View Full Version : BOAC B707 ops in the 1960s

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12th Nov 2014, 16:15
I am researching background for a novel set in the mid-1960s. One of the (probable) characters will be a BOAC B707 captain. Some questions:

Did BOAC employ dedicated navigators in the mid-1960s or were nav duties carried out by pilots with Flight Navigator Licences?

Was LORAN the primary nav aid with astro as back-up, or the opposite? Did the B707 feature a periscopic sextant for star shots? If so, how did it operate?

On the North Atlantic was the current NAT system in use, with available tracks varying daily? Was longitudinal separation by Mach No the standard procedure? How many miles was lateral separation?

Did crews routinely contact the fixed-location weather ships for position reporting or weather info or use them for nav guidance (ADF bearings)?

Were supernumerary or cruise pilots usually included in the flight crew?

Did operation into JFK differ much from current procedures?

Where was BOAC's Crew Report location?

Thanks for info.

12th Nov 2014, 17:21
Did BOAC employ dedicated navigators in the mid-1960s No or were nav duties carried out by pilots with Flight Navigator Licences yes?

Was LORAN the primary nav aid with astro as back-up yes , or the opposite? Did the B707 feature a periscopic sextant for star shots? yes If so, how did it operate? held in position by suction from diff cabin pressure-worked electrically.

On the North Atlantic was the current NAT system in use, with available tracks varying daily yes ? Was longitudinal separation by Mach No the standard procedure yes ? How many miles was lateral separation IIRC 60nm (?)

Did crews routinely contact the fixed-location weather ships for position reporting no or weather info no or use them for nav guidance (ADF bearings) sometimes ?

Were supernumerary or cruise pilots usually included in the flight crew no?

Did operation into JFK differ much from current procedures not materially?

Where was BOAC's Crew Report location South end of Terminal 3?

12th Nov 2014, 18:50
Get hold of a book called 'The water jump' by David Beaty. Its all there.

12th Nov 2014, 21:21
Thanks Hobo. How often were LORAN and or astro fixes required? Was there a separate nav station in the flight deck?

12th Nov 2014, 21:51
Gwyn Mulletts' book "with My Head In The Clouds" also makes mention of navigational procedures at the time. He was on the VC10 but it's all very relevant in an excellent read.

12th Nov 2014, 22:16
How often were LORAN and or astro fixes required? Was there a separate nav station in the flight deck?

Fixes were required every twenty minutes. There was a separate nav station. On the 707 it faced sideways whereas on the VC10 it faced to the rear behind the captain.
The periscopic sextant was pushed through a mounting at the rear of the flight deck. A two minute 'shot' was taken of the star, This was done by keeping the star in a bubble using rocker switches on the side of the sextant. There were drums on the side of the sextant which would give the average reading over the two minutes.
Operations into JFK were different in the mid 60's as Terminal 7 had not yet been opened so we operated into what was then known as the International Terminal.
As far as I remember, the lateral separation was 120nm (perhaps an ATCO could confirm). On a bad night for Loran we were sometimes 20nm off track when we came into VOR coverage. I think that 60nm came in later but am happy to be corrected.
The nav would sometimes call one of the weather ships for a chat. They would always give us a bearing and distance as well as their position. On one occasion a weather ship asked us for our position. Apparently the sea was so rough that they had been unable to get an accurate fix.

14th Nov 2014, 08:21
I can confirm the answers given by Hobo and Airclues.

I joined BOAC in 1958 as a pilot, but was required to train for the Flight Navigator Licence, this started with 9 months classroom work to gain the Flt. Nav. exams, then flying training took place on the Boeing 377 "Stratocruiser" on West African Routes, and then I moved to the Britannia 312 flight, where I eventually gained my Flt. Nav. Licence tho' some went to the Brit. 102 and the Comet which were operating at the same time. Although initially rostered for the Brit. 312 East African routes, I eventually "graduated" to the Atlantic, flying to the USA and Canada, and the Caribbean.

In 1961 I was posted to the 707 fleet, to become P.3 /Nav. BALPA had negotiated an agreement that there should be 3 pilots on every flight deck, and BOAC decided to amalgamate the new Second Officer/P3 position with that of the Navigator, and being unwilling to re-train the older 'straight' navs. as pilots, my group were told that our move to co-pilot would be delayed, and eventually combined into navigation duties as well.

On joining the 707 fleet I was initially sent to Honolulu for 3 months ( times were hard ! ) to be navigator on the San Francisco/Honolulu/Tokyo v.v. sectors, and on return to UK was then sent for co-pilot training, after which I operated every flight as either the P.3./Nav. or the co-pilot (P.2) We normally decided between ourselves who would navigate "out" and who "home", and I almost never flew a trip solely as either one or the other after that.

During my time on the 707 I was appointed a Navigation Instructor and as well as introducing new young pilots to the Dark Art of navigation, in this role I was often rostered as one of the 2 navigators carried on the Polar Route to Anchorage, the Nav. Instr. being solely occupied in making frequent course checks with the sextant to assess the drift error and precession of the aircraft compasses before they were switched out of North seeking mode into Gyro Heading mode for the transit of the Polar Regions. It was during this time that I became proficient at Grid Navigation across the Pole.

I finally made my last flight as a Navigator in 1974, and was then promoted to 707 Captain, and shortly afterwards 747 Captain - where I had to forget all my Astro formula and start to learn about INS !!.

My recollection is that the last of the old "straight" navigators flew about 1962/3 tho' some of them were retained in the Nav. Office as check Navigators for our annual theory re-examination.

Although a fix by Loran, or ADF or Consol was required every 20 minutes, if navigating solely by Astro, as occasionally happened, then the requirement was extended to 30 minutes.

I'm sure the track separation was 60 nm. i.e. one degree of Latitude, but I have a recollection that was between aircraft of opposite direction, so that aircraft flying in the same direction would be 120 nm apart, but I could be wrong on that - it is some 45 years since I last had to do it !

It was a requirement to cross the ADIZ - Air Defence Identification Zone - around the USA within 10 nm either side of track, i.e. a 20 nm "window" at a specified point know as a "fish point" i.e. all the positions, which would now be known as "waypoints" were named after fish, and the one we used most when approaching New York was "Tuna".

The Weather Ships were of limited use for navigation, tho' we did use their NDB for bearings sometimes, and they were also occasionally able to give us a position from their radar, we mostly spoke to them to pass position reports, them having reasonable VHF reception as opposed to the more usual HF Comms. that we had to use.

The Captains rarely used the HF, leaving that unenviable task to the co-pilot, but one once offered to help his co-pilot by passing the 40 West position to Ocean Station Charlie, as that nearby ship was called. Unfortunately that particular gentleman had a bad speech impediment, and he stammered his message embarrassingly slowly .... Ocean Sttayshunn Cchchcharlie, this is is Speespeespeedbird 509 etc. and ended with Chchchcharlie diddid you cccopy?

A languid American voice came straight back with ....... jeez, did we copy, we’ve carved it into the f***ing deck !!

Sometimes the Weather Ships would ask to talk to the stewardesses, and I know that at least once they held a "Beauty Contest" amongst all the airline girls that passed by and spoke to them, and those girls willing to pass out their "Vital Statistics" were put into a draw, and the winner was given a trip to Boston, where the US Coastguard Base for weather ships was, and a few days sightseeing ( amongst other pleasures I guess ! )

A "bonus" of being made to navigate, was that BOAC contracted to keep ones' CPL valid, and as we weren't flying the "big" aeroplanes as co-pilots, they positioned a fleet of Chipmunk aircraft at Croydon, and we were allowed to turn up to fly up to 6 hours every 6 months at BOAC expense, so I have a passing interest in the Croydon Airport thread, as well.

I never wanted to be a Navigator, I was a Pilot for Crissakes, but now I'm glad I did and I occasionally wish I had a sextant to play with from time to time, it took a long time to become proficient, and I guess I could soon pick it up again, but it was very much a "hands on" art, and it is a shame that I no longer need it. Also, as a 20 something young man, there was a certain pleasure to be enjoyed in knowing that for a few hours over the Atlantic, you were the ony b*gger who ever really knew where we all were ! That sometimes needed a few fingers to be crossed tho', day trips to Bermuda when the Loran was down, and the only positive was an occasional single Sun line concentrated the mind a little - and the Brit. was occasionally below cloud - and I seriously considered Chichesters "find the Island" theory sometimes ! Happy Days.

Hope this helps, maybe I should write my own book !

14th Nov 2014, 08:41
"From Flying Boats to Flying Jets" by Eric Woods also covers this period when navigators were disappearing.

14th Nov 2014, 09:30
There is an ex Qantas Navigator still teaching bits and pieces at a Flying school in Sydney Australia. Taught me many moons ago and I passed first time.

14th Nov 2014, 10:34
Slightly off thread, but I was an RAF navigator in the 60's, flying in Shackleton's out of RAF Changi. We carried out Search and Rescue duties in Gan, and so flew long sea legs across the Indian Ocean. Navigation was by mechanical airplot and single position line mpp's using a sunshot. Occasionally able to get a fix using a merpass. If the NDB at Gan was u/s, it was common practice to use " find the island technique", obviously track accuracy was not as stringent as the North Atlantic.

14th Nov 2014, 11:50
I assume the 'find the island' technique was a variation on the 'creeping line ahead' !We once 'avoided' Gan in a thunderstorm ! Well it did look like a cun nim on the EK290 .

Brian 48nav
14th Nov 2014, 14:38
IIRC when I joined CAA as a trainee ATCO in '73 the lateral separation on the pond was 120nms.

Also Eric Woods in his book mentioned above gave '63 as the date that navigators, as opposed to pilot/navs, were dispensed with.

I have no axe to grind as it happened while I was still at school and 2 years before I joined the RAF, but it seemed with hindsight a strange decision. Several of my pilot mates joined BOAC having worked hard to get their CPL/IRs etc and were immediately sent on a 6 month nav' course. The result was surely that, now having 3 pilots on the 707s and VC10s, the time to command must have doubled.

When those types went out of service in the late 70s lots of pilots were laid-off for 3 years while the backlog was worked through and presumably recruiting at the bottom must have stopped.

There was always a ready supply of trained professional navs leaving the RAF, I for one would have loved to join BOAC as a nav when I left the RAF in '73, even though the career may have only lasted until 1980( the date I believe BCAL went from navs to INS ). I bet the bean-counters at BOAC didn't have a say back then.

14th Nov 2014, 15:23
Gan was the southernmost island of the Maldives, so you made sure you were north of track, then before ETA you hoped you'd pick up the islands on radar, and you'd know which way to turn!

14th Nov 2014, 21:46
I assume the 'find the island' technique was a variation on the 'creeping line ahead'

No, Chichester set off for Norfolk Island en route New Zealand - Australia in a Fox (?) Moth with a hand held Marine sextant. He reckoned that if he tried to maintain the direct track he could end up somewhat North or South of the Island at ETA, and if he was way off, or in poor visibility, then he wouldn't be able to see it, so wouldn't know which way to turn.

He pre-computed the bearing of the sun that would pass through the island at ETA, then deliberately flew well North of the direct track, kept taking sun shots with his sextant until the bearing he had pre-computed came up, then he knew he was definitely North of track, so turned left and flew down the sun line bearing until he saw the island ahead. It worked.

I also know of a BOAC 707 Captain who flew across the Pole back to UK using two toothpicks stuck in two pieces of cheese, using a constant sun line - shadow of one across the other - and adjusting the heading every 20 minutes via an Astro sun line. A long story for another time !

Spooky 2
15th Nov 2014, 01:40
Polar crossings were certainly not common in the 60's as they simply did not make any sense from a flight planning point of view. I would be very suspect of anyone claiming that they they did polar crossings or even operations above 78 degrees. Yes, we did grid above 72 degrees as I recall?

Regarding the 707 Nav station which was in the aft left side of the flight deck you might recall the sighting stool which the Nav could stand on so as to get a better angle on the sextant eye piece. It normally stowed against the left aft wall. Also there was a drop down curtain to prevent light from the nav station expanding forward flight deck.

I spent about eighteen months as a 2nd Officer at Pan Am before the Bendix dual doppler and Edo Loran A took over and slowly displaced the Nav positions.

Good times for sure:ok:

India Four Two
15th Nov 2014, 02:56
A long story for another time ! ExSp33db1rd.
Now's the time, please! ;)

I occasionally wish I had a sextant to play with from time to timeI'll bring mine ( http://www.celestaire.com/marine-sextants/astra-iiib/astra-iiib-with-trad-mirror-detail.html) when I fly up to the Bay of Islands next year and we finally get to meet. My first ever attempt at a position line was a lunar distance, after I had noticed Jupiter in close proximity to the moon, while walking back from the pub in Saigon! My LOP was 12nm out, which was pretty good I thought, considering the circumstances. I also used the sextant to observe the Transit of Venus in 2013, which was very special.

Concerning polar crossings, I remember reading about a non-stop Wardair 707 positioning flight in the 70s, from Gatwick to Honolulu. I recollect that the aircraft was towed to the runway before starting the engines and the go-no go calculations coasting out from Alaska were very meticulous. Does anyone have any details?

15th Nov 2014, 06:19

Fascinated by your nostalgic recollections........more please [or write the book}!


15th Nov 2014, 06:34
Polar crossings were certainly not common in the 60's as they simply did not make any sense from a flight planning point of view. I would be very suspect of anyone claiming that they they did polar crossings or even operations above 78 degrees. Yes, we did grid above 72 degrees as I recall?
My log book records London – Anchorage 18th May 1970. My first Polar Crossing.

We flew NNW from London, and for the first few hours the Nav. Instructor would take frequent sun shots with the sextant, and compare the performance of the two compass systems that we had, Captain and Co-Pilot. One of the pre-flight checks was to ensure that we had two meticulously maintained gyros fitted, these were fitted to any aircraft making the Polar transit, the idea being that the maintenance given to these gyros would minimise precession due to friction on the various bearings and “innards”, this would become critical when we switched from magnetic reference to gyro steering.

Gyros maintain their heading in space, theoretically, but precess, i.e. drift off heading, for a variety of reasons, one of them relative to the present Latitude, and our compass controllers had a knob that could set the mid-latitude for the next leg between navigation fixes to correct for the Latitude factor of the total precession observed.

The Nav’s job was to compare the drift of the gyro relative to the Latitude correction that had been set whilst we were still using a North seeking compass function, hopefully zero error if the Latitude correction was accurate, but never say never, and eventually create a graph, similar to a deviation correction chart so that when we switched to gyro steering, not only could he select the next mid-latitude correction, but also apply an additional precession error that he had determined from his Astro observations on the initial part of the flight. Clever stuff, but you small aircraft pilots do apply compass deviation as well as variation to your computed tracks – don’t you, or do you just follow an iPad now ?

Approaching 66 North, the Arctic Circle, compasses were switched to gyro steering, and a Grid heading flown, determined from a polar chart with a Mercator type grid superimposed. If for instance the heading was determined as 330 deg Grid, this could be plotted on the chart and flown beyond the Pole, when one would actually be flying South by normal consciousness.

We actually flew between the True North Pole and the Magnetic North Pole, and apart from the fact that a magnetic compass was useless in that region, the rapidly changing angle between required track and the local Longitude was changing far too quickly to compute with the human brain and an E6B wind drift computer. Remember, this was before even Inertial systems, never mind GPS and iPads.

Where it all got a bit mind blowing was when Fairbanks VOR started to be received, one could be – for example – on the 020 (M) radial of the VOR heading towards it, but the Grid heading being flown might be 340 (G), i.e. one appeared to be flying North, but in reality was now flying South, and the VOR needle would be pointing behind the aircraft tho’ in reality one was flying towards it.

Please don’t pick me up on the nitty gritty of all this, it is 40+ years since I last did it, just think about it !

Now's the time, please!

The cheese story ... leaving London one had many hours to sort all this stuff out, but out of Anchorage on the return sector one was thrown almost instantaneously into the Polar navigation exercise. I recall the “Grivation” i.e. a mix of Grid angle of the chart relative to True North, and the local Variation, was in the order of 174 deg east as we left Anchorage, which meant that if one applied it in the wrong direction – never say never – one could set off towards Siberia instead of Europe, very embarrassing. I used to calculate the Grid heading required, then give the available data to the co-pilot, and ask him to calculate it too, and if we agreed within a degree or two, then we would switch the compasses to Gyro and set off.

Company rules said that if there was any doubt as to the accuracy of the gyro compasses, then turn back. One Captain suspected such an error, but called for the cheese tray, cut off two lumps and balanced them on the windscreen coming and stuck a toothpick in each such that the shadow of one fell across the other, i.e. a sun position line.

Then he told the navigator to use the sextant to determine the True heading, and the consequent Grid heading to steer, turned the aircraft on to this new heading and re-arranged his cheese. Then he maintained that sun line for 20 minutes and repeated the exercise. He kept this up for about 2 hours until they were back into an area of normal compass operation, when they decided that in fact it was the co-pilots gyro which had been dodgy. I don’t think that they ate the cheese at that point.

When the stuff hit the fan because he hadn’t turned back, he said – the sun moves at 15 deg. an hour, by steering a constant bearing for 20 minutes, the most I could have been off the required heading was 5 deg. and that only at the end of the 20 minutes, as well. When we thought we had a problem we knew where we were, we knew where we were going, had we turned around and tried to re-establish ourselves back to Anchorage, we’d have been f***ed.

That Captain had been an RAF Coastal Command skipper in WWII, and they all had to be proficient on navigation as well as flying. I understand the theory but I doubt that I would have had the courage, and I’m glad that when I was a Captain I had the benefit of triple INS

Happy Days.

15th Nov 2014, 08:41
Qantas kept Navs on long haul over the ocean sectors until we had triple INS.

15th Nov 2014, 10:20
OK, an easy question, the answer to which will add a bit of 'colloquial accuracy' to my old chum Discorde's book:

What was 'Two-Two-One' and why?


15th Nov 2014, 11:41
221 was originally a hut on the perimeter of Heathrow along side the Bath Road where BOAC flight and cabin crew reported. I think because the huts were numbered rather than named.

The flight report centre moved to Terminal 3 at some time in the 60's [before my time] but the name 221 continued to be used until BA moved to Tristar House.

Even recently the term '221 divorce' was used by us older members of the community to signify the seperation of 'temporary couples' returning from a long trip. If you get my meaning:ok:

15th Nov 2014, 12:03

wonderful stories thank you

15th Nov 2014, 16:19
I joined BOAC in 1962 as a pilot but had to get my Flight Navigators Licence on Britannia 312s. The training was done by the few remaining straight navigators. After 2 years I went to VC10s as a pilot/nav. The crew then consisted of a captain, 2 co-pilots who alternated (roughly leg and leg about) between rhs and the nav table, and a flight engineer.

I can confirm ExSp33db1rd's recollections, though being on VC10s we did not have to do polar navigation. Everything else was the same re Loran, Consol, astro, etc. You have a wonderful memory! I can also confirm that the lateral separation on the NAT track system at that time was 120nms.

INS was gradually retrofitted somewhere around 1973/4, thus we were able drop the additional co-pilot and revert to 3 man crews. I became a navigation instructor and also a check navigator in the VC10 nav office in the same corridor in the Kremlin as ExSp33db1rd!

Building 221 was on the north side of the airport as confirmed by George,etc,etc. It was a 2 story building set amongst a number of similar buildings. Crew reporting was moved to Terminal 3 soon after it opened in 1961, but was still called it 221 for very many years.

15th Nov 2014, 16:28

See also my posts Nos. 3, 17 and 14 on the 'Navigation System on Bristol Britannias'. There was little difference other than a much better Loran set!

15th Nov 2014, 19:58
Yes, 221 moved from the building of that number on the North Side to the first floor of the South Wing of No. 3 Building (Oceanic) when it opened in mid-November 1961. (Staff Travel was on the ground floor, where those on concessionary travel waited nervously to see if they were 'on' or not.)

The crew suitcase of preference for that era was the blue 'Globetrotter' - until those new-fangled wheelie Samsonites were invented.

15th Nov 2014, 22:49
Sorry to spoil the party but as the second oldest airline in the world Qantas were doing all the same old stuff. We had a very long haul structure,

PS KLM is or was the oldest.

15th Nov 2014, 23:53
The crew suitcase of preference for that era was the blue 'Globetrotter'

For which all the keys were marked No.3 !!

More Polar stuff.

A well known S.E.Asia airline ( Not SIA ! ) also flew over the Pole from Paris to Anchorage, and in later years used a DC-10, with the by then standard INS navigation equipment, so the principles of Astro and Grid Navigation were no longer required.

One day the DC-10 went sick and was replaced by a 707, the crew knew about Grid navigation and gyro steering and when they eventually passed the Pole and saw the snow covered coast of the North Slope of Alaska appearing at ETA, were confident that they were only a short time away from Anchorage until they were forced down by a passing MiG fighter, and fortunately were able to land on a frozen lake somewhere near Murmansk. They were over Siberia, not Alaska.

Yes, they knew all about Grid navigation, but knew nothing about correcting for gyro precession, so the gyros had worked as designed, and carefully and consistently steered the aircraft in a nice curved arc, unfortunately to the right instead of left, which would have placed them somewhere over Canada. Murphy is always with us.

That same airline later lost another aircraft shot down flying between Anchorage and Seoul due to a navigation error. I'm occasionally asked if there is any airline that I wouldn't fly with. I have an answer, but my lips are sealed.

blind pew
16th Nov 2014, 15:01
whilst not a lot to do with BOAC except I would be interested in the implications of the Hermes landing in the Sahara on BOAC Nav ticket philosophy.
I attended the same college as Bergerie and probably had the same Nav tutor...originally a pilot but after an accident was retrained as a Nav IIRC.
I believe I was on the first course of ex Hamsters to fly the VC10 without having a Nav ticket...having come from the "opposition"...The aircraft having been retrofitted with INS.
My next venture into long haul was with my subsequent employer who literally threw heaps of money into training and equipment.
They also had an alliance with KLM,SAS and UTA to share facilities; documentation, spares, simulators - to name a few.
Whilst some of my mates spent 18 years on their first aircraft I went through them faster than wives. So 5 years after leaving the Iron Duck I was driving my third "new" jet.
The DC10 upon launch had the most sophisticated NAV system...two computors driven by three INS platforms with autotuning and update although our routes were sourced via a Betamax sized cassette tap - 12 mins to initialise.
I had learnt early on in my career through the deaths of several colleagues that doing the minimum wasn't a guarantee of not crashing - so in some ways I became a bit of a "Pilot Nerd". This led me to buying an Ebco sextant and some complicated book on Astro which I attempted to come to terms with.
Before the advent of INS Swissair carried professional Navigators.
We had two "risky" operations o the DC10...RIO and Anchorage. Even our extended range versions couldn't carry enough fuel and the forecasting wasn't the best. The latter we started in the late 80s and I found myself returning to home base on a BA 737 24 hours before my first flight departed - personal flight preparation and rest. As fate would have it the purser was an old friend off Tridents who had been on the 747 and night stopped in ANC.
I asked him about it and he described his journey in crew transport - a yellow school bus driven by an adequately built Afro-American who no doubt had belonged to a Baptist choir or six. She was asked by a ex public school, demure young lady about the entertainment.
Anchorage was my favorite destination...it was and probably is frontier land with the wagon trains replaced by dog sleds; I rented a large number of light aircraft - all equipped with a weapon and ammunition - mandatory in case you crashed and the bears arrived. Low flying along the gold rush rivers (20ft)..landing on a frozen river and collected by a snowmobile...aerial photographical hunts for bears, whales, moose and of course float planes.
We had slips of up to 7 days and my family spent a lot of time with me...
You couldn't invent a better life and all paid for in Swiss francs.
My third trip was the "eventful" one. As no doubt my ex colleagues will confirm - flying is about risk management although it was never talked about. If the commercial branch decide we could make money and some effing hero says "yes we can do it" then we do it....alternative get another job.
So at briefing where we were told how much fuel was needed and how much we could take the dispatcher said would you like to be the first Swissair flight over the Pole...it only needs a couple extra tonnes...and I have planned you destination Fairbanks with an inflight diversion to ANC...not out of the ordinary... we normally saved contingency fuel and the engineers reduced consumption by switching off two of the aircon bleeds...which I hated as I developed migraine due to the low oxygen levels (and no doubt ozone and organophosphate levels)
It got dark fairly quickly into our 9? hour flight but we had a beautiful moon just off the nose and low down on the horizon and all was normal until we were overhead the pole...when the panic started.
Company procedures dictated that above 65 degrees we had to be in True North compass display and under NO conditions were we allowed to disengage Nav mode. Our two computors were decoupled - can't remember whether they used average ins position or individual.
Crossing the pole we suddenly had two different track displays - 30 degrees apart.
Our next waypoint was at 80N...360nm...
I tried direct to on both displays...no change...checklists and books out...nothing...the consequences could be as speedbird wrote or just running out of fuel...at night...
Whilst not as clever as his cheese toothpicks...I disengaged everything..kept a constant bearing on the moon and by making "softly softly catchee monkey" heading changes got the Longitude counters on the INS changing towards the correct one.
After the next way point it all went back to normal.
Flying as we know is about learning from other's mistakes so I wrote a detailed report about the incident only to get a very rude reply.
Whilst I have had some excellent management pilots there are a certain group who shouldn't be in the job but as they are crap pilots many think that an office is the safest place. Fortunately our technical pilot wasn't one of these and I knobbled him on a sim check and he contacted McDonnell Douglas who came back several months later saying yes it could have happened and we don't know why but it shouldn't happen again...Inshallah
Happy days

16th Nov 2014, 16:16
An interesting thread

I joined BOAC from Hamble in '67 and due to no pilot courses we spent the first summer doing some of the Nav course - 6 weeks in Braincrank then let loose on the Atlantic - under supervision of course. Most of the time it was back and forth to Bermuda with the occasional Toronto and JFK.

Bermuda was off the track system but the others weren't - certainly the lateral separation was 120nm - along track I think was 20mins at the same Mach number, but just about everybody flew at .82.

At the end of the summer we were given our pilot courses and having spent the summer on the 707 we were given the VC10 - similarly those who nav'd on the VC10 were given the 707! A quick visit by a number of us to the VC10 flight manager - the lovely Norman Bristow soon got that changed!

Regarding the polar operations many moons later I was a Nav Instructer and found myself doing lots of ANC trips using the grid nav system others have mentioned. Actual navigation was fairley easy - quite a few NDB's and use of the weather radar to pick up some of the more recognisable landmarks.

We normally only went as far north as 80N but early 72 - 17th Jan. to be exact - Canadian ATC were on strike so we had to crawl up the FIR boundary to the North Pole and the south to ANC. AS far as we know that was the first BOAC aircraft actually to fly over the Pole. Wish I had pulled the chart and Nav log from the archives before they were destroyed.

INS's came a few years later and a command a couple of years after that!

16th Nov 2014, 21:23
arem - I remember the event of the ATC strike and the first BOAC a/c directly over the Pole, didn't the skipper send a 'greeting' to the BOAC Chairman from overhead ?

Akcherly, flying directly over the pole could have been easier - just fly up the Zero (Greenwich) Meridian and down the other 180 Meridian on the other side ! Would have taken longer of course, not favourable with the bean counters.

Blind Pew - Anchorage was my favorite destination in those days too. Driving out to the Portage Glacier for the first time, we were told to stop at the (name?) bar halfway along the route, where the barmaid - Ciel ( can remember that !) was reputed to have the largest tits known to man - or woman - kind, wore no bra or knickers, and short mini-skirts.

Walking through the door one Sunday lunchtime, our mouths literally dropped at the sight before our eyes, and whilst walking to the bar she said, "Come in, you must be BOAC crew ?" Why, I said, is it tattooed on our foreheads ? No, she replied, y,all talk funny, what's it to be ?

Already pre-primed to order a less popular beer, 'cos that was kept on the bottom shelf of the 'fridge, she went A over T and treated us to a knickerless and braless exhibition to produce our requested drink !

Subsequently the first officer remarked that he would like a photograph of her tits, but was too embarrassed to ask. So I did it for him. Sure, she replied, but let's go outside, there's better light. Outside the building he wasn't sure where to stand, so she said - "don't you want to hold, them luv?" And promptly heaved them out of her loose fitting top and handed them to him ! I think I ultimately destroyed the photo. to preserve marital harmony.

Standing in ANC customs one morning our girls came over and suggested that we'd all be going to the (name again ? but see below !) bar and strip club that night ? Probably, we replied, after all, what else is there to do in Anchorage on a cold Winters' night ? Well, they said, we want to come with you. OK, down in the lobby at 7.00 pm, see ya.

Walking into the bar that night we were treated to the sight of two naked males cavorting on the stage to a frenzied mob of women crowded around the edge, many of whom were tearing the Presidents portrait out of dollar bills and threading them on to a certain part of the male anatomy.

Somewhat bemused, we left our girls glued to this scene, and went to the bar. Don't worry lads, said the barman, Wednesday's Ladies Night, they end at 8.00 and it all returns to normal.

Frontier Town indeed. What was the question - 707 navigation ?

Edited - name of Anchorage strip club was the Great Alaskan Bush Company of course, how could one forget ? Still can't remember the name of the bar on the road to Portage - the Bird Cage perhaps ?

17th Nov 2014, 00:40
I think there might be a place for that barmaid in the story . . .

17th Nov 2014, 01:36
......whilst not a lot to do with BOAC except I would be interested in the implications of the Hermes landing in the Sahara on BOAC Nav ticket philosophy.Recently read a review of that, some Anniversary date I think. 'fraid I can't remember where I saw it - can remember details from 60 years ago but not last week ! - but it will be available on the Net. The navigators compass was equipped with a scale that could be rotated to apply the variation and then one could steer True courses as plotted on the chart - or something like that, unfortunately the graduations were x 10, so he applied 10 x the required variation, and they eventually became "temporarily uncertain of their position" and ran out of fuel. There is some tale of a passenger telling them that the Sun was on the wrong side of the aircraft, too.

On a Brit. once had a steward ask the name of the Caribbean island that we had just passed, looked at the chart and gave him a name. Shortly afterwards he appeared with a passenger, who had questioned my answer.

Oh! for f***ks sake, come and look, and directed him to my chart, we passed X at this time, we're flying at Y speed, and it is now Z time so we've covered A miles which means we are - Oh dear !! I was navigating by Loran, not islands, who cared what the name of all the various islands was ?

Turned out that the pax. thought he had seen his home on the Island he knew well, and still asked the question, and being given the incorrect answer by the professional navigator made his day. Passengers ! We've all had them !

Light aircraft out of Anchorage ....... once hired a Cessna 172 to go and look at the Portage Glacier with some of the crew. The instructor who signed out the aircraft told me not to approach the glacier from the bottom, but fly in high and then fly down it - the glacier has a greater rate of climb then the Cessna, he said. Good advice !

A crewmate pilot of mine hired a small aircraft to fly to Kodiak Island. I'm not sure if the wreckage was ever found, don't think so, likely disappeared into the sea, which was a bit cold up there.

galaxy flyer
17th Nov 2014, 02:20

Yes, the Bird House Bar! Fun place, burned down years ago, probably took about 5 minutes to ashes.


17th Nov 2014, 02:26
Thanks, Yep, the peanut shells covering the floor wouldn't have been an advantage !

17th Nov 2014, 08:26
The other incredible Anchorage bar was the Burning Embers. It was open 23 hours a day and it was staffed by very nubile young ladies who were probably the first Lap dancers.:ok:

I can still remember a whole BOAC crew being pushed out in the morning, standing around in the freezing cold for an hour and then back in!

I also remember witnessing a gun battle between a couple of locals from my hotel window.

They were obviously blind drunk and dressed more for Honolulu than Anchorage they also missed each other fortunately.

Pom Pax
17th Nov 2014, 10:08
Visualising the track taken I can quite believe someone noticing the Sun was on the wrong side.
In the late fifties this unfortunate incident was used as an example to drum into us to check the graduations on compasses at 2 ANS.

pax britanica
17th Nov 2014, 12:30
intruding as a hunble pax- and conceding that a nightstop in ANC was something I clearly badly missed out on always going t Japan via HK in those days.

Another BOAC Captain book of this era is called 'Can Anyone see Bermuda' but I cannot remember the authors name. Not as silly a title as it sounds as BDA is so tiny and has no real high ground (200 ft amsl I think) and of course frequently shrouded in (horizontal) rain and cloud . Trying to actually find it after 7 hours across the Atlantic was probably never easy in pre INS days .

From my recollection of many trips there it was still a pretty popular stop over for BOAC and later BA crews but as far away from the antics of ANC as could ever be imagined-in those days women could be fined for wearing shorts that came more than 2 inches above the knees away from the beach.

17th Nov 2014, 14:27
Archie Jackson wrote 'Can Anyone See Bermuda'. See here: http://www.amazon.com/Can-Anyone-See-Bermuda-1941-1976/dp/0951559850/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416238301&sr=1-1&keywords=can+anyone+see+bermuda

I also have another one that he penned, but cannot for the life of me remember the title of that one.

On the subject of navigation, I can second an earlier suggestion: http://www.amazon.com/head-clouds-Part-Gwyn-Mullett/dp/0992643325/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416238233&sr=1-1&keywords=with+my+head+in+the+clouds
Gwyn's book is well written and he describes his training and initial flights on the VC10 both as a co-pilot, as a navigator and later on as BOAC's youngest VC10 captain.

17th Nov 2014, 16:17
Blind Pew

I was reminded by your bit about the DC10 nav problem and had a similar?problem on a southerly (overhead or close to Bermuda) track Heathrow to Miami - you may recall BOAC (or BA?) had a DC10 from Air New Zealand, also KSSU.

We had a large along track error - I noticed the time to next waypoint kept increasing - and went back to basics from VC10 nav days by decoupling and navigating by track and drift.

When in range of BDA it started to autotune and updated itself.

If I remember correctly the 3 inertial systems had some kind of averaging and were supposed to chuck out any one which the system suspected was in error.

I came to the conclusion that this wasn't happening and it was still averaging all 3.

I wrote it up and discussed it back at base and I think they came up with a change of software.

We had previously had an aircraft that failed to turn toward JFK when it got to Canada and overflew the turn by a couple of hundred miles (20 minutes or so) before Moncton? managed to contact the crew - they didn't know they were in VHF range.

17th Nov 2014, 19:46
A considerable number of the BOAC 707 Captains were ex WW2 and highly decorated. They were mostly from Bomber Command and Coastal Command and there was even one who was a Battle of Britain pilot. I do not think there are any books written by these pilots.

However there is a book by Peter Duffey "Comets and Concordes". He had a very interesting career and there are a couple of chapters of his time on the 707.


17th Nov 2014, 20:09
For those non nav ticket holders, very briefly, an astro fix was done by assuming where you would be when you took the fix and using that position you would precalculate what the altitude (ie angle above the horizon) of three stars would be if you were there from details provided from the Air Almanac and your star table books. You then shot the three stars at the alloted time and compared the actual altitude with what you had precomputed. If the actual altitude was more than you had precalculated, the actual position must be nearer the star than the assumed position by the difference (in minutes of degree expressed as NMs (IIRC!!! it was 45 years ago)help me here someone ). And if less the actual position must be further from the star than the assumed. You then plotted the three lines on your map with ref to your assumed position and hopefully they crossed in a small cocked hat, the centre of which was where you were at the precomputed time.

BOAC taught you how to do this in the 'astro simulator' in Braincrank...this consisted of a plywood box fixed to the ceiling of the class room containing a small ight inside as a star with a sextant mount complete with lever to open the small circular hatch through the hull to the air at 35000' . A three position star fix would be taken by a student and his data used by all the other students to update their assumed position calculations on their chart plot.

In the classroom, the sextant had to be pushed upwards against gravity as you pulled the opening lever as Braincrank was not at 35000' so there was no diff pressure to 'suck' the sextant up. On the aircraft, the sextant had to be more or less 'hung on' to allow a slow docking against the 8.2 diff.

On my first rip as nav under instruction to YYZ, my instructor didn't tell me this (it wasn't ExSp33db1rd I hasten to add, although I did come across him later in the course - and very good he was too!! (That's a beer you owe me if I get to NZ again 'A'.) so when I was invited to 'stick up the sextant' to do the compass check shortly after reaching cruise, I pushed against the gravity I had been used to at braincrank. The sextant shot up to the roof, sucked by the diff, smashed against the plate on the hull and was followed by a tinkling sound of broken optical equipment. It didn't work for the rest of the crossing. Company was called and a spare from JFK sent to YYZ for the return crossing. Company at JFK, said this was the second time in a week they had had to do this - what was going on?

I never found out who the member of my course who had done the same was.

17th Nov 2014, 20:44
Hobo - yes, 1 nm = 1minute of arc along ( up and down ) the Longitude. I think technically that is supposed to be made at the Equator - but who's counting ?

Except that the difference had to be considered if using a Mercator chart in high latitudes, as the scale expanded towards the Pole.

As we now seem to measure distance in decimals of a minute via iPad GPS, I don't recall if we bothered about any distance less than one mile, which might seem a huge error now, but the scale of the charts we used meant that the thickness of ones' pencil line was almost a mile, anyway, and as our allowed "track error" was 10 nm ( IIRC ) we had a 20 nm "road" at our disposal, so corrections less than 1 nm were irrelevant. You description of Astro plotting is correct.

Will PM ref: the beer, I see that Amazon are considering Drone delivery now !

finncapt - Canada .... Once passed North of Goose Bay Westbound, not having had a fix for some time, en route Detroit I think. After about another hour of no fix capability finally admitted to the Captain that I was "temporarily unsure of my position". Using my presumed best guess he reckoned we were in range of the DEW Line, that line of radar Defence Early Warning stations stationed across Northern Canada in those days, and called for assistance - they couldn't see us !

Eventually a Canadian pilot asked where we thought we were, and having been told asked if I could see a 'spot height' on my chart of 1560 ft. ? ( or whatever it was ) Yes. Well it isn't a spot height, it's a misprint, it's a local broadcast station, try your ADF. Using that I eventually proved that in fact we were only about 40 miles off track - which after a long time without a fix wasn't as bad as it might sound now, it's the uncertainty that gets you wound up.

The mighty US of A Defence Early Warning system never did see us !

Happy Days.

Pom Pax
18th Nov 2014, 04:53
the thickness of ones' pencil line was almost a mile
As a national service.e nav. I knew little and remember less. Now our nav tables were cork faced, this hopefully lessening the chances of pencil point breakage. We were taught to use 8H pencils as these drew a fine thin line and could be expected to remain sharp for a couple of hours or more. If turbulence started to cause you punching holes in your chart, you changed down to 6H or even 4H in extreme conditions. HB was only used to sign bar chits!
Now 1 fix every 30 minutes may sound like a leisurely life but far from it. So you have worked out where you were 6 minutes ago and now where you should be 6 minutes later. Unfortunately its time to start again because the whole process will take 24 minutes or if its bumpy and you have to take 2 minute shots of each star, there's only 3 minutes to spare!

18th Nov 2014, 08:07
I'm a bit confused. How did you put the sextant through the fuselage without a slow depressurisation? I'm just trying to imagine how it worked.

18th Nov 2014, 08:52
One of my BOAC memories was of the whole crew hiring a mini bus in LA and setting off with a tourist map to find the homes of the stars.

One member of this band of adventurers was a Nav instructor and you've guessed it....we got lost.

I remember expressing my concerns that the next leg of the trip was out in the Pacific to Honolulu and on to Fiji which seemed a bit more complex than finding Marilyn Monroes boudoir:}

18th Nov 2014, 09:49
Archie Jackson's other book about his flying life is called 'Both feet in the Air'....great read...he's also written a history of Imperial Airways I think. If you can't find them on Amazon then Google second hand aviation books for sale ...I know of a great online company that has tons of great stuff.

18th Nov 2014, 11:30
How did you put the sextant through the fuselage without a slow depressurisation?

Just think of it as another outflow valve.

18th Nov 2014, 12:09
How did you put the sextant through the fuselage without a slow depressurisation?

IIRC, the sextant looked something like a professional camera with a long lense sticking out of it there were no quadrants, or external bits and pieces like on a marine sextant. Think submarine periscopes. It was compact self contained unit. The 2" diameter 'lense/periscope was slid up a tube in the flight deck roof, to the 'hatch'. The lever opening the 2" hatch was pulled and with a hiss, the sextant slid up until until the viewer was clear of the fuselage and various seals made to make it airtight and hiss free. On the way out, the lever was pulled which released the sextant enough to be pulled down past the hatch, which could then be closed by the lever and sealed. The sextant was then lifted down and stowed. A lot simpler to do than this description implies.

18th Nov 2014, 12:44
Oceanic navigation with sextant aboard a USAF KC-135:


The two-tone noise at the beginning is someone being called on HF SELCAL. The ground station is Honolulu.
Unlike the B707, KC-135s don't carry a flight engineer (shock horror) so the navigator's position is where the flight engineer's panel would normally be. The navigator's position on the 707 was in a more cramped position at the left rear of the flight deck. Note also the LORAN viewing scope.

18th Nov 2014, 12:44
Ah, the trials and tribulations of navigating. I was on a course out of Hamble scheduled to become VC10 pilots. There was a parallel course scheduled to become 707 pilots. There was a hold in the pilot training line so it was decided that we should start our Nav training. Only problem was that rostering put us on a 707 nav course and the 707 boys on a VC 10 nav course. Great fun. I seem to remember that the roof profile in the cockpit was different on the two aircraft. The 707 had a small foot stool so you could get higher. This put your nether regions slightly higher. It was not unknown, as you were concentrating like mad on the bubble and faint star, for the A girl to come up and slowly unzip your BOAC regulation uniform trousers.

Some of the Nav Instructors were not the nicest. There was one who would wait until you had done all the checks and while your back was turned would substitute the the power cable you had checked for one he kept which had a hidden cut in it. So there you were, calculations complete, ready to shoot and the sextant would not work. He would try to blame you for not checking everything.

Some of the check navs did not have a sense of humour. As was stated earlier it was OK to get a fix from a Weather Ship - problem was that they had no idea were they were. But once I got a rollicking from the Nav Office because on the day in question, Loran was very patchy, daylight so only the sun (and a couple of clever things you could do with it - no Moon and Venus), and Consul was also patchy that far north. We were following a Pan Am 747, so I used the weather radar to get a range and distance from him, asked for his INS position and then plotted our position. As I said nav Office did not appreciate my efforts.

One of the saviours for some instructors was the ADF. I heard of one who had a nagging feeling about the student's position. He tuned up the Home Service at Droitwich on 200 khz, watched it swing round and told the captain to steer that way whilst he found out where they really were.

Rwy in Sight
18th Nov 2014, 13:05
How did you (and your instructor) navigate the outward leg of the trip without an sextant?

Rwy in Sight

18th Nov 2014, 13:12
with Loran.

18th Nov 2014, 13:50
There are some images of the sextant and mounting on the VC10 here: http://www.vc10.net/Technical/oddities.html#Periscopes

18th Nov 2014, 14:12
The 707-336 had a Kollsman sextant. What did the 436 and VC10 have?

18th Nov 2014, 15:50
After we stopped using sextants on our 707's in Qantas we did a Royal Flight with the Queen. The Royal standard was put through the aperture for the taxy in. Looks great.

18th Nov 2014, 17:10
The early few 747s in BOAC had Loran by the copilot's right knee because the good old CAA did not trust the 3 Carousel IV INS's fitted (despite Appollo 11 using just one to get to and land on the moon). Copilot had to check INS position with Loran. This soon stopped.

Also the early 747's actually had a sextant mounting. This was eventually used as part of the cockpit smoke evacuation drill. - Although a strategically mounted cent coin held it open enough for the few smokers to have a fag and direct the smoke overboard.

18th Nov 2014, 17:59
A couple of sextant stories. The first one is folk-law but the second is true as I knew the guy involved;

A flight engineer who had OCD invented a devise using old Hoover pipes to use diff pressure to vacuum clean the flight deck. He fixed one end to the sextant mounting and then opened the flap. Unfortunately the pipe turned inward on itself and disappeared up through the mounting. However it was impossible to release the pipe from the mounting so the pipe flailed around on the upper fuselage for the rest of the flight

One of the navigation instructors had a little party trick. When not on a nav sector he would ask the pupil to leave the flight deck and then do something to the sextant such as remove the bulb, misalign the drums or interrupt the power source. The student would then have to try and sort it out.
Being a fair minded individual, he would then offer the opportunity for the student to do the same to him. After doing this to one student (who has sadly passed away recently) the instructor was unable to get the sextant to work. Whatever he tried, he couldn't see anything. When he gave up the student removed the sextant from the roof. he has drawn over the lens with a chinagraph pencil.

Perhaps beerdrinker can comment on the first story as I've never actually met anyone who witnessed it.

18th Nov 2014, 18:49
I can remember, shortly after a VC10 had been fitted with twin INSs, being required to do a 20 minute astro fix schedule across the Atlantic to check the accuracy of the INSs. How daft can you get?!!!

18th Nov 2014, 21:35
.......being required to do a 20 minute astro fix schedule across the Atlantic to check the accuracy of the INSs. How daft can you get?!!!'cos no one believed INS would work at first, it was black magic. "In The Beginning" we had an early INS experimental thinggy fitted to the sidewall of the fuselage of a 707 freighter main cargo deck, it measured about 3ft by 1 ft and was full of winking lights and clicking relays, there was a long "boot up" procedure to follow,and I remember being amazed that, having started the thing up on chox, by the time we had got to the end of the runway it had moved 1 mile West and 1/2 mile South ( or thereabouts ) PFM ( Pure F****g Magic). I was impressed.

We treated INS in those days like I now treat a "Glass Cockpit" fitted to a club Microlight that I'm supposed to be an instructor for, i.e. "don't touch anything, and WTF is it doing now ?" I'm told this is what a dog thinks when it sees television ?

........old Hoover pipes to use diff pressure to vacuum clean the flight deck.

I've been told that Air New Zealand fitted a vacuum arrangement to the sextant mounting of their DC-8's. Can't comment.

The 707-336 had a Kollsman sextant. What did the 436 and VC10 have?I think it was a Kelvin Hughes design manufactured by Smiths Instruments ? One difference was that the Kollsman had a mechanical pendulum permanently visible in the viewing chamber, whereas the other one required a bubble to be created by turning a large knob on the side each time, size of bubble you "custom created" had an effect on the viability of the sight, i.e. smaller was more accurate, but harder to "chase" the star. Overall I preferred the Kollsman.

The weather ships had a pretty good idea where they were, they had access to better Loran and navigation equipment than we did, weight not being a consideration for them, they steamed around in a "box" and sent their position out as X and Y co-ordinates of a square grid, which was also printed on our chart, so the morse code ident. would be something like "C(for Charlie, or whichever ship it was,) then-D-5" which put them in a small square, maybe 10 mile sides but as explained earlier this was small beer in the scale of things.

Smart thinking to follow PanAm's INS, except..... Once approaching JFK I was vectored for a visual approach to 22L from Deer Park ( or similar) to follow preceeding traffic, which was number one, a PanAm 707, did I have the traffic in sight ? Yes.

We followed PanAm, who made no attempt to turn on to the centre line and eventually passed through it, I then asked tower if I could make my own interception as I had the runway in sight and preceeding traffic had made no attempt to join. I was cleared to land, then we heard "Err - Kennedy Tower, PanAm One requests vectors to final ". Won one ! Turned out it was an SFO based PanAm crew who were less familiar with JFK then we were - at least that was their story when we met them in Customs.

19th Nov 2014, 13:00
Yes Airclues. I heard the story of the Flt Eng's vacuum but never met anybody who could confirm it. I think I heard the story after I had left the VC10 and was on the Classic. I seem to remember it was a "bar room have you heard about" story.

19th Nov 2014, 13:52
Certainly heard stories about the "vacuum cleaner" , a certain 720B operator (not Monarch) had an flt engineer who liked to keep the office clean until on maintenance at Luton it was pointed out that there was pockmark damage to the leading edge of the fin , I think the practice ceased.

blind pew
19th Nov 2014, 20:03
Finncapt...twas a BA/ANZ opp IIRC...had a mate who was a boy pilot on it...
One of the first expressions that my father learnt when he arrived in England B4 WW2 was "tight as a bull's arse in June"...which summed up my mate to a T...he used to take a metal detector along and spent the slip in LA beach combing - mostly for pennies and dimes...
He used to dry out his Tea bags along with another guy...how to live well on one of the best salaries in Europe.

Bird House....walls covered with soiled underwear (often with previous wearer's name in felt tip).

Portage Glacier....had one attempt and hit some nasty air so did a 180...dropped down to 100ft and went searching for bears...no sense in making the girls sick (in reality moi playing possum).
Took a flight out to Cordova and took the inter Island ferry back to watch the glacier calving from a different (and safer) perspective.

19th Nov 2014, 23:10
Returning a hire car in ANC one day, the owner asked if I'd be interested in an all expenses paid ship trip to Juneau to then drive one of his cars back to ANC?

It wasn't mid-winter, but it wasn't mid-summer either and I was a bit nervous of doing the trip solo, and no-one else would accompany me, so passed up the offer. Wish I'd bitten the bullet and done it, now.

Flying TYO - ANC one night, were held at F/L 290 due American being 10 minutes behind at F/L 330,and every "request" to them to maybe climb to 370 was replied to with a brief 'Nope'.

Approaching ANC the vis. was rapidly decreasing, and having passed the ILS Outer Marker it dropped below limits, but being inside the marker were were legal to continue to "have a look". Reaching our Company minima we were visual, so landed O.K. American were still outside the marker and forbidden to continue - so they had to divert to Elmondorf. We larfed.

Fris B. Fairing
20th Nov 2014, 00:10
Please don't tell me this is a furphy. I seem to recall that it featured in the BA air safety magazine.

Bill Pinnock
21st Nov 2014, 12:30
the closest I can offer is 1970-76 during which period I joined BOAC as a Joint Corporations cadet straight from AST Perth with 230 hours total on Cessnas, did the 707- 436 conversion at Prestwick 6 months later and started the FNL licence course in April '73.
By this time there were no "Straight Navs" but both F/Os on the crew held FNLs ( the captain was allowed to let his lapse ). There was no track structure on the N.Atlantic and nav training was conducted both there and up into the Arctic using Grid. Doppler ( limited by only a Polar Path compass system for heading reference ), Loran, Consol, and Astro were all used as available and necessary. Oh, how I miss the Flight Engineer's firm grasp on my inner thigh
approaching the end of a carefully calculated 3 star astro fix as I clung helplessly to the periscopic sextant.......
Can't help much regarding JFK as Newark was the closest I got in later years.....however, I do remember the advent of voice ID on the NY area VORs.
Air Almanacs still available for inspection by arrangement with Her Maj if you're ever passing Taunton way. Fun times...a crew that doubled as Rent-a-Crowd and a table for your dinner

23rd Nov 2014, 20:05
..... and a table for your dinner.

As Capt. JFK - LHR, and having "given" the flying for this sector to the F/O, I decided to put the S.O./ Nav in my seat as we flew up the East Coast towards Gander - this was an early INS trip when we still carried a qualified Nav. Pilot, "just in case", tho' he had normally nothing to do - so I enjoyed my meal at a table instead of balanced on my knee, made it easier to eat the caviar, should the cabin crew have been so kind !

I then noticed that the aircraft was in a positive turn to the right, one does notice these things, and heard the F/O explaining to Gander ATC that "we have a Nav failure".

The early INS would only accept 9 waypoints, and one had to constantly leapfrog from ones passed to insert new ones into the system ahead of the aircraft.

The F/O and S/O occupying the two front seats had been so busy chatting that they had forgotten to do this, so the INS had performed as designed and upon passing waypoint 9 had set course for waypoint 1 - back towards New York !

(Expletives deleted )

24th Nov 2014, 08:48
Bill Pinnock

Still got that beard by any chance?

24th Nov 2014, 10:02
In the 60's and 70's smoking on the flight deck (and the passenger cabin) was still allowed. One night I had to navigate a VC10 across the Atlantic with the Captain puffing at a pipe, the F/O smoking a cigar and the E/O chain smoking cigarettes. Trying to plot a position on a loran chart (you'll understand what I mean if you've ever seen a loran chart) wasn't easy in low vis conditions.



24th Nov 2014, 16:20
I have PM'd you.

24th Nov 2014, 21:21
Low vis Nav.

Agree, I got quite adept at navigating wearing a full face oxygen mask! The tube wouldn't reach the sextant mounting tho'
Raising the curtain that cut off light from the nav table, and opening the face level air vent, helped a bit too.

Had a Captain who decided to fly on "red only" light selection once, the switch to activate this mode being in his control, and of course the Loran chart required one to identify coloured lines, some red, which promptly became invisible of course. We had a few words about the ongoing navigation accuracy.
I won.

25th Nov 2014, 02:02
And then of course is the story of the skipper who was in the habit of leaning back and dumping his used tea cup on the 707 Nav's chart. Nav got fed up and sent forward to the pilots a series of heading changes. The effect being he navigated the aircraft around said tea cup. And he logged manoeuvre on his Nav Log: " Altering course to avoid Captain' tea cup"

Boxkite Montgolfier
25th Nov 2014, 16:32
I am attempting to enlighten everybody regarding the 'hoover storey'.
The individual was an Engineering Officer whose name has been on the tip of my senile tongue for days!
Both DTW (Guess Who) and I have been ruminating about this eccentric character who also relished bringing goldfish back from Nairobi and oxygenating them within their bag whilst airbourne. He also rigged up a feeding contraption via puncre louvres!!
Another act was to open the lower hatch from within the electrics bay, having depressurised the aircraft, and peering out to confirm the wheels were down and locked despite false U/C indications on the Flight Deck.
We will linger over a gratifying amber and the name will flash up in lights!
Watch this space

I will recount some of my navigating epic voyages when I can refill the quill!

The African Dude
25th Nov 2014, 20:02
Also, as a 20 something young man, there was a certain pleasure to be enjoyed in knowing that for a few hours over the Atlantic, you were the ony b*gger who ever really knew where we all were !

Fantastic :ok:

Boxkite Montgolfier
25th Nov 2014, 21:41

I knew the Amber liquid would release those memory marbles.
With grateful thanks to DTW the Mystery Mechanic is/was Bob Heath

26th Nov 2014, 11:06
A few years before it burnt down someone stole the big blue bird effigy mounted on the roof. The cops put out a States-wide alert for it's recovery and iirc it was discovered somewhere in the lower 48, whence it was returned to its rightful place.
One day we went skiing in nearby Alyeska and, unusually, some of the Japanese FA's joined us (they normally hung out with all the other airlines' japanese FA's in Benihana on 5th Ave in Anchorage). Afterwards we arranged to meet at the Bird. One of these girls asked the barmaid - the well-built one alluded to in an earlier post - whether they sold soft drinks or not. "No" came the reply. "What do you sell?" asked our Japanese girl. Whereupon the barmaid, hands on hips, displayed her enormous assets in tactical mode and stated "we sell BOOZE, lady!" :)
The only food available there was a basket of hard boiled eggs, labelled "boneless chicken dinners".

I was a frequent visitor to ANC in the 1980's and we had to do a very basic polar nav course before being let loose, which included a mere brush with Grid Nav. Years later I found myself operating these routes again and we had a reversionary procedure to Grid Nav if the INS's failed. As I was the only one on the fleet who had an inkling of what it entailed I was nominated the instructor! Blind leading the blind, etc.

Blind Pew - you do exaggerate.....

27th Nov 2014, 13:52
Perhaps ExSp33db1rd and or other 707 experts can advise on another point: for the purposes of the story I'm going to need five seats in my BOAC 707 cockpit. Reading the Accident Report on G-ARWE, I note that there were five crew in the cockpit: Capt, two FOs, FE and Route Check Capt, so presumably five seats was a standard config. Was the nav station behind the jump seat?

Thanks for info.

Boxkite Montgolfier
27th Nov 2014, 16:48
In essence Flight Deck layouts were similar for both B707's and VC10's. The Nav table was essentially behind the Captain's seat and jump seat was erected in the middle. The VC10 cockpit was enormous and entertained many visitors with much entertainment particularly if navigational duties were not too onerous.
Direct London Bermuda's were conducted in daylight westbound and generally concentrated the mind although occasionally a Sun/Moon/Venus fix was most rewarding. One aspect of navigating the return BDA-LHR was an essential removal of the shades on the sextant used westbound to protect the eyes during observations. Many a lad was confounded Eastbound on the first night fix searching for stars and met by a very black night!
Blacking the eyepiece was another jape generally reserved for a new hostess's invited to peer at Venus. I stress the jokes were very much enjoyed/conducted by all crew and reciprocated all round during those happy days.

27th Nov 2014, 17:03
Discorde Yes, on the 707 left hand side was capt/jump seat/ nav table with seat in a row and right hand side was f/O F/eng. IIRC, the jump seat was fixed fore and aft and butted up to the nav table, and it couldn't rotate but the Nav and Eng seat could rotate.

I think ??? the eng seat at least could move fore and aft...not too sure if the nav seat could...probably not as the js would be in the way. \\\\\\\\\there wasn't much spare room in the 707 cockpit.While under training as a nav, the Nav instructor used to sit on the jumpseat...where he could peer over your head at the nav table and your chart in a very intimidating way...

I don't know what others did, but the loran charts were masive when folded out, so once I had drawn our planned track on, I would use my square protractor to trim the edges/corners off and end up with a strip about 18" wide which could be used very easily. (Now I think of it, it may have been our very own ExSp33db1rd who suggested this....??

27th Nov 2014, 17:07

Oh what days - it's all too PC now I imagine.

I remember a trick with cling film and dry ice!!!

Brown milk on landing anyone!!

The longest VC10 trip I did was 28 days - got turned round in Colombo!!

Also Bob Heath, dour Duncan et al - sad when they got rid of Flt Engineers.

27th Nov 2014, 18:54
In GF it was called Brown Cow!!

27th Nov 2014, 20:08
707 seating - as described and no, the Nav seat didn't move fore and aft on the a/c centerline, but it did swivel and move closer to the table, and up and down of course to accommodate various physiques.

The sextant was contained in a fairly large, triangular shaped metal container, I think that the idea originally was that the Nav. would collect a sextant from Ops. and carry it out to the a/c each trip, probably a hang over from the days when Nav's owned their own Mk.9 bubble sextant and were responsible for them, as in seafaring days - maybe ? Fortunately that idea was forgotten and the 707 sextant case was bolted to the flight deck floor at the base of the "wardrobe" that occupied the space between the engineers station and the flight deck rear wall / door. In Winter it was necessary to brush aside the raincoats that were hanging over it.

On the Stratocruiser the co-pilot reached his seat by walking behind the flight engineers panel, and the navigator was in a little 'room' of his own, down a step, behind the flight deck, comms. with the pilots was by intercom.

Vandalise Loran charts !! Perish the thought, no it wasn't me, but I did suggest a method of using the square protractor to parallel the azimuth of the body away from site of the 'assumed' position, this kept the eventual 'fix' uncluttered with extraneous pencil lines.

Slightly off thread, but a colleague found himself navigating HNL - TYO at an unusually high latitude, for which he had no Loran chart coverage, so when the a/c position started to fly off the top of the chart on to the table he tore off a strip of plain white paper out of the teleprinter mounted above the Nav. table - no ones' mentioned that yet ! - and stapled it across the top of his chart, then created his own Mercator chart by projecting the meridians as parallels and using the formula for expanding the latitude ( you do remember how to do that, don't you ! ) on the plain paper, and then navigated by Astro until his track returned to the chart that he had and he resumed using the Loran. Clever

I'd have complimented him instead of criticising him for failing to ensure that he had the correct charts before starting ! Thinks - where would he have obtained a Loran chart on Honolulu airport at that time of night before departure?

millerscourt In GF it was called Brown Cow! and on the Britannia 'Brake Dwell Cocktail,

Happy days.

28th Nov 2014, 04:36
As I recall the seats in the B707 cockpit, the jump seat was behind the Cpt and was fixed, no adjustments at all. It would, however tilt forward to allow access to lwr 41 via the grate in the floor immediately behind it. The N/O table was immediately behind that and his seat moved up and down and laterally only. The FEO seat moved up and down as well as laterally. It did not move fore and aft until the late model -300 came on line. Those seats moved diagonally towards the Cpt seat as well as laterally.

It got kind crowded, hot and stuffy with five of us on a hot day ex KHI or some place like that.

That was, of course, on the opposition's aircraft.

28th Nov 2014, 07:42
Aaaaaaah! Brake Dwell Cocktails. Those were indeed the days.

28th Nov 2014, 08:04
Am I correct that crews were separate for VC-10 and 707, and indeed on the Comet beforehand as well, if anyone goes that far back ?

This being so, I wonder how some of the long line, multi-stop, different stopping pattern every day of the week routes, particularly round across the Pacific far from base, managed when the occasional schedule transition was made from 707 to VC-10 or vice-versa. Having a different set of slip crews in place from the changeover day must have been a huge exercise.

28th Nov 2014, 08:26
In the case of the cabin crew they flew both 707 and VC10 known on introduction of the 747 Jumbo as Mini fleet.

There were a number of 'non-integrated stations' which meant cabin crew could not switch aircraft types. I can't remember which ones but it it did lead to a lot of very interesting slip patterns!

The plum VC10 trip was Sydney through the West. LHR-JFK-LAX-HNL-Fiji (can't remember 3 letter code) SYD. Then either back the same way or through the East including CMB-BAH. 21 days unless tech or scheduling problems then think of a number.

28th Nov 2014, 20:29
The long trips, with many stops not served daily - only 1 a week on some routes f'rinstance, we had to stay there for the whole time, life was hard ! - was the reason for flight crews being "posted" to the ends of the Earth for 3 months at a time, Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong and even Honolulu for the Pacific services, those crews then effectively only operated half of the route, meeting the UK crews and both then turning around and going back

They weren't all "good" stops of course, Honolulu was counterbalanced by Calcutta etc., swings and roundabouts, as has been noted the best sound to be heard in Lagos was "V1, Rotate" on departure, but it was all part of Life's Rich Pattern.

We stuck for 2 local nights rest after an Atlantic Crossing, to adjust to the time change/jet lag, and when a pattern of arriving in New York in the early evening and returning early the following morning was mooted there was almost a riot. Only Management Captains operated that service initially, but not so for the lesser crew members, and I reported for my first roster on this pattern with some trepidation, but in fact, providing one was 'sensible' and went to bed on arrival and stayed on a mental GMT time zone, one effectively worked an 8 hour day followed by a good 8 hours sleep and another 8 hour day (sort of ) and got back to London in the early evening and went back to bed at home at the regular hour, then one was less fatigued than the crews who were half adjusted after staying in New York longer.

Of course this precluded any socialising or shopping, so we didn't admit it !

Crew allowances, i.e. spending money that could be saved, were only paid on Nth. American routes initially, flying to "the Empire" all expenses were met by the comany contract with the hotel, which meant that all meals had to be taken at the hotel, at times to suit them, not us, and no spare beer money, a system that was eventually abandoned in favour of crew allowances Worldwide, but initially the more senior ex WWII Captains organised themselves to only fly across the Atlantic - and collect their cash - hence the term North Atlantic Barons, that was applied to them! When I started the daily allowance for all meals in the USA was 10 dollars per day, total - hardly Baronial, but the term stuck.

28th Nov 2014, 23:00
It has been refreshing reading the posts which have brought back many memories. I well remember the Captain who insisted on just red lights in the cockpit. Another who used to cut himself off from the rest of us by dropping the grey curtain (like on the old buses to protect the driver from the cabin lights) behind him and to the side of him. He told me off a few times for leaning across the throttle quadrant to peer into his 'tent' to see if he was still alive! Eastbound to the UK, we knew we were nearly home when the teleprinter burst into life with the latest weather.
How about the early morning freighter (3am departure) LHR-PIK-YUL-JFK (I think). Ex PIK, E/O's BigBen alarm clock waking all five of us up.
There are some good stories of the steward/stewardess 'missfits' who looked after us. Good times.

29th Nov 2014, 04:58
Not only Captains. There was once a pattern that had the 2 F/O's change at Rome, whereas the Capt. & F/Eng. flew Beirut,Rome, London. The two new F/O's appeared at Rome, one climbed into the right hand seat and started the checks and, after T/off as P3, the other took a pillow and blanket down through the grille below the Nav table, and bedded down in the electronics bay below the flight deck.

Halfway to LHR the grille clanged open and they changed places.

The Capt. looked on in amazement, and said to the F/Eng. - "I don't mind him not talking, but who the fcuk is he ?

29th Nov 2014, 11:14
Many thanks for all the stroies and the 'that was almost us' moments. When I first became a pax (almost exactly 49 years ago) the VC10 still had sextents of course. I recall seeing them when getting my Junior Jet Club Log Book signed and visiting the flight deck!

I'd like to quote a navigation story from WWII, as it seems relevant and I certainly don't need to start another thread. This is a small extract from my father's (out of print) book Pursuit Through Darkened Skies: An Ace Night-fighter Crew in WWII (Airlife's Classics) by Michael Allen DFC (Author) Publisher: The Crowood Press Ltd.

My father became a specialist Radar and Radio Operator working with Fl Sgt Harry White Sgt Harry White [later] Air Commodore White CBE, AFC, DFC and 2 Bars on the 'Night Intruder' role - but that was to come. At one stage they were temporaril attached to a delivery unit to ferry new Beaus to Cairo. This is much abbreviated and here to illustrate the problems of navigating the desert in 1943 ...

By the 11th February 1943 we had picked up a brand new Beaufighter from Bristol’s factory at Filton and were flying it round the Irish Sea on a fuel consumption test. This lasted for 5.05hrs and we then took it back into Lyneham, to prepare for our departure to the Mediterranean. Collecting the Beau from Filton was rather like buying a new car - without having to pay for it! At Lyneham we learned that we were going to fly Beaufighter V8646 out to Cairo as part of the reinforcement programme for the Beaufighter Squadrons in the Middle East.

Our route out would start at Portreath on the North Cornish coast and then via Gibraltar; French North Africa; Libya (recently liberated by the 8th Army); Cyreniaca and on to LG 224 at Cairo. We would probably be going in company with four or five other Beaus, although not in formation.
We left Lyneham on the 19th February in V8646 and headed South West for Portreath on the North Cornish Coast. At 8.05 hrs. on the following morning we set off for Gibraltar. With a good Met. forecast we passed over The Scillies and turned South across the Bay of Biscay for Cape Finisterre. My Log Book reads:-
Hit Finisterre on the dot and then plain sailing i.e. flying down the Portuguese Coast, outside Territorial Waters and turning Left, when we got to the Mediterranean. All of us landed within 10 minutes of each other. Our flying time was 5.40 hrs.

We had a day in Gib, feeling very important and cocky having made it and completing the first 1,000 miles of our journey to Cairo without any hitches. On the 22nd we took off from the strip at Gibraltar and set course for the French North African Coast and a place called Blida, I wrote as follows:-
Met. w/v [wind velcocity] - given to us at GIB - not so good. P.P. on Tenes, then saw Algiers before going in. What a BL**DER of a place. Flying time 2.55 hrs.

We flew on the following morning, climbing over the Atlas Mountains and, although our destination was the recently captured Italian airfield at Tripoli, we had to fly a dog leg out over the Desert. This was to keep us and our new aeroplane clear of the fighting which was still going on, as the 1st and 8th Armies advanced to squeeze the Germans out of Africa.

Our route lay via Touggart and Gaadames to Castel Benito, but I don’t recall seeing either of these two places. The trip took us 4.55 hrs. but there is no mention in my Log Book of the struggle I had with the sheaf of maps I had picked up at Gib and my efforts to distinguish a Second Class Camel Track from a First Class Camel Track, as we cruised at 8,000 ft. over the Sahara Desert … and thought perhaps we should have joined the French Foreign Legion with Beau Geste and his brothers rather than the RAF.

I should mention, for the uninitiated, that a First Class Camel Track was shown on our maps with two dotted lines, whereas the other had only one dotted line. They looked fine on the map but when I looked down from my cupola in the back of the Beau, I saw neither tracks nor camels!

29th Nov 2014, 12:07

Also Bob Heath, dour Duncan et al - sad when they got rid of Flt Engineers.

That wouldn't be Duncan Everson by any chance?

29th Nov 2014, 17:25
No Duncan Sinclair.

A very good golfer and upset a few captains who did a round with him in NBO - I don't play but remember having to keep the peace.

IIRC he lived in some fairly remote part of Scotland and his journey to work involved a few miles walking followed by transport to Glasgee and then BEA to work.

Most of the stewardesses (A ladies) couldn't understand why he wasn't married (to one of them).

Maybe he was winding me up!!

I well remember an arrival in HKG where we had gone over Cheung Chau at 8000ft? and 300knots and him saying to the captain "your a f''''''g idiot".

Mirrored my thoughts exactly.

One of the nicest persons I have ever met.

Halcyon Days
1st Dec 2014, 19:19
I was one of those male cabin crew misfit on the 707 freighters for a while as well as the Standard and Super VC.10s and 436 -Conway engined 707s. They wouldnt let the girlies fly alone with all those men at that time-cant imagine why??!!
Kept the crew fed and watered (and awake ) for many long night sectors from Hong Kong etc.
Having fed one crew was told not to worry about coming up with coffee etc later-but they would call back if they needed anything. A fairly long time passed and I thought they surely would be wanting breakfast/coffee etc by now-so popped my head in to see -only to find the flt engineer asleep along with both pilots!! A polite cough and a louder call asking "WOULD YOU LIKE A COFFEE NOW CAPTAIN " quickly brought them around with an embarrassed look and a rapid instrument scan!!

1st Dec 2014, 21:13
Quick check of my Logbook, and there was definitely a Stewardess looking after us in March 1979 on B707 GATWV DXB-LHR. In later life, I really came to love flying on freighters, but self-service by then of course. On the 707 freighter, we were able to order our food the day before, so we did eat well. In later life the freighter food was crap, so a quick stop at M & S or whatever on the way to the airport was essential. Happy days.

2nd Dec 2014, 06:41
But it was not only male cabin crew. I remember one trip on a 707 freighter out to Hong Kong and back - three hairy a+sed airmen with one angelic blonde angel to look after them. Untouchable but beautiful!!

2nd Dec 2014, 06:53
Another North Atlantic Baron story.

707 crew arrived in Anchorage, and the Captain asked if, instead of one of the routine crew menu/meals the following day, he could have a round of Roast Beef sandwiches instead, on Rye bread ? The Alaskan, or indeed any U.S. State, "sandwich" being a little more than the miserable curly cornered little "sandwich" that one remembers as a sandwich in the UK. No problem, said the Stn.Staff.

On departure day the Duty Officer attended to the departure, got the Load Sheet signed, doors closed, watched chocks away and went back to her office to complete the paperwork.

Not long afterwards she received a call from the Control Tower asking what was the problem with the Speedbird 851 ? Nothing, she said, I despatched it about 15 mins ago, well said the Tower, it's still here. Finding a vehicle the D.O. drove out to the aircraft, plugged in a headset and asked what the problem was. I haven't got my roast beef sandwiches on Rye, said the Captain.

He got them ( that's why they call it Contingency Fuel )

N.Atl.B's could do that.

2nd Dec 2014, 08:58
And yet another Atlantic Baron story.

There was a certain captain on Britannias who was exceedingly proud of his smart appearance. When he travelled by train to Heathrow to fly (people did in those days) he always kept an immaculately pressed pair of uniform trousers in his locker in 221 (the old 221 on North Side) so that he could change before going out to the aircraft.

There was another captain who was an inveterate practical joker. One day he broke into the locker and removed the trousers. When the 'captain of the immaculate appearance' found his trousers missing, he refused to fly until they were found.

History does not recount how long that trans-Atlantic flight was delayed!

2nd Dec 2014, 09:04
I think with the introduction of 'equality' in the late 70's the all male freighter steward rule was scrapped.

I remember opening a roster for a freighter trip was a bit like opening a Christmas present. You never knew what you were going to get.

There were a group of permanent freighter stewards who, by hook or usually by crook, had got themselves restricted to 'light duties'. As an aside in later days there were a similar group who got themselves restricted to only working the Under Floor Galley on the Tristar - NICE:ok:

Some of the trips were very interesting and often included slips in places that a normal flight would not have gone.

I saw everything from baby elephants, dolphins to pallets loaded with gold bars. The gold was a nuisance as getting the trim right meant sitting around for hours. The dolphin was accompanied by a keeper who sat with me on the jump seat and wiped our important guest with some kind of jelly to keep it alive.

Imagine this: we had a small duty free bar on freighters containing half bottles of Scotch, Gin, Brandy and beers for sale to the crew.:eek:

One job the cabin crew had was to organise the catering and we would order up special meals such as curries and steak pies for the lads.

My only bad memory of freighters was a long Eastern trip with the same pilots. I had gone out of my way to organise the best meals, research the best watering holes in advance and generally care for them. Nearing the end of the trip was a positioning sector on a non BA airline. The Captain walked up to the check in desk and handed over the tickets 'three First Class and one in Economy'. He very forcefully said.

Still remember it and always thought it would have been nice to say 'three of us have First is there any chance of an upgrade for our cabin crew member?'

That said it was a great experience and much enjoyed.

Halcyon Days
2nd Dec 2014, 11:21
Around 1973-75 the period I was relating it was definately only male cabin crew on the freighters. I think it started to change around 1975 when the equality laws etc all changed.
I enjoyed working the freighters apart from the fact that at many destinations-you would stay in different hotels to the flight deck crew-so would sometimes be on your own for a day or two-which for me was no problem anyway.
Some of the more sociable crews would invite you to join them for dinner etc anyway.
I recall carrying a White Rhino and a handler from I think Hong Kong to Delhi or another Indian city .?

Private jet
4th Dec 2014, 12:53
My late father was a FE on the 707 with BOAC in the 60's and later the 747. I'll have a look through his logbooks when I get a bit more time for details of some of the interesting/exotic routings. Looking back in later life he always reckoned that he'd seen the best years of the airline business, and I reckon he was right.

Private jet
7th Dec 2014, 20:46
Here's a trip from July 1969.

(G-APFD) London-Zurich-Beirut-Karachi [24 hr slip] (G-ARRB)- Calcutta-Singapore [48 hr slip] (G-APFK)- Darwin-Sydney [18 hr slip] (G-ARWD)- Nandi [72 hr slip] (G-APFC) -Honolulu [48 hr slip] (G-APFB)- San Francisco [78 hr slip] (G-ARWD)- New York . Pax to London

The Captain was Leo Budd. My father didn't record the FO's names sorry. But I know they were all sat in a bar in Waikiki watching the first moon landing on TV.
Some long duty days too, FTL's didn't arrive until the early 70's I understand, but he did have 12 days off after the trip to recover(!) Eastbound around the world though must be a tough gig though.

8th Dec 2014, 08:58
Darwin on 707 freighters was either your dream or your nightmare:eek:

The next flight often over flew as there was no freight or no need to fuel or change crew.

One steward actually got a job in the bar in the Fanny Bay hotel as he had been stuck there for so long:ok:

13th Dec 2014, 06:20
Private jet - Pls. see your P.M.s

14th Dec 2014, 08:14
I can remember the 707s crew training at Bedford Thurleigh around 1972-4 sometimes on a Saturday when the military had stopped flying. Did you carry a steward/stewardess to look after refreshments/snacks ?

14th Dec 2014, 08:31
Did you carry a steward/stewardess to look after refreshments/snacks ?

No. One of the trainees would make the tea (not easy during 'circuits and bumps'). I did several base training details at Bedford, although in a VC10 rather than a 707.

15th Dec 2014, 03:46
Never went to Bedford, but ......... tea and bikkies on a Base Training detail ??

There's posh for you.

15th Dec 2014, 05:54
What of the 707 freighters that used to operate the route? I guess the crews got some real time off in SYD/MEL. Also what were the schedules for the operation?

India Four Two
15th Dec 2014, 06:56
I had a school mate who went to Hamble and was flying 707s afterwards. He told me of waking up over the Indian Ocean somewhere and discovering the rest of the crew were asleep.

Did that happen very often?

15th Dec 2014, 09:27
What of the 707 freighters that used to operate the route? I guess the crews got some real time off in SYD/MEL. Also what were the schedules for the operation?
1971 BOAC 707 (and a few others) freighter schedules :



Bear in mind that the freighter timetables were much more theoretical than passenger. Stops were omitted if no commercial load (as described above), extra stops were added if there was something, etc.

Notable are the 3 am departures from Heathrow to New York. Night slots are now far more valuable for early morning arrivals than freighter departures.

Halcyon Days
15th Dec 2014, 10:51
"India Four Two

I had a school mate who went to Hamble and was flying 707s afterwards. He told me of waking up over the Indian Ocean somewhere and discovering the rest of the crew were asleep.

Did that happen very often?"

See my post no 93

Albert Driver
15th Dec 2014, 17:06
Well not over the Indian Ocean anyway, as P2 would be trying to find someone, anyone, he could understand to talk to on HF, and P3N would be trying to find out where the heck they were......

17th Dec 2014, 05:56
Too true !

"Bombay, Bombay this is Delhi - shut up, Bombay !"

Flew with one of our WW II Polish Captains into Teheran from Karachi, and after a long and fruitless attempt to raise Teheran on HF I threw my headset off in disgust and made some racist, and politically incorrect remark about the provenance of Teheran ATC control.

The Captain just smiled and picked up the mic. and proceeded to call Teheran in the almost incomprehensible fractured English / Polish accent that he still spoke.

Teheran answered him immediately. You bugger, I said, and he just smiled and replied - it's the way you hold your mouth my friend ".

5th Jan 2015, 19:25
As a very young S/O he gave me a very valuable piece of advice which I carried through to the end of my career - "Never trust an engineer in a suit". Typical Scots golfer - played off 2 and hated to lose which he seldom did.

5th Jan 2015, 22:22
Polar crossings were certainly not common in the 60's as they simply did not make any sense from a flight planning point of view. I would be very suspect of anyone claiming that they they did polar crossings or even operations above 78 degrees.
As I understand it the first true high-latitude flights were by SAS with a DC-7C in the mid-1950s, operating Copenhagen-Anchorage-Tokyo, A 1957 timetable here (right hand side, table 2), which actually gives a timetable time for crossing the Pole.


I also believe that the principal issue for them to crack in high latitude flying in Spring and Autumn was the extended period of Polar Twilight, when the sun has dipped just below the horizon and so not directly visible to the sextant, but the sky is still sufficiently bright that the stars cannot be seen. I believe a sextant manufacturer of the era came up with an instrument that handled this, perhaps our very knowledgeable onetime navigators can explain this.

I've also wondered how you got on with Astral navigation if you were in 8/8 cloud for a sustained period. That DC-7C rumbling along at probably 25,000 feet was probably even worse than a jet for this.

6th Jan 2015, 00:35
I've also wondered how you got on with Astral navigation if you were in 8/8 cloud for a sustained period. That DC-7C rumbling along at probably 25,000 feet was probably even worse than a jet for this.

and also the Britannia, answer is - not a lot, see post 43. On that occasion the Loran was available until crossing the coast, after that no Loran, no Astro, no NDB's. After that just maintain a good AirPlot and hope that the forcast winds were accurate. ( no other means of measuring groundspeed at that time. INS ? GPS? just a gleam in someone's eyes, maybe.)

Spooky 2
6th Jan 2015, 09:36
Your point is well taken. When I wrote my comments I was thinking of something along the lines of EGLL to KSFO/KLAX and maybe even KSEA westbound.

Wonder how many times SAS made the Tokyo trip non-stop back in those days as opposed to a pre planned technical stop in Anchorage?

As I recall TWA avoided the higher latitudes (Doppler/Loran only), so as to eliminate the need for grid navigation where as Pan Am who operated with Nav/2nd Officers did operate at the higher latitudes. Don't bet your last dollar on my memory.

6th Jan 2015, 10:58
Can anyone provide any facts on the BOAC Boeing 707-436 services from
Heathrow to Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1962/63 ?

The published timetable shows these operating westbound via an unspecified technical stop, but non-stop eastbound. The scheduled elapsed time westbound is given as 13hrs00mins hours to LAX and 14hrs05mins to SFO,
which seems strange ?

6th Jan 2015, 12:22
Can anyone provide any facts on the BOAC Boeing 707-436 services from
Heathrow to Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1962/63 ?

The published timetable shows these operating westbound via an unspecified technical stop, but non-stop eastbound. The scheduled elapsed time westbound is given as 13hrs00mins hours to LAX and 14hrs05mins to SFO,
which seems strange ?
I understand the tech stop on the westbound Los Angeles flight was at Winnipeg. The San Francisco flight made a commercial stop at New York. I don't know whether there was a crew change at Winnipeg, in which case they would have to go there, or if the crew worked through and they would stop wherever was best on the day. The eastbound does appear to be nonstop as the flight time is pretty much what it is today (ending with a 50-minute connection onto another BOAC flight on to Frankfurt and beyond !)



I've done a lot of London to California flying over time, I notice that the westbounds tend to go much further north than the eastbounds. I've been over Baffin Island and Calgary going west to LA, whereas the last time I returned from San Francisco we routed overhead Montreal.

Some of the trips in the late 1970s were on the Air New Zealand DC-10 that BA used to hire each day ( I believe the daily hire was actually of 1.25 aircraft as the plane to London set off from LAX a few hours before the inbound one arrived), and it was marginal for the aircraft westbound, if necessary the flight made a refuelling stop at Prestwick, which necessitated anticipating this the day before and sending a slip crew up there. When American Airlines took over from TWA about 1990 they used to put up a decidedly hand-drawn and annoted chart on the forward cabin wall showing the proposed track, which had all the hallmarks of having been carefully written out by the most junior member of ops, with ruler and sharp pencils.

Any of you old crews remember a VOR on this route in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming called "Crazy Woman", which in the days before political correctness and before passengers got upset if their beloved movie was interrupted, was regularly announced and commented on by the BA crew ?

Crazy Woman Creek - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazy_Woman_Creek)

pax britanica
6th Jan 2015, 13:14
I didn't think BOAC went to LA before the days of the 336s and then I didnt think they did non stop . Bangor Maine was favourite tech stop in those days but I do not know if BOAC went there . I had a close friend at the time who was 436 crew and don't recall him going to LA ,

I thought the only LA flight was the Australia the wrong way round VC10 which went LHR-JFK-LAX .
True LA non stop service only began with the shared Air NZ DC10 much later on.

6th Jan 2015, 14:17
Bangor Maine was favourite tech stop in those days but I do not know if BOAC went there.
The downside of Bangor westbound is the US requirement that any flight entering the US has to clear customs/immigration at the first stop, which means you have to get everyone and their bags off, everyone through all the procedures, through security again, and back on. I believe passengers would also lose any duty free drinks from Heathrow at the security recheck. For a scheduled operation it probably adds one to two hours to the trip, and quite possibly knocks the crew out of hours on longer runs.

It can suit some charter operators going to smaller points in Florida, but for mainstream schedules US tech stops are to be avoided. Must improve Gander's business considerably.

6th Jan 2015, 16:04
Re westbound Lhr - Lax.

If I remember the 707-336 used to tech stop Wiinnepeg - it was always tech stopped as I recall and I think the crew changed.

It never tech stopped eastbound.

I was on the ANZ DC10, as a copilot, and we never, to my knowledge, tech stopped - the aircraft had sufficient range and en-route reflight planning was used to reduce reserve requirements if neccessary.

Sometimes payload would be restricted if there was a weight problem.

We often had a bowser standing by for a last minute top up if there were no shows.

As the sector was quite long there was an arrangement whereby the flight crew were given Lhr hotel accomodation for the two nights before the flight.

This allowed for an arrangement whereby "tomorrow's crew" could cover the standby requirement if there was a delay or the aircraft returned.

Westbound flights were generally further north than eastbound flights as the prevailing wind is usually westerly and the further north you go the wind tends to get weaker against you.

The furthest north I can remember going was overhead Clyde River on the east coast of Canada but flights may have gone to higher latitudes - we often routed north of Iceland.

In the winter eastbound there could sometimes be a problem with the fuel tank temperature and the flight engineer would move it around the tanks, to make it do work, to warm it up.

Failing that a descent of 4000ft would be required to a lower (warmer)altitude.

This was not a problem westbound as the fuel in tanks at the higher latitudes was considerably greater (and therefore took longer to cool) than eastbound.

I think from Lax we also got special high density fuel (not available at Lhr?) which had a higher freeze point.

I think the ANZ tie up came about because the 747-136 (P&W engines) did not have the range.

When the 747-236 (RR engines) came along that could go direct and the DC10 was only swapped twice per week.

The ANZ DC10 was then used to do a mix of Lhr - Bos - Phl, Lhr - Ymx, Lhr-Mia on the intervening days.

There were about 17 crews on the DC10 so it was quite a friendly existence.

As a late 20year old, the 3months posting to Auckland, for the conversion, was one of the major highlights of my career - New Zealand men wanted to go do their own things at the weekend and left behind lots of lovely young ladies!!

6th Jan 2015, 16:18


6th Jan 2015, 16:28
I've flown all those VC10's when they looked like that!!

6th Jan 2015, 20:19
And I've flown 'WHU and all her sister ships when they were in that colour scheme!

As an aside the 707-436's did fly to LAX in the mid '60's (before my time) via where I know not. SFO was served via JFk en route to SYD - one of my first under suspicion trips.

I flew some LAX trips in the 70's and we normally went via Winnipeg - sometimes via Calgary or Edmonton. Homeward bound was via Ottowa or Montreal but I think that was due to a cabin crew dispute!!

6th Jan 2015, 21:42
There were British Airtours doing 707-336B trips to LAX into the mid-1980s. Were you BA mainstream 707 guys also handling the Airtours flights from Gatwick, or did they have their own crews (I'm conscious this might be a Tin Hat Needed type question !). I got offered a seats on an ABC charter on one. I presume these had the ability to go nonstop.

Slightly off-topic as the two BOAC 707-336Bs for the "Russiaway" service to Tokyo didn't get delivered until 1971, after the first 747s. There have been a couple of threads on here in the past about the oddball navigation procedures needed on those early Siberian flights

7th Jan 2015, 07:12

The 436s probably went to Lax via Jfk and then Hnl, Nandi, to Syd which became a VC10 route in the seventies, I did several.

I recall the 707s having a service eastbound to Tokyo which then went to Hnl and Sfo and return westbound via Hnl and Tokyo.

I think there was a tech stop in Midway or somewhere else.

I don't remeber BOAC flying to Sfo from Lhr in those days.

The Airtours 707s had a service Mauritius to Perth which sometimes had to tech stop in Cocos if I remember correctly.


The airtours 707 crews were BEA crews and separate to BOAC 707 crews - a lot came off the BEA comets.

Some good parties in Le Chaland in those days.

7th Jan 2015, 08:12
In 1968 the 531 went via SFO HNL - I know cos I flew it on one occasion, I don't think at that time we even served LAX - that didn't happen until the 531 rerouted through LAX.

I seem to recall that the 436 to LAX went through YUL most of the time.

The tech stop if required on the HNL-HND was normally Wake Island from what I Understood from others who did it. Never did it that way only HND-HNL as part of a 9 day RTW.

7th Jan 2015, 08:51
finncapt: In the late '70s BEAirtours had a "damp lease" arrangement with Air Mauritius for one aircraft. 12 days, mostly at Le Chaland with 5 working days!

Ah, memories............. (yorkshire accent coming up) if you told thm youngsters today they wouldn't believe yes!!!

7th Jan 2015, 09:16
Never did it that way only HND-HNL as part of a 9 day RTW

I seem to remember Ken FitzRoy wrote about flying an Airtours 707 RTW for a charter party of Germans? Same event or did they do a few of those?

7th Jan 2015, 10:08
Don't know if any of you former crew recognise any onetime colleagues here - "BOAC Boeing 707 1964".


8th Jan 2015, 01:09
Yes the 707 cargo trip was something different more like being in a David Attenborough wildlife documentary.
Plenty of creepies in Fanny Bay, the guy in the room next to me was bitten by a spider whilst half-asleep and flown to Singapore for treatment, but
wasn't able to identify the critter from hospital photos.
Before he left Darwin he kindly shared with me 'it was brown and hairy and ran under the door'
After that trip I always unpacked my case very carefully.

Swimming was discouraged the local advice being 'don't worry about the Sharks the Crocs get them!'

All that and a Skipper who wanted to know if I could make scrambled eggs?
Phew, good job I'd had three years at a catering college.

Great memories!

8th Jan 2015, 01:53
BEA Airtours 707's. My memory suggests that Airtours did their own thing, and had no reference to the BOAC operation, and I recall that there was an Airtours accident of some sort, and we in BOAC "tut-tutted" about how we'd taken good care of our 707's for so many years then given them to BEA, who promptly bent one ! Good old inter-company rivalry.

My log book shows that I flew a 707-436 trip London/New York/San Francisco/Honolulu/San Francisco/New York in September 1962 and in May 1963 flew a Montreal/Winnipeg/New York trip, which suggests that we handed over / took over at Winnipeg, but I don't know where the aircraft went / came from to transit WPG.

On Aug 10th 1961 I flew a London/Toronto/LosAngeles/London trip, and in the same era I also recorded 707-436 trips New York/Los Angeles/Detroit/London and London/Montreal/LosAngeles/London.

I was 'posted' to Honolulu in 1961 to fly 707-436 services on the SanFrancisco/Honolulu/Tokyo/Honolulu/SanFrancisco/ sectors.

I flew a Tokyo/Wake Island/Honolulu service on 4th September 1961.

We also used a "reflight planning in the air" gambit, to "stretch" the fuel.
Flight Plans required fuel for departure to destination, say London to New York, plus an alternate plus a "contingency" fuel, 10% comes to mind, but don't shoot me down, it is over 50 years ago now ! If that amount of fuel was unavailable then one could flight plan from -say- London to Gander, with Boston as the alternate plus a lower 10% value, then approaching Gander one could re-flight plan Gander-Boston with New York as alternate, and in this case the 10% overall "contingency" would be considerably less than the 10% contingency from London to New York required at the start, so you might well have that lower amount available at the time one did the "re-flight planning". If not, then one just landed at the nearest suitable airport as a tech. stop for more fuel.

A friend in a VC-10 flew past Boston and on to New York, where he was given a 45 min. hold, due traffic, not weather. Had he held for 45 minutes he would have used his contingency fuel and ended up with less than the minimum required on tanks on arrival at New York ( can't remember the requirment ) and could have been in the poo with New York ATC, so .... he flew back for 45 minutes to Boston, where the weather had deteriorated and was now below limits. Had he stayed over New York he could easily have landed, but risked being cited, instead he had nowhere to go, but had done everything "legally". ATC got him down on a USAF base somewhere.

Sometimes The Law Is An Ass.

8th Jan 2015, 07:46
The BEA Airtours accident at Prestwick:-

8th Jan 2015, 09:00
Like the Trident thread on this part of the forum that was around recently I have really enjoyed this thread.

There are a couple of books out at present called Out of The Blue (I & Ii) telling military tales of daring do....I think with a contribution to charity.

I wish you ex BOAC and BEA guys would do the same. I think it would be very popular indeed.

If I had the time I'd try and set one up and edit it, but no chance with current commitments.

Anyway.....please.......keep up the great work.

8th Jan 2015, 09:11
I wish you ex BOAC and BEA guys would do the same. I think it would be very popular indeed.

Some have, "Behind the Cockpit Door" by Arthur Whitlock for one, and an ex-Hamble trained, recently retired BA skipper, has recently published Part One of his memoirs, name not immediately to mind - like where are the car keys - but someone else might know before I start digging around.

Also, Glamour in the Skies, Stewardess tales by Libbie Escolme-Schmidt - whom I remember flying with as Libby Escolme.

8th Jan 2015, 21:36
For WHBM Post 114 etc,

The 707-436 had the Kelvin Hughes Sextant. The 707-336 had the Kollsman Sextant and for Polar Nav, also carried the Kollsman Sky Compass – for when there were no stars. Descriptions below.



There were only about 20 BOAC Approved Stars, plus Sun Moon Venus.

Anything else in God's Firmament was wholly unapproved for BOAC Navigation and would get you an interview with the Nav Office God.

Black Art indeed. LFH

8th Jan 2015, 22:26
Thank you very much Lordflasheart for that research, and that made me dig in the attic for my original reference, which is (for those who have it) Propliner magazine No 29 (winter 1986), article “Over the Top of the World – SAS”, all about their pioneering DC7C Trans-Arctic flights, which includes a lengthy section “The Problems of Polar Navigation”.

This describes ‘three main obstacles being the existence of the Magnetic North Pole, the Polar Twilight, and the disappearance of direction at the Pole’. SAS were indeed pioneer users of the Polarised Sky Compass developed by the Kollsman Instrument Company (still in business, I see, in New Hampshire, although the products have moved way on). Magnetic North was handled by the Polar Path Gyro, which was a Bendix product, also applicable on transatlantic flights to New York, and “everywhere-south” issue at the Pole by a Polar Grid Chart, which was an RCAF concept.

India Four Two
9th Jan 2015, 02:24
There were only about 20 BOAC Approved Stars, plus Sun Moon Venus.

Interesting. I knew there were many more "navigational stars" than that. It turns out the number is 58 - 19 first magnitude, 38 second magnitude plus Polaris. So, I'm guessing the BOAC stars were the first magnitude stars plus Polaris.

9th Jan 2015, 07:46
A periscopic sextant had a very restricted field of view. Thus, the approved stars were those that could be easily identified by colour and/or in a pattern that could be seen within this field of view. I am not sure whether they were 'BOAC approved' or those that were included in AP3270, the Sight Reduction Tables for Navigation Vol1, Selected Stars. Astro nav is all such a long time ago!!

9th Jan 2015, 08:58
I knew many 'BOAC Stars' most were not approved!

Half Pint, Fletch the Letch, Moon Man, Abe Licoln, Tommy Colgate, The Vile Eid, 007 etc.:ok:

9th Jan 2015, 10:47
For some reason 57 stars sticks in my mind and they were the ones in AP3270.

I remember some 12 BOAC stars, which were easily recognisable in a periscope sextant, and, ideally, one of these would be shot first as a gross error check.

This wasn't always the best method as it was/is preferable to shoot the "least angle to track" star first and the "greatest angle to track star" last.

(Thinking about it, edited to say I may have got that the wrong way round - it's obvious when you're doing it.)

This would minimise the error in running the postion line along track at the assumed ground speed.

If my memory is correct, the first shot star's position line needed running by 8 minutes of groundspeed and the second by 4 minutes.

When the fix had been obtained it told you where you were, as about a minimum of 4minutes, previously.

So one could say with navigation "you never know where you are, only where you were".

9th Jan 2015, 19:29
Some have, "Behind the Cockpit Door" by Arthur Whitlock for one, and an ex-Hamble trained, recently retired BA skipper, has recently published Part One of his memoirs, name not immediately to mind - like where are the car keys - but someone else might know before I start digging around.

Also, Glamour in the Skies, Stewardess tales by Libbie Escolme-Schmidt - whom I remember flying with as Libby Escolme.
The one you're looking for is Gwyn Mullet, he's got a site at www.withmyheadintheclouds.com
His book is a great read!

10th Jan 2015, 03:07
finncapt - I agree with all of that Astro folklore, or at least my old memory does !

I recall choosing recognisable stars over those giving the best "cut", better to have a slightly off centre fix than one totally incorrect due to using the 'wrong' star.

vctenderness - Half Pint was the C/Stwd. on my final route check for promotion, taxying out I stopped and asked for Half Pint to come to the flight deck and asked him to sit in the jump seat. Why ? he asked. So I know what the Bl**dy Hell you're doing, I replied. He roared with laughter and buckled in.

The Training Captain wondered what he had let himself in for.

Half Pint got his own back, when I got off at LHR my jacket sleeves had been stitched up at the cuff end, and the innards of a (clean ! ) Tampax had been stitched around the peak of my cap to simulate the gold braid of a Captains' hat !!

Happy Days.

P.s. It was Half Pint who told Dudley Moore to get his hair cut - see my post on another thread !

jhieminga - thanks, that's it. ( I said retired, maybe not yet ? )

Spooky 2
11th Jan 2015, 20:52
This has been great thread with many fond memories invoked even though I was not a BOAC crewmember.

Was wondering how you transitioned from the nav position to whatever came next in the 707-336B/C?

My experience was that we went from the Navs to dual Bendix Doppler backed up by an EDO 600 Loran A unit which the pilots were qualified to use. Almost every pilot had previous nav experience much as would seem to be the case at BOAC. As the airline kept adding crewmembers the lack of previous nav experience would come into play. I left the airline but I believe the Doppler and Loran was kept until the 707's were phased out. I know the Carousel lV was fitted in some airplanes as a trial in anticipation of the 747 entering service but for some reason I don't think it was a normal operational configuration?

So, did BOAC/BA keep the navs in place until the INS was fitted and certified in the 707, or did they go another route? If so what time period this eventually happen?

11th Jan 2015, 21:21
All Navs were pilots so once all the 707's and I guess VC-10's were fully INS equipped we just transitioned to a 3 man operation - thankfully!

12th Jan 2015, 05:35
So, did BOAC/BA keep the navs in place until the INS was fitted and certified in the 707, or did they go another route? If so what time period this eventually happen?I don't recall INS being retrofitted to the 707 - 436 until around 1974 or later, but I think we were still carrying Nav. qualified F/O co-pilots / S/O 3rd pilots until around the end of 1974, certainly my logbook records two F/O's on trips at the end of 1974.

I think some of the older F/O's escaped the Nav. stint, but certainly all pilots, be they experienced RAF pilots or basic 2 year National Service conscripts, taken on during the 50's and 60's were engaged as pilots, but employed as navigators. I kept my post as a Nav Instructor until I was promoted Captain in 1974, tho' I had been also re-trained as a 707 pilot in 1962. We filled the dual role, 2 F/O's on each flight, and they would decide themselves who operated which sector as co-pilot or navigator on the longer, multi sector trips, unless one was needed in the Nav. Instructor role.

The 747 was delivered with a sextant mount in the roof of the flight deck, but never used, it then featured on an emergency check list as a smoke removal port !

Training as a navigator I found the atmosphere on the flight deck a little tense at times, the navigators were training us to take away their livelihoods, tho' to be fair I was never treated with anything less than a genuine interest in passing on their knowledge, great chaps, but the Flight Engineers had seen the Radio Operators go, then Nav's were going, and they reckoned that they were next. True, but it took more than 20 years to achieve, and I recall on one double F/Eng. flight the Snr. Eng. telling his junior colleague that the pilots had forgotten to record the take-off time - Don't tell them, he said !

One navigator told me that I'd never make a navigator until I'd been over Berlin with the shells coming through the cockpit as I tried to sort out the actual wind velocity using the drift sight. I never had to, but I had the same sort of feeling towards some of my students as they wrestled with the sextant - but they don't have to now !

I believe that someone not too long ago tried to copy Lindberghs solo flight across the Atlantic, using original methods, which included Astro, for which a Flt. Nav, licence was required but that no one in the FAA knew how, or was qualified, to conduct an airborne Flt. Nav. test ! They should have asked me !

.......a dual Bendix Doppler backed up by an EDO 600 Loran A unit Yes, the 707's were fitted with Doppler and Loran A, but I seem to recall that the Doppler was not a lot of use, particularly over water ? We also used Consol, invented for the Nazi U-boats I believe.

Spooky 2
12th Jan 2015, 08:20
Thanks for the reply. As for Doppler's performance over land or water I can only report that it worked for me fairly well over both surfaces and other than "drop outs" over a smooth sea I don't recall any serious issues. I seem to recall it working better on the N Atlantic than the Pacific due to rougher seas. Regardless it was approved for leaving the nav at home.

12th Jan 2015, 08:23

Thanks for the fantastic Halfie story. Here's another one:

I was a little sprogg working the back galley of a VC10. Half Pint was Chief Steward.

During the main meal service he walked through the cabin asking the passengers if all was well. One pax said ' well my entree was not very hot'.

Halfie appeared in the galley and asked why the meals weren't hot enough. I said they had been cooked for the required time.

He pulled himself up to his full four foot six held one finger up in front of my face and said:

" use your f*****g fermometer".

I remember it so well so many, many years later. :)

12th Jan 2015, 10:00
All Navs were pilots so once all the 707's and I guess VC-10's were fully INS equipped we just transitioned to a 3 man operation - thankfully!
Given that the BOAC Hermes misnavigation accident in the Sahara was principally caused by a pilot standing in for the rostered navigator, and not understanding the kit sufficiently, I would have thought that much attention would have been given to formalising the Nav position after this.

I do recall that when Pan Am started the first US service to China, which routed via Tokyo, they did not feel their crews had sufficient navigation support across the new territory, and engaged freelance navigators on the sector onward from Japan, who were doubtless familiar with the territory and supplied their own charts etc. I believe their Lockheed Tristar 500 was the aircraft first used; did that have any astral navigation fitout ? Presumably not as the aircraft did not have a formal Nav station.

Spooky 2
12th Jan 2015, 10:26
Nor did the DC10 have any sextant port. The story I heard regarding the port on the 747 was that Pan Am did not have complete confidence in the Carousel INS as the certification process evolved so this was their worst case back up solution.

Doubt if Pa Am allowed any "free lance" navs on the flight deck but Chinese navigators may have been onboard to monitor during the initial flights. Probably looking for any intelligence points of interest in lieu of any meaningful nav assistance.

12th Jan 2015, 10:48
Doubt if Pan Am allowed any "free lance" navs on the flight deck.
This was actually described in a Flight magazine article reporting on the Pan Am first flights into China when they started. It didn't state whether they were Chinese or Western nationals.

12th Jan 2015, 19:49
I believe that someone not too long ago tried to copy Lindberghs solo flight across the Atlantic, using original methods, which included Astro

Lindbergh used DR - his plan was to load enough fuel for 40 hours of flight, on the basis of 'I can't miss the whole of Europe'. The aircraft was fitted with a drift meter but no other nav aids or even radio. In the account of the flight in his book 'The Spirit of St Louis' he admits that achieving landfall over Ireland within a few miles of his plan was just good luck.

Lindbergh's book was an inspiration for me. I'd been a plane-spotter as a kid (living near to the 28L OM) but it was after reading the SoSL as a 19-year-old that I decided 'I have to learn to fly'. The book won a Pulitzer prize in 1952.

It was disappointing years later to discover that CL had unsavoury political views. But every few years I put my misgivings to one side and re-read SoSL. That book launched me on a career in aviation (Leeds UAS 1967) which is not yet concluded.

12th Jan 2015, 23:59
Discorde - thank you for the correction, but I recall reading that the pilot trying to copy him still needed a Flt. Nav qualification to set off across the Atlantic, even if Lindbergh didn't, and that there was no one qualified to issue that. Can't recall detail now, maybe it was just an Urban Myth at the time ?

13th Jan 2015, 02:27
Regarding the navigational equipment on Charles Lindbergh's Ryan NYP -

A Drift Meter is not very effective without a compass. Lindbergh's primary navigational aid, (other than looking through the periscope and side windows), was an Earth Inductor Compass, driven by an anemometer mounted on top of the fuselage behind the cockpit. Quite accurate. Yes!...an electrically driven cockpit navigational aid in the 1920s!


14th Jan 2015, 06:43
............ as well as the massive ventral fin (don't over rotate on take-off):That was fitted at the behest ( demand ? ) of the British ARB when the 707-436 was presented for UK registration. (also I believe the second hydraulic rudder boost system, the switch was fitted as an afterthought on the edge of the F/E's panel -but don't quote me, a long time ago now ! )

The early PanAm 707's didn't have that ventral fin, and I recall a PanAm pilot thanking us one day in New York Customs Hall as we awaited our bags. He reckoned each take off was a breath holding cheap thrill, there being a speed range at which, should an engine quit on take-off, there was insufficient rudder control and authority to keep it straight and on the runway until the larger, ventral, surface and added hydraulic assistance was fitted.

I think that there was the occasional tail scrape, can't quote, never happened to me.

just sayin'

14th Jan 2015, 07:44
The dreaded Dutch
No rudder commands?...


14th Jan 2015, 07:55
The ventral fin was fitted when the B707-100 had the fan engines fitted to make them B707-120 series. They also made the aircraft "geometry limited" as a bonus reducing some margins for the Vr and Vlo speeds. It had nothing to do with the British ARB. There are many other sins to be laid at their door but not this.

It wasn't just the RR Conways which required the ventral fin and rudder power boost, actually the RR engines were little more than a side show given the few that actually flew. It was the P&W JT3D which went from ~12,000lb to ~17,000lb per engine which gave this mod its impetus.

The glove panels screwed to the B707-100 wings to reprofile them for the higher power JT3D-3B engines and hence higher cruise speeds were a PITA for the apprentices who had to screw them onto the wings. Every screw had to be measured lest you screw an over length one in and break the fuel tank seal with resultant tank entry etc, etc.

14th Jan 2015, 08:38
Beauty defined.

14th Jan 2015, 09:55
The ventral fin was fitted when the B707-100 had the fan engines fitted to make them B707-120 series. They also made the aircraft "geometry limited" as a bonus reducing some margins for the Vr and Vlo speeds. It had nothing to do with the British ARB. There are many other sins to be laid at their door but not this.

Story more complex than that I think. There's a thread on subject here:


There are pictures on net of 320 series aircraft, including the P&W fan engined 320B series, both with and without the ventral fin. Wikipedia is not a source but the pictures there, including one of last commercially operated 707, illustrate the point pretty well.

14th Jan 2015, 20:22
Thanks for the details and corrections, chaps, Urban Myths do seem to be easier to recall than mathematical facts when One Is A Certain Age !

Interesting tho'.

I also recall a certain 707 Training Captain testing a students' ability to deal with a runaway stabiliser, he ran the trim "aircraft nose down" and the aircraft obeyed with alacrity. The student promptly called "Runaway Stabiliser" then physically stopped the trim wheel by hand and called for the console switches to be cut off, and the circuit breaker on the overhead panel to be pulled. All completed expeditiously and correctly as per the check list procedure. Trouble was - the waters off the South Coast were rapidly growing bigger in the windscreen, so the drill was reversed, except .... whilst attempting to pull out of the now rapid dive the G force was such that the F/Eng. couldn't get his hand up high enough to re-set the circuit breaker on the overhead panel.

Eventually, with Captain and co-pilot both pulling back, and the F/eng. assisting by holding both control columns with one hand on each side, and bracing his feet on the bottom of the instrument panel in some manner, (I was told) they pulled out close enough to the surface of the sea to enure that the check list was amended to remove the command to pull the circuit breaker.

It's easy to say that they should have relieved the G force by pushing further forward, altitude was in short supply - and you weren't there !

15th Jan 2015, 03:40
This is about the best story of the evolution I've come acrossBecause only a relatively small number of the 707s would be built with the Conway, provision was made for a replacement engine to be flown out on a scheduled passenger flight to an airplane grounded with engine problems at a distant airport, enabling the latter airplane to return to its home base in London. This was achieved through the use of a special streamlined pod and pylori that could be quickly attached to the wing inboard of the number 2 (port inner) engine. Boeing’s Brien Wygle and FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) pilot Sliff flew the pod certification flight with N31241 (G-APFB) on November 10, 1959; G—APFH was flown with a pod on its delivery flight to Prestwick, Scotland, in july 1960. On February 12, 1960, the Model 707-400 Series was awarded FAA certification; however, a protracted and contentious delay arose from the differing certification requirements of the FAA and the British Air Registration Board (ARB). The ARB's concerns were the potential for stall during takeoff through an excessive angle of rotation—which had caused two Comet 1 crashes—and the 707’s Dutch roll characteristics, that had led to three training accidents in 1959, with fatal results in the case of American Airlines and Braniff international Airways (Airways, October 2009).

Accordingly, the ARB required a demonstration of the aircraft's ability to unstick at a nose—high attitude, at various speeds. Nowadays a normal part of the flight testing for any new type, VMU (velocity maximum unstick) takeoffs were conducted at Edwards Air Force Base, California, during November 1959, using BOAC’s first 707. These tests showed that the 707 would only unstick after the nose was lowered. A modification resulting from these tests saw a 39in (lm)-deep ventral tail fin added to alleviate the possibility of a premature rotation—and also improve the airplane’s longitudinal stability.

The low-speed stability fix took much longer, and included an addition of 35in (89cm) to the top of the vertical stabilizer and duplication of the yaw damper, during the takeoff/climb and approach/landing phases. To counter additional engine thrust, a modification of the rudder control system—allowing the rudder to be fully powered throughout its whole range of movement (not only the first 15 degrees) - had already been incorporated on the Dash 300 and Dash 400 models.

Thus G—APFB was modified at the Boeing plant, and after a final series of test flights by the ARB’s chief test pilot David P Davies (of Handling the Big Jets fame)—who had personally insisted on the changes—British certification was awarded on April 28, 1960.

Ivor Lusty,the airline’s plant representative at Renton, ‘accepted' G-APFD in an 'informal ceremony' on April27, and following transfer of title (the official delivery) the next day, the 707 was flown nonstop to London, arriving on April 29. Captain T B (Tom) Stoney, BOAC's 707 flight manager, was in command for the 4,900mi (7,885km), 9hr 44min flight.

The taller vertical stabilizer became a standard feature of the entire 707/720/KC-135 series. All 707-300/-400 series also had the ventral fin, as well as Dash 100s with Pratt & Whitney JT3C turbojets and 15 low gross weight Dash 300Bs (with the ]T3D turbofan), which had a 17 flaps takeoff setting. Because they had a full set of leading edge flaps, 14 flaps for takeoff, a '’series’ yaw damper, improved stall warning (stick shaker) operation, and aerodynamic upgrades to the wing, the Dash 300B ’Advanced’ and ’Advanced-Heavy', and -300C did not require the ventral fin. A smaller (13in/33cm) ventral fin was fitted to Dash 100Bs (with turbofans) and 720s to prevent damage in over-rotation, as the stick shaker did not activate early enough.

Boeing supplied retrofit kits without charge to operators that had already had taken delivery of 707s, an action that helped cement the manufacturers reputation in airline circles.


15th Jan 2015, 08:40
Despite all of this a onetime-BOAC 707 was lost in the Airtours 707 training accident at Prestwick under exactly the envisaged circumstances as late as 1977. Post 134 above refers.

15th Jan 2015, 18:59
It had nothing to do with the British ARBIt had everything to do with the ARB, in particular their chief test pilot D. P. Davies. To put that myth to bed, "Flight" 25/12/59Some time ago it became clear that the A.R.B. was not prepared to give approval to the Boeing 707 for B.O.A.C. purely on the basis of compliance with American performance requirements. The history of this situation is a long one, and it is closely bound up with the gradual reconciliation of British and American performance requirements. Although these are now similar they are not identical, so it does not follow that because the aero-dynamically similar Boeing -320 has been certificated to S.R.422B requirements that these can automatically be accepted by the A.R.B. In fact, there are some 17 special conditions which the A.R.B. have applied to American jet aircraft; and there are also five special conditions which apply to all American aircraft, piston or jet, swept or straight wing. It is one of these five—that concerned with performance—which is presenting something of a stumbling block.

A significant section of the requirements is that which concerns unstick, rotation and lift-off speeds in relation to the stall. The two authorities, working from different assumptions, calculate the respective speeds in different fashions; and, although the differences are well understood, jet take-off is critical enough (there is now more than a measure of doubt that the airfield performance demanded of the 707-120 by S.R.422 is sufficiently stringent) for the A.R.B. to require compliance by demonstration to British civil airworthiness requirements.

One difference between the S.R.422 and B.C.A.R. requirements is that the latter require demonstration from the ground of an aircraft's ability to unstick from a nose-high attitude. It was thus important for Boeing to show that the 707 was limited by its geometry from entering a ground stall condition during take-off, and this was the reason for the protracted tests at Edwards Air Force Base with a boiler plate and wooden-runner tail bumper. These tests, of course, take time. They are important because on them may rest the amount of payload that the -420 will be able to carry for a given length of concrete; the A.R.B. require double the margin between the minimum unstick speed and the start of rotation if a ground stall can occur. To an aeroplane moving at the take-off speed of the Boeing 707 this increased margin represents many feet of concrete.

The situation is further confused by changed thoughts within the F.A.A. Over the period of Boeing 707 certification, requirements have been revised from S.R.422 to S.R.422A and then to S.R.422B. At the time of writing the situation remains unresolved and delivery date of the -420 to B.O.A.C. Is still uncertain. The conflict between safety and economics is considerable because every percent increase in take-off (i.e., rotation or lift-off) speeds imposes on the operator the need to reduce payload or use more runway. The A.R.B.'s requirements are laid down and are firm, but the application of performance requirements is nearly always "supertuned" to strike the fine balance between practical operation and safety. Boeing must adjust the 707-420 flight manual to meet these requirements while maintaining pressure all the while—by demonstration and by argument—to avoid unnecessary performance margins which could constitute a commercial penalty for the operator."Flight" 5/2/60While Boeing still claim on-the-nail or early delivery for every 707 so far, by the time BOAC's first -420 reaches London this claim will no longer be valid. It came as something of a shock, although not as a complete surprise, that following flight tests by D. P. Davies, the Air Registration Board's chief test pilot, British approval of the 707 was still withheld. The issues are quite separate from those affecting take-off performance.

Unease at the aircraft's behaviour is apparently concerned with the three training incidents which occurred last year, two of which resulted in fatal accidents. In each case, it was lateral behaviour of the aircraft at slow speeds that was called to question, although it is believed that the initiating actions were quite different in each case. The two incidents in which engines were shed—over France in February and Seattle in September—were apparently the result of demonstrations, possibly inadvertent, of conditions outside the normal flight envelope. On the other hand the American Airlines' accident over Long Island in August during a two-engine approach in a gusty crosswind could not be explained in this way, although again it was suggested that had a different technique been adopted the accident might have been averted.

From the violent rolling manoeuvre that developed on each occasion it may be inferred that roll and yaw control demands higher-than-average pilot skill under asymmetric thrust, at low speeds, and in adverse conditions—a conclusion that is borne out by Boeing's intention to increase the -420's fin height by a drastic 35in, to add a small ventral fin and to provide full rudder boost on the Boeing 707-120. (The -320 and -420 rudder is already power boosted beyond 15° travel to counter additional engine thrust, and the Qantas -138s were modified similarly before delivery.) Another 707 modification apparently found desirable is duplication of the yaw damper, and this again points to Boeing's persuasion that low-speed flight is a regime where control could be improved. It should be made clear that although the -420s are to be modified at ARB's behest, Boeing have conducted on their own account a similar programme with other aircraft in the 707 series. The first modified 707-420 will be ready for trials in the early part of this month and it will again be flown by Mr Davies before it is finally accepted and handed over to BOAC.

But while it now seems probable that all future 707s may be modified as part of normal design improvement, it is not clear if retrospective action is contemplated, nor who would pay for it if it was. All deliveries made so far have been under FAA certification or validation, and unless this certification standard is changed (and there is ample precedent for this in the past history of 707 approval) it would at first sight seem to be incumbent upon airline customers to request and pay for modification action themselves.

What is involved is a matter of opinion about pilot skill, and perhaps this makes the modifications under discussion different from mere design improvements. As a matter of policy Boeing may thus take responsibility for the modification upon themselves. After the accident at Long Island last year it was questioned whether, with the lessened likelihood of a pilot experiencing full asymmetric turbojet failures, a training demonstration of this kind should now be needed. And the FAA demanded that this type of exercise, tacitly admitted to be a difficult condition with a swept-wing aeroplane, should be attempted only at altitude.

The ARB's insistence on modification suggests a philosophy that if a redeemable failure case exists, it must be demonstrated, and pilots must be trained to handle it. Indeed, looking back on the FAA's "high altitude only" rule, it is easy to argue now that this could only have been thought of as an interim measure and that the FAA too must be concerned that low-speed asymmetric control must be improved until it is no longer a hazard.

Looking at the particular modifications a little more closely, the fin extension (and rudder boost in the case of the -120) are obvious ways of improving asymmetric-thrust control at low speeds. This is adversely affected by sideslip or yaw of the swept wings, because rudder tab effectiveness is reduced. Another gain will accrue from the ventral fin. It has incidentally been suggested that this fin could act as a tail bumper and so reduce any penalties that may result from an excessively nose-high ground angle. The full take-off story has yet to be told, but it now seems to have been successfully demonstrated that the geometry of the 707-420 is such that ground stall does not occur and that only revision of the flight manual requires to be completed.

18th Jan 2015, 01:04
mustafagander, I see where you may be coming from re the ARB. Flight 3/5/60.Finally, there was the matter of timing for the introduction of certain product improvements on which Boeing have for some time had an active programme. These were in the areas of ability to trim-out in certain conditions of asymmetrical power; pilot's rudder-bar feel; and the long-period divergency of dutch roll if left uncorrected and with automatic yaw damper off. The FAA has been closely integrated with this programme and are seeking introduction of this package of improvements as soon after approval as reasonably possible. Their experiences with the aircraft, and knowledge of it, undoubtedly justified this position and over 80 aircraft of the general type are in commercial use in passenger carriage. The ARB, however, judged these improvements to be so basic that they demanded their approval and introduction as a condition precedent to validation of the certificate.

These kinds of differences of opinion can be expected between any two groups of competent experts, and although in the certification of the 707-436 they have persisted to our cost and delay, it is not too much to hope that in the future the requirements may become asymptotic to the truth.1960 | 0660 | Flight Archive (http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1960/1960%20-%200660.html)

18th Jan 2015, 16:43
Beauty defined.

Just for the benefit of an ignoramus.........
What/why are those sort of rounded fins at the loud end of the engines?

blind pew
18th Jan 2015, 16:46
Engineers fingers.....
or maybe diffusers which mix the hot gases and reduce the noise...

18th Jan 2015, 17:13
.. I dread to think what the noise levels were like without them.
It was such a blessed relief when the big fans began arriving in the U.K. at the beginning of the 70's, heralding a more acceptable noise footprint ( and the beginning of the end of international long haul air travel for just an elite).

19th Jan 2015, 09:21
They are diffusers which, allegedly, reduce the noise.

As you say Haraka, I shudder to think about the noise levels of the bare engine!!

bugged on the right
19th Jan 2015, 09:46
Fascinating stuff reading about the British certification of the 707. I wonder how this would go these days with TTIP? I wonder if the manufacturer would be suing the CAA for something or other because US certification criteria was not quietly and immediately accepted?
As an aside, I far prefer gas guzzling, noisy, smoke belching aeroplanes which looked good and went fast. Far more character than the insipid crap that staggers about at .78 and flies itself you get today. Yes I know.

19th Jan 2015, 10:15
Were the PAX in these days much more exclusive than today, or was there still a mixed bag of people?

19th Jan 2015, 13:05
I would say yes to both of those questions.

Lots of passengers were senior civil servants, diplomats etc. the dress codes were very formal men wore suits and ties the ladies dressed up pretty much.

On the other hand there were lots of ordinary folks from different parts of the world probably taking a trip of a lifetime. I remember taking lots and lots of 'ten pound Poms' on their way to a new life in Oz.

Passengers in First Class were very much upper crust. Lots of Lords, Lady's and Knights and American movie stars crossing the pond.

In those days the oil rich Arabs hadn't got around to buying their own aircraft and would often buy the whole First Class cabin for themselves and relatives and staff.

Many a BOAC crew member wore a gold Rolex watch with the Sheiks face on and many Stewardesses drove E types, one in shocking pink:ok:

19th Jan 2015, 16:49
I would guess the noise levels without the suppressors would be similar to a VC10. The BOAC 707-436s, like the VC10s, had Rolls-Royce Conways fitted.
I suspect there would be a difference in 'tone' though as the loudspeakers weren't clustered together.

19th Jan 2015, 18:36
It's a shame that a VC-10 and BAC1-11 weren't kept airworthy to fly around airports to show what real noise is and silence the moaners.
If you don't like aircraft noise, don't live near an airport.

Sorry, a bit of thread drift.

19th Jan 2015, 19:28
If you don't like aircraft noise, don't live near an airport.Having some affinity with Santa Monica Airport, California, where the "do-gooders" are trying to close it down, I sport a bumper sticker that is available from the airport "shop" stating " I LOVE aeroplane noise" I don't use it in Santa Monica tho' - wouldn't want a brick through my window !

........Stewardesses drove E types, one in shocking pinkI well remember that one !

19th Jan 2015, 21:04
Loving your work. :E
I recently attended a conference, held under G-BOAC. One of the key speakers was Sir Howard Davies, who was asked why the present noise criteria, used in airport and runway planning, relate to these classic aircraft, rather than the modern quiet jets such as the A388/B787/E190.
Surprisingly, he didn't know the answer.

20th Jan 2015, 09:13
VC10 rather than 707 but this film, made in the 60's has some good info on BOAC operations and pilot training;


20th Jan 2015, 14:00
"It then roared off the runway with the distinctly satisfying sound of the air being chopped violently with a blunt knife."

Switzerland - The Precision of the Swiss, by Gerry Catling (1968) (http://betteronacamel.com/Switzerland-The-Precision-of-the-Swiss-by-Gerry-Catling-1968-)


20th Jan 2015, 15:51
Fully loaded VC10's were rare in this part of Essex, but a BAC1-11 at the end of the runway, just as the water injection cut in, was a sound to behold. This was before the so called hush kits were fitted of course. :ok:

28th Jan 2015, 09:09
I wonder then if the cross section of society that flew with the £10 poms was indeed that different to today.

Is it not the sheer volume of people that are flying, as at T5 at least, you don't feel you're at a stag weekend at 6am on Friday morning.

What I'm getting at is if you fly were to fly first, is the experience that different to the so called golden era?

pax britanica
28th Jan 2015, 17:22
Re the noise while the VC10 was incredibly noise on the outside it was lovely inside, compare that to a 436 or PW turboJET (JT 3B/C) powered version (SABENA in my experience) and well there is no comparison. Take off power on the &)&s with these engines shook the whole plane violently and made the most incredible noise as four straight jets belched out unburnt JetA1 and water methanol in a dark stream and you felt your ear drums would burst. Oddly after going back to climb power it seemed quite quiet but that may have been temporary deafness induced by the preceding 90 seconds or ear trauma.
Of thread but it wasnt just the 707 VC10 pairing either, there were a decent number of Conway powered DC8s (Srs 40?) which were equally noisy in spite of having enormous retractable iron 'silencers' (!!) on the engines which slid rearwards on take off to try and moderate the row.
Much more excitign though than watching a 777 depart though.

On approach though i think the Conways were much quieter than the fanjet engined versions (P&W JT3Ds) which screamed like banshees with gear and flaps down and blocked out the sound track as they flew over the Hounslow cinema I often went to.

I ahd to laugh at the earlier posters idea of resurecting a Conway &)& and flying it over Richmond and Windsor to demonstrate what real aircraft noise is-or sadly (in a way) was.


29th Jan 2015, 00:49
The Conway could be flight idle on finals where as the jt3b needed to be at 80 percent because of its slow acceleration from idle.

29th Jan 2015, 09:30
IME of watching 28 arrivals from Hatton Cross area the 707 was the noisiest of all. Actually painful to hear - as implied above some was probably aerodynamic noise as well as engines.

1st Feb 2015, 12:47
One of the blockbuster's 707 legs will probably be HNL to LAX or SFO, daytime ops. Was Loran available for the whole route? If not, apart from sun posn lines, were there other nav techniques apart from DR?

Thanks for info.

Spooky 2
1st Feb 2015, 12:56
Good Loran was available along these routes both day and night. Cel nav was a back-up until dual Doppler came along and then the Loran was used to back that up. The joke was if you were going from HNL to LAX and when you hit land fall and there were no lights you should make an immediate left turn since you are probably over Mexico.

1st Feb 2015, 20:34
Discorde - You could throw in a couple of position lines from the SFI Consol (Consolan) station that Spooky 2 remembers from this thread a while back -
See his post 32. Your man will have to know how to count ....



Spooky 2
2nd Feb 2015, 10:45
Ah yes the Consolan station up near the Pt Reyes VOR. Used on occasion just for grins but don't recall ever needing to use it for a position check.

Regarding the LORAN reception...as I recall there was a LORAN station near Barking Sands on the Hawaiian chain and another one up near Anchorage. They created excellent LOPs to work from when going back and forth to HNL.

2nd Feb 2015, 12:50
Thanks chaps. Yet more questions:

Which F/D did the BOAC 707s have: Collins, Smiths (or none)

How was A/P hdg adjusted: bug on capt's HSI or remotely?

How noisy was the cockpit? Was 'headsets off' feasible for oceanic/HF/SELCAL ops?

Were there two Loran sets for redundancy?

Thanks (again) for info.

2nd Feb 2015, 16:55
Am I correct that you could home in on BBC Radio 2 long wave at Daventry from halfway across the Atlantic, getting you to within 80 miles of London ? Did you have the kit to give the direction ?

2nd Feb 2015, 17:36

Flight Director was a Collins(forget the marque) with command "diamonds" at the extreme edges of the instrument. Thus a left turn command caused the diamonds to rotate anti-clockwise, then as the bank angle was reached they then moved clockwise to line up. Very un-intuitive!

Heading changes by both HSI knob and centre panel turn controller.

Cockpit - noisy. Same as B737 but faster (ie. M0.79) hence more wind noise.

Headsets were kept on one ear since the quick fit O2 mask clipped onto the headset.

BBC Droitwich transmitter tuned on the ADF and pointed!

2nd Feb 2015, 18:29
Thanks for your input, Meikleour.

The joke was if you were going from HNL to LAX and when you hit land fall and there were no lights you should make an immediate left turn since you are probably over Mexico.

Nice one! Might use that in the saga :ok:

2nd Feb 2015, 19:04
Am I correct that you could home in on BBC Radio 2 long wave at Daventry from halfway across the Atlantic, getting you to within 80 miles of London ? Did you have the kit to give the direction ?

The former Radio 2 Long Wave transmitter using 1500m/200khz (now Radio 4 198khz) is at Droitwich. Daventry, closed in the nineties, was Short Wave for the Empire/World Service. Dav's claim to fame is that it provided the signals for proving the concept of radar in experiments carried out barely a mile from where I sit now.

2nd Feb 2015, 19:13
I lived in Droitwich for my last 6 years in the UK.

As I drove past the Tx, on my way into Brum every morning, I received Radio 4 on the car radio, irrespective of which frequency the car radio was tuned to! Or if it was on an AM or FM waveband.

2nd Feb 2015, 19:21
Were the PAX in these days much more exclusive than today, or was there still a mixed bag of people? I was reading the easyJet report yesterday regarding the extra runway for LHR or LGW debate and was surprised to read that 85% of LGW pax are leisure/VFR, and 65% of LHR pax the same. I would have expected a higher proportion of business travellers, particularly out of LHR.

2nd Feb 2015, 21:55
I think the 436 had KIFIS. Kolsman integrated flight instrument system as it was called then.

3rd Feb 2015, 23:10
BOAC Boeing 707-436 G-APFO c/n 17716 at Honolulu 19 January 1969. Photo HW Bailey (c):

4th Feb 2015, 00:15
I think the 436 had KIFIS. Kolsman integrated flight instrument system as it was called then. Agreed.

Were there two Loran sets for redundancy?No.

Consol - maximum 60 counts. i.e. dots, gradually building up to a single tone then gradually subsiding to positive dashes. One might count 20 dots and 32 dashes = 52, the missing 8 in the constant tone would be divided between dots and dashes, halved and added to each, so count would be 24 dots, which would be the position line to plot from the consol grid printed on the chart ( the first character, be it dots or dashes decided the type of count.)

One tried to hear as many positive dots or dashes as possible before the tone created a discrepancy, thereby reducing the error, so one would be straining to hear the difference, having got to, say, 26, 27, 28 when the door would burst open and a female voice would shout - "anyone for a cup of tea?" Oh, Christ, shut up, start again - 1,2,3,4 and so on!

There was also a Consol station at Nantucket ( 194 Kc ? ) but in my experience, if by the time one was in range one needed it then one had bigger problems to consider ! I don't recall it being much use on the N.Atl. tracks that we normally used.

There seemed to be a tendency to get slightly South of track when on a Southerly track approaching 10 West from the West - or maybe it was just me not paying attention. One of the old Coastal Command skippers agreed with me, and reckoned that there was a "blip" in the magnetic variation printed on the chart at that point.

Happy Days.

4th Feb 2015, 11:43
BOAC Boeing 707-436 G-APFO c/n 17716 at Honolulu 19 January 1969. Photo HW Bailey (c):

Aloha Airlines BAC One-Eleven 200 to the left of the Pan Am fin in the background (and maybe a second one alongside it behind the Pan Am).

4th Feb 2015, 20:03
Re: Aloha BAC 1-11 (Thread drift) - Yes, I believe you are correct. Is that an Aloha Viscount tail visible just above the aft portion of the 707's fuselage?

2nd Nov 2015, 17:57
Hello Lordflasheart, do you know how can I get a pdf of the operating instructions for the Kollsman Sky Compass? I have a Kollsman and a Russian Sky Compasses and I would like to compare them as both claim a precision of ½ deg.

3rd Nov 2015, 08:00
Hi, Instruments -

Apart from the extract from my 707 flying manual shown in my Post 137 Jan 8th 2015 in this thread, the short answer is no, sorry. My local Nav God has recently been carried away to the stars so I can't ask him just yet. ExSp33db1rd (of this parish) was another Nav God and may well have more, as he is still going strong.

I only used the Kollsman and Kelvin Hughes periscopic sextants. Never used the Kollsman Sky Compass, which was fitted only on BOAC 707-336 aircraft for polar daytime nav (London to Anchorage) where two Navs were carried. I believe its full title was the "Kollsman Polarised Sky Light Compass."

I suspect that anything more than the page referred to above could well have been passed on by personal instruction in flight.

I don't think I have anything more, but I will have a look around.


9th Nov 2015, 11:38
I might have to divert my 707 into Sondestromfjord. Latterly the approach into BGSF was LOC/DME. Was that the case in the late 1960s? Was there SRA or PAR available? Did crews use weather radar to assist with nav (terrain) orientation?

Thanks for info.

Edit: The field was under USAF control in the 1960s, so the approach aids would presumably have catered for military aircraft.

Dan Winterland
11th Nov 2015, 01:47
I'm absolutely loving this thread and have just wasted (not really!) over an hour absorbing it. Looking forward to the book.

There were a bunch of intrepid aviators still doing some of this stuff in 4 engine jets up to the early 90s - the RAF's Victor crews. We frequently crossed the Atlantic with the minimum required 2 long range Nav systems - the Omega and the Navigator. Someone convinced the authorities that he qualified as one - although the accuracy varied considerably depending on several factors, included numbers of beers consumed the night before.

The reason Tankers still used Omega was that if two aircraft wanted to get together a long way from radar or short range land based systems, Omega would give both aircraft the same error and they would meet up. Some Victors were fitted with a single Carousel in the Falklands war, but there was only room for one system, so Omega stayed.

The other Nav kit consisted of one ADF, one TACAN, the Doppler fed Ground Position Indicator and the original Nav Bombing System fed from the WW2 era H2s Radar. One day crossing the pond, Omega dropped out to to a solar storm, we were out of range of the NDBs, we couldn't pick up Consol, the sea was silky smooth - so no Doppler and out of range of radar fix points - so our intrepid Vasco broke out the sextant. We coated in 32 miles off track, which I thought was quite good, but Shanwick didn't agree and violated us. No one was daft enough to let us into MNPS airspace, so luckily we were a FL450 where no one else was.

11th Nov 2015, 03:01
We coated in 32 miles off trackUsing a sextant to nav on the jets, what was considered the acceptable error in position fixing?

11th Nov 2015, 05:58
megan - 20Nms was quite good

11th Nov 2015, 11:20
Many thanks Bergerie1, what might it have been back in the piston days? I'm thinking of the PAA floatplanes looking for the islands in the Pacific during the 1930s.

11th Nov 2015, 13:36
I was thinking a bit more. It would be reasonable, if you got good shots in good conditions, to expect 10Nms as a good ballpark figure. And even in a little turbulence 20Nms should always be possible with a bubble periscopic sextant from a jet transport. My last nav sector using stars was in May 1975.

Perhaps, there are others who can add to this. But I know next to nothing about pre-war astro navigation.

Spooky 2
11th Nov 2015, 19:42
Were you using Loran as well as the sextant? If so I would think 10NM would be pretty easy if you had good Loran reception?

12th Nov 2015, 07:35
Sometimes one did, sometimes one didn't - it all depended on what was available. The accuracy figures I have mentioned are for celestial fixes using stars, planets, moon and sun alone - not mixed with other position lines from Loran or any other aid.

Spooky 2
12th Nov 2015, 09:05
Yes that's what I suspected you meant but wasn't sure. Most of my cel nav was done over the Pacific and the Loran coverage was pretty good...most of the time.

12th Nov 2015, 10:26

The other Nav kit consisted of one ADF, one TACAN, the Doppler fed Ground Position Indicator and the original Nav Bombing System fed from the WW2 era H2s Radar. The H2S that was included in the NBS the V-Bombers was H2S Mk9, it 1st saw light of day in the mid 50's.

I helped the guys from EMI install the 1st RAF NBS set up, it was included in the 'Trainer' that was installed at BCBS Lindholme in 1954-5.

It was very different from the H2S Mk 4A that we had fitted to the Lincolns at the time.

23rd Nov 2015, 22:14
I might have to divert my 707 into Sondestromfjord. Latterly the approach into BGSF was LOC/DME. Was that the case in the late 1960s? Was there SRA or PAR available? Did crews use weather radar to assist with nav (terrain) orientation?

I'm probably one of the few here who actually went into Sondrestrom (as it was called) in this era, on a Wardair 727 charter routing Prestwick-Sondrestrom-Vancouver in 1968, just as a teenager. Weather was good both ways but it was apparently quite a challenge when not. It was a surprising fuel stop because the cost of getting aviation fuel there must have been considerable. There was a coffee shop and duty free counter in there which took any currency you chose (principally Canadian dollars it seemed). I guess their diversion point was Frobisher (nowadays Iqaluit). The crew worked right through from Prestwick to Vancouver, I don't think there was any crew hotac at Sondrestrom.

13th Dec 2015, 13:15
My Dad is an ex BOAC 707 pilot who retired in 1973. He was a Lanc pilot with a DFC before being seconded by the RAF to BOAC at the end of the war initially flying from Hurn.

His favourite trips were Alaska to Tokyo and then to Moscow. Between Moscow and Tokyo he remembers having coms with Russians working in isolated places in Siberia who rarely spoke with anyone and were chuffed to have a chat.

In Moscow he was often aware of being followed and several times had people asking to buy his tie. There was also the true story of a flight engineer on the very first BOAC flight to Moscow who was convinced his hotel bedroom was bugged. He felt something lumpy under the carpet, rolled it back and found a metal object screwed to the floor. He unscrewed it and heard a massive crash as the chandelier in the room below fell to the floor.

barry lloyd
13th Dec 2015, 14:45
In Moscow he was often aware of being followed and several times had people asking to buy his tie. There was also the true story of a flight engineer on the very first BOAC flight to Moscow who was convinced his hotel bedroom was bugged. He felt something lumpy under the carpet, rolled it back and found a metal object screwed to the floor. He unscrewed it and heard a massive crash as the chandelier in the room below fell to the floor.

Full story here: (Though it has been attributed to a Canadian basketball team):

13th Dec 2015, 16:44
The way I heard the chandelier story was that it was the F/E on the 216 Sqn VIP Comet 4 crew that took Harold Wilson to Moscow for a briefing.

13th Dec 2015, 17:08
Dad is sticking by his version of the chandelier story!

Reading accounts of waking up air crew on flights ... Dad's memory is more of having to wake up air traffic controllers at various African airports on flights back north to Europe!

He also remembers in Kano, when a flight was due to land, there was a man on the ground whose job was to stand on the runway blowing a horn to frighten off the local wildlife!

13th Dec 2015, 19:10
Dad is sticking by his version of the chandelier story!
Was he subsequently a scriptwriter for Fools & Horses ? :)


14th Dec 2015, 07:28
Full story here: (Though it has been attributed to a Canadian basketball team):

The above link doesn't work for me. Let's try this one: BETTER ON A CAMEL (http://betteronacamel.com/)

Success ... and there's the trumpet blower on the camel at Kano, and ooh, an Argonaut getting airborne on a 'Curvature of the Earth' job! Now scroll down to Europe and 'Russia (USSR) Trans-Siberian Start-Up by Brian Burgess.' Brian has the facts correct, the only thing I would disagree with is that BEA had the Land Rover and the BOAC Representative USSR - the late Roger Moulding - had supplied to him a 1600E Ford Cortina automatic/white. (Moscow, winter, snow/slush, fines for having a dirty motor car i.e. not a very bright choice, eh?) Roger had a degree in modern languages, including Russian, and had spent his National Service in the RAF in Berlin, listening to radio traffic. Dead ringer for a 'spook' you might be thinking - as I did - but I'm assured that he wasn't.

I was the 'meticulous flight planner' posted with suitable winter clothing, and arrived aboard BA860 G-AWHU on 24th September 1970 for what proved to be a most interesting three months!

14th Dec 2015, 09:23
The Moscow chandelier is a legendary BOAC story told and re told for many years.

The hotel was The Ukraine which was a Stalinist monstrosity the rooms were tiny and the facilities in the bathroom consisted of a small piece of cloth that served as a towel, a sliver of carbolic soap and the lack of a plug in the sink! Standard instructions were to take towel, soap and plug with you on these trips.

The 'restaurant' was a joke. A vast menu would be produced and as you asked for each item the huge waitress, wearing socks and with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp, would say 'Niet'. You would,at some random point in the proceedings, find a tin dish containing some fat and gristle and maybe a little yellow, overcooked cabbage thrown down in front of you. Accompanying this delight would be a piece of black concrete which was supposed to be bread and a glass of black tea.

This was the reason that self catering was the norm on Moscow trips and the large fruit cake liberated from the First Class galley was eked out until pick up and the return to civilisation arrived.

The one good point about the hotel was the Beriozka shop which was filled with goodies which could be purchased with hard currency. Bottles of grog and cases of beer were very cheap if paid for in £'s or $'s so the parties were always well oiled.

Each floor of the hotel had a desk in front of the ancient manual lifts this was the home of the 'Dragon Lady' who would write something in a large book each time you arrived or left the room. There was much speculation as to what sensitive information was being gathered for the KGB by these jolly souls.

We once held a party in one of the lifts which were like something out of an Agatha Christie film with a young lady who operated the thing. We toasted every guest that arrived in the lift with drink from the Beriozka and attempted to woo the lift operator. All jolly good fun until a man with an air of menace entered the lift addressed us by name and told us it was time to go to bed! Arguing was not an option so off to the freezing cell it was.

The Captain was given a huge cavernous 'suite' which even had a grand piano the floors had moth eaten rugs and this is were the origins of the Chandelier took root. The room party was usually in this room as you could only fit two people in the standard ones.

As 'strong drink' was taken and theories of KGB spies were told someone lifted the rug and saw a small area that could be lifted in the floor. The Flight Engineer was dispatched to get his tool kit and the floor board lifted revealing an object that they decided was a 'bug'. A spanner was produced and the rest is history:ok:

14th Dec 2015, 09:43
vctenderness – spot on!

After I retired from BA I worked for IATA in Brussels in the late 1990s, and was part of a team trying to negotiate better routes across Siberia between Europe and Japan. The airlines wanted more northerly routes that were close to the Great Circle rather than the southerly routes that passed near Moscow. They also wanted a network of useable routes so that advantage could be taken day by day of the variability of the jet stream. Try asking for flexibility from ex-Soviet functionaries! They were nice enough as individuals but their mind-set was anything but flexible.

After one long day of negotiations we were wined and dined in a large opulent dining room. It had ornate cornices around the ceilings and magnificent chandeliers. Towards the end of the dinner, after rather too many vodka toasts, I was asked if I knew where we were. I said I didn’t. Our hosts then told me it was Stalin’s dining room by the racecourse. I responded by admiring the decorations and the chandeliers, and then asked if they would like me to tell them a story.

So, with suitable embroidery, I told the story of the BOAC crew and the chandelier. It all had to be done through interpreters, one of whom I was told had been an interpreter for Khrushchev. The upshot was they all loved it and laughed until tears rolled down their cheeks. And whenever I returned to Moscow (which was frequent) I was asked to tell the story again. It did much to break the ice.

barry lloyd
14th Dec 2015, 14:36
The hotel was The Ukraine which was a Stalinist monstrosity the rooms were tiny and the facilities in the bathroom consisted of a small piece of cloth that served as a towel, a sliver of carbolic soap and the lack of a plug in the sink! Standard instructions were to take towel, soap and plug with you on these trips.

Are you sure it was the Ukraine? The description is spot-on, although I don't recall there being any chandeliers in the lobby there. (In fact I don't remember it being very well lit at all :D , but then nowhere was in those days!). The Metropole (near the Bolshoi on Revolution Square) has a magnificent chandelier in the lobby and my understanding is that is was this which suffered the fall. I spoke to the then manager in the early 90s and he confirmed that there was a suite above the ceiling where the chandelier was mounted, which of course was de rigueur for BOAC captains in those days.

I seem to remember that the plug sizes were always a problem, because ours were imperial and theirs were metric. I eventually discovered that you could buy a universal bathplug in the UK, basically a solid rubber ball slightly bigger than a golf ball, which covered all eventualities (and plugholes!).

15th Dec 2015, 19:35
Barry. The chandelier didn't crash down in the lobby. It was the suite below. The Captains suite had a chandelier as well as the Grand piano so this was repeated down each floor.

My memory is pretty good but the hotel could have been the Ukrainen rather than just Ukraine.

15th Dec 2015, 20:50
The story of the Moscow chandelier was published in Horizon the BOAC Flight Operations magazine. That must have been 1969 or thereabouts. Soon after it was repeated in some British national newspapers.

A few years later a friend of mine who worked for Caledonian claimed it had happened to their crew who flew a British Government charter into Moscow in the early 1970s . He was unaware of the earlier attribution of the story to BOAC.

Then much later still I met a non-aviation person who claimed it had happened to him in Poland. He professed no knowledge of what was by now a much repeated airline story. I can't help thinking that it must have reached urban legend status.

India Four Two
15th Dec 2015, 21:05
I can't help thinking that it must have reached urban legend status. Yes, I first read this story in the 70s, with the protagonists being the Canadian (Ice) Hockey team.

See the end of this link:

15th Dec 2015, 21:57
Blind, hi, you got me interested in this RIO flight with Swissair DC-10 as I remember well these 3-4 times weekly service out of GVA around 24h00. Was the last flight to depart together with another swissair flight (Nairobi SR144 if I remember well) before airport would close. They would almost always depart from 05 to take advantage of runway slope (so did GVA dispatch explain me) That would mean they would pass overhead family house within 30'' of flight and I vividly remember all the windows shaking under the thunder of the screaming CF-6 (?) amd we always got the impression they would not climb at all and crash within the next nm or so. Well my question to you would be, what was special from ops point of view to make it marginal ? Was it the sector lenght and fuel state ? Care to elaborate a bit ? Marvelous thread BTW, you BOAC people probably had the "dream" life in commercial aviation during the "golden era" (i.e. good pay and good working conditions, interesting network etc.)

barry lloyd
15th Dec 2015, 22:16
Barry. The chandelier didn't crash down in the lobby. It was the suite below. The Captains suite had a chandelier as well as the Grand piano so this was repeated down each floor.

My memory is pretty good but the hotel could have been the Ukrainen rather than just Ukraine.

Ah - that explains a lot. I hadn't heard that part of the story before, but it makes perfect sense.

If it was that Stalinist monstrosity near the river on Kutuzovsky Avenue, then it's definitely the Ukraine (now a Radisson Hotel apparently :eek:). It was certainly one of the few hotels on the 'approved' list because I stayed there a number of times, in fact I was once given a suite at the very top, which had the biggest bathroom and bath I have ever seen. The water was still the colour and consistency of Brown Windsor Soup though!


16th Dec 2015, 05:28
The story as I first heard it starts with a short Notice in the 'Orders and Notices' manual which everyone was supposed to read before flying.

In those days we always referred to the BOAC HQ at Heathrow as 'The Kremlin'. You know the sort of thing - a new instruction to crews is published and crewmembers in hotels and bars down the route would say things like. "Those bl**dy blokes in the Kremlin, can't organise a piss up in a brewery, etc, etc."

So a notice appears saying something about, 'when staying in Moscow, it would be advisable not to make disparaging remarks about the Kremlin, the rooms being bugged and the possibility of the listeners misinterpreting the usual crew chat.'

Naturally, crews being only human, they search their rooms for bugs. Pictures are taken down, telephones dismantled, chests of drawers examined, bed knobs unscrewed, etc, etc.

Then, when staying in Moscow, they all gather at the crew party in the captain's suite, and everyone searches for bugs. A slight bulge is noticed in the carpet, and it is rolled back to reveal a sinister looking fitting with a large nut in the middle. So the engineer is sent off to his room to bring back his box of spanners (all flight engineers being well equipped). He returns and unscrews the nut, at which point the central bolt disappears followed by a loud cash from the room below. And then it dawns upon them.....because exactly above their heads there hangs a chandelier!

So the nut is carefully replaced, the carpet rolled back, the party continued and not a word is said.

Well....that was how I heard the story! I guess there are many versions.

16th Dec 2015, 06:41
He returns and unscrews the nut, at which point the central bolt disappears followed by a loud cash from the room below. And then it dawns upon them.....because exactly above their heads there hangs a chandelier!

So the nut is carefully replaced, the carpet rolled back, the party continued and not a word is said.

That description doesn't really make much sense, in engineering terms.

16th Dec 2015, 07:50
Amstrong, I have sent you a PM

Dave, I see, like me, you are a pedant!

Presumably the chandelier was fastened with a threaded bolt that passed from the ceiling beneath, to emerge through the floor above in a recess, where there was a washer above which was a nut screwed on to hold the bolt in place. When the nut was unscrewed the bolt disappeared down through the structure of the floor causing the chandelier (under the influence of gravity) to fall and scatter its components around the bedroom below.

The nut and washer were then carefully replaced exactly over the now vacant hole so that the carpet looked undisturbed in the hope (probably hopeless) that the hotel staff would assume it had unscrewed itself.

Is that description exact enough?!

16th Dec 2015, 08:38
Barry. That's the one! I was not wrong in my description of it was I?

16th Dec 2015, 14:28
Is that description exact enough?!

Well no, not really.

If the chandelier was really suspended from said bolt, then the scenario described "when the nut was unscrewed the bolt disappeared down through the structure of the floor" seems a tad unlikely.

Even the dimmest BOAC flight engineer would have twigged if, as soon as the nut started being backed off, the bolt was clearly being pulled down into the hole. To then carry on removing the nut would seem to be a rather imprudent thing to do.

Or maybe the bolt stayed put and only disappeared after the nut had been completely removed, a bit like Wile E Coyote only plummeting to earth after he has looked down and realised that he's no longer standing on the cliff edge? :O

16th Dec 2015, 14:58
Dave, I wasn't there. Your last para seems the most probable sequence of events.

IFPS man
16th Dec 2015, 16:01
I shall be watching that "Only Fools And Horses" episode re the chandelier from a completely different perspective now!!!'

16th Dec 2015, 18:07
In June 1970, BOAC schedulng telephoned to let me know I was operating the next day to Moscow. I was to replace a Captain ------ (not operating as captain) who was unable to go.
This was to be the second service London Moscow (and on to Tokyo).
When I turned up at crew reporting the Captain was -----. who had already operated the first service a few days before. The other co-pilot, ----, and I thought it a little strange when Captain ----- went and bought some sandwiches in Terminal 3.
The flight to Moscow was OK but on arrival we soon realised what a miserable place it was (remember this was 1970). At the hotel (not yet the Ukraine) I think we had a couple of beers in someone's room and then ---- and I decided to go out for something to eat. We soon realised why Captain ----- had self-catered. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was available.
Over the next ten years I went to Moscow many times as co-pilot and then captain.
I heard the chandelier story many times, often from people who had never been to Moscow.
However we never found any evidence at the Ukraine - and I am sure when the story started plenty of other crews would have been looking under the carpets.
So, very sorry chaps, but I think the story is an urban legend.


At the request of the survivors the names have been removed.

16th Dec 2015, 19:11
The first hotel we stayed at was the National - an absolute dump! Breakfast the next day left much to be desired - Boiled eggs served from a bucket! Luke warm and Barkley cooked , thank whoever for the bread!

Went there quite a few times on the 707 but can't remember which hotels we stayed at - it was when I went back on the 747 that I can remember staying at the Ukraine Hotel.

barry lloyd
16th Dec 2015, 20:33
Barry. That's the one! I was not wrong in my description of it was I?

I thought you were quite kind, actually! :)

16th Dec 2015, 21:17
My first trip to Moscow on the 707 was with a Captain who had been BALPA President during a "look-see" visit to Aeroflot operations during some previous negotiations - details I forget. Upon arrival in Moscow he made contact with a previous acquaintance from that meeting and shortly afterwards three Russians arrived, one Politburo member with some responsibility for Aeroflot, a uniformed Aeroflot official, and an interpreter who wore a never-to-be-removed flat cap and muffler, who resembled the cartoon character Andy Capp!

We were immediately whisked off to some smart restaurant where food and drink of the highest order - the likes of which I never saw again in Moscow - were produced, caviar, Georgian Brandy etc. Having gorged ourselves without restraint we were asked to say a few words regarding our first impressions of Moscow, but although our words were repeated by the interpreter it was obvious from facial expressions that no interpreter was really necessary, they were just going through the motions.

The Flt/Eng. asked how production of the Concorde rival, the TU 144 (?) was going. Immediately there was a change of atmosphere around the table. "We know nothing of a TU 144" was the reply. "You must do" said our F/Eng. " it's your most prestigious product to date, a rival to the Concorde" "We know nothing" was again the reply. A few well aimed kicks under the table shut him up, we clearly were not going to be told anything.

After a few brandies conversation became a little less restrained, and as it was just before the annual Red Square anniversary parade, we told the Politburo man that we would see shots of this on BBC television the next week, and that if he stood up in the VIP seating area and waved, we would see him ! He replied that he was too old, and that it would be too cold, and that he would be watching the parade on his colour televeision at home. I don't think I'd even bought my first B & W TV at that time !

After the meal we were poured into the Bolshoi Theatre to watch some operatic production. Our hosts said that tho' they could secure seats, even they couldn't get four sat together at such short notice. The F/Eng. and I did actually sit together, but the Capt. and F/O were in different parts of the theatre.

At the end of the first Act I remarked to the F/Eng. that although I was enjoying the spectacle and the music, I hadn't the faintest idea what the bloody hell the story was all about ? A very pretty, olive skinned woman ( i.e. not the usual hewn-out-of-solid Russian female form ) sat next to me then said " I will tell you what the bloody hell it is all about" and proceeded to give me the synopsis of the, specifically Russian, opera. I remarked upon her perfect English, Yes, she replied, I've lived in London. I said that that was unusual and she replied "for me that is no problem" We had obviously been "seeded" around the audience and deliberately sat next to someone who could overhear, and understand, what we might talk about. ( Paranoid ? Moi ?)

For some reason we positioned back to LHR as passengers on that occasion, and the operating Captain was the then 707 Flt. Mgr. On departure from the hotel we and the operating crew were stood at the hotel entrance waiting for the usual decrepit bus to take us to the airport when 2 large black Zlin (?) limousines drew up and we were summoned to take a VIP ride to the airport, leaving the Flt.Mgr. and his crew still awaiting the bus !!

During the flight I was summoned to the flight deck - "Don't tell him anything" said my Captain ! On the flight deck the Flt. Mgr. said " looks like you have some influential friends in Moscow ?" I told him nothing !

On another visit we were discussing the difficulty of obtaining breakfast, and our stewardess, an "older" lady from the BSAA Star Girl era said "I have breakfast in my room, on room service". Room service, in Moscow ? we retorted. Yes, she said, follow me, whereupon she marched down the corridor to the Dragon Lady, where it was then a bit like that Joyce Grenfell sketch where she describes two large ladies dancing bust to bust !

" I want breakfast in room 239 at nine o'clock ", our stewardess said, and proceeded to give her detailed menu order. The Dragon Lady pulled open a drawer, produced a piece of paper and wrote down the instructions. "See?" said our stewardess, "Easy".

One of the crew then asked for breakfast in room XXX at nine o'clock. Niet, said the Dragon Lady, 08.45, then proceeded to point to us all and assign a time, 08.30, 09.15 etc. At my appointed time and still in bed, my triple locked and chained door was burst open and an obviously disgruntled Russian maid dropped a breakfast tray on my bedside table and then held her hand out for a tip. Being naked in bed ( I lost too many pairs of pyjamas tucked under a pillow and forgotten on departure ! ) I pointed to my loose change dropped into my upturned hat - as one did - and she picked out a 2/- piece with an enquiring look, I nodded and she left. I got my breakfast in bed ! I never repeated the exercise.

16th Dec 2015, 21:40
Fascinating tales from a time when the only chance I would have had of visiting Russia would have been a one-way trip delivering a bucket of instant sunshine from a Vulcan....

A favourite 'bug' story I was told was about an occasion at the British Embassy, when a pre-Christmas cocktail party was in full swing. During a lull in the proceedings, one drunken reveller called out "And a Happy Christmas to all our friends in the KGB who are listening!".

About 5 seconds later, the ambassador's private phone rang.... "Iss KGB, Happy Christmas to you too.... Click"!

When Gorbachev came to Brize to visit Maggie, I was involved in looking after the aircrews' requirements - mine was the first aircraft which contained the KGB security team for the USA, who were bussed off for lunch. 3 of us went on board and were greeted by a Rosa Klebb lookalike who offered us coffee. We thanked her profusely and she immediately dissolved into smiles like some dear old prep school matron - she beckoned to the rear of the Il 62 from which 3 gorgeous stewardesses appeared with excellent coffee and Russian chocolates.

BA was still having some good nightstops when we bumped into a TriStar crew in Bermuda back in November 1986 having diverted in off our AAR trail from Puerto Rico to the Azores in our VC10 tanker. An epic party time at the Bermudiana, the latter, somewhat private part of which must remain 'classified'....:E

17th Dec 2015, 06:58

Good to hear from you again, I hope you are keeping well.

Your description of fun in Moscow was great. Do you have any more stories like that? I didn't get to Moscow until the late 1970s but have fond memories of the old Ukraina.

No bath plugs, no soap, no bog-bumph. Telephone calls from 'students' wanting to join the crew party to practice their English. Always welcomed in and plied with Scotch in the hope of inducing indiscretions - but always blokes, not pretty young girls.

And the dragon ladies at the end of each corridor looking much like Grandma from a Giles cartoon. And of course the never-to-be-missed appalling breakfasts downstairs, I could only stomach the hard boiled eggs and black tea from the samovar, everything else looked disgusting.
Happy days!

17th Dec 2015, 07:57
In the early 70's my employer started to do some business Sovietside, mostly in Poland, but my boss and another colleague did go to Russia at that time. I cannot remember where they went but it did involve an internal flight from Moscow by Aeroflot.

On the return trip they landed in Moscow and the passengers were commanded to remain seated. Two men, dressed in black hats and leather overcoats, boarded and my colleagues were told to identify themselves. Their passports were taken and they were then led off the aircraft to a large black car which then proceeded out of the airport and along miles of roads lined with fir trees you get in all the best 50's spy films. Not a word was spoken and they feared the worst.

Eventually, the car swept into another airport and right up to a BOAC aircraft, they were handed back their passports and, in perfect English, wished a happy flight back to London.

17th Dec 2015, 09:02
I once flew into Moscow and the Flight Engineer wished us a cheery farewell as we boarded the crew bus to the hotel. I asked him where he was going? He replied that he was 'A Hero of The Soviet Union' and was being picked up and taken care of for the slip.

On our return I questioned him and he explained that he was on the Arctic convoys during the war taking essential supplies to the Soviets to assist in their battle against the Nazis.

I don't know exactly what he did, either in the convoy or, indeed, during the Moscow slip.

Anyone out there remember this EO?

blind pew
18th Dec 2015, 10:47
In 1972 I was flying for the opposition - BEA - and was fortunate to have 24 hours wandering around Moscow after we went tech.
I was flying as P2 ex Moscow and during engine start the motor didn't turn when it should have done. Just like the sim although it was the only time in "real" life that it happened to me.
The Skipper was ex Lancs (his son frequents these pages) and we had already got rid of the KGB on the aircraft as well as Auntie Betty's couriers (from first class of course) and their diplomatic bags.
Sir, along with P3 and moi thought "what has he" (or moi) "cocked up". It wasn't to be sorted so easily so our traveling engineer was hailed from First class.
IIRC (covers the whole post) we had engine 1 running and it was no 2 in the tail.
There is a procedure for a manual start (opening a valve wiv a stick) but that didn't work so we shut down and got some rickety steps which elf and safety would ban nowadays - even in Sheremetyevo.

The ground was covered in fast freezing slush with a blast coming off the Steppes and I volunteered to be the gofer but was wearing my winter wool uniform - so as a 23 year old I wouldn't be too cold.

We had to refuel as the procedure was going to take around an hour - with APU running and an allowance for engine 2 running for a half hour.
So eng removed no 2 starter and no 3, placed 3 starter on 2 and gave it a go.
The ramp looked a bit like my garage when I'm working on my '66 Bristol so I thought he had mixed up the motors - so off it came and the other went back on.
Still nowt - we had blown two starter motors and Sir calculated that to start the three engines and swap over the starter motor each time plus another 1/2 hour wait for the bowser would take us way over legal duty.

It took another hour to accommodate the pax and we had a briefing from the station chief about the BOAC chandelier incident (you've been watching too much James Bond) including the probability of having KGB with us.

The hotel was much as described - a bit like 1980s french hotel comfort - as was lunch - four hours waiting for watery cabbage and beef stew but we had a whale of a time.

We all met up and I figured (from the TV) that marching around in unknown uniforms - all we had -we could go where we want.
So Red Square, a couple of Orthodox churches (there is one on the south side of Green Park if you have never had the delight) - all of the time ignoring the queues.
This didn't work with Lenin's tomb although we jumped around 300 yards of it a soldier beckoned us into the queue 50 yards before the entrance.
We decided sod Lenin, went to a hotel to get a drink and warm up.
The starters arrived with some blokes to fit them and we departed with a nearly empty Trident 2 back to London.
It was obvious as something had been incorrectly done prior to our flight ex Heathrow as I never had any starter problems in the rest of my career.

IIRC there was a fusible clutch in the starter which broke with over torque and maybe it was just a question of alignment.

We weren't able to spend the Roubles so I bought the lot from the crew and gave them to eng who bought me a couple of Mink hats - I have hung on to mine (still serviceable as excellent quality) but didn't hang on to the wife so no idea where hers is 40+years on (nor her for that matter ;-))

AMSTRONG re Swiss Gva - Rio
while a bit of a thread drift an interesting operation from many aspects and one where I thought an ex meatbox pilot was going to kill us. As a coincidence I received a link from a well known BOAC 707 manager this morning

Le pilote Nicollier - rts.ch - Culture (http://www.rts.ch/archives/tv/culture/3471530-le-pilote-nicollier.html)

going back twenty years but still gives an incite into how tough Switzerland can be and how good their pilots are.
I'll post later

18th Dec 2015, 15:30
I remember the F/E you mention. I always understood he had "The Order of Lenin" (awarded to his squadron). I can confirm he always boasted about being well looked after in Moscow.
I think he was an expert in tropical aquarium fish.

18th Dec 2015, 16:31
Mike you could be right on his 'Soviet Status'.

The rest of us just had The order of John Lenin at the Ukraine:8

barry lloyd
18th Dec 2015, 17:46
My own time in the USSR was not aviation-related at that time and I frequently found myself in some of the more obscure parts of the Soviet empire, accompanied as always, by an 'interpreter'. The trick with the 'floor dragons' I discovered early on was to present them with chocolate or packed sweets (of British origin) which in turn brought unlimited quantities of fresh tea and salami sandwiches and sometimes an upgrade :) However in some of the towns I visited, there was not always a hotel room available, so I was put into the Party members' private wards in hospitals twice and someone's flat on another occasion!

Leningrad as a city was much more fun, perhaps because it is a port. Plenty of bars and a few half-decent restaurants (только доллары! - $ only!) and a much pleasanter city overall than Moscow.

Anyway, back to the aviation theme. One thing I well remember is that on the SVO-LHR return flight, the captain would normally announce over the PA: "We have now left Soviet airspace," to loud cheers and the cabin staff would appear with the champagne flutes - this was long before business class and beancounters, though! Thanks BEA!

18th Dec 2015, 18:29
I think the engineer was a certain Charlie Withers - Ithink as somebody has already mentioned he was an acknowledged tropical fish expert

blind pew
19th Dec 2015, 06:31
Barry - still remember the announcement of leaving soviet airspace and in some cases justified.
Shortly before we rolled one day after a long taxi out we were ordered back to the ramp with our departure clearance being cancelled.
A squad of military climbed on board, went through our passengers and hauled one of them off the aircraft. Nothing was said. The dispatcher did a LMC to the load sheet, although we had burnt quite a bit of fuel we just went and worried about legal reserves later.
Always wondered what happened to the poor sod.

Fris B. Fairing
6th Jan 2016, 04:17
Sorry about the thread drift (unforgivable in a topic about navigation?) but it is 707 related.

Many years ago when I was in airline sales, we received a visit from a sales rep for Varig. He extolled the virtues of their 707s on the South Pacific as outperforming other airlines' 707s because the Varig aircraft "had the boosters". I never knew what he was talking about then and it still troubles me today. I had visions of JATO/RATO but I've never heard of such a thing on the 707. Does anyone know what he was on about?


6th Jan 2016, 07:06
The early 707s and KC-135s had water injection which increased take-off thrust; they were known as "water wagons". I guess that was what he was referring to?

Fris B. Fairing
6th Jan 2016, 07:17
I don't think it was water injection. I'm sure they were operating 320B/C at the time.

Chris Scott
6th Jan 2016, 09:18
Not sure this will help but, if we are talking about the later variants, the 707-320B or 320C, they mostly had P&W JT3D-3 engines of 18000 lb thrust. But some had the JT3D-7, of 19000 lb. IIRC, an example of that in Africa was Trek Airways, which needed as much thrust as possible for long sectors out of Johannesburg (not that the dash-7 would have delivered the full 19000 lb at 6000 ft altitude, I hasten to add).

7th Jan 2016, 09:11
Varig didn't have the early water-injected JT3C-engined 707-120, which was confined to US operators (it was used on B-52s and KC-135 tankers previously). Varig were early 707 operators in 1960, but with the Rolls-Royce Conway engine; they had just a couple of these (ordered three, but one was lost before the final one was delivered), then they bought a few Convair 990s (GE engines), then merged with Panair and got two DC8-30s from them (JT4A engines), then got their first 707-320C in 1965, which they then standardised on, and sold off their decidedly mixed, both airframe and engines, earlier fleet. Their Rolls-engined first 707s had maintained an element of commonality with the Rolls Avon-engined Caravelles which they bought at the same time.

JT3C water-injection was a nuisance operationally, it added a considerable weight, both for plumbing and water, although it only operated for the first couple of minutes from brake release so you didn't normally carry the water with you, it was complex and unreliable, and created extra noise and smoke. You needed anyway to plan for the water injection to fail at V1, which was by NO means unknown.

Pratt had another go with it on some early 747 engines (those with a W suffix), more as a Band-Aid to the poor performance of the first JT9Ds, but this apparently had even worse reliability and was soon dispensed with.