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BOAC_BA Long haul long tours

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BOAC_BA Long haul long tours

Old 30th Aug 2013, 17:59
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BOAC_BA Long haul long tours

I was reading a recent issue of Airliner World, and there was a feature on 1970 long haul operations. Specifically the Australia route on 747's.

There was reference to a typical tour of duty being up to THREE WEEKS.

I would like to ask any survivors of these extended rotations for their stories.
A typical duty roster, typical allowances, booked hotels, structure and types of rooming.
Interaction between LHR Operations, Out Station managerment, flight crew. Who carried the flight funds.
This was pre mobile phones and Internet, so how family communications if any could be made. Portishead HF radio, or ARINC, or via Ops ctl on HF.
How many crew ended up in long term relationships.

glf
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Old 30th Aug 2013, 20:23
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Back in those days, speaking as BOAC cabin crew we used to be rostered a 3 'weeker' about twice a year. Routes would include:

LHR - THR 48 hrs
THR - HKG 48 hrs via BOM
HKG - SYD 48 hrs via MNL
SYD - MEL 24 hrs
MEL - SIN 48hrs via PER
SIN - SYD 24 hrs via PER
SYD - HKG 48 hrs
HKG - BOM 72 hrs via BKK
BOM - BAH 48 hrs
BAH - LHR

Duty days were rarely longer than 10 hours back on the 747-136's

There was one nasty trip LHR - FCO - DEL/CCU where there were 3 meal services depending on the time of day. It then went on to HKG and SYD/MEL Sometimes if you got to BAH on the last leg you could have been turned round and do the same again.

Room parties were the norm on those trips with plenty of 'flasks' full of booze floating around. Girls usually went to a certain jewellers in HKG to order rings and bangles that they never declared on the crew dec at LHR. Many male crew had shirts suits jackets etc made to measure and this was before credit cards.

Allowances were always paid by the hotel or by the Duty Manager in local currency. Typical hotels included the Gulf in BAH, Cosmopolitan (motel)in Bondi, Some dump we nicknamed 'Crossroads' in MEL. The Excelesior in HKG and the Oberoi in BOM/DEL. Teheran was fun, we used to stay at the International which according to locals was the old morgue, however the union got us moved to the Hilton which was out of town. A great place to 'slip'. Quite often we would passenger to BKK on a QF 707 and pick up a trip from there. There were 'C bird' trips which involved paxing to and from the Orient. Again a 3 week trip with different crews but no one liked those because you missed out on Gulf allowances as you 'ate' on the aircraft. These trips coincided with Chinese and Indian based crews.

Flight deck would do similar trips but on a 3 week trip you met 4/5 different crews. By the time you got back to LHR you made some good friends, however you rarely saw them again unless you kept in close contact.

Calling home from India usually meant booking a call in order to wait for the satellite to be in the right position. I believe Portishead was used as HF comm back in those days. As for relationships that's another story!

One of the most lucritive trips was a 15 day LHR - ANC - HND - ANC - LHR. It was a nackering trip because of the time changes, but I was lucky enough to do one over Christmas and New Year which meant you either celebrated it twice or not at all depending where you were. The one trip which the 747 missed ou on was the SYD through the west. That was exclusively for the mini fleet (VC-10/707)
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Old 31st Aug 2013, 05:27
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fantastic response

Many thanks for taking the time to respond.

I am sure that you have many stories best kept in the dark.

The room parties go down in aviation history. Memorable I am sure.

In 70's I was corporate aviation, based on short contracts world wide.
I experienced many crews out on the town, as well as pool side, but with my freelance situation was normally always working with locals, so usually I was the lone guy with a book eating alone.

I missed out on the Hamble recruitment, so ended up in corporate aviation.

Question what is the "C bird" trip.

What notice of these long trips did you receive, to enable family life to be organized.

Again many thanks,

Glf
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Old 31st Aug 2013, 06:40
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Working positions on the 747 worked like this. Note this was before equality for women.

Cabin Service Director (always a male) in charge of the aircraft.
Purser First Class (male) in charge up front.
Purser Economy (male in charge 'down the back'
A bird (female) slaved up front and did the PA's.
B bird (female) looked after mums and babies.
C & D (either male or female) worked down the back.
Lounge steward (male)worked up front and looked after the lounge and flight deck.
Steward 1 (male) looked after and cooked the food up front.
Steward 2 (male) looked after and cooked the food down the back.
Bar 'tarts' 1 2 3 & 4 (either male or female) worked in the 4 positions down the back selling drinks and duty frees along with renting headsets.

In those days there wasn't club class and first class had 27 seats. Promotion was usually 'dead man's shoes' and took about 6 years to get from Steward 2 to Steward 1 and another 6 to make Purser.
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Old 31st Aug 2013, 19:07
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Compared to cabin crew rosters, life was much more civilised for flight crew in late BOAC/early BA.
14-day maximum trips (obviously subject to disruption at times).
Bidline system for choosing 28-day blocks of work depending on seniority. This permitted choice of destinations, short or long trips, days off etc.
Bidding system for annual leave, not dependent on seniority, but a points system based on popularity of leave period, ie take an unpopular leave period in winter and get your choice of popular leave period in summer or v.v.
In those days a 14-day trip would usually take duty hours close to the requirement for the 28 days, perhaps needing a three day Atlantic trip to complete the "month's" work. Possible (just) to work 14 days on, 14 days off.
Roughly half of hotels in common with cabin crew, half away from CC, due to different requirements. Generally CC preferred beach hotels, flight crew city centre hotels.
Good flight deck/cabin crew relations in those days particularly on "Minis" (VC10/B707) . B747 ruined all that.
Captain had real authority over the crew and the operation. Expected to liase with Station Staff in the event of diversion/civil unrest etc to fix accomodation for pax and crew and plan the recovery. London sometimes only "informed"
Station communications via Telex. International phone lines often poor/unusable in some places. SSB HF radio on the aeroplane usually reasonable. Speedbird London would sometimes accept and relay personal messages if serious/urgent, otherwise crew depended on the hotel telephone (and paid the very high charges). Consequently phone calls home were usually restricted to urgent matters. Letters home usually arrived after we did.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority (just about) of flight crew marriages survived, particularly where the wives were reasonably self-sufficient and had available a little support from family and friends, and the upside was long periods of time off.
We were all tough in those days....
But it was a great life!
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Old 31st Aug 2013, 22:39
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Sigh, I joined too late......

Consequently phone calls home were usually restricted to urgent matters.
Jeepers, nowdays our younger crew members have perfected the art of holding a non-alcoholic fruit cocktail in one hand whilst texting about the same with the other hand........
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Old 1st Sep 2013, 02:56
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Good flight deck/cabin crew relations in those days particularly on "Minis" (VC10/B707) . B747 ruined all that.
Why so Albert? Just the increase in crew size a cause?
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Old 1st Sep 2013, 06:28
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On 'Mini's there were certain Captains who only spoke to the Cabin Crew through the First Officer. "Would you ask the Captain what he would like to order from the menu" This of course was before CRM. There was also a certain Captain nicked named 'The Blade' who wore white gloves and would run his finger along the armrests of first class. Woe betide the crew if his gloves were dirty! That of course was before slots!

I believe the 747 help do away with all that.
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Old 1st Sep 2013, 09:16
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There were a small number of difficult Captains. Always were. Always will be. Cabin crew thought they were unreasonable towards them. They were right - but these Captains were unreasonable towards everyone....! They were not the norm (but they were a pain).

The physical separation of flight crew and cabin crew (upstairs/downstairs) and the fact that the first B747s suffered frequent engine failures which made the Captains understandably reluctant to leave the flight deck to tour the cabin as they used to, left a bit of a power vacuum in the cabin which the new Cabin Service Officers were happy to fill.

From the other side, the large cabin crew and increased complexity of cabin service needed a new kind of leadership which the CSOs quickly developed. I thought the cabin service adapted quickly and well to the new space and most CSOs did an extremely good job on board.

The problem was a (small) number decided that they now (as Officers with four thin rings on their sleeves) were in charge of the whole aircraft and stopped liasing effectively with the Captain and flight crew, some even encouraging the rest of the cabin crew to do likewise.

The company was beginning to discover customer service and Cabin Crew as a department moved from Operations to Commercial, separating them further from flight crew.

In short, change was needed but badly managed - as indeed was the whole of the new British Airways following the merger. But that's another story.
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Old 1st Sep 2013, 09:25
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A very good and clear analogy Albert. However there were those Capts who flying at FL350 who thought they were nearer to God than anyone else and acted like it. On the other hand there were some who were perfectly normal guys who acted 'in the spirit' of the crew. In other words what happened in the Hiltons and Sheretons of the world stayed there.

However whilst there are the 'whistle blowers' then flying has become less fun. I'm glad I'm out of it now.

CNN.com - British Airways' staff suspended over alcohol claims - October 4, 2000
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Old 1st Sep 2013, 17:16
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Ah, the good old days ...

Both crewmeal and Albert Driver have given an excellent account of the way things were on the 747 fleet in the 70s. I was cabin crew on the fleet 1973-79 and recall how often, trips did not go to plan. Once you were "off-schedule" all bets were off, and you could end up anywhere in the world, and often did. We were fully of the opinion that 'Scheduling' had forgotten where we were and how long we had been out for - this could be to our advantage, or not, depending on the attractiveness of the location and the hard value of the currency our living allowances were paid in.

Herewith the itinerary of my first trip to the land of Oz
22 Dec 1973 Pax QF760 B707 LHR-ATH-TEH- DEL
23 Dec Asleep
24 Dec Taxi to Agra visit Taj Mahal. Evening Xmas room party with BOAC VC10 crew in the Oberoi plus we invite the Lufthansa 707 crew down the hall to join us for carol singing.Their incredibly young Captain leads them in 'Stille Nacht' (Silent Night) - puts me in mind of the Xmas day truce in WW1
25 Dec The flight we are due to operate diverts due fog at Delhi airport, we remain in hotel with Xmas lunch provided by BOAC Catering. We are now OFF-SCHEDULE
26 Dec We are told to operate BA812 to HKG. The crew who should have taken that flight are not best pleased as they now have to stay in Delhi OFF-SCHEDULE
27 Dec Evening we Pax on Cathay Convair 880 HKG-KUL-Djakarta-PER.
28 Dec Asleep in the Parmelia. Evening room party plus the Cathay crew
29 Dec PM operate to SYD via MEL (bad turbulence)
30 Dec Bondi
31 Dec Bondi New Years Party on beach
1 Jan 1974 Bondi
2 Jan Bondi Visit Rose Bay and marvel that QF still operate Flying Boats from there (to Lord Howe island?)
3 Jan Operate SYD-HKG
4 Jan Evening operate HKG-BKK
5 Jan R&R in BKK
6 Jan evening operate to BAH
7 Jan Gulf Hotel on standby for diverted flight - no go
8 Jan Due to pax back to LHR on BA743 - but off-loaded so back to the hotel
9 Jan evening repatriation flight to UK on QF Jumbo, but in-flight engine shut down (my second such experience in two months with P&W JT9Ds) and we land in Vienna
10 Jan Lifted back to Blighty on BEA Trident 2 - trip over.

So there you have it -20 days at sea with just 5 flights operated plus 4 pax trips,
but that's how it often was - forty years ago.

Ian BB
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Old 1st Sep 2013, 20:10
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Ian BB:

Great description, a small correction though. Qantas did not operate the flying boats (a Sandringham and a Solent) out of Rose Bay, it was Ansett (actually by then it was Airlines of NSW, an Ansett subsidiary).
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Old 1st Sep 2013, 21:41
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Dora-9 (you're not a Virgo are you?)

Sorry if my memories of forty years have let me down - I seem to remember the paint scheme looking like the Qantas livery. We live not far from a place called Foynes on the Shannon Estuary here in Ireland which has a great Flying Boat Museum as this was the European terminal for the first regular transatlantic air services

goodnight
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Old 1st Sep 2013, 21:51
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No Ian, I'm not a Virgo, but I was married to one once - a ghastly experience!

Cheers!
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Old 1st Sep 2013, 22:23
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Sandringham and a Solent
Actually two Sandringhams or strictly speaking one Sandringham and one Sunderland converted to Sandringham configuration by someone other than Short Bros (i.e. Ansett). A rose by any other name.

Rgds
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Old 2nd Sep 2013, 00:47
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Frisbee is correct. They were a Sandringam and a locally converted Sunderland.

Last edited by Dora-9; 2nd Sep 2013 at 00:48.
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Old 2nd Sep 2013, 08:13
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G'Day

Dora & Frisbee I am a happy (if humbled) Virgo now that my forty year brain-fade has been corrected by your goodselves as to the ownership and provenance of those fine old Flying Boats still in use in the 1970s. Possibly I thought Qantas because (If I remember right this time) they kept a DC4 in service well into the jet age to service Norfolk Island from SYD.
Dora - sorry about your experience with a Virgo - even the best of barrels can have a rare bad apple in 'em.
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Old 2nd Sep 2013, 22:53
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As has already been stated, the flight crews were limited to fourteen days away, unlike the cabin crews. This caused problems in the case of disruption. So, in 1978, BA introduced Australian postings. Flight crews would spend four months based in Sydney (initially the base was Melbourne but moved to Sydney after a few months).
The main 747 operation was London-Muscat-Singapore-Sydney, then to either Brisbane or Melbourne and London-Bombay-Perth-Melbourne-Auckland. The Sydney based crews would operate all services south of Singapore and Bombay.

This was pre mobile phones and Internet, so how family communications if any could be made.
The short answer is that we didn't communicate once away, except for the odd letter. I realise that this is totally alien to the modern generation, but the need for constant communication hadn't developed yet. Phoning from hotels was stupidly expensive.

What notice of these long trips did you receive, to enable family life to be organized.
Sometimes very little. Nowadays under bidline rules, BA can only use you during the days when you should have been working. However, in the 70's there was no such protection. I was assigned a two week trip at the beginning of the month so arranged our social activities during the second half of the month. BA then cancelled the trip and gave me a two week trip at the end of the month.

Question what is the "C bird" trip.
BA employed nationally based stewardesses. These ladies always operated the 'C' position. A UK based stewardess would operate a random trip, often with many positioning sectors so as to operate the sectors where a national stewardess was not carried.

How many crew ended up in long term relationships.
Of the 24 pilots on my Hamble course who joined BOAC, six divorced and eighteen are still married. I celebrate 40 years of marriage next month.
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Old 3rd Sep 2013, 13:52
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OFF Schedule

25 Dec The flight we are due to operate diverts due fog at Delhi airport, we remain in hotel with Xmas lunch provided by BOAC Catering. We are now OFF-SCHEDULE
26 Dec We are told to operate BA812 to HKG. The crew who should have taken that flight are not best pleased as they now have to stay in Delhi OFF-SCHEDULE


I was rejected by Hamble, and that's why I spent all my life in corporate aviation. I was considered unsuitable to be a BOAC Pilot....

Why would being OFF the schedule in India be a hardship, I assume Per Diems were still paid, but perhaps not sector or flight pay.....If I remember correctly, there were many increments added to basic pay and expenses.

Glf
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Old 3rd Sep 2013, 14:38
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Allowances dear boy allowances. No one wanted to end up with Indian rupees that you couldn't exchange. Not only that the weather at that time wasn't very good for topping up the tan. Once you've done the sights there was very little else to do. I remember getting stuck in the floods of Calcutta for a week and walking over planks with rats swimming under them at the Oberoi. India wasn't a favourite at that time. I have all that on 8mm cine film. I must get round to transfering it.
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