When the first Qantas
707 (VH-EBB) arrived in Sydney on 2 July 1959, it was Qantas Engineer
Bill Fishwick who "rode the brakes" when the aeroplane was towed
from the terminal to the maintenence area. Sadly this link with
the history of the Qantas Boeing 707 was lost when Bill passed away
peacefully in his sleep on 12 May. The following biography is drawn
from the eulogy which was delivered at Bill's funeral on 17 May.
For this we thank Bill's sister, Susan Fisher.
Bill was born in Quirindi,
New South Wales on 29 January 1937. He liked to joke that his parents
were married on 27 January, but invariably omitted to mention that
it was the previous year in 1936. He was the first child of Eric
and Joyce Fishwick and big brother to Jim, Judy and Susan. Because
Eric was a regular army soldier, Bill spent much of his early life
moving around Central NSW. He lived at Mudgee where Jim was born,
Bathurst, Lithgow, Orange and finally back to Quirindi where Judy
was born. In 1947 the family moved to Sydney when he was 10 years
old, Susan was born 2 Ĺ years later.
Bill loved building model aircraft. At the back of the yard in Lakemba
was a big paddock where he would fly his models. Once he started
them up all the kids would jump the back fences to watch Bill fly
them round Ďn round. It was so noisy and smelly but the kids loved
it. At the end of 1951, Bill was 14 years old when he finished his
school years at Tempe Boys Intermediate High School and started
to look for employment. Bill was interested in all things mechanical.
He saw an advertisement in the paper for Apprentice Aircraft Engineers
with Qantas and was successful for the 1952 intake for a five year
apprenticeship. Bill started the day after his 15th birthday, on
the 30th January 1952. He worked at Qantas for the next 40 years
before retiring at the age of 55.
Bill's first car was a Soft Top Morris 8. He saved up the money
and bought it after he passed his driverís test, and he worked on
the engine till it sang. In the late 50s Bill and Jim took up surfing,
they both loved it and made their own wooden 9 foot surfboards.
They would tie the boards to the top of Bill's car and head off
to Cronulla Beach. The boards lasted 3-4 years before becoming waterlogged
so Bill bought himself a Gordon & Smith fibreglass board which
he recently handed on to Daniel, the partner of his niece Kirsty.
Bill's next project was to build his own sailing boat.
Like all young men, Bill was called up for National Service in 1957.
He chose to serve in the Air Force and was stationed at RAAF Base
Rathmines. Bill has always been very handy and he built a rocking
horse and see saw for his great nephews. Bill acquired his Mother's
sewing machine and with this he made a denim skirt for his 16 month-old
niece Kirsty. During the eighties when Kirsty was growing up Bill
made 16 of the popular Care Bears for her.
When Kirsty was born, Bill's life changed forever. This tiny baby
found a way into his heart and Bill was like a second father to
Kirsty, Susan and Martin gave him the freedom to experience fatherhood
with Kirsty and he enjoyed every moment of it. When Kirsty started
school Bill would take time off work in the school Christmas break
to look after her for six weeks while Susan and Martin worked.
Bill really enjoyed his job, as he was interested in all things
mechanical, working his way to become supervisor as a Qantas Licensed
Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. He was a unique employee in many
ways, never abusing his role and being a caring friend to his colleagues.
Because Bill wasnít married, he always spoke up to work on Christmas
Day so married mates in his crew could spend the day with their
When Bill retired from work he bought himself a caravan and travelled
through most of Queensland and the Northern Territory, South Australia
and NSW. He was also keen on photography and took some really lovely
photos, especially of the outback.
Bill loved researching his family tree, finding cousins in England
he didnít know and has since kept in touch with over the years.
Bill did a lot of work on the family tree and at last count there
were 7592 people, which is not a bad effort. He was definitely a
man of style, being a connoisseur of wines, particularly his favourite
red and he loved designer beers, too. Bill loved to read, especially
books about sailing ships and aircraft. He had a large collection
of wooden model sailing ships that he had built himself. He was
very creative and a real handyman, always happy fixing things. If
he saw something he liked on TV, he didnít buy it, he made it!
Due to his healthy eating habits, he loved to grow his own vegetables.
He also loved his native garden. He loved music, especially classical
and jazz, with his favourite jazz singers being Louis Armstrong
and Frank Sinatra, just to name a couple. Bill enjoyed listening
to and watching Andre Rieu, and was lucky enough to see two of his
concerts in Sydney. He did crosswords, Sudoku and also collected
stamps and coins. He loved to travel and managed to see so much
of our world, visiting New Zealand, Hawaii and most of Europe, along
with Singapore. In fact, he managed to visit most of the Western
world. Billís list of many loves could go on and on, but most of
all, he loved and was devoted to his family, with them loving and
appreciating the wonderful person he was.
Bill was lucky enough to have excellent health, with rarely a cold,
until October last year, when he was sadly diagnosed with pancreatic
cancer. He maintained his lifestyle until he needed more care, when
two months ago his sister Susan moved in with him, so she could
give him all the attention he needed. Less than two weeks ago, his
health declined rapidly and he was taken to Brisbane Waters Private
Hospital where he remained for one week, before being transferred
to Peninsular Village. He was a person who never complained, with
the nurses having to ask him if he needed any medication Ė he simply
didnít want to be a bother. Bill was there for only four days, when
last Saturday, 12th May, Susan received a call to say that Bill
had died peacefully in his sleep.
An Engineer's Tribute:
From a personal recollection,
I would have first come under Bill's influence in Boeing Servicing
section in H131 at Mascot as a 3rd year apprentice in mid 1968,
when the crew I was allocated to worked alongside the crew in which
Bill was the acting Leading Hand. Bill gained his first licence
on the Lockheed Constellation airframe in the late 1950s.
At the time I first met Bill he held airframe and engine licences
on the Boeing 707. Around early 1971, I was posted to a temporary
relief team ("football team" as we were always being kicked around!)
to make up crew strengths when others were being trained for the
about to arrive Boeing 747-200. So I was posted to Bill's crew for
almost a year. He was a quiet but knowledgeable engineer who didn't
take risks. He would drill into us younger chaps Arthur Baird's
motto that "near enough is not good enough" and so instilled in
us his exemplary attitude to his work and his responsibilities.
We performed many engine changes on the B707s and B747s, plus many
through the night 'A' Checks. We didn't get to do any away engine
changes - that went to the "gun" crews but we did our bit back at
Base. Bill did do an engine
change in Papeete but I had left his crew by then. For licence
coverage purposes, I moved to another crew under Eric Favelle, and
another two sections, before returning to Bill's crew in 1978 after
completing a B747 airframe course. It was an easy transition, having
worked for Bill previously, as we both got on well together. During
this time Bill was selected to do Supervisor duties (Sub Foreman
was the title back then). This teaming in Bill's crew lasted for
about 6 years. During this period Bill was selected by Tom Gaunt
(Base Servicing Superintendent) to be the recipient of the prototype
of a new toolbox trolley. This had design inputs from the crew with
Bill insisting we have an engineer's vice on the back. The trolley
was made using an old baggage trolley, painted green with a green
canvas canopy - which made some of the other crews "green" with
envy. The cost of the completed trolley was $1500 and Tom Gaunt
hit the roof, refusing to build any more! So Bill had the only one
ever made. Funnily, when he retired and was checking out, the Tool
Crib wanted the vice returned as it was on his personal charge!
About 1984, Bill moved to Sydney International Terminal as "Tango
Base" communicator and "Tango 1", co-ordinating all aircraft movements
between the Terminal and the Hangars. He took an early retirement
offer around 1992 and moved to the Central Coast, closer to his
family. We kept in touch via the new facility of email and he would
pop in for a cuppa on his annual pilgrimage to the Qantas '49ers
Dinner in March each year.
I will remember Bill as a dedicated engineer and employee, who treated
everyone fairly and maintained a low profile. He didn't hang around
the Boss's office like some others did. In my view, he was not only
a gentleman, but also a gentle man.
this website was launched in 2005, Bill was one of the earliest
contributors. One thing that delights researchers and historians
is the luxury of talking to someone who was there. When it
comes to Qantas and the Boeing 707, Bill was indeed there
when the 707 era began. Not only was he there but he also
had an astonishing recall of events fifty years earlier and he could
write about his experiences and supply the photographs to illustrate
them. Bill was an historian's dream but above all else he was a
true gentleman. Bill has provided for us most handsomely with his
first hand accounts of the Qantas Boeing 707 era.
a 707 Engineer
Engineering Characteristics of the 707-138
also contributed to The Lockheed File
of a Connie Engineer