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Once upon a time there was Air Nauru.

Australia, New Zealand & the Pacific Airline and RPT Rumours & News in Australia, enZed and the Pacific

Once upon a time there was Air Nauru.

Old 4th Aug 2014, 09:08
  #61 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: NSW Australia YSCH
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Stories of Fiji/Nauru run

On alternate Sundays we operated Nandi-Funafuti-Tarawa-Nauru and on one accession managed to get Sundays Sydney's papers off the transit QF 707 and give it to the NZ Met guy and his wife stationed at Funafuti. Both burst into tears as it was the first paper they had ever seen on the day it was published in 10 months. The hotel there was listed as A/con which actually meant one pushed the weaved slats out to get the breeze.
On one of the trips a Catholic Monsignor was visiting and the local maidens were to welcome him with dancing in their grass skirts. Himself missed the flight but the welcome went ahead anyway with the maidens minus their tops which says so much about the islands.

One of reasons I travelled as supernumerary was to teach the locals how to do the load sheets. Say no more.
Our agent in Tarawa was the best available and he was actually certified! True.
He had the Bone pointed at him for fooling around with another mans wife, he became very ill and we flew him to RPA in Syd. They couldn't overcome the " curse " and he returned home to die. Amazing power pointing the bone has.

On one trip the inverters on the 748 went tits up in Tarawa and special dispensation had to be got to ferry the A/C back minus Pax and so we had 11 days there. Apricot pie and gravy is another story. Found out then that the outriggers on the lagoon were supposed to be the fastest sail boats in the world at that time, 69.

One of our first hostess was a Fijian Princess, problem was she was not supposed to be above head height of Fijian men when serving food or drinks. A word in fathers ear solved that.

On a couple of trips took Meb car dealers to Nauru one was the Rolls Royce agent who had to ensure that suitable servicing was available before completing the order for 5 Rolls. He was quite shocked and didn't believe that there was only 12 miles of rough tarmac.
The other guy was a second hand dealer who did a few trips and he actually charted a ship to take a heap of used an unused cars back to Meb

Hammer spent millions on green Astro Turf for the admin area which of course bleached to white.

Nauru didn't have any Immigration or Customs regulations of their own which where needed before we could operate. Took out Regs from an international guide to a similar country and gave it to their Chief of Police. Problem fixed.

The Search and Rescue charters were interesting, only a few, as it was NZs area. Amazing stories of Gilbert islanders coming ashore after 100 days + being lost at sea.

As we all know, lots of wonderful tales that can't be told here. The Vila/Honiara service is a whole another story.
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Old 4th Aug 2014, 10:25
  #62 (permalink)  
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" Not my problem, not my aircraft - if that's how they wanted to treat their only remaining asset, too bad, so sad."

Nice attitude Mach. I bet you took the money from them at the end of the month anyway.

Not much of a demonstration of a Captains responsibility - if that's what you were. Didn't have the fortitude to tell them to get it right and load the livestock properly? Scared of El-Presidente by the look of it.
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Old 4th Aug 2014, 10:47
  #63 (permalink)  
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Oh Zanzibar, lighten up. A figure of speech, but when there is nothing one can do, I have often found that, provided an activity is not unsafe, it is easier to just do it rather than take the high moral ground. Unlike some who behave like the gutter Press and seize on every word - as if those who contribute here are politicians and need to be oh so PC......
Before you bang on about the obvious, I am quite aware of the regulations about carriage of animals. The same regulations that consider an adult to weigh 84 kg. As if....the average prepubescent Nauruan teenager weighs more. Multiply that 'standard' weight by 150 pax and you can see that compliance with rules out there was somewhat, shall we just say, flexible. And, OF COURSE I had them clean the pig poo out of the hold before the aircraft flew again.
As for being scared of the President, ask someone about the riot on the airfield when the same President (of the pigs, and he was quite annoyed about that incident already) was trying to do a flit to his Swiss bank account. It did involve refusing to fly and quite deliberately making the President somewhat uncomfortable for several hours by shutting off all power to the aircraft in an attempt to 'smoke him out' in the heat. I was sacked for being such a recalcitrant. To be reinstated about three hours later when he realised no one else was available to fly him, or the aircraft, out of the country. Sacked again on arrival in Australia, to be reinstated yet again 24 hours later when some other pollie needed to go back to the island.
Individual Nauruans are often delightful and generous people, but the same can not be said for some of those who rose to high office.
Hence the 'too bad, so sad' attitude, and yes, I took their money just like all the other drunks, skunks, misfits, missionaries and mercenaries that have been through Nauru over the decades.

Last edited by Mach E Avelli; 4th Aug 2014 at 11:37.
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Old 4th Aug 2014, 16:05
  #64 (permalink)  
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" Not my problem, not my aircraft - if that's how they wanted to treat their only remaining asset, too bad, so sad."
Nice attitude Mach. I bet you took the money from them at the end of the month anyway.
Zanz. The story by Mach was a good one. I knew exactly how he felt when he wrote "if that's how they wanted to treat their only remaining asset, too bad, too sad." I think you have misunderstood what really went on during the days of Air Nauru. There were good things - there were bad things and the Nauruans in those days were quick to deport any expatriate that criticised their policies and their behaviour. I saw the quick deportation of so many excellent New Zealand and Australian school teachers who loved teaching the local children.

Some had been there for several years. If I recall, the teachers were on about $8000 AUD a year - free accommodation etc no tax. Then one fateful period after the President had been to India to stitch up a Phosphate agreement, he hired an Indian bureaucrat to be the Chief Secretary and Head of the Public Service on Nauru. Within a few months the sackings of loyal Australian and NZ teachers started. Often less than one week's notice to pack up and get out. Miraculously teachers from India arrived en-masse on Nauru to replace them. Also miraculously their wives suddenly produced teaching certificates, too. Soon there was disorder at the schools with Nauruan high school students protesting at the sacking of the expatriates who had been there for so many years.

It got nasty when students started throwing stones at their Indian teachers and a car got burnt up as well. One of the problems was the students could not understand the sometimes incomprehensible Indian accents and especially when it was alleged some of the wives teachers qualifications were faked. More from the Sub-Continent arrived to take appointments in the judiciary and Public Service administration and even the Civil Aviation department. The Chief Secretary was virtually King of the Castle. If the President said sack someone the CS did just that on his behalf because that was his job.

I well recall a NZ teacher that was deported. He packed up his personal effects and boxed them in wooden crates to be put on a 737 scheduled to go to AKL. Word went around the teacher had upset a local identity and so the cops smashed open the crates and left the belongings strewn over the tarmac. Eventually the then Australian commercial manager of Air Nauru arranged for the boxes to be put together and he quietly got them aboard another 737 for on-forwarding eventually to AKL. He was sacked for doing so. There are no shortage of similar stories of the old days. Hence I can readily understand Machiavelli and his shrug of the shoulders about the pigs.

One story I will never forget which perhaps typified the cavalier sackings of loyal expat employees. It is a factual event because I was involved in one small way. A NZ surveyor who had worked on the island for many years made an ill-advised remark in the bar of the Menen Hotel about the propensity of the then President to micro-manage the building design of local houses. At about that time the space station Skylab was orbiting the earth and no one knew where it was going to land as contact had been lost.

Talking to friends at the bar the disgruntled building surveyor said the best thing that could happen to Skylab was to fall on State House - the official residence of the President (Hammer De Roburt). The barman or someone talked and next day the surveyor was called to the Chief Secs office and sacked for (and get this for hilarity) "Wishing ill health upon the President by hoping Skylab would fall on his house."

And how do I know this? Because I was the pilot who flew he and his family a few days later on his way back to NZ. He was seated down the back of the 737 when he related his story to me. I decided then and there to elevate him to Business Class up front. A captain had that authority in those days. But all that was over 35 years ago. So here is a funny event to balance some of the less funny stories.

737 Nauru to Nandi and return. Centaurus PIC. One hour turn around at Nandi so the four air hosties visit Nandi passenger terminal to buy ice-creams for themselves and gifts for relatives back on Nauru. A drunk is seen staggering around the terminal and on their arrival back on the Air Nauru 737 a hostie tells me. There were a couple of other airliners including a QF 747 at Nandi so I hoped the drunk was not coming to our plane.

We get airborne and happily wing our way towards Nauru. Weather is good with a few CB with tops well below us. The hostie call ring sounds and it is the youngest hostie who says in a small voice that there is a gentleman down the back who would like to visit the flight deck. The OK is given and within seconds the cockpit door bursts open and a drunken "gentleman" appears looking like Godzilla in combat boots. He wavers then thrusting one hand forward to shake hands says "I am a personal friend of the President.'

Down the back many eyes are seen looking nervously through the cabin at this tall half pissed Osama Bin Laden look-alike minus head rags and beard, leaning into the cockpit with both his arms draped over the back of the pilots seats. Not a good look even though hijacking was unheard of in our part of the world. In fact, he was a delightful drunk with a keen sense of the ridiculous. But he made no effort to leave the cockpit after a few minutes and his breath was off too. Being a friend of the President gave him a certain status. In those days, if you crossed the President, however inadvertently, then your career with Air Nauru was likely in jeopardy. Cross one of his professed mates and same problem. So for the time being we were stuck with the President's mate. He could even be a local politician..

Then a brilliant thought. Ahead and below were towering Cumulus build-ups with tops around 20,000 feet. We were at 35,000 ft so well above the clouds. By dropping the radar tilt to minus five degrees we could see several big red blobs of moisture-laden clouds. I pointed to the radar and told the co-pilot there was danger ahead and to put on the seat belt signs. The co-pilot thought I was kidding until I jerked my thumb towards our visitor. The co-pilot got the message and faked murmurs of consternation at the radar screen.

"See the red blobs on the radar" I said to the visitor. "The red means dangerous turbulence ahead, so get back to your seat fast and strap in and only drink water for the rest of the trip." For someone half-cut he sure moved fast and the rest of the trip passed without further drama.

After the last of the passengers had disembarked at Nauru I called the junior hostie up to the cockpit and asked her why she had allowed the drunk to go to the cockpit when she knew the state he was in. "I didn't have much choice" she said. "He was my father"

Last edited by Centaurus; 4th Aug 2014 at 16:20.
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Old 4th Aug 2014, 19:24
  #65 (permalink)  
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Politics, intrigue and corruption are bedfellows in many societies, but on Nauru sometimes all three combined in the most comical ways.

One former Chief Pilot was a nasty drunk, though he was also quite generous towards the poorly paid local cabin crew. On an overnight after shouting the crew dinner he became embroiled in an argument (maybe over the service or the bill, I dunno). Story has it that he belted a waiter. Whatever the truth of that, he found himself in the lockup. Due to the ensuing flight delay, he was sacked. When he stepped off the aircraft back in Australia, he wasted no time calling CASA to try and have the AOC suspended on the grounds that the airline no longer had a Chief Pilot. Fortunately, an acting position was hurriedly accepted and business continued.
About a month later the former CP reappeared on the scene in the position of General Manager! He had got to the Minister who held the aviation portfolio and promised him that he would expedite promotion of Nauruan pilots to command. Of course he had no such intentions - in fact quite the reverse. He didn't last long. Brought undone by a very racist email in which he described the Nauruans as 'fat, useless and lazy' or some such similar derogatory terms.

Then there was a very good General Manager who came on the scene. As part of his determination to stop the President and all his merry men from joyriding around the skies in the Boeing, he required them to actually pay up front. On one occasion a considerable sum in cash was deposited with the airline's Nauru office in advance of a Presidential jolly. The jolly was duly flown, but strangely no sooner had it been completed than the office was broken into and the safe containing the money uprooted and removed. No mean feat, as it had to be unbolted from the floor and then carried down a flight of steps. The empty safe was recovered at 'topside' where the mining equipment was maintained and where obviously cutting equipment was kept. The police investigation was cursory at best. It would have taken some very strong men to lift that safe. Although never proven, it was suggested that at least some of the perpetrators were members of Nauru's weight lifting team. The question of how these guys would have known that the safe actually contained cash was never asked. More often than not it was pretty empty because there was very little money in circulation on the island by then.
So the President got a free ride after all.
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 12:02
  #66 (permalink)  
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Don't let the facts spoil a story

I'm forever amazed at how peoples recollections differ over a period despite them being present at the same event.

As an expat on Nauru at the time MachE mentions, and who happened to be at the airport at the time he mentioned, it is my clear recollection that the aircraft wasn't going anywhere because the runway had been invaded. There is no way an aircraft could have taken off without mowing down some locals. A little different to other versions of events especially considering the mention that to defy the President would get you fired. So, why would you do that (act defiantly) with that knowledge?

Yes, the pilot chief alluded to did have some issues but I can assure you that it had nothing to do with smacking a waiter and nor were there any flight attendants or dinner involved. Facts get distorted when recanting stories second-hand, unfortunately.

How do I know? I knew him well whilst I worked for Rehab as I did many of the other Air Nauru pilots at the time. Did I know you and did I attend your send-off party in the Menen? A good time was had by all - ah, the happy days ies!
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 18:46
  #67 (permalink)  
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Dodo, as I admitted, I don't know exactly why the ex CP spent the night in the lockup, though from his character I surmise that he probably deserved it.

As for the riot, I was the guy in the cockpit, so know exactly how it unfolded.
The runway and taxiway were blocked by protesters behaving fairly peacefully. They wanted to hold the President on the island pending questions about money he had allegedly spirited away.
When he arrived and was rushed up the aircraft steps direct from his motorcade, the crowd got a little agitated but were in the main still reasonably well behaved.
Via the PA I spoke to the passengers and told them that we would not be starting until the crowd dispersed. One of the President's men came forward and said words to the effect of "just get going, they will move out of the way and if they don't, mow them down"'. I agreed to start the engines and did so, but when the crowd did not show any signs of moving, shut down again, went to the foot of the steps and spoke to the ringleader of the protest. Meantime there was some biffo going on - the funniest sight was a large lady who had taken to a cop and was getting the better of it. Also a couple of cops laying into each other, presumably because one had hit a relative of the other.
After we disembarked the pax, the President insisted on staying aboard, so was left with one volunteer Flight Attendant and his usual contingent of goons. The APU was shut down to heat things up, in the hope that the discomfort would move the President. My excuse being that we were fuel critical. It was not quite at that stage, but after a few hours more of APU usage would have been, because the locals had sabotaged the fuel installation and we could not uplift any more.
A couple of young guys then rode a bike along the strip to where there were no people and threw a Molotov cocktail, which proved a point that I had made that until the strip was not only clear of people, but the perimeter fence also, we would not be departing. Also, once daylight ended, we would not be departing as we would be unable to see who or what was along the perimeter. I think that's about when I got sacked for the first time.
It was eventually resolved when the Chief of Police agreed to release protesters who had been locked up during the melee' and yet again the President had his way.
He's just lucky that Nauruans are generally gentle-natured. In some places the crowd would have stormed the aircraft and lynched him.

Last edited by Mach E Avelli; 5th Aug 2014 at 19:51.
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 04:54
  #68 (permalink)  
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Meantime there was some biffo going on - the funniest sight was a large lady who had taken to a cop and was getting the better of it. Also a couple of cops laying into each other, presumably because one had hit a relative of the other
Being familiar with that part of the world I could just imagine that stuff happening. If someone got the film rights to that story it would make millions on You Tube. Bit late now though. Well written Mach
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 05:07
  #69 (permalink)  
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Hey Mach, I was there too.Which of the DRUNKS SKUNKS MISFITS GYPSIES WEIRDOS MISSIONARIES or MERCENARIES Category do you belong too? Your writing style is familiar, a bit arrogant, ........
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 07:36
  #70 (permalink)  
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Rather than engage in a urinating contest about who has the more arrogant writing style, I will graciously concede defeat by referring Pirate Pete back to some of his own posts, particularly those he made on 25th December last year and around 15th May 2012.
Now let's not sabotage Centaurus' worthy thread with further argument about writing or attributes/personality defects (or two versus too versus to) but rather, return to tales of the Pacific. Whether tall, true or anecdotal, there are plenty to be told. Change names if necessary to avoid lawsuits or troubles with the moderators.
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 08:19
  #71 (permalink)  
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I rest my case.Case closed.
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 08:43
  #72 (permalink)  
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How about a few pictures.

After all these were the good old days of swash buckling pilots like my father who nearly got sacked from Ansett for mistakenly telling a flight attendant to come up and see the biggest banana over the PA instead of just the intercom
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 08:59
  #73 (permalink)  
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Tell me how, PPRuNe isn't like other websites I visit where I can upload pictures.
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 09:07
  #74 (permalink)  
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Mach E: Dodo, as I admitted, I don't know exactly why the ex CP spent the night in the lockup, though from his character I surmise that he probably deserved it
Mach, they pop up out of nowhere; metaphor is a mystery almost a sacrilege, pedantic, soulless beings who thrive on minutiae. Imagination, comprehension and intuition sacrificed in a world of well ordered cupboards and ironed underdaks. They exist. – Those of us with humility, humanity, wit, a sense of humour, and of the ridiculous; the ability to take the Mickey and to withstand the same, understand. It is bad manners to question a skippers story, especially in the pub, no matter how many times it has been told. It's actually bad manners to get too close to 'da troof'.

This thread and the one linked (Biff 's life story) are a delight to read. Pilots, true pilots love nothing better than a cold beer and a good yarn shared amongst mates. Don't have to be factual, not even accurate – when yarns and laughs are then thing; it's just part of the post flight 'balancing act'; so essential to professional pilots who have just completed a tour.

Bollocks to the pedantic details – spin the yarn, but tell it well; it's the smiles we enjoy, not the dry, dusty pedantic crap clerks and the like thrive on. Yarn away boys.

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal —
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of ‘The Overflow’.
Patterson would have understood; probably bought a round and be glad of the company. Amateurs and salesmen?; got no time.

Toot toot.

Last edited by Kharon; 6th Aug 2014 at 09:58.
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 10:22
  #75 (permalink)  
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Having spent an enjoyable time with Air Nauru in the late 90's I must tell you that this thread does nothing but disservice to the Nauran people and to those who worked for Air Nauru!
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 10:49
  #76 (permalink)  
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Amos, what Kharon said.

Centaurus probably won't consider a tale from another Pacific airline to be hijacking his thread.
The hero of this true story is no longer with us, but he was a close friend and I am sure that he would not mind me telling it.
On the regular HS 748 run from Nadi through Funafuti and Tarawa to Nauru, my mate reckoned the Lagoon at Funafuti was the pick for swimming. Problem was the HS748 never obliged by breaking down at FUN. However the turnaround was a fairly leisurely affair as the pax checked in on 'island time'. Also, sometimes a magistrate came up from Fiji and ran a court hearing in the grass hut that was the terminal, thus slowing the turnaround even more.
When it was time to board, a triangle was rung to round everyone up.
On this occasion my mate figured that he had enough time for a swim, so without saying anything to the Captain (who was also the Deputy Chief Pilot and a bit of a stickler), he slipped away. He reckoned he would hear the triangle being rung and that would still give him time to change into his uniform and get back to the cockpit. Unfortunately, he had not accounted for the onshore wind which masked the boarding signal.
Needless to say, all pax including the magistrate were aboard, the Captain ready to go and no First Officer anywhere. Eventually my mate reappeared dripping wet, did a quick change in the toilet and the flight continued.
From distant memory, I think that episode cost him another 12 months in the sin bin before he could be considered for command.

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Old 6th Aug 2014, 10:57
  #77 (permalink)  
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You really were a bunch of cowboys, weren't you!
Thank goodness you were eventually replaced by professional pilots!
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 23:23
  #78 (permalink)  
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I used to operate the HS748 to Nauru via Nadi and Funafuti, we overnighted at what was then the BPC barracks, hardly the Sheraton.

I was based in Tarawa on 2 occasions and flew the Heron to Tabiteuea, Butaritari and Abemama, and on one occasion to Nauru, very enjoyable and very profitable. I paid Gilbertese taxes at a grass hut in Bairiki and claimed taxes back when I returned to Fiji.

On one occasion I flew the local magistrate to Abemama where he held court in the terminal, an open frond-covered building. The guy on trial had cut someone up with a machete. The magistrate was asked if he would like a drink, whereupon someone obtained Exhibit A, the blood covered machete and cut open a coconut for him.
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Old 8th Aug 2014, 02:12
  #79 (permalink)  
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What Kharon said. Amos2, what a happy little chappy you must be.
Old 8th Aug 2014, 09:46
  #80 (permalink)  
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I think you touched a nerve with your observation, Amos.
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