Volume 3

 



DELIVERY FLIGHT SCHEDULE


Based on V.10 08DEC06
All dates and times are local

PORT
DATE
ARRIVE
PORT
DATE
DEPART
REMARKS
-
STA
ATA
-
STD
ATD
-
Southend
-
-
-
Southend
08DEC
0830
0905
Serviceable.
Dublin
08DEC
1000
1045
Dublin
08DEC
1200
1340
Serviceable.
Tenerife
08DEC
1610
1748
Tenerife
09DEC
0830
1135
Serviceable. See Note 1
Bermuda
09DEC
1115
1352
Bermuda
10DEC
1000
1015
Serviceable.
Orlando
10DEC
1150
1217
Orlando
11DEC
1000
1140
Serviceable.
Los Angeles
11DEC
1210
1358
Los Angeles
12DEC
1000
1052
Serviceable.
Honolulu
12DEC
1335
1418
Honolulu
14DEC
0800
0802
Serviceable.
Nadi
15DEC
1310
1239
Nadi
16DEC
0500
0519
Serviceable.
Sydney
16DEC
0900
0906
Sydney
-
-
-
Serviceable. See Note 2

Note: Some of the times shown in the above table were revised slightly on 23DEC06. This table was originally compiled while the delivery flight was in progress and the times shown are now known to have included a mix of airborne/landed and off blocks/on blocks times. For reasons of consistency, all ATD are now off blocks times and all ATA are now on blocks times. (For practical purposes, "off blocks" is when the aircraft departs the terminal and "on blocks" is when it arrives at the terminal). The times which have been amended are shown in bold.

 

PORT
UTC / GMT
Southend
0
Dublin
0
Tenerife
0
Bermuda
-4
Orlando
-5
Los Angeles
-8
Honolulu
-10
Nadi
+12
Sydney (DST)
+11
Time zone conversions are available here
 
NOTES
1
Tenerife Sur Reina Sofia (TFS/GCTS)
2
Flying beyond Sydney is subject to confirmation.

 

ABBREVIATIONS
STA
Scheduled Time of Arrival (Planned)
ATA
Actual Time of Arrival (Aircraft has arrived)
STD
Scheduled Time of Departure (Planned)
ATD
Actual Time of Departure (Aircraft has departed)

 


VH-XBA FLIGHT STATISTICS

The call-sign used for the delivery flight and all test flying
was the aircraft registration VH-XBA.

(Source: Capt Roger Walter)

Date
Sector
Flight Time
(Hours)
Distance
(Nautical Miles)
08DEC06 Southend - Dublin
1.7
318
08DEC06 Dublin - Tenerife
4.1
1 710
09DEC06 Tenerife - Bermuda
6.3
2 563
10DEC06 Bermuda - Orlando
3.0
932
11DEC06 Orlando - Los Angeles
5.3
1 997
12DEC06 Los Angeles - Honolulu
5.4
2 331
14DEC06 Honolulu - Nadi
6.6
2 783
16DEC06 Nadi - Sydney
4.8
1 748
Total
37.2
14 382
-
30NOV06 Ground Taxi Test
4.4
-
02DEC06 First Air Test
3.0
-
06DEC06 Second Air Test
3.5
-

Note: The Orlando-Los Angeles flight time was previously shown erroneously as 5.8 hours. This was corrected to 5.3 hours on 23DEC06. The total flight time originally shown was correct. The flight times quoted in this table are based on times "off blocks" and "on blocks" as shown in the schedule at the top of the page.

 

 

 

08 December 2006 - Friday
Southend - Dublin - Tenerife
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from VH-XBA: "After the gales of yesterday, the light drizzle greeting us at 0600 as we loaded the KG Kars van with our luggage was a mere inconvenience, looked upon as a definite improvement on the previous day's ferocity. The day was an hour or more off dawning and we drove away from the Erlsmere knowing our memories of its quirkiness would never fade in our collective memories as quickly as the physical vision had faded before we reached the end of Pembury Road. Oddly enough, we will miss this anachronism, with its trickly showers and squeaky floorboards, but more so for the friendliness of the staff, Dave, Craig's great Wednesday meals and the camaraderie so deeply formed under its roof. The sound of the bar bell rang in our ears. So, out to the dead quiet of SEN at 0630, to unload our bags and begin the process of departing this beautiful beast. First the media contingent was shuffled up to the Lashams Boardroom for a briefing, with Channel 9 from Sydney a welcome sight. At last our folks at home might be given some glimpse of what was soon to arrive. The chill of the December morning was more than offset by the warmth of the wishes for a safe journey. So many real friendships were made here among the kindred spirits we had tapped with so many Lashams engineers, office and stores staff, and with so little time to say exactly what we wanted to say, in the rain at Southend Airport, we bid our sad good-bye. The door was closed to the sea of faces that Ian Dorling had encouraged to be there to witness our departure and we began our last push-back onto the taxiway and the engine start. Once more, all four dependable engines lit up on cue with the 12 occupants of this flight to history glued to the windows to watch the scene unfold. The aeroplane was under the command of Captain Roger Walter, with Captain Brett Phoebe supporting in the right seat, Captain Murray Warfield in the observer's seat, FEO Harry Hermans at the panel with FEO Joe Plemenuk the wanderer. Cabin Supervisor Karen Glass, resplendent in her jungle green uniform complete with forage cap, authentic buttons with QEA embossed on them had six "crew" under her control, Airworthiness Manager Ken Cannane, Engineering Manager Peter Elliott, avionic specialist Denis Martin, airframe and engine arms and legs, Norman King, documentary maker Jeff Watson and cameraman David Telfer. The latter three were to experience their first flight on XBA, and the anticipation of seeing more than 15 feet of air beneath the wings was apparent. Cloudy air it might be going to be, but this was not important. Lined up now, the taxi revealing the old girl to be quieter than the average -400 in terms of cabin squeaks and undercarriage rattles, we waited as take-off thrust was applied, with the brakes soon thereafter to be released. Off they went, with XBA accelerating at a rate not remembered, it being quicker than anyone had thought. Dublin, here we come, but not until we had fulfilled our promise to say an aerial good-bye to the folks at Lashams and to Southend in general. The take off was routine and our departure gesture was made with XBA, after a right circuit, completing our promised fly-by to the waving, assume cheering spectators lined along the Lasham's hardstand, who went by in a blur at speed as XBA was about to be a part of the SEN scene no longer. There was now only one 707 at Southend and we were on our way.

Reaching a cruising level of less than 20.0, at 300kts, the Irish Sea soon gave way to Dublin International Airport and we were on the ground for our first and only Transit. All went well with Shell, with the fuel donation approved, (thank you, Mr Shell) this time leaving Muz's credit card manageable. We were greeted by enthusiastic airport staff, all of whom were happy to see the aeroplane for nostalgic reasons. The Shell refueller was completely across the fuelling procedures having done the same to Aer Lingus 707s almost all their life with that company. Others weren't yet born when XBA was new. Regardless, the interest was huge and we departed with a minor fuel tank leak which is apparent if the #2 and #3 Main tanks are filled.

Dublin-Tenerife is a sector not in any one's log book before, so already the aero is making history for the Flight Crew. Tenerife was reached uneventfully and we put XBA to bed with Nil Report in the Log. The other highlight of the day beside flying in the aeroplane for the first time, was the impressive bathroom water flow, hot and controllable, at our Tenerife hotel, the Jardin Tropical. We wondered what our two engineers still in Westcliff, Robert Phillips and Norm Mackay were up to at The Erlsmere. We slept well."
Meanwhile, back in Southend-on-Sea.
Southend Daily Report, Friday, 8 December 2006. Reported by Norm Mackay and Robert Phillips. DEPARTURE DAY! Everyone was awake early, most doing final packing before a 0530 breakfast. The crew bus arrived for the first group of travellers and their luggage at 0600, followed by a second trip for the crew and their luggage. Out at the aeroplane, pre-flight checks were performed, fuel samples taken and checked following Thursday afternoon refuelling and toilet servicing performed. Around 0730 lots of media people arrived under the control of Victoria Robinson (QF PR LHR) and Stephen Thompson (QF Commercial Mgr. UK / Europe). Murray Warfield and Peter Elliott were each interviewed by several of the groups; BBC, Channel 9 and Essex Radio amongst them. There was not much production in the ATC Lasham hangars, as many of their staff, with Manager Ian Dorling’s full approval, came to say farewell to the Team. Of course, Ian was at the front of the queue to wish everyone “Bon Voyage”. All were delighted to see the chrysalis-like transformation of Karen Glass, one minute in current QF Flight Attendant uniform, then magically appearing in a 1959 Flight Hostess uniform, which incidentally, she had tailored for herself specially for the return flight, a fitting tribute to our 1959 B707 and setting a nostalgic mood for the departure. Many photos were taken for posterity. The QFM Team remaining at Southend, Norm Mackay and Robert Phillips, said their goodbyes to the rest of the Team and prepared the aircraft for departure, Norm on the headphones in communication with the cockpit crew, Robert observing the pushback, connecting nose wheel steering and removing landing gear pins. At 0906 the aircraft was pushed back to the taxiway by ATC’s Matt Lawrence for the last time. All engines started perfectly and at 0919, the aircraft taxied away with our 12 friends onboard for a 0928 takeoff (using a bit more runway than the test flights due to full cargo holds). XBA commenced a right circuit after takeoff to return for a clean, low level, high speed pass over the field to say farewell to all those assembled around the field to observe this historic moment. With engines throttled back to idle over the “piano keys”, it was eerie to have the aircraft pass almost silently in front of us with just an onomatopoeic “whooooosh”. 5,300 ft later, the thrust levers were re-opened with the powerful Pratt & Whitney JT3Ds sucking the pollution out of the atmosphere and concentrating it in the exhaust efflux. Oddly, the # 2 engine, fitted with new fuel manifolds didn’t produce this phenomenon. Course was then set for Dublin as all the Southend observers watched XBA fade into the distance. Norm and Robert then proceeded to return borrowed furniture, workbenches and equipment to the Fire Station and ATC Lasham offices and hangars from which they were borrowed. Next task was to pack the final pallets with items to be returned to Sydney. Much of the tidying process had been done during packing preparations for flight, so it wasn’t too arduous. A phone call to Keith Bell (QF Logistics Mgr UK/Europe) was all that was needed to start the shipping process. At about 1100 we received a phone call in the QFM Embassy Hut from Peter Elliott to say they were safely on the ground in Dublin. Great news that, and “No Defects” as well. After lunch, with the hut cleaned, International hotline phone disconnected and the tarmac swept clean of FOD material, there only remained the task of saying goodbye to all those who had helped us during the Project - the Southend Airport staff, Fire & Rescue Service, the Canteen girls and finally to all the friends we had made in the ATC Lasham hangars and workshops. Finally, we went to say “Thank You” to Ian Dorling on behalf of the whole Team. On the way back to the Erlsmere Hotel, we returned one of the Avis cars, its duty done. Back at the hotel, Robert received a phone call from Team member Ben Hunter in the QF International Operations Centre in Sydney advising that XBA and the Team had safely arrived at Tenerife, slightly later than planned due to a minor fuel leak in Dublin when the tanks were filled to capacity. Shortly after, a joint SMS message was received from Norm King and Karen Glass advising us of their safe arrival. We were touched that even with all that had happened today, they still thought to let “The Last Men Out of Southend” know what was happening. We then enjoyed our final evening meal together at one of our favourite eateries – da Vinci’s Italian restaurant, just around the corner.
09 December 2006 - Saturday
Tenerife - Bermuda
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from VH-XBA: "The alarm is not my friend, always wanting me up at least an hour before I wish to. This morning was to be a transport time of 0700, and so as Universal had arranged, 0700 it was when the bus collected us for the trip to Tenerife International. Today was the true test of the slogan, "Dependable Engines", with a 7-odd hour trip planned for our beautiful aeroplane, across the Atlantic. Murray, Roger and Brett have spent huge amounts of time doing the organising of the route this aeroplane will take to reach eventually Longreach and manageable sector lengths are primary. This one was nevertheless the longest we had been going to attempt and success would auger well for the remaining ones. The manana ethic applies here on this Island and there was a long wait at the crew transfer for our first bus from the pick up point to the aero. When finally it did arrive, there was a door opening problem, which meant that only baggage could be transported so we watched as the bus sped off with our bags while we waited for another bus. A little comedy to relieve the bite of the wind which by now was over 20kts. Eventually we were taken to the aero but had a long wait for the fuel because Shell headquarters had not yet provided the Tenerife office with the correct documents to approve the donation of fuel for us to use for the trip to Bermuda. The day may have started slowly but once all was in order, the flight to freedom was soon to commence from our position of magnificent isolation, well away from any prying eyes of the regular Tenerife travellers but not from the die-hard enthusiasts who had pics of the landing at Tenerife on the web before we got to the hotel last night. We started, taxied then took off to the west to bring Australia just that little closer to us. This was a sector to catch up on some sleep, for Jeff Watson to do some interviews, Karen to practice her galley skills and for the engines to prove their mettle. In addition, your humble scribe was afforded the great honour of 30 minutes at the panel under the very watchful eye of Plucka. All those sensations that had been ingrained in my mind came back to life, and despite my 707 experience being confined to the -338, this -138 behaved in a very similar manner. Manual thrust management to maintain M.80 was good to experience again and a panel scan revealed a feel to the switches that instantly felt familiar. It was a really kind gesture, Muz and Plucka, and this old purple emperor thanks you both and the whole crew for allowing me this privilege. Pictures to treasure. There was only a moment or two of turbulence this sector and before we knew it, descent into Bermuda began and another brand new airport was soon to be added to the log books. We were vectored a long way around to avoid traffic and having done that successfully, landing at Bermuda saw us end a very satisfying day in a steadily warming environment. We were met by the fuelling truck, and tomorrow's fuel load has been uplifted and checked before we left the airport, so departure will be very simple. Instead of gas and go, we just go. An HF radio defect was the only snag and only #4 required an oil top up, 3 quarts needed to bring the level up. Tomorrow is a shorty, only 2-odd hours to Orlando, Florida. XBA is goin' good."
Meanwhile, back in Southend-on-Sea.
Southend Daily Report, Saturday, 9 December 2006. Reported by Norm Mackay and Robert Phillips. With only two of us here, there’s not much to say. After a final breakfast together, we both had tasks to do - Robert packing for the trip home on QF 2 tonight, Norm making contact with family at home. Having said fond farewells to all the Erlsmere staff, who had looked after all of us over a period of 5½ months, the KG Kars taxi arrived punctually to take Robert to Heathrow, leaving Norm Mackay on his own, and “The Last Man Out of Southend” (with apologies to Jeff Watson for plagiarising his film title). Whilst enjoying the ambience of the British Airways Business Lounge, Robert received a surprise call from Joe Plemenuk (Plucka) advising that XBA and Team were safely in Bermuda – again welcome news.
10 December 2006 - Sunday
Bermuda - Orlando
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from VH-XBA: "A four hour time shift westward was a most welcome consequence of landing in Bermuda. In at around 1200, even though our bodies were feeling the fatigue, at least we were able to relax for a few hours before dinner, a meal we have been having over the last few days at times ranging from 2100 to 2230. For all of us, but possibly not for our aeroplane, Bermuda was another first, with the impression that Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson may have left their mark over 60 years ago on this remote insurance and cruise ship destination dominated economy. A pleasing blend of UK and US culture, the capital, Hamilton was decked out with Christmas decorations and suddenly we were reminded of how close to this time we are, still a long way from home. We were delighted to meet the Hotel manager, Edward, a Melbournian originally, who was equally pleased to hear a few G'day Mates in the lobby. This afternoon, on arrival, we were met with toilet service and fuel trucks, so we left a fuelled and sanitised XBA in the sunshine as we drove away to another hotel to rival the Erlsmere. In the morning, all we had to do was turn the ignition key and fly away. We were collected at 0800 and were given a guided tour of the bit of island between our hotel and the airport, with the homes or businesses of the likes of Alan Greenspan, Michael Douglas and Patrick Rafter pointed out to us mere mortals. As to the object of all our attention, I feel she may be feeling a little on her own now, with her reliability signalling the change in this project from the fix phase to the fly phase. She likes flying and the more she is exercised, the better she performs. Our attentions so far have involved swinging a speed brace in Dublin to investigate the source of a fuel weep, determined to have been from the glove area at #2 Main tank but acceptable for further flight, adding 5 qts of engine oil to #4 over the 3 sectors so far flown, cleaning the windscreen in BDA and checking out an intermittent HF radio problem. Oh, and the pilots' map holder on the glare shield came adrift and needed DSTing again. The flight control systems, thrust reversers and hydraulics have all been behaving themselves and the aeroplane is flowing very close to book and has made fuel on one occasion. What more can we ask?

Well, we have landed at Orlando and taxied to the parking bay only to be told to taxi back to the spot adjacent to the Customs and Border Patrol unit about a 1/2 mile back where we came from. These guys don't make house calls. From there we will be cleared and can then make our appointment with history, as we join with another famous aeroplane for a photo shoot. Sure enough, as we wait for clearance in the hut after having had to drag all the bags out of the boot (Thanks Brett, Joe and Harry) an excited Karen cries out "There she is!" and Boeing 707-138B, N707JT taxis past on its way to the spot we had just vacated. Eventually we are declared persona grata and we fire up the inboards to taxi back to join John Travolta and his 707. It's a day most would say was pretty exciting, Hollywood movie star, police protection, entourage, make up artist, PA, the works, not to mention what John Travolta had brought along as his assistants. The two 707s were brought 90 deg nose to nose and the Kodak Moments (period cameras only for this shoot) began. Every possible combination of people and groups was posed alongside aircraft and actor and everyone went away with praise for the man's demeanour and grace. Everyone will have his or her magic moment recorded. An exercise in pure publicity, the shoot still allowed all of the two crews to mingle, visit each other's toy and compare notes. It was interesting to see that the N707JT Flight Engineer is one Keith Baird. Although not related to AB, he was nonetheless delighted to know he shares his name with Arthur. To the Airport Marriott tonight and the promise of a good day tomorrow as we do a trans-US flight. LAX awaits tomorrow with a water cannon salute proposed."
Meanwhile, back in Southend-on-Sea.
Southend Daily Report, Sunday, 10 December 2006. A quiet day for Norm Mackay, returning the rental car to Avis, packing for the trip home on QF2 tonight and time alone to be pensive about all that was achieved here, also grateful to have been a part of a great Team. Then time to farewell the Erlsmere staff and make the M25 trip for the last time this visit. Next obstacle was to spend 4½ hours in the Security screening queue with only one operator for multiple flights – back to reality with a jolt! The flight departed late but travelling in Business Class did take the rough edges off the trip. So ended our quest.
11 December 2006 - Monday
Orlando - Los Angeles
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from VH-XBA: "We leave the Marriott Orlando Airport Hotel at 0730, where I caught up with family, a short drive to the airplane (been in the US too long) before a scheduled 1000 departure for LAX. The weather is good, with the feeling of warmth for the first time since we left Southend a sign that we are slowly escaping the northern winter. Some of us had a reshuffle of the clothing carried in our overnight bags, putting winter-ish stuff into the hold baggage and breaking out the summery gear. Honolulu may be another sector away but the lure is strong. As is becoming the norm, paying for the fuel is once again problematic, with Captain Warfield again having to negotiate the payment using a credit card. The Shell authorisations we thought would work without hitch, aren't. We are now 1:20 late and expect another few more minutes before we get away, this delay because the Miami Radar is out and there is departing traffic stacked along the taxiways everywhere. Yesterday, we had the first occasion of a reverser not stowing, a blocker door obstructing #4 fan reverser but easily fixed when you have a 10 ft Harry Hermans to persuade it into place. The (in)famous mulcerating pump in the C toilet found difficulty dealing with the tough Tesco Baby Wipes that have found their way into the loo, so it was black glove time again to unclog the little jigger. Been there, done that so it was no mystery to locate and free the offending fibrous gunk. If this is all we have to contend with, I'll live with that. At least there is no Skydrol in the brasko. Our transit of the US proved uneventful, save some bumping over the Rockies. Always was and always will be a place to catch a standing wave. The last time I crossed this mountain range was by road but today it was in style. The cabin ambiance on this 707 is becoming addictive, and flying again in a public transport configured 747 or whatever will never compare. Pulling up on airports in the private plane parking areas in our own 707 is pretty cool, let me tell you. Talking about private planes, our cabin is being run in the most professional manner and the catering Karen Glass is purchasing along the way underlines her care for both our tastes as well as our health. For the budget-est of budget airlines, we are doing a huge amount for the spend allowed. We can't say enough about the way we are treated by our Cabin Crew and for the way Karen keeps tidy house. Despite the opulence, I am informed that I slept very well for a fair part of the trip but can't verify that because of the confusion I'm having with the time change and can't tell what the time of day is. That's my story, at least. For the 6th successive time, the landing was a greaser, so all praise to all captains who have each had at least one arrival. The tyres are the least worn components on the old girl. Our arrival at LAX was somewhat of a contrast to the previous day's circus. Today, the bleachers were bare and apart from the odd airport enthusiast employee, you could hardly say anyone noticed. All reversers stowed, the arrival was routine with #4 still liking a drink, 4 quarts this time. Despite the quiet on-airport scene, we are however, parked in one of the most prominent viewing positions off-airport, not far from the busy intersection of Sepulveda and the 105, very close to one of the many huge LAX sculptured signs that adorn the edges of this busy airport. I'm sure there exists a great pic of this but as we drove away from the airport, not expecting any more photo ops, my camera was not handy. Into check-in at the airport Westin where we were met with open arms and with the full run of the house offered by the duty manager, an Aussie. The 707 magic is working again, with a little help from Murray and his silver tongue. For most, if not all, LAX is not a first-time visit and instead, we believe it may be the first time a Qantas-liveried 707-138B will have landed here. History again, Ron Cuskelly?* Tomorrow, the Pacific crossing and Honolulu as the reward. Let the shopping begin."

* Webmaster responds to Norman's challenge:
Certainly the 707-138Bs were not scheduled into Los Angeles but one would have to assume that there would have been the occasional diversion from San Francisco. Can any reader with local knowledge advise?
12 December 2006 - Tuesday
Los Angeles - Honolulu
Thanks to Tim Wagenknecht in Los Angeles for these glorious images of VH-XBA departing LAX. Just prior to departure from LAX, Norman King asked Tim to send them to us and we are able to present them before Norman is sipping his first mai tai.
Thanks to Michael A. Carter for these spectacular images of the departure from Los Angeles.
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from VH-XBA: "The days roll along, and it's hard to believe we take XBA away from the 48 for the last time this morning. I wonder if she feels she is leaving her country of birth, but am reminded that she's only aluminum (been in the US too long) and rubber and come back to reality as my friend the alarm sounds at 0630. The morning air as we take the short trip from the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel to the private jet parking lot (doesn't that sound pretentious?) is brisk and adds a frisson of anticipation for what is to come in Honolulu - warmth, we hope. The Yellow Cabs, with driver IDs that reflect the immigration from all over the world into the land of the free, drop us at the Mercury Air offices right next to the aeroplane and we are through with absolutely no fuss, a contrast to what we would have had to endure as public transport passengers. There on the plasma, we are perturbed by the CNN reports of bush fires near Launceston and are brought out of our cocoon just a tad by what is one of the dire features of the Australian summer. We are waiting for an HF transceiver to arrive on the QF11, due in at around our departure time, which will be driven to us as soon as it is free of the bureaucracy. Meanwhile, two LAX Fire Department appliances arrive and set up to shoot off the traditional water arch reserved for special flights. Because our doco makers will be on board when we depart and can't get the shots of this from the ground, the firies oblige with a practice run before we go and dispense 2000 gallons of water in about 20 seconds of water play. How obliging is anyone connected with this flight? Mercury, our local handling agent, has donated the ground handling costs and charged no commission on the fuel and its delivery. The catering arrives as promised and today's fare looks as if it has come from a Michelin rated restaurant, if presentation has anything to do with it. The time allotted to the wait for the part coming from the Qantas 11 is declared to have been exceeded so Captain Warfield declares doors closed and we are away again - almost. The APU starts and runs only for a few minutes when it auto shuts down. What is this? Does she really have feelings and doesn't want to go? Another start is attempted but this time auto shut down occurs at 80% and so we ask for a Ground Start Unit, for which a 5 minute wait may be required. In this time, a recycle of the APU doors is done and a third start is attempted. It works! We load up the APU air and start engines normally. Brakes are released and we taxi out into the rainbow-fringed arch shot high over our heads by the Fire and Rescue guys formed up on either side. It is the last time XBA will see US mainland soil and a fitting tribute to a grand Queen of the Skies. The Pacific beckons. In flight now, and we are treated to the sight of the 707 shock wave, with the light just right to reveal it dancing as it does on the thickest part of the wing, something I haven't seen for over 25 years. The flight has once again been smooth and we hope for the continuation of ops normal as we begin our descent into HNL. On the ground we do a full lap of the airport before being given a spot for parking. This time, not in the private plane park but beside a broken NWA 747-400. The guys working it tell me it has start problems. Ha! They think they have start problems, they don't know what start problems are. I tell them about Turbine Motor Works and they are gob smacked*. Importantly, we are good to go - on Thursday. A two day slip in the Sheraton Moana Surfrider is most welcome even if transport is at 0500 that day. So we put our baby to bed with the usual drink of oil in #4 as well as its Turbocompressor. Half way across the Pacific and XBA is still goin' good."

* New readers will have to bear with me on this one. It's a story on its own.

In response to several requests, here is the Turbine Motor Works story:

Turbine Motor Works are based in the UK and they overhaul jet engines. While VH-XBA was being restored to airworthiness at Southend, TMW twice stepped in when engine problems cropped up. On the first occasion, #1 had to be removed from the wing for a specialist welding job at the TMW workshops. On the second occasion, despite having been run successfully at take-off power, #2 consistently refused to start, despite methodical troubleshooting by the best brains on the subject. After all options had been exhausted and with time running out, the engine had to be removed from the wing. TMW instructed two of their engineers to drop what they were doing and travel to Southend to fix the engine - which they did. Despite a preceding 16 unsuccessful attempts, #2 started perfectly on the first attempt after TMW had worked on it through the night. For all of this, Turbine Motor Works charged QFM for parts only. It was an outstanding contribution but one that is becoming typical of organisations and individuals who fall under the spell of this grand old aeroplane.
13 December 2006 - Wednesday
Honolulu
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Honolulu: "Swim, shop, sleep. 's wonderful. Tomorrow wake up is 0430 for 0530 transport. As wonderful as she is, it has been great to have a day free of the aeroplane. We three engineers have had a dream run with the reliability levels XBA has demonstrated but the aircrew, both flight and cabin, have to do a full day's work every sector, so the rest will have been well taken by Murray, Roger, Brett, Harry, Joe and Karen. They have deserved the break today more than we, although I believe Murray has been hard at it, fighting the paperwork war most of the day. With XBA now in Honolulu, it seems the connection is now correct, with this port being one she would have seen very early in her life and from then on, very often. As we descended into this airport on Tuesday, all of us had a feeling that we were back in familiar territory, and the pic of Peter after landing tells us how he feels, an emotion shared by Denis and me. It was the first occasion on which we let ourselves feel as though we really were on the way home. A planned 6:10 flight time tomorrow will mean our second longest leg and more of the Pacific to cross but XBA has probably done this scores of times and knows the way blindfolded. The momentous news today of the sale of Qantas has dominated our thoughts, and wonder at the timing and the effect it will have on the way the Project is viewed. In a way, it makes the aeroplane even more significant, with the direct link it has with Qantas as it was, an airline without too many external influences. I know she will rise above the clamour and revive old friendships made so long ago when the aeroplane dominated the news, not the company itself."
14 December 2006 - Thursday
Honolulu - Nadi
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from VH-XBA: "The early start today fitted in well with where our bodies had found themselves after a day not having to attend the aeroplane and waking at 0430 was relatively painless. I say 'attend' which doesn't mean 'forget about' with one Captain reminding me this morning that this pilot group has to do its own flight planning, and the day off wasn't really off. We are grateful that such dedicated people are part of this Team and without our Captains and Flight Engineers who do all the hard yards, we'd still be in Southend. So, with that firmly in my mind, we filled the bus up and were at the executive jet entrance by 0500 where we waited in the pre-dawn for the Air Service Hawaii agent to escort us to our aeroplane. We noted that the broken NWA 747-400 was still standing guard over us and wondered who the US equivalent of Turbine Motor Works was. The balminess was such a contrast to Southend, the departure still fresh in our minds and we thought of our English mates at Lashams and their heated hangars and wished they could be here enjoying the tropical air with us. We are truly privileged to be able to take part in this return to Oz, and a certain melancholy starts to creep in as this journey draws inexorably but happily to its close. Our next port is one you can do a day return service to from SYD and it's only an hour away in time zone, so the next arrival will be like being at the back door to home. So close but not quite there. Murray has added a classy touch to the cabin by purchasing labels for all the cities we have transited, marked their location on the former map wall on one of the timbered bulkheads, and provided some pin-striping to join the dots. You'll just have to picture it in your mind, the embargo on pictures of the interior still standing. We now look the complete tourists but our camper van has a little more style than the average Kombi, Let Me Tell You, as Murray would say. The catering once again has been superb and the mark the next providor has to meet is pretty high. On arrival, we are back on the Australian side of the International Date Line and today is really today, not tomorrow. Our last slip port will be a blink or you'll miss it, with pick-up planned for 0300. We'll have to get up before we go to bed, sleep in our uniforms and have breakfast for dinner. But hey, next one is Home."
16 December 2006 - Saturday
Nadi - Sydney
Thanks to Sam Chui for these special images of the arrival in Sydney and the subsequent welcoming ceremony.
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from VH-XBA: "A rambling, spread-eagled resort, the Sheraton Denarau Villas in Nadi, Fiji had the honour of accommodating the crew of the 707 for their last night together, a night that was to be all too short, with the wake up time many people's go-to-bed time, 0200 on Saturday, 16 December 2006. Murray briefed the Team on Friday night about the arrival procedures and the plan on Saturday to land at 0900 precisely, in order to fit with the arrangements made for the official welcome at the Qantas Jet Base at Mascot. It was going to be a shut-down and tow-in jobbie, not the most dramatic entrance you can make in a 707 but the knowledge that Ken Groves was organising the function gave me confidence that it would be done right. The bedside alarm clock confirmed the time so for the last occasion on this journey of discovery, the phone rang to spoil yet another good night's sleep and we assembled in the foyer, this time with two extra members to help us to SYD. John Seccombe, the Deputy Chairman of QFM Ltd and Richard Burn, our legal advisor and aviation law expert were to be our honoured guests on the NAN-SYD sector, the 707's first "passengers" for over 6 years. John was happy to see QFM's acquisition for the first time on Saturday when we arrived at the aeroplane in the dark, and pics of his first glimpses of Warwick's and his organisation's shiny 707 show happiness clearly evident. The livery was completed on Friday afternoon with the addition of the Canberra coat of arms and the aircraft name "City of Canberra", applied with care by Phill Aberline, a Qantas employee seconded to Air Pacific. She looked beautiful before, but with these additions, was now as close to the delivery scheme as we could make her. She was ready to be put on show. On show for our passengers meant a tidy cabin was essential, and Karen stayed back with the engineers on Friday night to vacuum, polish, scrub, window clean and fold the first sheet of toilet paper to form that cute little point. Karen's attention to the appearance of the interior has been outstanding and she gets the MVP award for this Team. First though, get her to Sydney and once again we start the dragon and fire up those Pratt and Whitney Dependables. She must have done this trip hundreds of times but after today she was never coming back to the sticky humidity of these troubled tropical islands. The flight was marked by one unserviceability today, #3 generator requiring disconnect just after start. No matter, we can go with 3 gens and go we did. In flight, we started packing up all those loose ends, and odds and sods that accumulate when you spread out over a whole aeroplane for 8 days. It's surprising how much it totals and pretty soon we had two boxes of stuff to take off the aeroplane. The mood on board today was one befitting the occasion. Happiness that we were going home, sadness that we would be leaving friends behind, relief that the reliability meant that we never had to do an all-nighter to fix anything, anticipation that we were going to meet up with colleagues, and more. The descent starts and we are told that we can expect the flypast of Barrenjoey as requested. Pleased with ourselves, the 707 is flown up the harbour and turns North to cover the Northern beaches then backtracks to have a second look. After 5 or 6 minutes of this, we are cleared for the approach onto 16R and we land in Sydney.
They said it couldn't be done.
We'd just done it.
We are home.

There is so much more to this story than I have been able to manage to write about each day, and so that I was able to get a small amount of sleep each night in Southend, my posts were short. I was able to write most of the trip diary on the aeroplane and just do the transmission on arrival at the hotel. At this very moment, I'm drifting in and out of sleep and feel I've only another 10 minutes left of useful consciousness but before I hit the sack (my own bed, my own pillow, what bliss) I'd like to pay tribute to the Team that brought VH-XBA home.

To Murray Warfield, Roger Walter, Brett Phoebe, Harry Hermans, Joe Plemenuk and Karen Glass, my story telling of the trip home would not have covered a different sector each day had you not been so persistent in solving the countless problems that accompanied each day's planning. There were never any barriers that couldn't be broken, nor were there any things left undone. You have spoilt me for air travel forever more, and this trip will be unsurpassed even if I live to be 100. Thank you, each and every one.

To Ron Cuskelly, your acceptance of my copy each day and the pics that accompany these ramblings is very generous. Your publishing times are so rapid, the words are hardly off the fingertips before they are on the net. Thanks for the bandwidth.

To my readers, some of whom were at the arrival this morning, your comments made in person at Mascot were all so encouraging. I was happy to keep you in the loop, and for now I bid you a fond farewell, a Happy Christmas and good health to enjoy life to the full.

Norman King.

A Christmas Message:


There were times in the course of this project that revealed the very best in human spirit, epitomised by the unselfish generous hospitality that was so evident among the folks in the UK with whom we shared our hopes. The nature of man is not always disposed to this end of the spectrum and to experience it from so many organisations and individuals when you are far from home is my enduring memory and one that has enriched our life experience and affected all of us who have had anything to do with the recovery of VH-XBA. At this time of the year, when thoughts turn to holidays and sunshine if you're down south or snow if you're up north, relaxation and family reunions, we wish all our supporters - our readers and fellow enthusiasts, the dedicated spotters who lined the route back home in 6 different countries and all who think our 707 is a beautiful sight and sound - a time of reflection as to how life can be where peace and harmony rule. The Project could not have succeeded were it not for this atmosphere that surrounded it. From all of us at the Qantas Foundation Memorial Ltd 707 Preservation Project, may your Christmas continue to be filled with this special Spirit and in the New Year we look forward to the final chapter in this story - the flight to Longreach.

With my warmest regards,

Norman King
An Engineer.
22 December 2006 - Friday
Engine runs were performed at Sydney in accordance with the Low Utilisation Maintenance Routine.
29 December 2006 - Friday
Engine runs were performed at Sydney in accordance with the Low Utilisation Maintenance Routine.
09 January 2007 - Tuesday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "XBA arrived in Sydney over 3 weeks ago, and the impression you may have been given by the dearth of information about her since she landed here is that the story is over. My lack of copy is to blame to a degree but claim some immunity due to the long breath I needed to take and my old body's lethargy when it came to settling back into Southern Hemisphere time. I hope you all had a great Christmas and, New Year break. In fact, not a lot happened until 22 December when the weekly Low Utilisation Maintenance Schedule was implemented. In a nutshell, we open up all the doors and flight deck windows and get some ventilation going, do a fuel tank water drain, flush those beloved toilets, move her off the bay, do an idle engine run, operate the flight controls, run the flaps, crank up the air con system, power up the avionics and generally flex her muscles a tad. That's the weekly Friday routine that happens between 1000 and 1630. Today, however, in order to make the correct decision regarding the proposals being put to us regarding extra flying before her enshrining at Longreach, we have taken up the offer of some hangar time, and she was pulled into Qantas' Hangar 245 at around 1030 this morning. While there, some depanelling will occur to allow inspections of various components to establish their condition after the delivery flight. It is also an opportunity to chase several niggles that we had lived with on the way south but which would annoy us if there were more sectors to be flown than just the one into Longreach. The luxury of hangarage will extend to Friday of this week, by which time all the parts of the equation should be known to allow the arithmetic to occur that will decide her next operation. In attendance today were more of the Sydney-based team, with Project Chairman John Argyle once again in overalls and on the tools, our parts chaser and ex-Maintenance Watch Tech Specialist, the recently retired Darryl Pitkin, with the other usual suspects, Peter Elliott, Bob Hagon (who starred on the 16 December TV news) and your scribe. We were delighted to be allowed the run of the hangar, all very observant of the OH&S requirements of a very safety conscious Company, and it was 5 cases of deja vu who started on the inspections and rectification in a place we had once called home. There will be an even bigger attendance tomorrow, and the Spirit of Southend will continue to grow. I must say, it's different being inside a hangar and secretly wished it were raining. Such a glorious summer's day (for all our Northern Hemisphere readers) going to waste."
10 January 2007 - Wednesday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "It must have been that word had spread that XBA was in a hangar, as the list of volunteers grew to a sizable 11 today. This turn-out ensured that all the work raised by the extra flying proposal would be well in hand when it came to manpower. Argyle, Pitkin, Chong, Horn, Asplin, Hagon, Finney, Hockey P, Hockey D (David, son of P) and King all answered Mr Elliott's roll call at 0800 at the Qantas base, where the plan was to look closely at some structural components to ensure no further deterioration had occurred since rework in Southend some months ago. Corrosion management was an important issue during the restoration and having escaped a damp winter climate was a good thing. However, with Mascot's location not too distant from the salt water of Botany Bay, coupled with Sydney's frequent high humidity days, we have to be sure our nemesis is not given a second go at chewing into our alloy and magnesium components. So, off came the right inboard aileron to allow Qantas structural engineers a better look at a hinge support bracket. The hydraulic system, which had played ball with us all the way home, only to spring a leak from our old friend, the alloy B nut last Friday, was given some attention, the leaking line repaired and best of all, the fluctuating Aux Pump output was well and truly fixed with the replacement of the flex supply line. The gear doors now close with conviction on Aux Pump pressure and in addition, the elusive nose gear wheel well fluid weep is fixed. Roy Finney, in his element atop a cherry-picker, and Peter Asplin removed some rudder panels to allow a good look at some of its structure and were pleased to announce that all was well. It was good to be able to renew the feeling of unity we had established in Southend but even better to go home to a decent shower, familiar food and a bed that the body fits."
11 January 2007 - Thursday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "We are waiting for the answer on the aileron hinge bracket question, with a good lead into the supply of a new part. Even if this proves uneventful, it still leaves us with a serviceable original part but with a scheme to increase its durability if further flying is the eventual decision. More hydraulic work is being done with a few more flex hose updates performed by Al Chong and Bob Horn. Bob Hagon, Paul Hockey and I worked on locking devices that will secure the engine fans, preventing the wind from rotating the first stage compressors, which would not do their bearings much good with no oil flow to them. Roy Finney is similarly working on control locks to stop elevator, rudder and inboard ailerons from flapping around in the breeze. All this is being done with no penetration of surrounding structure, the integrity of the engines and airframe not being compromised in the least. If in 5 years a decision is made to fly her again, there won't be any repairs to the structure needed to complicate matters and her originality remains intact. For those of you who think the blue engine inlet nose domes don't really go with the livery of the rest of XBA, you don't have any argument with us. We simply ran out of time in SEN doing the vital stuff and they missed out on a coat of silver paint. Fear not, that little cosmetic enhancement is on the to-do list. After tomorrow's engine run, they'll come off and soon the head-on shots will not have those distracting blue circles to grab your attention."
12 January 2007 - Friday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "The things you discover by default. In the flight control gust lock exercise, Roy Finney was assigned the elevator job, he loving these surfaces to death. To do the design, naturally he needed to be at their level and on mounting the stand he had pushed under the tail, he was able to look at the upper surfaces of the horizontal stabiliser for the first time since Southend. What he saw was not what he wanted. A postcard-sized piece of skin was missing, peeled back from the honeycomb at the inboard end of the left stabiliser actuated tab. More repair needed. Off with the tab was the order which means the piano wire hinge must be withdrawn to separate the tab from the elevator. Guess what? The wire was impossible to remove. Despite a drowning in penetrating fluid, it refused to budge. The tab will now need to be repaired in situ. What such an important job this will be was demonstrated by the sight of no fewer than 9 engineers on the stand inspecting the damage at one stage. Talk about attention-getting. Meanwhile Ross Downes and Peter Asplin turned into sheeties and did a magnificent job on the inboard aileron locks. They were so engrossed in their new-found discipline that they forgot to stop for lunch! There is something about being a volunteer that puts all those concerns that employed people have out the door. Joy of work returns and time just zips by. There is some serious thinking going on about the flying proposals and any decision we make will be based on the extrapolation of all the markers and events that have shown up, both on the delivery and during this week's inspections. Engine runs did not occur today due to the hydraulic system being short a hose or two and the aeroplane did not leave the hangar. One thing we can tell you with certainty though, is that the four engine nose domes are at the bead blaster and that unsightly blue paint will soon be removed to reveal a lustrous aluminium sheen, we hope. Much more betterer. At week's end we have to thank Jeff Richards from Qantas Engineering for his gracious assistance to us during our hangar visit. He has been our sponsor, the employee whose responsibility it is to ensure the visitors under his supervision stay safe and out of harm's way. He has spent all day with us over the last four days, from meeting us at the main gate to departure, and has been our guide and mentor whenever we have needed assistance and advice about the facilities available to us. He will likely continue in this role while ever we partake of Qantas' generosity to us. Thanks, Jeff.

Finally, following the QFM Ltd Executive decision that the aircraft is to remain in Sydney in the short term while we perform these inspections, additionally we need to do the work required to prepare the interior for public display at Longreach. The time required for all this now means we will not be able to make the 27 January delivery date to Longreach. That flight has been postponed pending the completion of these important tasks. When a firm fly-away date is declared, in addition to any public announcement that might be made by QFM Ltd or Qantas, I will publish it on this website."
17 January 2007 - Wednesday

A Good Deed Goes a Long Way

Today was a big day for Josh and Sam Gibson. Not only did they get to check out their dad's workplace, take a tour of a Boeing 747 and sit in the cockpit of Qantas' first B707 aircraft, but they also got handed a rather large cheque. And while the tour of Qantas' Sydney Jet Base was the fun part, it's the cheque that will make the difference for Josh as he begins his first year of primary school.

Josh has a rare genetic condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa, which causes his skin to blister from the slightest bump. To ensure that Josh started his school in as much comfort as possible, funds were needed to purchase a wheelchair. Enter Qantas Engineering's Base Maintenance department where Josh's dad, Todd Gibson works as Licensed Aircraft engineer. With the support of Qantas senior management, Base Maintenance Aircraft Customer Services (ACS) and Engine Maintenance, employees donated their $15 Christmas allowance and cash donations to the cause, raising over $13,000 for Josh and the Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of NSW (DEBRA).

The cheque was presented to the Gibson family by acting Group General Manager ACS Douglas Mills, who noted that "the donation is a great example of the community spirit within Qantas Engineering and shows our employee's willingness to support one another when it's needed the most."

Josh will be attending Heathcote Public School with his older brother Sam and will be joined by some of his mates from preschool. Josh's mum Kylie said "it will take a little while for him to transition to attending school five days a week, but I think he's really looking forward to it."

The Gibson family expressed their sincere thanks to Executive General Manager People, Kevin Brown, Group General Manager Qantas Engineering People, Dennis Ratcliffe, Group General Manager Aircraft Customer Services, Murray Harris, General Manager Engine Maintenance, Scott Simmons and employees from Aircraft Customer Services and Engine Maintenance whose support and generosity will enhance the schooling experience for Josh.

To find out more or donate to DEBRA visit www.debra.org.au

(This article was reproduced from The Leading Edge with the permission of the publishers.)

19 January 2007 - Friday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "Only six of us at the aeroplane today, with one newby joining the ranks. Colin Tyler, ex-Heavy Maintenance, was the sparky presence to complete the picture for today's events. Low Utilisation routine was the order of the day but first, no day on XBA is complete without someone getting down and dirty with the hydraulic system. It has been Bob Horn and Allan Chong's lot to stop the nose bleed that our dear old girl has been experiencing for, oh, about 6 months. First, the utility pump supply line flex hoses were re-installed, the reservoir filled and pressurised, and then back into the nose wheel well to hunt down yet another weep that keeps leaving the ground aft of the nose wheels wet after overnight parking. This time, Bob discovered a bulkhead fitting that requires replacement, so the search was commenced by our good friend Jeff Richards. Tune in again next episode to see where this lead takes us. In other news, some of our visitors from the workshop area noticed that one of the DME* torches at Left 2 was not displaying a blinking red LED, meaning the battery was cactus. Off went the torch back to the workshop, to return very soon after with a new battery. The same shop repaired an hydraulic supply shut off valve for us, as well. What service! Thanks, Grant MacIntyre and your guys. Engine runs were routine and the aeroplane was back on its regular E3 bay by 1530, and about 1600 pounds lighter. This gave Peter Elliott and Bob Hagon time to give our recently acquired tow bar a coat of white paint, covering that drab olive green so beloved of its previous owner. We think one owner before them might have been Qantas, so another piece of equipment returns to the roost. Where did the tow bar come from? Peter discovered it advertised in a motor car parts-for-sale magazine, drove out to Vineyard to check it out and did the deal. Needed a bit of work on the head mechanism, but that was done this week at a well-known maintenance facility not too far from where we park. It is a proven fit in the rear boot, so it will accompany the aeroplane wherever she goes from now on. More work is planned next Wednesday, when Hangar 245 becomes available again."

* Why are they called DME torches? Because when you take one off with you in a ditching, and later in your life raft being tossed about in a raging storm, you will turn on this torch and mutter to yourself, "Dear me, dear me..."
24 January 2007 - Wednesday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "A big breakthrough today. We volunteers, previously Visitors when we came out to work XBA, now are classified as Contractors for Qantas security purposes. We have been allowed this status for a month, and we thank our Qantas Engineering hosts for this privilege. The upshot is that we now are able to access the hangar and XBA without the need to check in at the main security office where previously we had to produce a photo ID that had to be left with security as a deposit. We can now depart at the end of the shift without having to check back with security to have our Driver's Licences returned. This will save us, and Jeff Richards, having to spend about 30 minutes every day waiting for the visitor IDs to be produced under the old system. Might not sound like a newsworthy event but the efficiencies for both us and Qantas are significant. So, what did we do today in our new capacity as Contractors? We made a start in pulling off the feared glove panels from the upper surface of each wing, inboard of the inboard engines, to look for the source of the fuel seep each side that had bothered us since Dublin. It was a bit of a battle with the usual 10% of fasteners frozen in their anchor nuts but with a good sharp drill or ten, a rotary cutter and 6 enthusiastic Contractors, we did get to the bottom of the problem. Or almost the bottom. The inboard wing extension that was part of the mod that allowed more refined leading edge devices to be installed, comprises wing aerofoil section-changing panels that attach to brackets and the wing itself inboard of the #2 and #3 engines. These so called glove panels are there because the sweep back of the inner section of the wing is greater with the improved leading edge flaps fitted. There are 5 or 6 pieces involved, all screwed down, and quite easily damaged during removal due to their early composite material construction. Think brittle micarta and alloy. Well, we liberated the panel that was immediately over the area from which we saw the weep on the left wing and as predicted (and hoped for), there were several fastener holes, that go into the tank itself, from which air could be bled when a plastic hose was placed over them and partial vacuum applied by mouth, ranging from unobstructed to somewhat like sucking on a thick shake. In addition, fuel vapour was apparent using a sniff check. We then transferred fuel into #1 Main Tank and as expected, when just about full, fuel escaped from these unsealed fastener holes. The best news is that in draining this swamp, we found no big crocodiles. The concern was that we might have exposed corrosion, or worse, cracking of the original upper wing surface, now covered by the wing extension glove panels. The weeping from the fastener holes was the least complex when it comes to repair. When I said earlier "Or almost the bottom", after isolating the first batch of leaky holes, we refilled the tank and have discovered more seepage appearing under the next most inboard panel. Tomorrow's job? Obvious, isn't it? The Green Hornet (remember her?) dropped over to pat the aeroplane again this afternoon after a visit to the Historical Uniform Repository to return the cap she had worn during the delivery. She was able to take quite a few photos, for technical purposes of course, of the day's progress. Thanks Karen."
25 January 2007 - Thursday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "Today saw a continuation of yesterday's task, with the right wing revealing only a slightly less weepy version of the wetter left wing. The removal of panels from above the #3 and #4 Main Tank join was a fair bit more difficult than their opposites, with the same difference seen at Southend between working the left side and right continuing to manifest itself. Simply, it has always been harder to remove screws from the right side than the left due to the way the aeroplane had been parked in SEN for so many years. Positioned as HZ-123 was, facing West, the right side of the aeroplane had spent 6 winters away from the sun, remaining colder and more damp than the South side, creating a more corrosion-inducing environment. Well, that's our theory, anyway. However, these screws didn't take into account the determination of Roy Finney and Paul Hockey to get to the bottom of that wing's fuel seep, and get to the bottom of it they did. The task took a little longer due to OH&S regs allowing only two people to work on top of the right wing due to the inability to position suitable scaffolding against that wing, provided on the left only, that would mitigate against a fall. The alternative was to use a suction disc device called Wing Grip that provided an anchor point to which Roy and Paul were secured with a harness. As the only two in our Thursday team who had been previously trained in the use of this safety equipment, no one else could go out on that wing to help them. Believe me, it was so frustrating to be able only to watch from the overwing escape hatch and shout verbal advice (that equipment cooling fan exhaust is just as annoyingly noisy as it was in 1959) but have no doubt that Roy and Paul performed better with a critical audience. Yeah. Nevertheless, in the end we were able to replicate the leaks on both sides to a level of confidence that will allow Peter to direct the tank sealing team to the exact spots on the inner surface of the upper wing skin that require repair. To this end, we emptied the offending outboard main tanks and commenced venting them to allow tank entry on Monday. So busy have we been on top of the wings, I forgot to make mention of a cosmetic improvement performed on Wednesday. The nose cowl lips have been made to rival N707JT's with the application of polishing compound and a rotary buff. The picture will say it all. Thank you again, Qantas. So the end of a short week has arrived which leads to a question. What does it mean when a retired person looks forward to the Australia Day Long Weekend? Hint: has something to do with knee joints. And so say all of us."
05 February 2007 - Monday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "Having had a week away from XBA, my report today is as much a catch-up as a daily log. It was a week of intense in-tank activity, with an old friend returning to the fray in the welcome form of Ben Hunter, with thanks to his manager, who put in some really hard yards inside #1and #4 Main Tanks. The application of tank sealant was the prime task this last week and Ben's devotion to this irksome job over the whole week has put the aeroplane back into great shape when it comes to containing the precious Jet A-1. When Peter and I arrived this morning, the last application of sealer was to be done in #1 Main, and the remaining few dozen glove panel screws to be installed on the left wing. Ensuring the correct length screws were put into their respective holes was most important, with the photo of a nut plate showing what happens when the fastener is over-length. Peter and I, with Jeff Richard's ever-present assistance, knocked over the top-of-wing job while Dave MacDougal and his colleagues attended to the in-tank sealing. Both these tasks were wrapped up by go-home o'clock and tomorrow the anxiously awaited transfer of fuel into those outboard tanks will happen first up, with at least 5 pairs of eyes watching for escaping hydrocarbons. We are still looking at the proposed flying programme with an optimistic view and were pleased to see Murray Warfield and Harry Hermans drop over to check on progress. We will make the most of our hangar time and XBA will likely remain inside until Friday's engine run. Oh, and Bob Horn thinks he has finally got to the bottom of that nose wheel well hydraulic dribble after having a solid line remade and its associated union replaced."
06 February 2007 - Tuesday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "Two out of three ain't bad if it's test match wins in a three match series you're talking about, but when it comes to leak repairs, it ain't good enough. The nose wheel well drip seems to have dried up, as has the right wing fuel weep but...there is still a weep from the upper surface of the left wing. It appears with more than 12 500 pounds in #1 Main Tank and the suspicion is that there are still maybe a couple of fasteners that have not been sealed sufficiently. Mind you, the weep is manageable but we want more than that. Tomorrow, the 20 or so screws in the suspected source area will be removed one at at time and we hope we will be able to sight the offending ones with the tank full enough to reveal the dribblers. Such is life, as Ned is reputed to have said. In other progress, the long awaited right inboard aileron hinge bracket has been delivered and today was drilled to fit the aileron and awaits installation. Darryl Pitkin looks like he might have won that job tomorrow, since in his absence today he wasn't able to refuse it. Meanwhile, Peter Asplin soldiered away on the rudder gust lock, having turned into a sheetie again for the day. What is it with the absorbing fascination of bending tin? Once again, just like the last time he was involved in this noble trade, he had to be hunted down to take his smoko break. Couldn't stop him. Finally, convinced that the aeroplane could be made 100% self-sufficient, a conviction he has had since early in the Southend Phase, Al Chong got serious with the last of the unique pieces of kit with which XBA came equipped - the air stair. He had become 99% happy with it in SEN, but the absolute certainty that they would be retractable on demand every time precluded our using them on the way home. With the luxury of a hangar and help should we need it from Qantas, Al set about satisfying that primal engineering urge to Fix it Once and for All. In a few hour's work, he had them in perfect order, right down to covering the flaking chrome handrail, to avoid sliced fingers or palms, to restoring all the blown tread lights to full illumination. And, they retract smoothly and with certainty once again. Every day, XBA becomes just that little bit better. Good one, Al."
07 February 2007 - Wednesday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "Those pesky screw holes from which fuel insists on dribbling were sealed today and #1 Main Tank will be left dry until Friday when the results of Peter's labour will once again be tested. Roy Finney, Darryl Pitkin and Bob Horn combined to install the right inboard aileron hinge bracket, purchased for a modest USD2500.00, following which the surface was replaced on the wing and all hinge bolts installed. The hook-up will be left for Friday, with Thursday declared a rest day. Jeff Richards has spent the afternoon preparing the hangar for the visit tonight of a group of visitors, guests and members of the Royal Aeronautical Society, running safety tape around the ouchy bits of the hangar equipment to make it safe for visitors. Around 70 RAeS members arrived on the base to take a look at a part of Australian history just as a thunderstorm passed through, shutting down the base for some 50 minutes. Movement on the tarmac was not possible and it was a patient group who eventually gathered in Hangar 245 for their long-awaited look at XBA. Sadly, due to the delays to departures resulting from the storm-induced shut-down, we couldn't arrange the delivery of suitable OH&S approved entry stairs to be placed alongside the aeroplane, so the expectations of most of the guests was not met. No look at the inside was allowed, so it remained for them to view the exterior only. Your scribe addressed the group and gave them a potted history of the aeroplane and the recovery project. Many of the guests were involved in the original 707 introduction to Qantas Empire Airways and their knowledge of the minutiae was humbling. Milton Lalas, from Tech Services of the day, earned the Proofreader of the Year Award when he spotted an error in the livery. When Air Livery Plc applied the Australian flag to the right side of the fuselage, we thought we were keen-eyed when we saw that it was streaming from the aft of the aeroplane, so they turned it around so that it looked correct, ie the wind was blowing it from front to rear, with the Union Jack at the top right side. Milton spotted an error immediately. We had the flag flying in the right direction but had not mirror imaged the Southern Cross, leaving the smallest 5th star, Epsilon Crucis, in the right field instead of the left. We humbly admit our ignorance and would like to thank Milton for his keen eye for detail. How we fix this is being considered right now. Peter Elliott, Denis Martin and I were guests of the RAeS at dinner later that night, for which we all express our thanks."
09 February 2007 - Friday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "Well, we can put the fuel weeps to bed...provided we don't fuel #1 Main tank above 13 500 pounds, over which a very slight wetness appears. 99.9% was the mark given, but without going into the tank again, removing all the previously applied sealant over the suspect anchor nut domes and re-applying another 3 coats minimum of sealant, we have done all possible to achieve a sensible, time/cost balanced repair. With any of the further flying not involving long sectors, we will be able to keep the fuel loading standard and not get into the near-full wing tank loads that approach the level where #1 Main might weep. Our efforts today went toward completing the aileron install, Roy Finney and I completing that, while the finishing touches were applied to the tow bar, with decals applied that will make it clear for which aeroplane the bar is meant and just who owns it. Al Chong and Peter Elliott have just a few touches to apply and when finished it will be entered in the Tow Bar (1950-1970) Concours d'Elegance wherever XBA finds itself. A picture will be forthcoming but think gloss white with red wheels. Stunning. Denis Martin and Col Tyler pursued a pitot static system tidy-up, performing a leak check as well as sorting out some avionic flight spares. Peter Asplin cleaned up, figuratively and literally, the left wing glove panel campaign. The aeroplane will remain hangared until Tuesday, our next planned maintenance day, with a postponed engine run on the programme."
13 February 2007 - Tuesday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "Another day at the office. Nothing startling to report. At one time there were 8 of us in to do the Low Utilisation routine, with three Avionic guys, including Paul Wilkinson, to clean up the pitot-static work. Roy Finney dropped in briefly to mark our aileron installation and to sign up the sheets. He pronounced that system healthy and sped off to the rifle range swapping hats on the move. That done, we were ready to decamp to the run bay by 1300, arriving just in time to clash with B747-400 VH-OJU which naturally had priority when it came to engine runs, so we did what all of us in this industry have learnt to do - wait. We took our turn to start engines at 1440 and by 1500 we had contributed our share of greenhouse gases and sought refuge back in Hangar 245 where XBA will rest quietly until Friday. On the 16th, there will be some activity of a different kind, with an hour or so of taxi testing and re-famil for the crew ahead of an assessment flight planned for Sunday, 18 February. (This flight has been cancelled). The routing will be SYD-BNE-SYD, with an orbit or three over BNE but no touch-down. It is expected that there will be an opportunity for several engineers to travel on the aeroplane as observers and Peter has a long list of volunteers. In the continuation of the spirit in which this project was born, all the aircrew members are keen to participate, at least one even returning from annual leave early to take up her position again."
16 February 2007 - Friday
Roy Finney reported from on board VH-XBA during taxi tests: "XBA was under way again on Friday, 16 Feb propelled by her own engines. With team leader Peter Elliott & volunteers Al Chong, Bob Horn, Roy Finney and Qantas staff member Roger Chin, pre taxi checks were done in Hangar 245. With Flight Crew, Murray Warfield, Brett Phoebe and Joe Plemenuk on the flight deck the aircraft was pushed back and the APU started once we were clear of the hangar. Some of the team were already on board as well as a CSM and two staff from the Flight Operations Department. The aircraft was towed to a hardstand west of 'Lake Gaunt'. Joe climbed down through the lower hatch to do his final walk round. Just prior to engine start there was an APU fire warning. The APU was shut down immediately. The APU installation was inspected with no evidence of fire or smoke. It was a very hot day which made the forward cargo compartment where the APU lives very hot as well. A fire test was carried out OK and the APU started again with no drama. The cargo door was left open until all engines were running and the APU was shutdown normally. Jeff Richards (our QF Liaison Officer) Bob Horn and I climbed on board through the lower hatch. Moving around to take some photos, initially I was surprised at the bumpy ride when you aren't strapped to a seat on taxi. We taxied back and forth several times on 07/25 and past Terminal 2 ramp. I observed several photographers on the outer ramp as we passed by. After a short power run on 07 we taxied down the other end. Was interesting to see the west end of the International Terminal from a different aspect. Joe climbed out and did a brake temp check and Murray informed us that we were holding for a few minutes as there was one hot brake. I guess Joe had a thermometer in his flight bag or else he used a 'Mark 1' thumb. The RTO wasn't as exciting as I was expecting but we haven't got wheels & brakes in abundance. The only reported problems were the #4 fan reverser not stowing (fixed after shutdown) and the E/O's gasper outlet seized. "Complaints" from passengers about the "bar service" weren't received with a very sympathetic ear. After the taxi back to the hardstand the tug was connected and we were towed back to the maintenance area slightly after noon, much to Brett's relief as he was holding the flag out the F/O's window during the tow. We are all hoping to view the aircraft soon with blue sky under the wheels."
02 March 2007 - Friday
Peter Elliott, Maintenance Manager, reported from Sydney: "Attendees for todays play group/therapy session were Denis Martin, Ben Hunter, Alan Chong, Bob Horn, Peter Elliott, Karen Glass (cabin supervisor/engineering trainee) and Jeff Richards (Qantas escort and part time Maintenance Co-ordinator). Today was initially planned to re-position XBA onto E3 to allow QF to carry out an interchange of 747-400 flaps stored in Hangar 245 for the aircraft currently undergoing heavy maintenance at Avalon. Jeff informed us that this would not be necessary as the truck picking up the flaps was lost in Melbourne. During the morning, Denis Martin explored the continuing defects on No3 generator and No3 fuel flow. A plan of attack was formulated by Denis to rectify the fuel flow defect. The weekly check was performed and as expected there were no defects. So, after much deliberation it was decided we should adjourn for a cup of tea/coffee --- great this retirement life, isn't it? The consensus was that after morning tea we should position the aircraft for her weekly engine run. Prior to moving out of the Hangar our engineering trainee (Karen Glass) arrived to ensure all was being carried out as per documented procedures. Ben Hunter was to carry out the engine run today but I thought it would be a good opportunity for our engineering trainee to complete her engine start and run training. This was duly completed with a successful start and run on No1 engine. In future, H and Plucka, please refer to Karen if you have any starting difficulties. After Karen completed her engine and start and run training and Ben was back in the seat, Karen disappeared only to appear back at the cockpit door with a plastic garbage bag ensuring the cabin is clean and tidy. A woman's work is never done. No3 generator performed without a problem and the APU did not have any overheat problems. After the engine run was completed, the aircraft was positioned back into her sheltered cave (she must be wondering why is she being treated so well after all the winters she spent outside in Southend). Lunch was declared following the completion of the after run checks. We tided up a few items and decided that therapy would be complete for the day and declared this Friday was Poets day. I must report that all attendees successfully completed their therapy session and are fully cured until they feel the urge to come and play with XBA again. Regards and thanks to all who decided that they needed therapy/play group session today and congratulations to Karen on completion of her engine start and run training."
09 March 2007 - Friday

Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "It's 8 o'clock on a Friday morn', the regular crowd shuffles in. There's an old man sittin' next to me, makin' love to his socket and ...bugger, can't find a tool to rhyme with gin. So if it's Friday, it's engine run time, and the regular crowd is Peter Elliott, John Argyle, Roy Finney, Denis Martin and your scribe, with a happy newby today in the form of our avionically inclined Jeff Craike, most recently retired from the Qantas Manager Maintenance Watch role. Jeff flew on XBA when she was CF-PWV, on her delivery flight from SYD when she was purchased by Pacific Western Airlines, but that's another story. Our multi-tasking Cabin Supervisor, Karen Glass will make a cameo appearance when the sun is a little higher in the sky, she being on annual leave and having domestic matters to attend to first up. I think she only comes now for the engine starts. Our Man on the Ground, Jeff Richards, slowly becoming more 707 addicted as time passes (gotcha, haven't we Jeff?) is there to assist in the re-issue of Contractor Passes for another month (will that be long enough, Uncle Wazza?) then escorts us to H245 where our dusty bird has taken up residence. Another routine Friday will see the Low Utilisation Checks performed, but not before we are dragged off to a classroom for some training. Aviation wouldn't be aviation if there isn't a training course every second month, with someone imparting knowledge of a critical nature to make us all that little bit safer. Today, it was to be the Aircraft Clearance Marshaller Training Course, with a 30 minute lecture then a 9 question exam at the end that, should we all pass, would see us officially competent to wing-walk our 707 during its positioning to and from hangar to run bay and so on. Miraculously, we all scraped through and now are the proud holders of the much sought-after Qantas Towsafe card, adding to the weight of the other ID cards we all have to wear on the base. OH&S intervention will soon be needed to prevent neck strain. Exhausted by this added stress, we break for early coffee and set 1000 as the time to go running, JT3s, that is. Using our newly acquired skills of thumbs-upping and horn signalling, we get XBA onto the approaches to the run bay unscathed but once again are sent to the sin-bin to allow a revenue earning aero onto the coveted spot. We call an early lunch and another hour or so goes down the gurgler when finally we start all four and do the preservation routine of running flaps, firing up the air con, operating flight controls and warming the avionics. It's a pretty good crowd for a Friday morn', as the manager gives me a smile, cause he knows that it's XBA they've been comin' to see, to forget about life for a while. Runs over, back to the shed, check the oils, lock her up and another week flies by. The latest suggestion is that a flight may eventuate next Friday and aviation may be committed! We are standing by to stand by. It's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete when I wore a younger man's clothes...but you got us feelin' alright."

You may be right, he may be crazy, but probably Norman King was just in a Southend state of mind when he wrote about taking the girl uptown to start the fires. When it came time for movin' out they found her in need of a tub but decided to take her just the way she was for she's got a way about her and she's always a woman. Norman concludes his report with speculation of aviation to come, but it's still turn and bank to him. (Apologies to Norman for the Webmaster sometimes shamelessly goes to extremes). And so it goes. (12)

16 March 2007 - Friday Flyday
Sydney - Richmond - Sydney

Peter Elliott, Maintenance Manager, reported from VH-XBA: "Therapy / playgroup day was planned for the 16th March to enable tech crew recency requirements and a maintenance assessment flight. The plan was for a short flight to Richmond and it was sure short. The usual complement of tech crew led by the ever-beaming Murray Warfield once again put their trust in the old girl and they were not let down. Along for the experience were some of the volunteer engineers and I do not think Roy Finney has stopped smiling yet. I think whoever invented the saying 'Grinning like a Cheshire cat' must have been referring to Roy. Glad to see you enjoyed the experience Roy. For all the volunteer engineers it makes it all worthwhile to experience the thrill of rotation and feel the old girl come to life by divesting herself of her earthly bonds. The old girl seemed to enjoy once again being where she belongs - skirts tucked up and up in the sky again. The tech crew seemed to enjoy some of the rectification that has taken place and from an engineer's point of view it was so nice not to have the nose gear leaking hydraulic fluid all over the ground. Congratulations Bob. A missed approach was planned for Richmond and no one was disappointed. After a circuit we lined up again and a full stop landing was executed to perfection. A lot of the RAAF personnel came and had a look at XBA, as most had never been up close and personal with a –138 before. I had to watch the spares in the forward hold as the RAAF is starting to run low on spares for their own aircraft. I thought it would be the other way around. I was planning to see what I could scrounge from the RAAF for use on XBA. Managed to get a lead as to where we might be able to get some original QF wattle sidewall panels. Keep the fingers crossed. Once inspection of the old girl was complete it was time to head back to Sydney. The aircraft was fuelled on arrival in Sydney in preparation for Sunday. It was time to put her to bed again in her hangar. After the old girl was safely placed back into storage in her hangar, we declared the day complete and all headed for home. Thanks to our cabin supervisor / engineering trainee Karen Glass for the cooking of the cup cakes for lunch. Not only does Karen provide an excellent service in the cabin, is a quick to learn engineering trainee but is also handy in the culinary skills of cooking."

Jeff Richards reported from VH-XBA: "The day started early for Peter, Dave and I with preparation beginning from about 0700hrs. The FE's and Engineer passengers weren't far behind with a 0830 start. We launched 45 minutes late at 1100hrs for a 15 minute trip and did an aborted approach that you couldn't have put a feeler gauge between the tyres and the tarmac. A non stop stream of framies, sumpies, contractors and techo's descended on the aircraft as the RAAF aren't used to serviceable 707s being parked on their flight line. A donation of fuel was uploaded while the Tech crew were interviewed and photographed. We re-launched in space shuttle Canberra at about 1400hrs and did a couple of low speed passes and wing waving to RAAF Richmond before a cloud enveloped ride back to Mascot. After a less than passable landing at SYD there were many screams of 're-test' and 'go round and try again' coming from the back seats, unfortunately the Pilot in Command had to make a 1600 flight to BNE and we weren't rewarded for our constructive criticism so instead we taxied up to bay 84 and our awaiting tug. We moved around to the run bay where I had the truck ready for refueling before we put the old girl to bed in H245. But once again we had some equipment problems with our tug dying in the run bay. After all hands on the broken tug and a lot of pushing and groaning, we maneuvered a replacement into position and got the old girl away by 1600 hrs (the pilots were gone within 10 minutes of chocks in, at least the FE's stayed for the refuel)."

Roy Finney reported from VH-XBA: "A significant date, 3 months to the day since XBA arrived back in Australia. Grinning like a Cheshire cat. Cant recall my expression but I may have made the occasional sigh. The weeks of pushing stands from one end to the other of Lashams ramp, the summer heat and autumn rain, days extracting seized fasteners, the bent and weary backs and skinned knuckles were all forgotten. I always enjoyed flight control rigging on the 707 and to see the results of our labours actually in operation was very satisfying, even more so when there have been no trim problems reported. To quote an old axiom; 'an aeroplane that looks good flies good', and to me the 707 hasn't got a line out of place. I would also add that the 'safety on board' demonstration rated 10/10 although Karen did have 100% passenger attention.The catering quality was much better than on the taxi test. A most enjoyable day. A happy old engineer. Roy Finney."

SECTOR
ATD
ATA
FLIGHT TIME
DISTANCE
Sydney - Richmond
1015
1120
1.1 hrs
29 nm
Richmond - Sydney
1332
1445
1.2 hrs
29 nm

All times are local.
ATD/ATA are off/on blocks.
Source: Flight Engineer Harry Hermans.

 

22 March 2007 - Thursday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "Waiting in the car park for the rest of the furniture removalists to arrive, Peter Elliott and Roy Finney, and Denis Martin, coming out to rearrange some electron flow, I looked up at the perfectly formed condensation vortices coming off the flaps of the 737s on approach to Rwy 16L. They displayed exactly what sort of a day it was at 0730, and was going to be for the remainder - super humid. Bewdy. Just what you need to accompany the irksome task ahead of us today. Yesterday, Peter, Al Chong and Bob Horn, the unbolters, had been busy in the cabin. Our job today? Get about 10 chairs, several tables and various other bits of trim off the aeroplane and into storage. Easy peasy at first thought but the dismantlers hadn't told me how much some of that stuff weighed. Just as well, because I might have had a sickie had I known. With a bit of a struggle, all of it eventually ended up on the hangar floor via the period maintenance main entry steps, with the task now to compile a record of each piece's location and weight. A great advantage of having people who know the Mascot hangar scene intimately is that Roy knows just where to go to locate the vital bits. Needing a set of scales to weigh each removed item, he went straight to where he remembered there was a set and Viola! we had them down at the aeroplane in moments. Peter and I recorded the body stations from which each piece came and now it will be a Performance Engineer's task to work out the effects on weight and balance. Our old friend Jim Clark will be engaged to do the calculations. Looks like a few sand bags will need to be placed in the aft hold to compensate. The bits and pieces were towed away for storage and the only other task for the day was to seal off all the orifices in preparation for a wash and polish, scheduled for tonight. Lots of red tape all over the fuselage left the dear old girl looking like Norman Gunston who always had a ciggy paper covering a razor cut. That dates me, eh? Early marks were awarded by Peter today and we were out of there by 1500. I will be at Avalon on Saturday, enjoying the company of our Insurance Manager, Phil Stacy and will be cheering the loudest should XBA hove into sight. Thanks today to Paul Blaylock, our usual minder Jeff Richard's stand-in while Jeff is on course."
27-28 March 2007 - Tuesday-Wednesday
Roy Finney reported from Sydney: "A large contingent was waiting eagerly on Tuesday morning to devote some tender loving care on the old lady. Engines were uncowled for filter inspection and flaps extended and landing gear doors opened for lubrication, as well as some avionic checks. A couple of volunteers had not applied a grease gun to an aircraft lube fitting for several years but appeared to be revelling in the task. There being vacant seat locations, Peter had done some research and some redundant business chairs were located in a storage area and transferred to the hangar area. The seat covers were removed and dispatched for dry cleaning. On Wednesday morning, engine cowling up was completed. The chair inspection was completed, reclines mobile and fittings lubricated. A hi-lift platform was acquired but being designed for wide body aircraft was too big for XBA. A second unit was commandeered and chairs placed in the cabin. I made comment about the good old days when we used to carry whole ship sets of chairs up the entry steps. The chairs were installed after some allowance for the different seat track installation. All installation data is in the hands of engineering support members for authorisation. The freshly laundered seat covers were refitted with some trial and error and I sympathise with the cabin interior staff who I used to observe dressing a whole cabin in mid summer. The weary volunteers did a trial 'comfort' check of the seats and we secured the aircraft for the day."

Note: This entry was previously shown as covering the four day period 27-30 March but it refers only to the two day period 27-28 March.
03 April 2007 - Tuesday

Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "With a fair bit more than just the Low Utilisation Check to be done over the next two days, a B Check to be more specific, the contingent at Hangar 245 today was bigger than it has been for quite some time. Peter's call to arms and legs roused 7 from their autumnal hibernation and Messers Chong, Downes, Hagon, Hockey, Horn, Hunter and your scribe signed fresh Contractor's Passes with Security Central before the assault on XBA's vitals. Out of practice in hush kit panel removals, we stripped all the engines of these pesky parts to allow a full scale attack on filters in fuel, and engine and CSD oil systems. We wonder if there will ever be 'a last time' when these infernal devices are removed, never to come off again. There were a multitude of tasks performed today including a lube of the stab trim actuator, checks of air cycle machines, water separators, engine external inspections and the APU in addition to the filter checks. It was the first time I had seen XBA since its tub and I must say the difference is quite noticeable, with a much deeper shine to the paintwork. Thanks to John Turner and Ecolab for the supply of the magic wash and polish product. Up in the cabin, the interior guys were able to supply and lay carpet to replace the piece that removal of some of the furniture had left with cut-outs. The new stuff has quite a thick pile and Karen will have to work harder in her sprint from front to rear and back when door arming and disarming is called. It's a bit more like walking on John Travolta's plush wall-to-wall, in fact. Tomorrow much the same team will return to complete the spins and leak checks and with a bit of good luck (and planning) will screw them hush kitty things back on - for the very last time. We shall see."

04 April 2007 - Wednesday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "Almost the same old faces as yesterday, with Downes and Hunter replaced by Martin, Hill, and Finney. What did we do? After having to wait for a passing storm to move out of lightning-strike-on-the-head range, which shut off access to the base for 30 minutes before the threat dissipated, we strapped them hush kitty things back on after performing engine spins and leak checks, took her out into the sun and ran her engines, then moved her to East 3, next to the main entrance off Qantas Drive after refuelling where she awaits the arrival of crew and 7 passengers for a training flight to Richmond and Williamtown tomorrow morning. In other words, another day at the office. The buzz is starting to build among the engineers with the Easter Saturday celebrations planned for Longreach, despite the fact that XBA won't be on the ground up there that day. All but a few of the Southend volunteers and families will be attending the festivities and the atmosphere will be something to experience, we're sure. XBA is going to be making a few approaches there on another training flight before returning to Sydney where she is likely to stay for a while longer yet. This project is open ended, it seems. The weather, following the early dark clouds, turned into something special and the newly burnished paintwork of our Queen of the Skies took on a gleam unseen since leaving Air Livery's hangar last year."
05 April 2007 - Thursday
Sydney - Williamtown - Richmond - Sydney
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "XBA went flying today. Crew training and recency requirements saw a combination of touch and goes and missed approaches performed at 707 friendly airports in the local area. We had fuelled her yesterday afternoon and the departure was painless, with passengers Downes, Hockey, Hagon, Hodsdon, Pitkin and Finney along to observe. Karen Glass's parents had arrived yesterday afternoon to spend Easter with their now famous daughter, the star of the Channel 7 documentary, The Return of the 707, screened last night to wide national acclaim. They were able to sample the sights, sounds and smells of the 707 and watched with pride as their daughter went about her usual efficient ways and closed the door with a wave to them to allow XBA to commence the tow off East 3 to Bay 85. From this vantage point, they were able to watch the start and taxi out as the jet set off for RWY 34, a couple of miles down to the south. Jeff Richards, our right-hand man successfully negotiated an improvement of our already good spot with airport security to watch the take off. It was a moving moment reminiscent with SEN, when, now standing on the grass not far from the threshold of RWY 16, we watched and listened to that beautiful form and sound of the dependable Pratt and Whitneys as XBA roared seemingly overhead on its way to turn right at the Harbour to track coastal to Williamtown. She was back by midday and best of all - no defects. Next operation will be another training flight SYD-SYD via overhead LRE on Easter Saturday where among the throng will be about 35 or so volunteer engineers and family who will be cheering as she goes around after a practice missed approach or two. We wish all our readers a Happy Easter."

Roger Walter reported from the flight deck of VH-XBA: "The flight was originally flight planned to depart Sydney for Williamtown via Richmond (overflying), however, when we requested our airways clearance, Sydney ATC asked whether we might like to fly over the city and then coastal to Williamtown. Of course, we gladly accepted. We started the engines near Bay 85, and then taxiied out for a departure off 34L. Initially we were cleared to 5000ft with a right hand turn. A beautiful view of the city and along the coast for all to see whilst some of us were working to try and hang onto this little pocket rocket! Once we crossed the coast, a left turn to Williamtown whilst climbing to FL 140. Williamtown is a fairly busy military airfield with arrivals and departures of Hornets and Hawks as well as civilian aircraft. Consequently we had to hold for a while, due to military priorities, before we were able to conduct an ILS approach followed by some circuits with touch and go landings on runway 30. After approx 1 hr at Williamtown, we departed for Richmond which allowed a crew change of Pilots and FE's. It is a very short sector to Richmond, with a quick climb to FL 120 followed by a quick descent. Only about 1 or 2 mins cruise time. At Richmond we were able to fly two circuits with touch and go landings on runway 10. From Richmond an extremely short transit at 5000ft to Sydney with a landing back on to runway 16R. A very enjoyable day out for all the crew and passengers, and extremely valuable training and recency was able to be completed by all the tech crew."

 

Sydney - Williamtown - Richmond - Sydney
Distance 165 nm
ATD Sydney 0900
ATA Sydney 1240
Total time 3.7 hrs

All times are local.
ATD/ATA are off/on blocks.
Source: Captain Roger Walter.

 

07 April 2007 - Saturday
Sydney - Longreach - Sydney
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Longreach: "What is it with XBA? Most anything to do with her means sleep deprivation, in the nicest possible way, of course. We were booked on the 737 charter ex-SYD at 0630 which, when coupled with the collection of daughter Veronica and granddaughter Luci from their home in an off-track suburb, meant a get-up of 0305. Shades of Nadi nearly 4 months ago. And I was just getting back into a sleep rhythm. So, into the Group Check In area at Terminal 3 at 0530, to be met by another 108 enthusiasts who were to join us to make the Easter in the Outback weekend, boarding passes issued painlessly with the joys of no-fuss domestic operations. The flight was away under the command of Captain Steve Rutley, who like most of his crew had brought Mum and the kids along to savour the legendary Longreach hospitality and Operation Feel the Love, as the 707 is referred to by Qantas management (Thanks JR).

In no time the reversers were cleaning the dusty runway at LRE, the red dirt of western Queensland seemingly just the right accompaniment to the 30C degree day into which we had flown, leaving a dull, damp, cool SYD behind. The programme was as full as hostie's cabin bag and it was an eager bunch who set off for the first of the attractions, the Qantas Founders Outback Museum. At the entrance to this wonderful collection of all things Qantas, we were intrigued by a demonstration of what is called Whip Boxing, a display of what can be done with a stock whip, where two Driza-Bone® and apiarist's mask-clad figures took turns in trying to remove each other's nose with the tip of the cracking whip. The rules governing this sport were more complex than the AD for the CWT wiring, and thus beyond this mere engineer, so we left that one alone and soaked up the cool of the Museum interior.

An hour and a half was all we had there before the most anticipated event at Longreach since EBQ's arrival on 16 November 2002 - the training flight arrival of our baby. 1045 was the STA and after some work in the 707 Room setting up the display of 11panels telling the XBA story, I made my way outside, camera in hand to seek a vantage point from which to bang off some pics of the missed approaches we knew were on the plan. A hand-held VHF Comms radio broadcast the distinctive voice of Captain Brett Feebs Phoebe giving the position of XBA 10 miles to the south of the field and all eyes looked around to see in which direction the locals were looking. To the south, as it turned out, and we waited but a moment before the distinctive 4-light spread came into view, the smoke trail adding a contrasting backdrop to the glimmer. She was here! And so, for 20 minutes or so we were treated to a training flight that had all the elements of theatre as XBA danced through the shimmering haze, first one way, then the next, the JT3s creating their own special music, the drama of a high speed chase as she hitched her skirts and roared out of town like there was a MiG 19 on her tail, the artistry of what must be the nation's #1 707 pilot enthralling us, intoxicating the tee-totallers and converting the heathens to that new-found cult of 707 worship. 18 month-old Luci will have to be rescued, one day, I'm afraid. Roger, Brett, Murray, Harry, Joe - we salute you. What a show you guys put on! All too soon, we listened sadly as Brett broadcast the intended departure routing and watched as the noise and smoke faded. The silent crowd slowly dispersed, the heat and quiet creeping back into the space left by the 707, the last of its wing tip vortices converted into willy-willys stirring the dust in a parting earthly salute. She was gone.

Anticlimactically, the bus trip into town for the Easter Parade was next up, but whatever was next was following the impossible to follow. Even Joh's reappearance would have gone unnoticed. Once in town, we settled on lunch at Dot's Central Cafe, from where we were able to eat our meal and see the decorated floats at the same time, inside an air conditioned window seat. By now, the heat soak had well and truly tempered us and the shuttle buses to our various hotels and our cold water quenching were a most welcome sight, leaving from outside the replica of Qantas' first booking office, in use as the Longreach Information Centre. The King family accommodation, The Albert Park Hotel, was back near the airport, very well appointed and found by all who used that establishment to be right up there with the Erlsmere, apart from the fact that you could cool the room, water flow actually increased the more the taps were turned and the shower temperature could be made less than 99C degrees for more than 3 seconds. Did I mention the Erlsmere? Sorry.

There were to be a few hours before drinks, and the time fitted perfectly with an invitation to do a few circuits in an old mate's Vans RV-6, which is an absolute credit to Mike Horneman's skills as an ex-Qantas apprentice, who completed its build last year, after about 8 years of construction. I got some neat pics of Longreach Airport from the right seat and poled it around a bit to reinforce my knowledge that a pilot I am not, despite Mike's encouraging words such as pull the nose up, too slow, taking over and such other phrases of praise. As well, I swear I could hear the air molecules, host to the 707 a few hours ago, saying Get outta here, this is sacred air. Thanks Mike, for remembering me after all these years. It was a buzz.

Rushed back to the pub after refuelling the little bird to shower and change for the pre-dinner drinks and gather the family to return to the Museum, where Uncle Wazza made the introduction speech before opening the 707 Room to the swelling crowd. An hour or so passed like 10 minutes and it was time for The Dinner. Under a perfect star-strewn sky, we were seated on the grass, the Museum on one side and the silhouette of the DC-3 on the other, perfect ambience for the night's offerings. A superb meal was taken among laughter and eager conversation, with lots of lies told (it was after all, an aviation function) and it was soon onto the formal part of the night. As one of our Wise Men said when the non-presence of XBA at the dinner was mooted and people were thinking of cancelling, it was dark, and not having a 707 on the tarmac went totally unnoticed. We don't call him Norm The Wise Mackay for nothing.

Then commenced the night of celebration of all things Engineering, just as Uncle Wazza had promised and awards, trophies, recognition, praise and appreciation flowed like Roger's flying display. Longreach Mayor, Pat Tanks, staggered us all with the suggestion that a plaque be erected in town to commemorate the engineers involved in the rescue. Amazing response to a team of blokes who would have been satisfied with just a simple Thank you. The night was soon drawing to a close, but one person went a little further than most and was awarded special recognition. Karen Glass became the first graduate of the formed-the-day-before QFM Aviation Academy and was awarded a Diploma of Aircraft Restoration Engineering (Hons) in appreciation for the way in which she contributed to all aspects of the project. This in the presence of her Mum and Dad was a unique experience for the Glass family. The trophies under our arms, photographs of the first flight signed by Warwick, a mounted vortex generator with plaque and Rescue Team logo and a very limited edition polo shirt our straight-to-the-pool-room icons, we drifted off to the strains of what had been the perfect musical accompaniment, to reflect on what was a celebration of engineers indeed. This old engineer thanks you Warwick, the QFM Board, Mayor Pat Tanks, the people and businesses of Longreach, all my fellow engineers, and 707 supporters for making a night filled with the most happy memories. The dawn Easter Sunday service at the Stockman's Hall of Fame would be next. Sleep would come quickly."

 

Sydney - Longreach - Sydney
Distance 1566 nm
ATD Sydney 0830
ATA Sydney 1300
Total time 4.5 hrs

All times are local.
ATD/ATA are off/on blocks.
Source: Captain Roger Walter.

 

20 April 2007 - Friday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "The weekly meeting of the 707 Retirees' Social Club and Playgroup met again on this mild autumn morning to enjoy a yarn, a cup of coffee and lay the occasional spanner on the dear old girl. Friday's tasks were quickly prioritised, so first up was to make morning tea, an easy thing to do when Roy Finney and Karen Glass come out to play. They are both great providers of cake, biscuits and all the other things we shouldn't really be consuming but hey, today was special. Much to his surprise, due to some sleuthing on Karen's part, Jeff Richard's upcoming birthday on Sunday was recognised, and a card and birthday cake were presented to him at morning tea. Ross Downes, Peter Elliott, Al Chong, Jeff Craike and I joined Roy and Karen to sing Happy Birthday to Jeff and wish him well for his next week off down the coast with his family. He will no doubt be missing the company of us old folks (Karen not in that demographic) and will find a 707-free week a bit hard to adjust to. The aeroplane was next to attend to and after the routine checks of CSD oils, tyre pressures, inspections and so on, it was out for the weekly tearing up of 50 dollar notes - the engine run. I'm not sure if I recorded the fact that prior to the #2 engine start problems in Southend, it was your scribe who had the last successful start on that engine before its run of 16 wet starts. Since then, there had been a monkey on my back which Peter must have noticed today, and it was with a mixture of trepidation and relief that I said yes to his question "Norm, do you feel up to doing the engine run today?" So, with Jeff Craike at the panel and Dip ARE (Hons) QFMAA Glass pencilling, I was cleared to start 3, 4, 2 and 1. 3 was up and running. So far so good. Then 4 lit off normally, even farther, so good. Then the big moment, number 2. The damned monkey was doing a tap dance not just on my shoulder but on my head as well. The starter engaged which was the signal for the now gorilla-sized ape to start pounding on my back as the start lever was raised to light the fire. Oh, What a Feeling! way beyond the Toyota level, when that EGT began to rise. Up she came and slowly settled to a stable idle. Monkey - Be Gone! The rest of the run was routine and after 1850 pounds of kero had been used we shut down to go back into our cave. During the engine run, Al and Ross remained on board and performed some vital cabin tidy up work removing a half dozen or so trip hazards in the form of protruding chair mount bolts left in the floor after the recent furniture removals. Every week, our aeroplane gets better. Back in the hangar now, and based on an article in the most recent crash comic, our flight control man Roy wanted to do an inspection of the lateral control cables and their terminals, so we dropped all the cove lip doors and both main gear doors to check these components. We found nothing as far as cables were concerned but were rewarded to find that during the flap extensions and retractions called for on the engine run, a minor flap drive gearbox problem had manifested itself. An easy fix, we had the aeroplane buttoned up and were away after yet another fabulous day of friendship and achievement. Our Airworthiness man Ken Cannane dropped in today to discuss a revised Low Utilisation Maintenance Routine with Peter, the upshot being an easing of the weekly requirement for engine runs. The interval between runs is now set at 28 days. In addition, the checks we had been performing at weekly intervals are now similarly extended to 14 days periods. So, Playgroup will now likely meet only two more times before our raison d'etre is parked once and for all at Longreach some time in June. We are not sure how we'll handle that."
18 May 2007 - Friday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "So much went on today, including rain, seemingly making up for such a long, dry spell between diary entries, it's hard to know where to start, but as Maria said, let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. We didn't have a female deer but we did have some dear friends drop in from BNE, (best segue I can manage) all the way down just to see our aeroplane. Arriving in the gloom, bringing the delicious wet with them just after 0800 were our Webmaster and his Mistress, Ron and Maureen Cuskelly, who have been supporting us from the heart albeit from a distance. Until today, Ron has had to put up with my ramblings via e-mail with not even a whiff of Jet A-1 to add realism to my post he so quickly adds to the website. Well, today we helped make up for it with an action packed 6 hours in, around and on XBA. The plan for the aero was to position to the run bay for the ritual hydrocarbon sacrifice at 1030, enough time to give the Cuskellys a good look at their favourite 707 and catch up with the team again for the first time since Longreach at Easter. With the first part of the guided tour complete for Ron and his charming wife Maureen, a former Air Pacific Flight Attendant, we received two more visitors, also of the supportive type, in the form of Boeing Australia's Vice President Australia & Pacific Island Sales – Boeing Commercial Airplanes (wanna buy a BBJ?), Rick Westmoreland and a former Qantas Defence Services exec, John King (no relation). Both were enthusiastic in their praise for the successful outcome of the project and were given the run of the aero by Peter Elliott. It was a minor historic moment for Rick today, who despite his high profile Boeing Airplane Company position, had never previously set foot on his company's iconic 707 model, offering some weak excuse that he wasn't even born when XBA was built, but we've all heard that one before, Rick. After a quick left-hand seat endorsement, his Boeing credentials are now much further enhanced. Seriously, it was an honour to have them visit us and we thank them, both for the support they have given us and for taking time from their busy day to drop in. So, now it's about 1030 and the tug arrives to push XBA out of Hangar 245 and take her to the place beloved of oil companies, the run bay, just as I depart with Rick and John who have businesses to run and must away back to the car park. I drop them off at Security and return expecting to see the aeroplane on its way out of the hangar but as I turn the corner to head into 245, I'm greeted by the sight of all the 707 team, today around 14, standing in a group over by the western side, near the front, all looking with interest towards our baby. As I drew closer, I wondered how come the hangar floor was now as wet as the tarmac. In fact it was considerably wetter. Indeed, there was a mini-Murray thing happening, with a 30 metre-wide river flowing out of the eastern side of the hangar. As I drew up next to the huddled group, the Source became apparent. Not just a leak in the hangar roof, but the Mother of All Sprinklers was at work over the right side of our 707 trying its hardest to do the submarine conversion on her. The hangar fire protection system had malfunctioned (so the Phantom Fitter said) and set off the roof mounted deluge system and several thousands of litres of precious water was attempting to douse a non-existent fire on the right side of XBA. It was mildly reminiscent of our departure from LAX all those months ago when we were accorded the traditional water cannon arch that accompanies significant aircraft movements. Perhaps, following the morning's announcement, this was the Chairman's way of saying bye-bye. (No matter your opinion, we shall remember Margaret Jackson as a Champion of the 707, without whom very much less support would have rained down on us from her Company, but I digress.) Eventually the flow was turned off and we then awaited the outcome of the firies inspection before we could re-enter the area and continue with the day. Our spirits undampened, we received the all-clear and dragged our dripping wet 707 out into the, by now, light drizzle, for the run. With the visitors on board, the run crew, Horne, Finney, Phillips, Richards and I, set up for the usually-routine 20 minute run. I'm pretty sure engine ground running crews all over the world know what a normal start looks and sounds like, with the visual cues the initial indicator that the internal fire has ignited and fuel begins to turn to hot gas. This morning however, deja vu loomed large when, at the time you expect to see the heat haze issuing forth from the exhaust pipe, #3 produced only copious amounts of fuel vapour and then continued to do so long after ignition should have begun! Clouds of the stuff. No heat haze, only vapour. My heart sank. Once again, I was the last person to start that engine and now, just like in Southend, the next attempt was unsuccessful. The routine on the flight deck when this occurs is to motor the engine over and blow out all the unburnt fuel before attempting another start. Most second attempts are successful and it was with a racing heart that I watched and waited, a mere observer, for the requisite 30 seconds of motoring before the fuel and ignition are turned on again for another go at starting. This time - heat haze. Thank goodness for that, I offered up, and went across to watch the other side's engine starts. I couldn't believe what I saw. A repeat performance with #2. Heart had already just sank. Heart had sung. Heart once again sank. What was going on? Had the earlier deluge drowned the dizzy? Were the plugs wet? Should we have squirted WD-40 over everything before the run? Again another excruciating wait for the blow-through and this time a very visual indication of the fire-lighting - an orange flame shot out the back and instantly the famous Robert Duvall words "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" flashed into my mind. All engines were now running and 5 damp and very puzzled engineers were looking at each other and wondering... Bob Horne, on the headset answered our unspoken query. He relayed the information that there had been a start lever mishandling and that after correcting the problem, all was well. We had no manifold problem or engine work to do. My heart was clear to resume regular service. Following the run, we lunched at Gourmet Central and wrapped up the day by returning XBA to her freshly washed premises, dropped the Cuskellys back at T3 for their flight back to Brisbane and went home. Preparing ourselves for the final Mascot playgroup session, we are advised that the latest schedule regarding the movement to LRE is that this will occur on the Queen's Birthday weekend, with XBA scheduled to arrive at her final resting place at 1100 on Sunday, 10 June 2007. Can't close off without saying a special thanks, first to our long-suffering minder, Jeff Richards, who carried a large load today with so many attending the aeroplane, a fire alarm, the juggling of visitors and all the paperwork that must flow from having the hangar drowned. Thanks Jeff, for Feeling the Love. Second, a warm thanks to another newbie avionic engineer who came out to lend a hand today, John Ezzy. We hope he doesn't think today was a routine one. John, when we are inside a hangar, we normally stay dry and when we're outside we don't try to rival the F-111's dump-and-burn pyrotechnics. And that brings us back to doh."
01 June 2007 - Friday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "Jeremy Clarkson, the presenter of that most excellent motoring programme, Top Gear, was pinged recently for the inappropriate use of the rhyming slang term, "ginger beer", so I will steer right away from that epithet, and say that we "greasers" well and truly lived up to our name today. In preparation for what we hope will be her eternal preservation, a cast of thousands, as Peter called us this morning, applied Aeroshell 33 to just about every sliding surface on the wings. Well, almost, since it was the flaps that received the most attention and they take up a fair percentage of that surface. As we approach the day when XBA leaves these latitudes for a warmer one, the emphasis today was long-term storage corrosion control. The known problem areas were given liberal dosings of Ardrox, a penetrating water repellent, or smeared well with grease, and now XBA is well and truly ready for another sprinkler system malfunction. The occasion was obviously important in the group's eyes, and as the last significant day of real work on our bird before she flies the coop, Peter had no trouble gathering a team for the grease gun practice. Once again Jeff Richards needed eyes in the back of his head keeping tabs on Argyle, Elliott, Martin, Finney, Pitkin, Horn, Chong, Hunter, Hagon and King, joined a little later after he had finished a shift at 0200, by Dr Bob and in between classes, Roger Chin. It wasn't as poignant as I thought it might be, but these battle-hardened aeroplane recoverers were probably saving it for Longreach. As well as labouring on XBA, we also packed a 20' container with all the precious bits to go with the aeroplane in the form of tooling, inhibiting fluid, a spare tyre and a nose wheel and sundry equipment for use at the Longreach decommissioning. It commenced its long journey there at around 1200, so in a small way, the aero's departure was made just a tad tangible. The only outstanding rectification before the training flight next Thursday is the #4 engine oil pressure indication malfunction that occurred on the taxi trial held yesterday. A new indicator should have that fixed when it's installed on Monday. Thanks again to our RAAF friends. In his usual manner, Roy Finney worked hard at improving things and today applied his skills in reworking the Left 1 main entry door seal flange, first filling then smoothing the part of the door frame against which the pressurisation seal sits. It will be more important in Longreach more as a weather seal, with this door always having been an easy entry point for rain while it was on the ground at Southend. At Longreach it's probably going to keep out more dust than water but either way, Roy wanted it just so. Just so it will be. So folks, there will be a need to visit Hangar 245 just twice more in this project. On Monday, there will be the tidy up of the oil pressure gauge defect followed by an engine run, then on Thursday, 7 June, she flies on her last training and re-famil flight, the penultimate operation before going to the Museum on 10 June 2007. Invitations have gone out for that event, and it looks like it will be a full house. Be there."
07 June 2007 - Thursday
Sydney - Canberra - Wollongong - Sydney

 

The previous twelve images were kindly provided by Sam Chui who was in a helicopter over Canberra during the crew familiarisation flights. The final three images, which were taken from the ground, depict the last two touch & goes.
The previous four images were kindly provided by Daryl Jordan. They depict the departure for Canberra and what will be XBA's last landing at Sydney.
The previous six images were kindly provided by Jeff Richards, Maintenance Co-ordinator of "Operation Feel the Love".
The previous two images of VH-XBA departing for Canberra were kindly provided by Micheil Keegan.
The previous two images of VH-XBA in Canberra were kindly provided by David Elliston.
The previous three images of VH-XBA at Albion Park were kindly provided by Dick Simpson.
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "In conditions identical to the day she left her last home 6 months ago, almost to the day, XBA shone through the gloom and her spell was cast over the playgroup for the last time. We would fly one more time with her, away from the foul, leaden-skied Sydney winter's day, to leap and soar over the city after which she was named. With a somewhat less romantic connotation than had she been called City of Rome, say, Canberra was nevertheless going to be the scene of the last fling, the last tango, the last hurrah. So, in the company of Patron Dr Ronald Yates AM, QFM Chairman Warwick Tainton, 707 Preservation Project Chairman John Argyle, Webmaster Ron Cuskelly, Denis Martin, Bob Horn, Ben Hunter, Roy Finney, Bob Hagon, Bill Hill, Paul Hockey, Roger Chin, Darryl Pitkin, Ken Cannane and Frank Bowden, I took my place on board for the flight. Peter Elliott, Al Chong and Jeff Feel the Love remained behind to organise stuff for Sunday's departure. We would track to Canberra where there would be touch and go landings for the last crew training exercise, as well as to give renown aircraft photographer Sam Chui a unique opportunity to capture the City of Canberra overhead the city of Canberra. Done and dusted, the results are graciously displayed on this site. Sam's images are simply the most stunning I have seen of this graceful ship. Would that I were blessed with a quarter of his skill with a lens. We briefly caught glimpses of the Robinson from which he shot us while we were in the CBR circuit and thought how cold it must have been without a door or warm air conditioned air as we sat ensconced in VIP luxury. The touch and goes completed, we headed East to pay a visit to our colleagues at the Historic Aircraft Restoration Society's base at Albion Park, again for some crew appreciation of the runway there (short and narrow) in preparation for the landing into Longreach. Two approaches were made before our turn for home and the last landing in Sydney. We were part of history again, for it is unlikely that she will return. When I looked at the photos I took of the pax on this, our last flight in XBA, all had a slightly melancholic edge to them, as if we were sharing the sense that we were offering up our foster child for adoption. We had raised her from the scruffy urchin of Southend, knocked the rough edges off her exterior, polished her accent and taught her basic manners and now we were preparing to give her away to an adopting parent. It was always the Team's goal to do just that, but it didn't make it any easier to face that reality. As Bob Horn has put it often in the past, our DNA is all over the aeroplane, and our connection with her will be permanent, separated or not. I did notice though, the delight of our Patron was unabashed and he grinned from ear to ear the whole trip. The crew treated us to a most wonderful experience, one that will live in our hearts as well in our minds, and once again, to Captains Murray Warfield, Roger Walter and Brett Phoebe, and Flight Engineer Officers Harry Hermans and Joe Plemenuk, we salute you for the mastery you have shown over this difficult to fly old lady, with manual steering and wind-up instruments. You have shown the world what consummate aviators you are and without your dedication to the task, the project could never have been the success it has been. Finally, to our hostie with the mostie, Cabin Supervisor Karen Glass, it's obvious why you wear the Excel Award proudly on your lapel. You have etched your mark on XBA as well as on all of us, and to have been your passengers has been a delight in itself. May your last flight on Sunday bring your involvement in this endeavour to the happy conclusion you all want it to be. We shall be there to cheer you into Longreach. God speed."
Several team members have suggested that the Webmaster should contribute an entry to the daily diary. Probably there will be no better opportunity so here goes:

Not long after I experienced the thrill of a tow and engine run on XBA, our regular correspondent, Norman King, suggested that it might be possible for me to actually commit aviation in this grand old aeroplane. This was a totally unexpected privilege which was promptly placed in the "too good to be true" category. In due course, my name was submitted to the QFM Grand Pooh Bah who promptly approved my nomination. So it was with considerable excitement that I boarded a latter day Boeing product to fly to Sydney to join the final crew familiarisation flight scheduled for Thursday 7 June.

On arrival in Sydney, it emerges that the weather is much the same as Brisbane but with the added embellishments of high winds and lightning. Indeed it is necessary for VH-VYE to hold on the taxiway until it is safe for ground staff to arrive the aeroplane at the terminal. During this time, I am able to observe that the doors to Hangar 245 are ominously closed. Not looking good! As arranged, Norman King and Karen Glass left their holding pattern to collect me from T3. Perhaps it was my crest-fallen look that prompted Karen into some light-hearted banter intended to imply imminent aviation. It is soon established that the number one rule is to obey the flight attendant at all times. This comes easily to this correspondent as I am married to a flight attendant so I'm already broken in. In no time we are at the main gate of the Arthur Baird Jet Base and my driver's licence is duly pawned in exchange for a temporary security pass. My transport to the sacred site of Hangar 245 will be courtesy of QFM's Maintenance Co-ordinator and facilitator of Operation Feel the Love, Jeff Richards. I am joined by several of the engineers who are similarly unimpressed with the weather. Despite the gloom, I am already beginning to feel the love. Plucka the Flight Engineer arrives with the news that our chances of committing aviation today are 50/50. I wouldn't have thought it that good so I am encouraged. In apparent anticipation of flight, Roy Finney is busily applying "lip gloss" to the tyres, typical of the many acts of kindness which are regularly lavished on this special aeroplane.

Before long, we are invited to board the aeroplane. Perhaps they are going to humour me with another tow and engine run? No, not today it seems. We have smartly uniformed tech crew on board and they are doing serious aviation type things. There are a few team members on board whom I have not met previously but two years of managing names and images for the website gives me an advantage. I'm honoured to be travelling with these special people but I am particularly delighted to find that there is another Ronald John on board. Today I will be flying with none other than Dr Ron Yates, revered QFM 707 Project Patron and the engineer who managed the acquisition and introduction of the 707 into the Qantas fleet. When I joined Qantas in 1968, the 707-138B was already out of service and there were just a few "white tails" awaiting sale at Mascot. My first flight in a 138 is going to be truly memorable.

With a voice in my head saying; at V1 I will believe, we are summoned for a safety briefing by Flight Attendant Karen. There are no heads buried in newspapers during this briefing and it soon becomes obvious why Karen has been chosen for this vital function. This is no jolly for the boys. This is one professional operation. "But why do they call her The Green Hornet?" I ask a fellow traveller. "Just watch when it comes time to arm/disarm the doors", I am told. The penny drops. Airliners usually have one flight attendant per door but today we have one flight attendant and four doors. I make a mental note not to stand between Karen and a door at the wrong time. Not all of the seats in this executive configured aeroplane are approved for take-off and landing so Karen personally allocates seats to each passenger. At 1105 we taxi for Runway 16R but it is not until 1138 that we are airborne.

Our first destination will be Canberra where the crew will begin with a missed approach and overshoot followed by eight touch and goes. I am struck by the poetic justice of flying this aeroplane over the nation's capital. When VH-EBA was rolled out in 1959, she was named City of Canberra but this honour was rudely snatched from her when it became necessary for VH-EBA to remain in Seattle for test flying. This honour was usurped by VH-EBB and EBA never got to fly over the Australian capital as the City of Canberra. Today we are putting things right.

The visit to Canberra is appropriate for another reason as it was a grant from the Australian Government which made it possible for the aeroplane to be saved for future generations. Nobody was more aware of the significance of the moment than QFM Chairman Warwick Tainton who was on board as an observer. Warwick reported that he could feel that the aeroplane was flying very nicely and remarked on what a wonderful job the engineers had done. After a lap of honour over the capital, XBA headed for Albion Park (Wollongong) home of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society, operators of Super Constellation VH-EAG and many other historic aeroplanes. The visit to Albion Park provided the crew with an opportunity to familiarise themselves with an approach to a short, narrow runway similar to that of Longreach. Many HARS members and several of their aircraft were out on the tarmac to salute XBA during her two stately passes. This illustrates yet another triumph of this remarkable project which has brought together members of other kindred organisations which, in the business world, might be thought of as competitors. On XBA today there are several HARS members, Joe Plemenuk, Frank Bowden, Paul Hockey and the writer who is also under self-secondment from the Queensland Air Museum. All are happy to be making a non-partisan contribution towards the preservation of Australia's aviation heritage.

Today's training detail will be more than three hours so it is not unreasonable to expect some refreshment on board. Karen has baked some of her delicious muffins and Paul Hockey has brought along a box of gourmet donuts and there are also sandwiches and fruit platters. Despite this fine fare, this is no party. Although everyone on board is happy to be savouring the moment, it is clear that we are about to make history. XBA is about to make her very last landing at her home port of Sydney. Engineer Roger Chin (who probably has more licences than I have had hot dinners) gazes pensively out his window and confesses to being sad. I try to console him by suggesting that sometimes it just doesn't make sense to attempt to operate historic aeroplanes indefinitely. In case he suspects that I don't really believe this, I remind him that the intended fate of this aeroplane would have been much sadder and that therein lies the ultimate triumph.

 

Sydney - Canberra -Wollongong - Sydney
Off blocks Sydney 1105
Airborne 1138
Landed Sydney 1431
On blocks Sydney 1440
Total time 3.6 hrs

All times are local.
Source: Captain Roger Walter.

 

09 June 2007 - Saturday
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "It's that XBA early wake up thing again as the alarm rings at do-you-mind o'clock as Pat and I prepare to collect our dear mate Ian Dorling from the airport off the QF2 at 0530. Peter Elliott is also doing likewise and we arrive at the car park at the same time to see Ian in. The rain has eased to a steady 25mm an hour and the gentle breeze wafts from the south at 50 knots, and Ian has his first taste of Aussie weather. Captain Dick Hodder elects to go around off his first approach and Ian contemplates the wisdom of traveling so far to see his baby's adoption go through, but Dick succeeds on his next approach and Ian is plonked into a typical Southend summer's day. It was great to see him again after 6 months and we all enjoyed a coffee while we waited for the deluge to ease before heading off home, where Ian is our honoured guest for the time he's in Sydney. Later that night Tom Vaughan of Turbine Motor Works rings to say he's here, just off the QF32 and looking forward to meeting up with us all again tomorrow. His visit to LRE will be followed by a quick meeting at Amberley to progress his purchase of A20-261, coincidentally, a 707 just decommissioned by the RAAF. One more sleep, then one big weep."
10 June 2007 - Sunday
Sydney - Longreach
Karen Glass, QFM Cabin Safety Supervisor, reported from VH-XBA: "Thank goodness I went to bed early because I was wide awake at 0300, excited but nervous about the day ahead, with a full load of passengers and quite a few VIPs to look after today. The day we knew we had to give her to the QFOM at Longreach. The mind was going crazy, I couldn't take it any longer, so I got up at 0400 and started the day.

I was on board by 0600 and discussing the catering requirements with Alex from Qantas Catering. Alex asked if I wanted champagne and my answer was; "I will have a case please." to which he responded; "I am only putting 6 bottles on the 737 and they have 100 passengers." I replied; "I'll have what they are having thanks." And duly delivered it was. Cheers Alex. Soon it was all happening and questions and requests were coming from all angles. A wonderfully thorough briefing from Captain Roger Walter told me the running for the day. At 0715 I did a quick wardrobe change into the "Jungle Green" uniform of 1959 to welcome our official guests. Thank goodness it still fitted as it had been 6 months and I wasn't quite sure. Doors closed, a warm welcome from the pilots and then over to me to brief our passengers on not only their safety but a few housekeeping rules as well.

Back into the current QF uniform so that I can actually get some work done!! A nice take off out over the ocean and then back to Maroubra and up the beaches of Sydney. Unfortunately there were only quick glimpses between clouds and bumps. A bit of a shaky start for some. Now the challenge of serving the most people I had ever had at once on the aeroplane started. Breakfast was thankfully loaded in self contained boxes so a quick distribution of those was easy, followed by a constant boiling of two hot cups to provide tea and coffee. Everybody was able to help themselves to pastries and juices on the bar in the dining area. It was a much different kind of service to the delivery flight and a service where I was able to take some time to deliver, as usually I have only been able to do things in 6 to 8 minute blocks between "go - rounds". It really has been amazing what can be achieved out of this galley with the constraints of facilities that we have had. After some breakfast, everybody seemed to relax and chat amongst themselves, visit the flight deck, visit me in the galley, offer help in any way and generally savour the moment. A few congratulations and hand shakes to Warwick and of course the smile never left Peter Elliott's face. He was unreservedly proud and I am so pleased he was able to share this moment with his wife Susan and daughter Lauren.

Before you know it we were on descent into LRE, closure was beginning to loom. A sneak in over the town and the crowd (well as much as you can in a 707) just to let them know we were there. Next an approach along the runway with everything down. During the approach, I said to Geoff Dixon; "Fun isn't it?" and he said; "You think so?" and of course I said "Yes". By this time, Captain Murray Warfield had come out of the flight deck and joined the conversation as well. Geoff had enquired when we were going to put her on the ground and we commented that we had a few more to go yet and he made light about not being accustomed to not being in control. This prompted Murray to remark; "It's not often you have the complete attention of the CEO!" After lots of laughs and another approach we came in for the final time. I can honestly say I was not the only one with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat, but many were having a quiet reflection about what had just happened. Her final landing!

What a crowd, not only of people but of light aircraft as well. Cars were parked everywhere and a wonderful and warm crowd was there to welcome us. A few minutes later, with our own tow bar removed from the rear cargo hold, we were on our way to the temporary stand where she would be the backdrop to some wonderful announcements from Deputy PM Mark Vaile and CEO Geoff Dixon, as well as words from Mayor Pat Tanks and Warwick Tainton and John Seccombe from QFM. Down the steps we came to the strains of I still call Australia Home, an introduction to Mark Vaile and then a seat behind the podium to watch and listen to the festivities. When the speeches were over we were not sure what was to follow, but the press descended for the photo opportunity of the Jungle Green uniform with the 707 as a back drop.

Well not only was it a sad occasion but it was also one of achievement and happiness. Never tell an Aussie it can't be done. In my own little way I am extremely proud to be able to say that I helped out in some way. Each and every person I met contributed in their own way to the success of this project. A task which I would have found insurmountable, they simply found a challenge. The dedication and passion shown by all was truly inspirational. Words cannot express my gratitude to people I now call my friends. May we continue to travel safe and be happy."
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: "My breath hangs in the cold, damp Dural air as I open up the garage door to start the trip to Mascot that will see the 707 Project on its way to conclusion. The company of Ian Dorling, freshly arrived in the wide brown land, makes the day's events so much more complete, and adds a special presence to the occasion. For him, it's a pleasant UK spring day and he eschews a jacket in the 5 degree pre-dawn. Mmm… We are loaded and on our way and some of us welcome the warmth of the heater as we diesel-rattle our way on the 50 km trip to the airport, the darkness of this storm-ravaged city still blanketing the sensible who are yet tucked up in bed. One thing about XBA' s rise-and-shine schedule is that the traffic is thin, the trip taking only about 50 minutes and soon we are discharging our pax at the same location as at Easter, the Group Check In Counter at T3, by now abuzz with pilgrims from all over, bound for Longreach and a Sunday to Remember. I run into Tom Vaughan as he finds his way to the gate, so happy to be invited to this party and still as buoyant as ever he was. The check-in and security probes are soon done and we gather among friends from near and far in the rotunda, our 737 at Gate 13, with XBA at Gate 11, a unique sight and yet another for the history books. All but two SEN engineers will be there from Sydney, and but one from Brisbane, so the gate lounge is soon resounding to the noises so familiar to us all, engineers mixing with crew, their families and friends full of pre-departure bonhomie. We are honoured with the appearance of an old colleague, Dick Tobiano, the Qantas 737/767 Fleet Manager, who will command our flight to Longreach today, with a certain First Officer Tainton as his support. The part-volunteer crew will be in for a short but special slip and they would have had us on our way on sched except that a last minute need to take a 737 towbar to LRE made itself known and we waited a bit for one to be hoiked into the boot. No matter, the plan was to have a heavily padded flight time for XBA and there would be no danger of the 707 arriving before her admirers. As we pushed back, there was a special moment for those of us on the right side as we watched our baby slide past our windows before our tug turned us to face west, XBA likely not to be seen at Mascot again. The rain-grey veil through which she attempted to hide made it seem just that bit more poignant. We taxi a bit here, a bit there and eventually the thrust comes on and TJZ pushes the runway backwards and flight happens on the numbers, as it does a zillion times a day all around the world. We are north-bound for a very important appointment.

A ham and cheese croissant and a coffee or two later, the sun shines as we disembark at LRE International. Already streams of spectators are moving around, their faces showing the expectation you see just before a big parade is due to march down the street. They include many of our mates from SEN days, who have arrived on an earlier flight from Brisbane, the Dash having left a few days ago in order to beat us in by a few minutes. Norm "Wombat" Mackay and Mrs Wombat are among the first to greet us, and soon we catch up with Dave Short and his wife who left outer southern Sydney by car about the same time as the Dash from BNE but who have been here a few days already.

A Qantas Corporate Communications guy rushes over to me and tells me Melissa Thomson wants my head on camera and I am soon talking to half a dozen reporters who shove woolly objects under my nose as the questions come thick and fast and cameras capture the moment for a nanosecond of sound bite on that night's news. I wonder whether my remark about someone calling the 707 a "dead duck" so many months ago will make it to air.

Fifteen seconds of infamy over, it's time to take shelter in the Museum where the buzz is noticeably louder than at Easter. The shop is doing a roaring trade, the cafeteria is chockablock and there are crowds of people milling around. Colin Westwood, the Museum manager, is a blur as he and Alleyne Johnson rush from one urgent task to another. They've done well so far, as the crowds testify to their ability to gather in the guests from all over for this big day.

At this point, we look at the options for a vantage point from which to watch our bird arrive at its nesting place and we are soon nodding our heads in agreement with Mike Horneman, who, as a visiting pilot again in his immaculate RV-6, knows the code to the security gate onto the tarmac to be able to get to his aeroplane on the lightie hardstand. An "engineering evaluation" of a problem with its gear retract system is called for, so about 6 of us sally forth to do the checks. When we arrive, the fact that it has fixed gear seems to be the answer to his problem so, having solved that, we decide to stay airside to wait for the main event. We talk about the things you talk about while waiting for the start of a big show, the sun beginning its attack on Ian Dorling's English complexion and already he's starting to get a glow up. Lucky it's not mid-summer. We wheel him under the shade of a Coolabah tree.

Then:

WHOOSHKA!

From the north, low and fast she arrives, surprising us again as she did at Easter. Clean, fast, gone. A distant speck now, but we know what will soon follow, and once again Roger Walter gives the demo for which he and this beast are now famous. The crowd is enthralled and the culmination of all the effort that each and every volunteer has put in is paid back in spades as we watch and listen for the last time to the sight and sound of pure aero design. I take flight with her, my mind's arms outstretched and swept back, banking and climbing in unison with this fruit of our labours. Having experienced it from inside only a few days before over Canberra, I can picture the scene from the air while I'm watching from the ground. I am truly blessed. Too soon she's got the gear down and the flaps at 50, and the final approach is made through the shimmering haze, the red tint to the air close to the runway threshold adding more colour to an already misty-eyed view of the grand moment. Puffs of smoke announce the meeting of Good Year and asphalt and the beginning of a spontaneous cheer that echoes across the dusty surrounds as Boeing 707-138B, registration mark VH-XBA, not just the oldest 707 flying but the world's oldest commercial jet airliner, period, comes to the end of her flying career at the destination marked for her so many years ago. Tears flow from my eyes and I know this marks the end of the Project of my lifetime. In my time at Qantas, I had parked 3 747s in the desert at Marana, Arizona, their commercial usefulness over, discarded to be picked clean of useful bits and finally to be devoured by metal-tearing shredder machines. The tears were for joy that XBA had escaped such a cruel end, to shine in the Queensland sun for as long as there are folk who care for her, to bring joy to those who see beauty in man's invention and ingenuity, to savour the form that matched function in that most Boeing of the Boeings, the 707.

The welcome after XBA had been towed to the ceremony position was awash with VIPs, with Australian Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Mark Vaile leading a government contingent, with Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon representing the corporate suits. Much applause accompanied the words "six and a half million dollars" from Mr Vaile and "one million dollars" from Mr Dixon. See what you can do with just one 707? Just another $200k would have made it a nice $7.7 mil but it was not to be. Alliteration and financial finessing don't go together sadly, but it is election year, isn't it?

Next up was the sunset ceremony when, at a gathering under the wing of the 707, now in display position next to the Boeing 747-238B, VH-EBQ, Peter Elliott handed over the keys to the aeroplane to QFM Chairman, Warwick Tainton. He'll have to look hard for the ignition switch but they will help when he wants to get into the boot, as Peter explained. We cracked open the bottle of champagne handed to me at Southend on our departure by ATC Lasham's Keith Terry, and drank to the health of all our supporters back in that now distant land. The sun set just as the ceremony concluded, blood-red and with the promise of a fine night under the Southern Cross for XBA' s first day of retirement.

It's now 1900 and dinner is about to be served as 220 guests gather around the tables spread on the lawn, the Museum to the front and the recently refinished DC-3 as the backdrop. Little do we know that among the speakers will be a man who will set a place for himself as high as any man can in the course of this project. We have Ken Groves, the resident Qantas MC to host the evening and he moves the show along with his signature panache, introducing Rick Westmoreland from Boeing, Geoff Dixon from Qantas and Warwick from QFM, all of whom deliver touching homilies to a politely receptive audience. Penfolds Bin 707 cab sav on each table reminds us of Ken's attention to detail as he introduces the next speaker.

Up to the mike steps Ian Dorling, to present a large, framed photo of all of his staff gathered alongside XBA outside his facility in Southend. Before doing so, he delivers a speech so full of heart and at the same time, sprinkled with self effacing humour, during which all activity ceases, that it enthrals and moves the guests in a way unlike anyone else has ever seen or heard, that renders us all speechless, that touches previously untouched hearts. His genuine sincerity will long be the memory of the great many people fortunate enough to have been there on the night and the standing ovation at his conclusion drew the formalities to the most fabulously appropriate end possible. I have that speech on video tape and I will consult with our brilliant webmaster to see if it can be made available on this site, but not until after an important date mentioned in the speech, 28 June 2007, has passed. (Webmaster responds. Brilliant? - no. Audio? - yes.)

After such an address as Ian's, the rest of the evening is left to fend for itself, but some highlights were the remark by that remarkable doyen of aviation history, George Roberts, at 97 years young, Qantas' oldest employee, to Ian after he had finished speaking. George said that in all his years, he had never heard such a moving speech, and George would have listened to a few in his time delivered by some very highly placed people, I'm sure. Another delight was the result of the auction by tender of the sole remaining Rescue Team polo shirt that all of us Southend engineers had signed. It fetched a very healthy $6000.00, a magnificent sum, the purchase made even more generous when the successful bidder handed it straight to Ian. At that point, Ian Dorling had to take his leave, and spent a quiet moment to himself round the back of the beer tent.

As this outstanding evening drifted to a close, Ian and I walked slowly back to our hotel. As we headed towards The Albert Park, Ian's head craned heavenward, taking in the majesty of the Southern sky, the Milky Way never displayed more gloriously clear than it was this night, as much his as our aeroplane's.

The night XBA came home."

 

Sydney - Longreach
Off blocks Sydney 0750
Airborne 0810
Landed Longreach 1100
On blocks Longreach 1105
Total time 3.2 hrs

All times are local.
Source: Captain Roger Walter.

 

11 June 2007 - Monday
Robert Phillips reported from Longreach: "At the outset, I have to advise that due to the busy nature of de-commissioning VH-XBA, the next five Daily Reports will be an amalgam of recollections from the days activities from the five of us, it not being possible to monitor each individual's tasks by one scribe. So, these Reports are brought to by Peter Elliott, Norm Mackay, Roy Finney, Bob Horn and myself, compiled after dinner with contributions from all involved.

"An early 0545 start for all to move by bus, with belongings to the Airport. Fond farewells were made to all our friends returning to Sydney on the chartered B737. As Robert Phillips has a current ASIC, he was drafted to assist with tarmac duties and the loading of baggage. As the 737 taxied out bound for Sydney, the occupants were unaware that the jet efflux blew the temporary fence and the marquee 'base over apex'. The marquee framework was later observed in the dumpmaster - totally ruined! The volunteers staying on for the de-commissioning of the 707 then went for breakfast at the nearby truckstop diner. The Team then set about unloading the 20 ft container sent from Sydney the previous week, containing much equipment and items for Museum display. Peter negotiated with QFOM management for the use of three rooms in the original QANTAS hangar to store aircraft records, tooling and to establish an Engineering Office for future Project use. We briefly adjourned to farewell those returning to Brisbane on the Dash 8. The Team then proceeded to empty, clean and then refill the newly allocated Engineer's base. Dave Short delayed continuing on his holiday with wife, Chris, to assist Norm Mackay with the task of refitting switches and panels in the recently delivered B767-200 simulator. After their handiwork, the simulator was ready to be moved once an appropriate forklift was available. The rest of us moved the collection of corroded / broken pieces of interesting aircraft hardware to safe storage in the QFOM for future display in The B707 Room. Items such as corroded rudder hinges and panels, failed hydraulic filter bowls, fuel control units and all manner of avionic 'black boxes'. After lunch, we moved our personal gear to the Aussie Betta Cabins, just across the road from the QFOM. A tired band of fellows retreated to 'home' about 4.30 pm to freshen up before dinner at The Longreach Club, where an excellent repast was enjoyed in company with Warwick and Lyn Tainton, Joe and Karyn Plemenuk and family and Dave and Chris Short . Also joining us were local Friends of the Museum, 'Laddie' and wife Allison, and QFM Director Brian Costello. Most of our Team were in bed by 2130 hrs after a long, but rewarding day of progress."
12 June 2007 - Tuesday
Robert Phillips reported from Longreach: "After breakfasting on the leftover drystores from the VIP Delivery Flight (thank you Karen for your thoughtfulness) and toast and jam procured from the Truckstop Diner, the Team were ready for action at 0800 hrs, just in time to hoist 'Colours' (flags for the non-military types). L/H side cowls were unlatched and removed in preparation for engine fuel system inhibiting. Roy and Norm, liking a clean working environment, set to sweeping the concrete parts of the worksite clear of the crushed pebble that is spread over the aircraft display site. Robert and Norm drove into town to the local Mitre 10 shop for clear PVC tube, needed for syphoning inhibiting oil from a 44 gallon container into more useable buckets. Norm began resurrecting the 90 KVA ground power unit; checking oil and water levels, then charging the batteries. Bob and Roy were busy accessing the APU fuel supply line for future inhibiting once the APU was no longer needed. Peter set up his his new work bench in a sunny position under the right wing between # 3 and # 4 engines. At 1100, we adjourned for a combined 'smoko' and briefing in the QFM Boardroom with Warwick Tainton and Rod Seccombe, to discuss future Engineering / Maintenance requirements at Longreach. Some discussion also ensued over possible future projects. Back at XBA , Peter was staggered to find there is no toilet servicing truck at Longreach! An emergency call would have been sent to Norm King (#1 in #2s) to help Wise Norm yet again - but no-one's mobile phone works here, only service is provided by Telstra. Dave Short left us after lunch to continue his holiday with Chris, but not before teaming up with Joe (Plucka) Plemenuk to 'edit' the script used by the Tour Guides of any inaccuracies or anomalies, so that the visitors are given correct information and statistics. Due to the absence of toilet servicing equipment we all proceeded to disconnect the engine fuel supply lines, drain fuel from the P & D valves, and carry out wet spins to eliminate all fuel from components. Next task was to motor the engines and pour inhibiting oil into the supply line, thoroughly treating all fuel system components. This was followed by blanking the lines, then priming and bleeding the strut fuel lines to inhibit the fuel flow transmitters. Meanwhile, Norm had successfully run the GPU (Ground Power Unit) and earned valuable points towards his GSEM Merit Badge (Ground Servicing Equipment Maintenance). After this successful activity it was time to knock off for the day and all of us continued an Erlsmere tradition by going shopping for groceries. This was followed by nibbles and a refreshing ale in the beer garden. In this activity we were joined by Joe and Karyn Plemenuk and Rod Seccombe. Rod kept us enthralled with tales of Longreach characters and folklore. The five engineers dined at the Truckstop Diner, before settling down for the night."
13 June 2007 - Wednesday
Robert Phillips reported from Longreach: "Another 0800 start, where the GPU was put to use to power the aircraft for flap extension for lubes to jackscrews and flap carriages, and a heavy coating of grease to the flap tracks. Engine cowlings were then secured. Word had been spread around the town, that by late morning, free fuel would be available to anyone desiring it. But first, Norm Mackay was tasked with reprising his superb Southend performance - servicing the toilets! Of course, Longreach doesn't have a 'honey cart' as well as not having a Roylyn dump fitting, so Peter and Norm pool their ingenuity resources and conjured up some plastic bags into a useable sort of dump chute. This was quite a successful operation as no-one ended up having a 'blue shower' with Racasan. Meanwhile, the excellent flight control locks made in Sydney by Ross Downes and Peter Asplin, were fitted to the ailerons. Norm then tackled a tune-up of the Hastings Deering mobile entry steps (Batmobile) as they were running very erratically. Many locals began to arrive with utes loaded with empty 44 gallon drums. The whole Team were involved in filling about 25 drums initially, and later a 1000 litre tank. All intended to use the AVTUR fuel for cleaning purposes. After lunch, the left elevator lock was fitted by using the 'Batmobile' for access to the elevator - then the engine stopped! Ironically, fuel exhaustion was diagnosed, and after the Team had been giving fuel away all day, Peter had to go and buy a jerrycan of petrol make the mobile steps 'mobile' again. Roy Finney was then able to fit the right elevator lock and the rudder lock. Whilst delivering a trolley load of drums to the local aviation workshop, we suffered a flat tyre on one of our 'little red wagons' (in a previous life it was a baggage trolley). This allowed Robert P. to complete his GSEM Diploma by purchasing a new wheelbarrow tube and fitting same under the watchful gaze of Bob Horn and Norm Mackay. Time now to pack up, retire for a shower, a refreshing ale or two and then dinner at The Longreach Club, before watching some kind of football match on the big screen. (The second Rugby League State of Origin match which was won by Queensland. Just for the record ... Webmaster)
14 June 2007 - Thursday
Robert Phillips reported from Longreach: "Another 0800 start. On arrival at site, the big tanker was waiting for a big drink of fuel, and we complied! When it left an hour later, the 12,000 litre capacity tank was filled to within one foot of the top. He drove gently away, a rather happy chappy. An attempt to rectify the Leading Edge slat inboard of # 1 engine from drooping was unsuccessful, the latching clips not doing their job. Norm Mackay earned his GSEM Diploma after troubleshooting an overheating problem with the mobile steps. He removed the thermostat housing to find no thermostat but the hose and housing completely blocked with a metallic gel - the product of corrosion from the aluminium housing. After cleaning and filling cavities, the water now flows through the radiator and the overheating problem is solved. Well done, Norm! (Bars Leaks to the rescue again). After smoko, we all made our travel arrangements for home, courtesy of Alleyne Johnson and Dee Westwood in the QFOM office. Next job on the list was to move the DH-61 Giant Moth and Model T Ford baggage van out of the original QANTAS hangar to make room for the B767 simulator. However, the first forklift was not up to the task - the simulator causing the rear wheels of the forklift to lift off the ground! As Bob Horn says; We became 'pilots' for the day - taking equipment to 'pile it' here, then move it again to 'pile it' there. When the large forklift arrived, progress was better, with the simulator stored in the hangar for future display, the DH-61 and Ford T van back in place with hangar doors closed before adjourning for a late lunch. After lunch, Norm set about removing the batteries from the INS units, the emergency lights and DME torches. With Peter operating the APU controls, Bob Horn on the phones directing operations, Roy and Robert operating the bucket of oil and funnel, the APU inhibiting was carried out leaving the APU fully protected until next needed. The cargo holds were then sorted with aircraft operational spares stowed in the forward hold, more Museum display items moved to the Museum storage area and several large bags of rubbish disposed of before calling it a day - a successful day of progress towards the completion of the Project. Dinner was taken at the Longreach RSL Club. Norm and Peter have hired a vehicle for tomorrow's planned activity - an R & R day where we take up the kind offer of John and Fiona Hamilton to visit their property, 'Denton', between Longreach and Winton, with a side trip promised to visit 'Moscow', the former property of Sir Fergus McMaster, the financial backer of the formative QANTAS in 1920."
15 June 2007 - Friday
Robert Phillips reported from Longreach: "Today is a 'R & R' day with a planned visit to John and Fiona Hamilton's property, 'Denton', located between Longreach and Winton. But first a pitstop at the IGA Supermarket for some lunch extras and a newsagent stop for copies of the local paper, 'The Longreach Leader', out today with photos of last Sunday's arrival of the 707. With Peter driving, Bob Horn navigating and another monitoring Mach Number enroute, off we set for 'Denton'. We were all a bit surprised (city slickers) at the quantity of kangaroo carcases by the side of the road but would learn more of that later. Just an hour after leaving Longreach, our imminent arrival was signalled by a Cessna 150 overhead, piloted by John Hamilton with son, Jason, acting as observer. We followed it's flightpath, watching the landing just before we crossed the homestead runway. Fiona had morning tea ready for our arrival, even baking muffins for us. We were impressed and all enjoyed 'smoko' on the sunny verandah. Next, John had organised permission to visit 'Moscow', the property previously owned by Sir Fergus McMaster, the principal financial backer to Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness when they started QANTAS Ltd. back in 1920. John was able to show us the ruins of the original homestead, its still standing meat store complete with screening, the bore drilling rig used by the McMaster Brothers throughout the district and of most interest to us, the remains of the beacon light used by the early aviators when flying at night. This was located on a direct line between Longreach and Winton, at the midway point. Further exploration revealed the original engine which powered the beacon generator, at the ruins of the shearing shed half a mile away. These are great historical artefacts of the early QANTAS days which will hopefully be preserved and displayed at QFOM. On return to 'Denton' homestead, we were treated to a superb country BBQ, prepared by Fiona and cooked by Jason, home on leave from Mt. Isa. Jason is the twin brother of Clive, who some of us met at Southend. After lunch, Fiona joined us for a tour around 'Denton' (40,000 acres), travelling to the southwest boundary where we scaled Mt. Euston for a panoramic view of the flat, sunburnt plains - cattle country. Our view was taken from an observation tower carried to the site by the Hamilton family and erected for that purpose. The return to the homestead covered a different route to the outbound one, with John and Fiona giving commentary on the vegetation, native grasses and the composition of the herd. Back at the cattleyard, John explained the process of drafting cattle before transport to market. Fiona provided another country 'smoko' before we reluctantly said goodbye to the Hamiltons after a most pleasant visit. Thank you, John, Fiona and Jason. The sun was setting as Peter drove back to Longreach, with it becoming quickly apparent that we would have to watch out for scatterbrained cows and suicidal kangaroos on the way back. Five pairs of CRM trained eyes (Cockpit Resource Management) scanned the grassy roadside verges for the ever present grazing kangaroos. It took an hour and a half of careful driving to return to Longreach after a most enjoyable day. Tomorrow's Daily Report will be brought to you by Roy Finney as this scribe signs off from duty."
16 June 2007 - Saturday
Roy Finney reported from Longreach: "Inspired by a walk on Friday along Fergus McMaster's front path to the remains of his house, it was back to work. (Thanks to John Hamilton, Fiona and Jason for an unforgettable day). Bob Phillips departed on schedule after probably a last wistful look at XBA. The remaining team began removing spares and tooling from the cargo compartments for transfer to the storerooms in the museum and hangar (more 'pilotage; pile it here and pile it there') and saw several visitors looking quizzically at 'those strange people' pushing and tugging at hand drawn trolleys (there being no towbar on the QFM van in use). Draining the fuel tank sumps was progressed after another 44 gallon drum was acquired. Removal of cabin loose equipment was progressed until weariness and a thirst won out. Power was switched on for the last time as some filming of the cockpit was carried out for future museum footage. As a diversion, a transiting Cessna 310 was probably in sympathy with XBA as the pilot said it was going back to Wagga to go into storage (or worse)."
17 June 2007 - Sunday
Roy Finney reported from Longreach: "Surprise, sky overcast and on arrival at the aircraft - light rain. From this point on it was shoes off at the threshold as the brown mud clung to soles like glue. The tanks gave up the last of their sump fuel. The rest of the loose equipment was removed and placed in storage. Starting at the rear toilet, we moved through the cabin removing debris, dressing chairs and folding seat belts, hopefully to Karen's standard. All deactivation activity was recorded in the worksheets and after a last look around we closed the doors."
18 June 2007 - Monday
Roy Finney reported from Longreach: "A last look around at an old friend but no goodbyes, that would be too final. Peter, Bob Horn, Norm Mackay and myself all checked in at Qantas Link and left on time at 1015 for Brisbane and onward to Sydney. A small coincidence. One of the cabin attendants on the Brisbane-Sydney flight was on the Easter charter. The book closes on an outstanding story and I guess we all hope it is only the first edition. For myself it is the most satisfying project I have been involved with even after 421/2 years of airline service. The words of praise and congratulation we heard from visitors to the museum last week make me proud to have been part of a wonderful team and I trust we can look forward to preserving some more history in the future."
27 July 2007 - The End
Norman King, QFM Flight Operations Administrator, reported from Sydney: The dust, literally, may have settled on the airframe, but there is one last chapter, perhaps two, in the story of XBA's recovery. These last few words are written with much pride, but I hasten to add, not of the personal one which cometh before the fall. The pride is in the combined achievement of the bunch of mostly retired Aussie engineers who, in achieving what was said to be the impossible, are anxious to hear that they have passed on the baton shaped and crafted by Arthur Baird. Down through the generations, this tradition of integrity, as it has been called, has been handed onto the younger men and women who have embarked on a noble pursuit, that of aircraft maintenance engineering. In our time at Southend, we took under our wing one such young person, Shaun Bonnett. On a stint of work experience with ATC Lasham Ltd, we "borrowed" him to perform some airframe structure inspection tasks in an area that we dinosaurs would have had great difficulty accessing in the aft cargo hold behind the potable water tanks. Flexibility in the way our own frames could adapt to in our youth had now been transformed into the way we were able to take a mental approach to things, leaving the physical ability a little lacking. You win some, you lose some. The way Shaun deported himself in all aspects of this, his thoroughness, his attitude to the job, his inquisitiveness and notably his excellent manners, all those things you look for in an engineer, impressed us all no end. Knowing his passion to join the profession, we unanimously agreed that if Shaun were lost to the industry, the industry would be poorer for it. Our decision was immediately to take up his cause and do all we could to ensure his application for his long-held ambition to commence an apprenticeship succeeded. We wrote a reference for him, purchased some tools to start off his tool kit and passed on all the wisdom we could, based on our own beginnings over 40 years ago. He did us all the great honour of making a point of dropping into the Longreach Embassy on his last day of that particular assignment, bringing some afternoon tea with him for us to share, and with that, his thanks for the opportunity to work on XBA.

That was way back in mid-2006, with Shaun not then through his secondary school education which needed to be completed to a high standard before he could entertain the prospects of an apprenticeship interview.

Almost a year has passed and with that, we are delighted to tell you that he has done more than required of his school studies, with very high levels achieved in all the subjects that he needs to have to become that engineer he believes he is called to be.

In the last few weeks, he has attended two interviews, with ATC Lasham Ltd's Base Manager, Ian Dorling, heading the interview Panel. The competition has been strong for the 4 positions on offer. The selection process for these precious places has been very thorough and Ian's deliberation most intense. We should have the verdict on this very shortly.

While on the subject of UK supporters, another 707 experience was had by a small group of XBA engineers and one pilot during the first half of June, 2007. You will recall our engine diffuser case crack on #1 and failure to start problems on #2 and the man whose company came to our rescue. Tom Vaughan is his name, Turbine Motor Works his business, and while he was at Southend to witness XBA's first test flight, we learnt of his plans to purchase one of the RAAF 707s for his own personal use. Negotiations were moving at a similar pace to those of XBA's ownership wrangle, and he quite accurately estimated it to be many months off settling. In early June, Tom came down to Australia to attend the Longreach arrival ceremony and to wrap up the last of the purchase details with A20-261, as his 707 was then registered with the RAAF. We had vowed at Southend to return the favour Tom had done us, and to lend him a hand when it came to the work 261 needed to allow its delivery to Tom's abode in the UK. Not long after he had returned home after the Longreach arrival, Tom was back in the country again to work on his aeroplane at RAAF Amberley, so a ring around soon saw 8 of us ensconced at a motel near Ipswich, from where we travelled each day for the next week or so to progress the work to get 261 flying again. This was mostly centred on the transformation of 261 from glider to powered aeroplane, as Tom had purchased an engine-less 707. No problem for a man with around a dozen JT3s from which to choose a ship set in his inventory back in Bury, Cambridgeshire, and it wasn't long before we were engine running and making smoke as do all good 707s. To cut a long story short, Denis Martin, Robert Phillips, Norm Mackay, Jeff Craike, Roy Finney, Bill Hill, Paul Hockey, Mike Horneman and I spannered while Roger Walter spent some time doing some pilot conversion/refresher training with Tom, flying the test flight with him. The aeroplane departed for Kent International Airport (aka Manston) on Monday, 16 June, operated by Tom and a couple of hired Omega crew, arriving there a few days later after routing Amberley-Darwin-Male-Cairo-Manston faultlessly. For those of us who were part of that exercise, the Spirit of Southend reverberated in our hall of memories and we were grateful to have been able to make some small contribution to another historical 707s survival. In a neat bookend, we were pleased to discover that 261, or N707QJ as she was when she left these shores, is one of the most recently built commercial 707s surviving, the 5th last off the production line. So with XBA and Tom's 707 in our portfolio, we can say we have covered the 707 production from A, almost all the way through to Z, so to speak.

And the news to cap all this off?

Ian Dorling announced today that Shaun Bonnett was successful in his bid for an apprenticeship in aircraft engineering with ATC Lasham Ltd at Southend.

We like to think that we had some good Qantas influence in this and leave it to Shaun to continue Arthur Baird's legacy on our behalf, maintaining the tradition for which Qantas engineering was to become legend. And in the Mother country, too.

This is where we came in at Southend.

We bow out with a sense that we leave what we hope will be a lasting reminder of our time among a wonderful group of friends and supporters. To help reinforce Shaun's memories of us, our former headquarters, the green Portakabin, has been retained by ATC Lasham, repainted and relocated to inside Bay 4, where it now proudly wears a plaque declaring it to be "Longreach-on-Sea", a crew room for the use of our fellow engineers.

In closing off this diary, we would like to leave you with the words of a man who played a major role in the success of this project, without whose friendship, co-operation and encouragement we would have been so much more alone. Listen carefully to the way Ian Dorling puts his experience with the Project in this recording of his speech made at Longreach on 10 June 2007, the day XBA arrived home. It is from the heart and reveals much about the man.

XBA has been the journey of a lifetime and I hope that through these diary notes, I have been able to share this amazing trip with so many of you. I hope you have enjoyed it.

Fare thee well, and may we meet again.

 

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The Webmaster salutes the "King of Scribes". Thanks Norm!