I flew in VH-EBA
from London Heathrow to Perth on QF732 on 26 March 1963. I was a
very excited 19 year old, emigrating on my own to Australia as a
Ten Pound Pom. I hoped one day to learn to fly. I had only
£5 to my name, and I worried that I might be charged for excess
baggage, so I stuffed heavy objects in all my pockets, including
my raincoat. The flight was full, and I was seated on the right
hand side just behind the wing. There was a nice blonde girl seated
near me but I was too shy to talk to her. When we stopped at Leonardo
Da Vinci Airport, Rome all the Italians crowded around her, trying
to chat her up. We flew on to Istanbul, which sparkled at night
with all the charcoal fires. We also had a good view in daylight
of Tehran, New Delhi and Bangkok. The meals were good, and for dinner
we had Veal Marsala. We were also given a Crossing the Equator Certificate.
Every landing and take off was accompanied by the strains of Arrivederci
Roma over the PA, and anytime I hear that song it reminds me
of that flight.
on approach to New Delhi in March 1963.
transits Bangkok in March 1963.
We finally landed
in Perth on 27 March, late at night. When the door opened, you could
smell the bush. The next morning I woke up to a cloudless sky, reached
over and turned my transistor radio on. The very first thing I heard
was Ted Heath and his band playing Waltzing Matilda. After surviving
the coldest winter in England since 1918, I thought I was in Paradise.
I eventually obtained my Commercial Pilot’s Licence and flew charter
in the Kimberleys, before joining MacRobertson Miller Airlines on
the DC-3. However, in 1967 our course was retrenched, and I travelled
to Canada, where I was hired by Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) on
the DC-6. After a few years, I progressed to flying the 707. It
was during my training on the 707 that I walked through the cabin,
which I recognised as being QANTAS décor. Imagine my surprise, when
I checked the aircraft log book, and discovered the aircraft was
ex VH-EBA, City of Melbourne. It was a dream come true. QANTAS
had sold the aircraft to PWA in November 1967. The Canadian registration
was CF-PWV (later C-FPWV).
Page with the former VH-EBA at Keflavik, Iceland in 1974.
(formerly VH-EBA) near Vancouver circa 1974.
I flew it from
June 1972 to September 1974. Our trips took us from Vancouver to
Honolulu, Iceland, Greenland, UK, Norway, Denmark, Amsterdam, Jamaica,
Bahamas, and Alaska. We also flew the Asian migrants from Uganda
to Canada, after Idi Amin evicted them. We were based in Entebbe,
and staged through Lagos, Accra, and Las Palmas.
If you wrote all that in a novel, people would say that it was not
believable. I am now back in Perth, and just amazed the aircraft
has been restored and returned to Australia. Thank you to all those
involved with this project. This aircraft is an icon, and I look
forward to viewing it at Longreach.
After his stint as First Officer on the 707 with PWA, Charles became
a Captain on the Electra and Hercules. His overseas basings included
Europe, the Middle East and Africa, especially Angola. After 11
years with PWA he joined Cathay Pacific flying the 707, 747-200
and 747-400. He retired as a 747-400 Captain in 1995 after nearly
17 years based in Hong Kong. He now writes non-fiction, WWII aviation
books. Vengeance of the Outback was published in 2002 and
he is now working on Wings of Destiny about W/Cdr Charles
Learmonth and the air war in New Guinea.
All photographs on this page were taken by Charles Page with the
exception of the aerial photo of C-FPWV which came from Pacific
Western Airlines. All images are linked to larger versions.