This time around I am taking a slightly different approach to the blog as Noteworthy Collectibles is not only about banknotes and coins but about all items that are collectible with an all Australian theme.
As a child I was a very active aviation enthusiast. I took every opportunity to build model aircraft and even spent my time writing away and collecting brochures from Beechcraft, Lear jet and Cessna. I lived in a house which was shared by my Uncle. He was a pilot and his enthusiasm for all things flying fueled my own curiosity. This in due course led to many childhood flights which were in a mixture of aircraft from Cessna, Gypsy Moth, Blanik gliders, Beechcraft Baron E58 to a Douglas DC 3 and even an Orion submarine tracking aircraft on a trip around Tasmania. On one very fortunate and highly exhilarating occasion I was taken up in an Italian 2 seat Macchi MB-326 training jet at the East Sale Air force base as a part of my Sergeants promotion course. My childhood had many good years.
My Uncle gained his pilot wings flying in both Winjeel and Wirraway aircraft with the Royal Australian Air Force at the Point Cook Air Force Base near Melbourne. I remember him telling me that they would use a sea reef at low tide off the southern coast of Victoria, near a small coastal town called Anglesea, as a target range for practicing their strafing skills. On one sortie he and 4 others flew down the coast from Point Cook and set about peeling off from formation, diving towards the reef and laying down fire on each pass. This would rate as a big time fail on the Eco friendly score card. His number 2 wing man ran into problems when his starboard machine gun jammed. After repeated attempts to clear the jammed gun it finally freed up and then on the next pass it actually backfired and exploded which resulted in the wing disintegrating and the pilot being forced to bail out. What’s left of the plane probably still lies on the sea bed some 2 nautical miles off Point Roadknight .
After leaving the air force he became a commercial pilot flying cloud seeding missions for the Australian Government over the Western District of Victoria and also into New South Wales. Cloud seeding employed the injection of silver iodine from dispersal spray jets into the cumulus clouds in order to form ice and hopefully then for the ice to precipitate into rainfall. The program of rainfall enhancement has, despite years of testing from 1947 through till more recent times, proved to be a fairly fruitless exercise. Later when the cloud seeding program was abandoned locally he flew mail runs from Melbourne to the Murray River region and further up to Adaminiby, north-west of Cooma in the Snowy Mountains.
In his later years he was a writer for the Australian Aviation Safety Digest. His most famous article “Anatomy Of An Air Crash”, related to an unreported air crash at the Ballarat Aerodrome in 1974. It was published in 2 parts. The first part took into account the aircraft type, its age, the local weather conditions on the day of the crash and the fact that no bodies were ever recovered from the crash site. It laid down a hypothesis relating to pilot error and possible mechanical or airframe failure as the main causes.
He received a barrage of letters over the next few weeks by outraged and bewildered aviation professionals inquiring as to how an accident of this type could occur without the proper authorities being notified and a full investigation being instigated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Part 2 of the story was published in the next edition. In this final installment he revealed that the aircraft in question had indeed suffered from structural failure when the wing broke free from the fuselage due to a lack of suitable glue, that the engine driving the aircraft was completely under powered at 2cc’s and the pilot of the aircraft was without any former flight training. He concluded in his findings by remarking in the closing lines that as an Uncle he failed his 10-year-old nephew , not only as an instructor in the construction of the control line model aircraft but also in providing sufficient flight instructions to his nephew on how to control the model aircraft once it took off.
Needless to say the mail responses he got in the weeks to follow varied from those who adored the humorous approach of his article to those who were scathing in their rebuttal of his use of a professional journal for such, shall we say, flights of fancy! He was a fascinating man who taught me a great deal about aircraft and he shared his love of aviation with me on a great many levels, whether it was helping to glue the struts on a balsa wood model through to taking me on his flights around the state.
As you can see my interest in aviation and love of it has always been a big part of my life.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, I was contacted by a gentleman from the U.S.A. with an interesting offer involving the possible purchase of his old airlines memorabilia. My Uncle, had he still been alive would no doubt have bought them up from under me whilst I was still reading his email.
Naturally, I was delighted to be contacted in regard to something of this nature and given the items he was offering I was under no illusions as to their suitability for inclusion in my website.
Roderic F. Broome was the gentleman in question and as his story unfolded in a series of emails I was not only left somewhat in awe of what it pertained to but even more so, I suddenly realized that here was a tremendous story relating to 1960’s Australian aviation, just waiting to be told.
Mr. Broome was also kind enough to provide me with some back ground on his time spent as a pilot with T.A.A. It truly is a wonderful snapshot of Australia’s fledgling commercial airline industry.
Trans-Australian Airlines (T.A.A.) was a public servant based organisation set up in 1946 to bring together a nationwide network of flight routes. It was a major event in Australian history as it signaled the beginning of an era of affordable air transportation. It would also eventually bring competition to a market place along with Qantas and Ansett airlines on the passenger routes.
In my original communications Mr. Broome sent me a few pictures of items which he wanted to sell.
“Top row— left is my T.A.A. uniforms wings…next to that is the members badge from the Cocos Club from 1965…we flew the DC4 there once a month and the club there was the only building that was not for private use….nothing like today as is set up with tourist accommodation….in the 1960s Cocos Islands was still under the private control of the Clunies-Ross family.
Second row— these are pins that were given out by international airlines in the 1950 and 1960 or to passengers, these were placed on jacket lapels and ties. 1st is Qantas, next 2 I believe are from Air New Zealand and the last I think is from Air India To the right are 2 tie pins and chains, one is a Boeing 707 and the other a Boeing 727, I am not sure who gave these to me.
These have all sat in a box here at home in USA and I now feel that should be sold so that persons who are true collectors can buy and display them.
I also flew as pilot for Northwest Airlines in Minneapolis, MN USA in 1969/1970 before being permanently laid off….I have since been flying various assignments connected to the US Air Force…items are WINGS and Hat emblem from original Northwest Airlines.
Northwest Airlines changed names many years ago to just Northwest and just over a year ago was purchased by Delta and the name has now gone.”
I have read the remaining information he sent to me over and over and I have come to the decision that the best way to relate the contents is to let the man himself tell it in his own words as related to me by his emails.
He wrote to me the following short history:
“Here is a brief history of me as it relates to the time I “wore” the T.A.A. wings you purchased.
I was born in UK and obtained a Private Pilot license there. – Emigrated to Australia 1961. Awarded a Government scholarship to help me obtain a Commercial Pilot license – On obtaining my Commercial Pilot license in mid 1964, I flew as a bush pilot for 4 months in Tamworth, NSW. – Hired by T.A.A. at the end of 1964, and at end of basic training was assigned to fly the DC4 (C54) as a First Officer, based out of Melbourne. – Left T.A.A. in spring 1968 to emigrate to the USA and continued my flying career flying with both an airline and the US Air Force.
While flying the DC4 with T.A.A. they owned five DC4s. Four were all cargo set up and one was an all passenger set up that flew charters both around Australia and overseas.
Routes I flew were :-
Cargo schedules were set up for 5 to 6 nights a week.
Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney-Brisbane – sleep during day and return at night Brisbane -Sydney-Melbourne Melbourne-Launceston-Hobart-Melbourne
Weekend flights every weekend :-
1) Sydney-Port Moresby-Lae-Sydney (Sat night depart, Sunday in Lae, Monday back to Sydney)
2) Brisbane-Mt Isa-Darwin-Melbourne (Sat night Depart, Sunday in Darwin, Monday back to Melbourne) For a while TAA also flew weekend flights to Melbourne-Perth-Cocos Island in Indian Ocean (Sat overnight in Perth, Sun night to Cocos)- needed to fly at night and carry a navigator for starting navigation etc. as Cocos only had a radio beacon that transmitted 300 miles….look how far out from Western Australia it is and the size of the Cocos islands and you can miss it even with navigator…no GPS in those days.
I also flew special “money” flights in/out of Canberra…..picked up money and flew to Sydney or Melbourne for the banks…was for Reserve Bank of OZ….had a whole bunch of “special” folks on board looking over our shoulders and asking every 5 minutes to show them where we were…!!!!! Did we look like robbers!!!!
Passenger schedules were all charter :-
Flew to Fiji. New Zealand, Cocos Islands in the Indian ocean, Nauru-via Honiara-Guadalcanal, when they became independent and had politicians etc. come from Australia etc. for the week-long celebrations. Also did a three-day charter out of Melbourne in around 1965/66 to King Island when they had World Championship Woodcutting event there.
Reason for the one DC4 set up for passengers was that T.A.A. had no planes when I was flying them that had the range needed for the longer sectors we flew of 10 hours and sometimes 12 hours. The R2000 engine was allowed to burn up to 1 g.p.h. of oil before they looked at pulling and “fixing”…for that reason in the cockpit area we had a reserve 15 gallon oil tank with electric pump that could and was used to top up any of the engines with oil during the flight I recall fuel full tanks were about 2400 gallons, they were not fuel in rubber liners, just fuel in compartments in the wings. With full fuel they sometimes sprung leaks at the under wing fuel inspections panels. If the fuel was dripping we would pump off 50 gallons from that tank and if it when down to just a weep we were good to go…if not another 50 gallons etc. until it did just weep…
All flights were flown at 7000 to 8000 feet T.A.A. had just installed radar on their DC4 fleet when I started…it was on left side of Captain seat so only he could see it….
Hope this helps.
The old pilots etc. of T.A.A. have a museum in Melbourne that is well worth a look at if you are ever in Melbourne….piles of “stuff”.
Roderic F Broome”
So what can I say or add to this. Truly a great insight and thought-provoking look at a bygone era in Australian aviation history. My sincere thanks to Roderic Broome for his time and input into this article. I would love to sit with this man and hear more of his stories of which I have no doubt there are many. His original T.A.A. wings and other pins relating to Australian airlines and regions will be on sale soon.
See the item listing here at Noteworthy Collectibles! You may enjoy watching the history of the T.A.A. Stewardesses and hearing their famous theme song.