydney on a Friday evening flight and he had let it be known that his engagement party was to be on the Saturday night. He was told that the aircraft would be staying at Avalon for training over the weekend. So be got busy and worked out a way to get into Melbourne and catch a British Overseas Airways Corporation Bristol Britannia flight to Sydney. This was using Staff Travel facilities. Then they told him that it was not possible as the Britannia was unserviceable in Singapore with an engine change. He was not a very happy fellow, and all the time he was fed false information as a joke. Eventually he was told the truth. The 707 went back to Sydney as scheduled with a much relieved engineer.


The original JT3C-6 engine was a very simple affair, but state of the art for those days. We had an aircraft on the run bay, and for some reason one engine did not come up to performance standards, so it was required to be changed. This was done on the run bay, the engine being a simple affair meant that two control rods to the fuel control, a number of electrical cannon plugs, and three hydraulic lines if it was #2 or 3, turbo compressor air outlet if it was #2, 3, or 4, and pneumatic ducting to the starter and the water injection line. The entire engine change took 45 minutes.

There was an air compressor located in the right main gear wheel well that was driven by aircraft utility hydraulic system in flight to pressurise an air bottle located in the wing root fairing aft of the right wing. The idea was to have the air sent to a combustor starter on #3 engine, where with a bit of jet fuel also it generated enough gas to drive the engine starter. This meant that an engine could be started where a ground start cart was not available. When #3 engine got going, the turbo compressor was turned on and then enough air was available to start the remaining three engines. This system was later deleted.  The crew and cabin oxygen bottles were located in the rear cargo hold. One of the electronics engineers put in a Staff Suggestion that the oxygen bottles be relocated to the wing fairing area where the air bottle had been located, thus freeing up more cargo hold space. He got a good award for this idea.

The departures to San Francisco left Sydney at 5pm daily. When the last JT3C-6 aircraft left for modification to 138B and an up grade to JT3D-1 standard, the engineers with a license on the JT3C-6 found that license payments for that engine stopped as of the next day.

The original oil used in the engines was Esso TJ-15, and a year or two later the switch was made to Mobil Jet Oil 2, which is still being used these days. A warning was issued from the U.S.A., re Esso TJ-15, some engineers over there found that it could be used as a suntan lotion, but not to do so as it would be absorbed into the skin and cause paralysis.

Two of us were working around midnight on the water injection pumps in the keel beam. Access was good if the two main landing gear doors were closed, not so bad if one was open, and near impossible with both down. We had the left door down and right one up. For some reason we had to switch them around. I went and opened the right door and made it safe. Then I noticed a leak from the previously mentioned air start bottle system line, evident by ice build up so I went back to get a spanner from my toolbox which was on the ground near the aft end of the left door. I forgot about the left door closing. My mate put the operating handle up to close the door. I saw it coming a bit too late and was hit down the right side of my crouching body as I rolled out to the left, thinking at the time that I might hit the fillet flap which was fully down. Luckily I missed the fillet flap and although I received a bit of a thump from the door I was not injured.

At the very rear end of the fuselage were located two flares. In the event of night time water ditching, they could be released individually, being held in position by a solenoid latch. The exterior panel just below the flares chute was a very thin metal which would be penetrated by a circular cutter driven by the weight of the released flare. The flares were attached to the aircraft and as they fell away, after a certain distance the attachment snapped, allowing the flare to open a parachute, ignite and illuminate the area below. To prevent the flare going off if the switch was actuated on the ground, the attachment line was long enough to allow the flare to hit the ground before igniting. Another item that was later removed from the aircraft.

To trim the JT3C-6 engine take-off power settings, both the side cowls were removed, a trim box was hung on the right side of the engine which was then opened up to trim setting by an engineer in the Flight Station and adjustments made on the box. You never stood in front of or behind an engine during an engine run or on the left side. If the engine was at high power and you were on the left side then when the thrust lever was closed from a high power the air coming from the bleed valve would knock you off your feet. On the later JT3D-1 fan engine this engine trim was done by having the box in the Flight Station and electrical leads to the engine.

On the run bay one day the foreman doing the engine run did his walk around check and found a 3/8 by 7/16 inch spanner lying in the inlet cowl at the rear. He could not reach it and told the leading hand to retrieve it and give it to him after the engine run. Punishment was to be meted out to whoever left it there. The leading hand found that there were identification marks on it, so during the engine run, a scout around was done to find an unmarked spanner. One was found and no one punished, the foreman was none the wiser as to what happened.

One type of ground head set used by the engineers had a 'bone dome' helmet with a microphone with a wire mesh cover. The wire mesh would pick up signals from a local radio station that could be heard in the headset.

On the run bay one day, an engine was put into the reverse thrust position, but the engine side cowls had not been latched. This meant that the reverser gases blew the cowls off. They were supposedly sent into the swampy area near the aircraft.

To park the brakes meant that you had to push down on the top of the rudder pedals, lift a lever on the left side of the central thrust lever pedestal, hold the lever up, take your feet off the pedals and that would hold the pedals down and the brakes were then parked. Boeing said that it was impossible to park a left or right side individually; it could only be done as left and right together. An engine run was being done with #3 or #4 at a fair bit of power but only the left side brakes were parked. The aircraft rotated to the left and the #3 engine hit the ground start cart.

To refuel the aircraft, at the bottom of the Flight Engineers lower panel was a guard that was rotated downwards, and a rotary switch selected to refuel each tank. With a trimmer knob, the amount of fuel desired per tank was set. When the desired amount of fuel was on board, a light at the refuelling station on the wing told the person there to shut off the refuel valve. This system must have been not too good as it was abandoned after a short while. The method then adopted was to pull down the fuel drip sticks, and when the required amount of fuel was in a tank fuel would come out the drip stick. A call to the under panel wing operator from some one watching the drip stick would see the fuel supply shut off. Spraying fuel on the ground would not be a good idea with the ‘Greenies’ these days. When observing EBA at Longreach I found that the operating system at the Flight Engineer station was still there, I thought that it would have been removed a very long time ago.

When Boeing first designed the 707 it was to have a hydraulic system of 3,000psi operated by a pump located on each inboard engine, #2 and #3. These worked the whole system and were known as the Utility System. The Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] were not happy with this and so the system was redesigned so that the inboard spoilers/speed brakes were operated by an electric A.C. driven pump called the Auxiliary System. Thus the inboard and outboard spoiler/speed brakes were operated from two different pressure sources. Then when the power boosted rudder was installed, it was driven also by the auxiliary system. Pressure in the auxiliary system was read by a gauge on the First Officers instrument panel, called Rudder Hydraulic Pressure. The speed brakes were designed to retract or ‘blow down’ if open at high airspeeds. This was a protection idea to prevent aircraft damage. They were deflected up to a maximum of 60 degrees at an indicated airspeed of 200 knots and ‘blow down’ to an angle of about 10 degrees at an indicated airspeed of 360 knots. In the early days, the incoming aircrew would report seeing a pressure reading of 4,000psi on the rudder pressure gauge during descent. The cause was the speed brakes having been opened and then ‘blown down’, increasing the system pressure. I forget what the cure was, possibly a 3,000 relief valve to dump excess pressure back into return line.

The wing leading edge, engine nose inlet cowl and engine inlet vanes were anti-iced by hot air bled off the engine compressors. The leading edges of the horizontal stabiliser and fin were a different system. It had a neoprene rubber boot with electric heating wires inserted in it, with an outer cover of stainless steel. If a discharge of lightning hit the outside of the stainless steel it would burn a hole inside the boot and cut a heating wire. A complete change of the leading edge was then needed. Boeing later did tests with artificial mock up ice on the leading edges of the tail assembly and found that the anti-icing system was no longer needed, so it was deleted. To expand further, there is no anti-icing on the 747 and 767 tail leading edges, but I do not know about other Boeing models.

The B707-138 and 138B aircraft had two water tanks located in the roof at each end of the cabin. There was a mechanically operated gauge on the bottom of the tank that could be observed via a peephole. Sometimes the pointer of the tank gauge would read empty when you knew that it was full. So the trick was to lower the roof mounted access panel and give the tank a 'thump' with a closed fist, thus freeing up what ever had caused the mechanism to stick and give an incorrect reading.

Teflon is something that is used widely in these times; it was something that came out of the ‘Space Race’ and was fairly new around 1959. It was used on cable and tubing clamps on the 707. Some machining turners in the U.S.A. who rolled their own cigarettes died as it was found that Teflon shavings in a ‘rolled your own cigarette’ were a lethal combination.

Hangar 96 West was the Major Maintenance hangar; East was for the Periodic checks. On the western side, Cyclone scaffolding was hung from the roof to get access to the fin and rudder. Planks were laid on it and ladders used to climb up it.  The story is that some person got onto the State Government who sent out an Inspector. He condemned it on the spot and reportedly said ‘You have to take this down’. The Company reply was ‘We will take it down tomorrow’. The Inspector said ‘You will take it down starting now!’  That was the story I heard. Later a more permanent tail docking was fitted.

Another story was about a Union having a State Government department come out and having noise levels checked re possible hearing loss. Company reportedly told them it was Federal Territory and they could not come onto the base.  After the story about the Cyclone scaffolding, makes me wonder.

We had no hangar in Sydney for 707 servicing those days, only a shed that we operated out of where the rear of  hangar 191 West is now located. I remember that one summer we had four consecutive days of 38C plus temperatures, the fifth day it was under 38C. All work was done in the open. No Slip, Slop Slap preventive measures were taken in those days.

When Hangar 131 was finished, the fire extinguishing deluge system was tested. It was done one night and I was able to see it. The water came out of many nozzles in the roof, so much that it was impossible to see the last two rows of hangar lights at the rear of the hangar. It was said that you could not breathe in there due to the amount of water released, probably an urban myth type of story.

And a final word, if I may. This website of Ron Cuskelly`s is a part of the Australian National Library's Pandora Project to preserve Australian history. It has been my great pleasure to exchange many emails over a period of time to assist Ron in his endeavours to preserve Australian history, and to meet him and his wife at the arrival of EBA at Longreach. I wish Ron all the best for the continuance of what is a sterling effort on his part. May the good work be continued.

Bill Fishwick
November 2007

See also Bill's photos of 707s at Avalon


Original issue.