Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sir Freddie Laker honored

The photograph on the fin of this aircraft is of Sir Freddie Laker, pioneer of cheap transatlantic airfares in the mid 1970s. Norwegian Air are now trying to do the same thing. I took the picture of Sir Freddie in 1980. Actually, this one below is the one I like best, but Sir Freddie's son Freddie Jr. preferred the smiling one. (My choice would not have fitted the fin either.)

The story goes further. I was a second officer pilot for Sir Freddie's company Air Charter from 1956 to 1960s, before I became a full time photographer in 1961. We flew Avro Tudors, a British piston-engined aircraft, descendant of the famous Lancaster WW 11 bomber, to Woomera, Australia, loaded with parts for the Jindivik target aircraft. The Jindivik is the aboriginal word for 'The Hunted One'. At that time the British were testing their rockets in the desert around Woomera.

Often we had delays on these trips mainly due to engine trouble. For me this was welcome because I found the trips exhausting and the delays also gave me time to take photographs in Instanbul, Aden and Karachi, Cocos Keeling Islands and Singapore. Cruising at an airspeed of 200 knots, we flew un-pressurized at 10,000 feet, (the pressurizing equipment and cabin insulation had been removed to increase payload capacity).

Some of the captains I flew with were ex-RAF WW11 bomber pilots who thought nothing of flying through bad weather, or working hours that were within the law but did not take into account cumulative fatigue as the journey wore on. Neither were they at all concerned about taking off on too short a runway, fully laden, as was the case in Colombo, Ceylon, as it was then called. They enjoyed pulling out the severed tops of palm trees from the wheel bays after we had landed at our next destination. Sir Freddie had a very loyal following from the Captains who did all they could to save him time and money.           


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