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FLIGHT ENGINEER – The mystery man exposed

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FLIGHT ENGINEER – The mystery man exposed

Old 8th Dec 2012, 07:24
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Book Launch

One person who will not be at the book launch is Sir Rod, G. Mc’s successor at Ansett.

It is said by some that Rod’s primary mission at Ansett was to prepare it for sale. That is, to make it profitable. Or if that was not possible, to subtlety asset strip it and divest it of expensive liabilities. At the top of the list was redundant FEs with their “guaranteed a job to age 60” agreement.

Rumours of dodgy sale and lease back of aircraft deals did the rounds, Haymen and Hamilton Islands went for a song, and a number of lucrative in-house departments such as flight catering were flogged off. That is not to suggest that the airline’s owner was the motivator or beneficiary of any shenanigans. Coincidentally, the newspapers and so called “investigative journalists” at the time were relatively silent on the unfolding debacle Ansett was to become.

By 2000, Ansett was a zombie and Rod, on secondment from News Corp, moved on to weave his magic at British Airways. However, he left some unfinished business at Ansett as the more tenacious FEs, the “dirty dozen”, were still on the books. At one stage they were locked out for the best part of a year and then sacked for not resigning. Needless to say, the Federal Court ordered their reinstatement.

Fable has it that Rod was amazed to find BA still had FEs, and he relished the opportunity to continue his crusade against them. The decision to retire the Concorde is controversial, but the Paris crash allowed Rod to pull the trigger on its FEs.

It is somewhat ironic then, that the Concorde was instrumental in cementing the FE’s career at Ansett. According to FE folklore, in early 1980, the controlling owner of Ansett, Sir Peter Abeles, a white knuckle flyer, was en route across the Atlantic on the Concorde when an engine failed. At supersonic speed the deceleration is neck snapping, and the subsequent required high speed descent from 60,000 feet to 3 engine altitude is arse puckering to say the least.

Following level off the captain did a cabin walk through, apologising for the big dipper ride and assuring everything was under control. The passengers found his presence comforting. After about 10 minutes however, someone within ear shot of Sir Peter, suggested to the captain that perhaps it was now time for him to return to the cockpit and “attend to things that need attending.” The captain responded that because the Concorde was 3 crew, he was basically surplus to requirements in the cockpit. The aircraft was being well looked after by his First Officer and Engineer, his primary concern now was to calm cabin anxiety.

Those words resonated with Sir Peter. His knees stopped shaking and he silently vowed that any future aircraft of Ansett would be 3 crew. In 1984, he overrode his management and guaranteed his FEs a job until the normal retirement age of 60. And as far as he was able, he stood by it. Ansett’s B767s were unique in that they were 3 crew.

At the behest of United Airlines with an order for 50, the 767 was originally designed as 3 crew and the first 30 were built as such. Basically, the pilots' overhead panel was located to the side as the FE’s panel, supplemented by FE in-flight access to the 2 crew, ground only, troubleshooting facility. Then, in response to Airbus coming out with its 2 crew A300, Boeing reconfigured it to 2 crew. The buyers of the first 30 were offered the option of conversion to 2 crew at a cost of $2 mil each. Ansett, the launch customer of the 76, and true to Sir Peter’s word, was the only one to stay 3 crew. No wonder he was referred to as “Saint Peter” by his FEs.


Click below for video of the Ansett 3 crew 767 cockpit. It takes about 3 minutes to get into the business part.



FE PANEL, ANSETT 767


Photo, The Purple Stripe

The story of how the incredible job guarantee actually firmed up is also intriguing.

Abeles, a poor Hungarian Jewish immigrant to Australia, had built his TNT transport conglomerate, which included Ansett, on the backs of his workers. He was reputed to have been ruthless and screwed many along the way. However, now in his twilight years and failing health, he did not want to be thought of as a heartless old prick. He had mellowed, and desired to be remembered as a fair man of compassion… and the FEs were in the right spot at the right time.

They and Ansett management were aware of Abeles’ bias to 3 man crew. For the FEs, realising their precarious future, it was imperative that an industrial document be drawn up and signed as quickly as possible. Management were of course horrified at the prospect of being permanently saddled with a group of workers whose job was going the way of the dinosaur and did their best to stall negotiations, hoping Abeles would come to his senses. Many months of protracted meetings were headed nowhere. The FEs figured their only chance was to bypass management and talk to Abeles directly. His minders ensured that was never going to happen. However, about October 84, Abeles walked unannounced into a meeting at TNT’s Redfern HQ. He assured his ashen faced team that he was there only as an observer and asked that negotiations continue as though he was not in the room. About 2 hours later, Abeles looked at his watch, and as abruptly as he arrived, excused himself, “My diabetes you know, I must have lunch.”

A minute or two later, one of the FEs, Dave, also excused himself, and said he was going for a leak.

It was a hunch, but sure enough, there was Abeles in the gents fronting the trough, but nothing was flowing. Dave too fronted up and went through the motions but he did not really have the urge. Can you imagine the conversation?

Abeles: We have the same problem.

Dave: Yes, it’s easily fixed though.

Abeles: My doctor says I need to lose weight. Not so easy.

Dave: You’re losing all your FEs. They’re going to Cathay.

Abeles: You have a problem too? You need to get your prostate checked.

Dave: Can we agree on it?

Abeles: 5 minutes ago I was busting for a pee. I’m here now and nothing.

Dave: Nothing is happening in there. You’re the boss. Just tell it what you want.

A few seconds later, and the piss flowed.

Dave: Tell those other dicks the same.

Together they returned to the meeting room. Abeles announced, “We agreed. You just need to fix the details,” and walked out again.


In 1988, when it was finally determined that Ansett’s A320s would be 2 crew, to stem a second wave of FEs going to Cathay, Abeles reaffirmed his job guarantee with a personal letter to each FE.



Last edited by Wingnuts; 30th Jul 2020 at 02:58.
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Old 8th Dec 2012, 12:26
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Mostly from LAME's

Many FE's from the RAAF moved to civil airlines in Australia and Asia. All RAAF C130 & P3 FE's were recruited from the technical trade ranks and underwent comprehensive training courses. Pre the C130J the minimum crew requirement for the C130 was 2 Pilots/one Flight Engineer although a Navigator and Loadmaster were carried as well. On the C130 for many years the FE would perform his airborne duties and conduct any rectifications required when away base, within the scope of the various spares carried on board. Each C130 carried a complete compliment of Maintenance Manuals on board. The Caribou 3rd Crewman, variously known as Crewman Technical, Loadmaster and eventually as a Flight Engineer also performed similarly to the C130 & P3 FE's.

Having been Qantas trained to the B707 I appreciated the standards, the standardisation and the integration of the FE into the crew. Cathay Pacific similarly on all counts.
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Old 13th Dec 2012, 12:22
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Nicely spun, wingnuts.

If there is any discrepancy between your post and the book, which one do I go with?

A bit more re Ansett's 767s, in 1994 , after duely compensating the FEs, they purchased and put into service a two crew 767. I think the pilots were dual endorsed, 2/3 crew. This ultimately led to the conversion of the original 5 three crew aircraft to two crew in 1998.

For more on the 767 cockpit configurations, and yes, there was a 757 three crew option scheduled, go here:
Boeing: Commercial Airplanes - 767 Flight Deck
Unfortunately, sound has been deleted by copy right police.

Last edited by onehunglong; 15th Dec 2013 at 00:26.
 
Old 15th Dec 2012, 06:35
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A pic of the FE's panel after conversion to 2 crew. It looks to be VH-RMD on account it has the EROPS E/E Flow Monitor. (left of oxy mask)




Last edited by Wingnuts; 30th Jul 2020 at 05:54.
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Old 15th Dec 2012, 11:57
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Originally Posted by Wingnuts View Post

Click below for video of the Ansett 3 crew 767 cockpit. It takes about 3 minutes to get into the business part.

Ansett AN22 Flight Deck 14 June 1987 - YouTube
Thanks for the link to the video. I watched it right to the end. Nice to see the captain hand fly the 767 all the way up to 8000 ft (does that still happen these days, or is it autopilot on at 1000 ft AGL??).

Oh, and the overhead panel looks quite bare. Were most of the instruments on the overhead panel relocated to the FE's console panel?

Last edited by training wheels; 15th Dec 2012 at 12:00.
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Old 20th Dec 2012, 23:17
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767 2 and 3 crew overhead panels

2 Crew:




3 Crew, VH-RMD


Last edited by Wingnuts; 30th Jul 2020 at 05:55.
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Old 28th Dec 2012, 04:43
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LAST FLIGHT

Last flight of VH-RME in 3 crew configuration. Also, last flight of Ruff, trying hard not to smile.
Aren't they beautiful? I can see why the FEs were so reluctant to give up their panel!
Photo, The Purple Stripe



Last edited by Wingnuts; 30th Jul 2020 at 06:01.
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Old 31st Dec 2012, 10:54
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Where is Peter Clark

I have been reading this thread and wondered what happened to Peter Clark, Ansett FE, who was Brisbane based?

Groggy
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Old 31st Dec 2012, 11:06
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"Face the front!" he used to say if the F/O wanted to have a look at the panel!!
Cheers Peter
They were fun times indeed....
Anyone heard from Russell B? (AN)
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Old 31st Dec 2012, 17:43
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Kudos and much respect to all the PFE's I enjoyed working with over the years.
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Old 20th Feb 2013, 04:41
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In June 1999, the sale of Air New Zealand's Boeing B747-200 fleet to VIRGIN abruptly put paid to the careers and aspirations of many..

This website http://flight-engineers-air-nz.********.co.nz/ is being developed in an effort to capture, record and archive the low-down on the personnel, plus those many historic events from the 60 year era of AIR NEW ZEALAND's FLIGHT ENGINEERS
Unfortunately the link above to our website appears to be corrupted
Try Google searching ….

Last edited by nznative; 21st Feb 2013 at 06:01.
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Old 21st Feb 2013, 05:54
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Unfortunately the linkabove to our website was corrupted
Try Google searching ….
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Old 21st Feb 2013, 07:51
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Getting back to the 2 Books- I have purchased & read both & am very impressed with the honesty & openess of both scripts. A very fitting tribute to the FEO profession, which rightly claims to have NEVER lost a human life on ANY Australian registered aircraft that had a dedicated FEO as a Crew member , due to accident.
Time marches on & the sad state of Aviation in Australia reflects the bastardisation & tyranny that has beset the industry over the past 25 years.
The rot started after the 1990 Pilot Dispute & has never reversed.
The disaster of the A380 as far as earning its keep is still haunting any airline that has them in their fleet. Time will tell what lies around the corner in the industry; I am for one , Very, Very, glad I am retired & out of the current scene , but have vivid wonderful memories of my career in the industry in the halcyon years of the pure jet era from the mid 1960's.
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Old 21st Feb 2013, 08:29
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Getting back to the 2 Books- I have purchased & read both & am very impressed with the honesty & openess of both scripts. A very fitting tribute to the FEO profession, which rightly claims to have NEVER lost a human life on ANY Australian registered aircraft that had a dedicated FEO as a Crew member , due to accident.
Time marches on & the sad state of Aviation in Australia reflects the bastardisation & tyranny that has beset the industry over the past 25 years.
The rot started after the 1990 Pilot Dispute & has never reversed.
The disaster of the A380 as far as earning its keep is still haunting any airline that has them in their fleet. Time will tell what lies around the corner in the industry; I am for one , Very, Very, glad I am retired & out of the current scene , but have vivid wonderful memories of my career in the industry in the halcyon years of the pure jet era from the mid 1960's.
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Old 6th Dec 2013, 07:16
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A previous instance of the displacement of the FE from the cockpit occurred in the 1940’s, after World War 2, when the Lancaster bomber was converted to the civilian Lancastrian, of which Qantas operated 9.

The Qantas Lancastrian, without heating or sound insulation, carried nine passengers in a row of seats facing inwards along the port side of what was previously the bomb bay. It flew to Japan, South Africa, and in conjunction with BOAC, the Kangaroo Service. The typical crew was 2 pilots, navigator and wireless operator.

In the Lancaster, the FE sat beside the pilot on a collapsible seat known as a “second dicky seat”. (Almost all British bombers, and most German bombers, had only a single pilot as opposed to American practice of carrying two pilots). For take-off and landing the FE set the throttles as called by the pilot. On bomb target runs, whilst the pilot controlled height and attitude, the FE adjusted speed with power.

Secondary instruments such as engine temps, pressures, and electrics, hydraulics etc. were located on a side mounted panel behind the FE.

If the pilot was incapacitated, it was expected the FE would assume control. Depending on his night flying skills, the options then were either to bail out or risk a crash landing.
Pilot/FE Ops Manual





FE's side panel






Single pilot/FE Lancaster





Two pilot Lancastrian (undergoing restoration, hence the odd yoke position).


Last edited by Wingnuts; 30th Jul 2020 at 08:26.
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Old 7th Dec 2013, 13:56
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Wingnuts et al,
Re. B767 configurations, and two versus three crew on jet aircraft, you cannot sensibly discuss the whole industrial history without referring to the US Presidential Commission that dealt with the dispute of two versus three man crews, what it happened in the US, the Commission findings, and also in Australia.

Boeing did NOT build the B767 (and don't forget the 757) as a three man aeroplane at the request of United, read the history of the above. Boeing were quite cunning, the "three crew" B767 could be converted to two crew in a couple of hours. The Ansett simulator was the same, when it was hired by Qantas, it could be reconfigured to the two man configuration in double quick time.

Indeed, this matter was an important contributor to the breakaway of the AFAP Overseas Branch to form the AIPA. Quite simply, Qantas pilots would not go along with Australian domestic pilots demands for three man crews an any aircraft with 100 (I think that is the right number, it is quite a while ago) or more passenger seats.

Old TAA hands may well recall the industrial dispute about demanding three crew on the B737 --- and being out on the footpath, while their Ansett "colleagues" really coined it with all the extra flying they were doing.

As for Sir Peter Abeles arriving in Australia penniless, simply not true, and he did not start TNT, his original company was Alltrans Transport. Most of the rest of several posts dealing with E.H.P.Abeles owe more to imagination than fact.

Tootle pip!!
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Old 13th Dec 2013, 00:46
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Thanks LS. You raise some valid points.

The Presidential Task Force was pivotal because it formalised the 2 crew option. However, its findings were farcical it that they were dictated and predetermined by the commercial reality that Airbus was going 2 crew.

As for United’s 76s, the Boeing web site to which you refer says the first 30 aircraft were built 3 crew. Quote, “By September 1981, Boeing had developed the necessary plans to retrofit airplanes already produced with the three-crew flight deck and to incorporate the new design into the production line, beginning with the 31st airplane.”

Despite the promise of reduced crew costs, United initially demanded a conventional 3 crew cockpit. Again as Boeing has it, “United Airlines was the first to order the 767 (July 14, 1978). After lengthy deliberation, the airline decided that a three-person crew would reduce the introductory risk associated with being the first to put the 767 into revenue service.”

Following the Presidential task force determination, United opted to retrofit its 3 man aircraft to 2 man. United was the first airline to put the 76 into service so I think it is safe to assume some of the first 30 built were United’s.

Ansett stayed 3 crew largely due to the personal guarantee of Abeles to his FEs. The first of the original 5 Ansett 76s, RMG, to be converted to 2 crew, went into the hangar on 28th Jan. 1998 and returned to service on 10th Feb. It involved the installation of new looms to the overhead panel and took more like 2 weeks rather than the 2 hours you imply.

Interestingly, the 76s on which the first Ansett crews did their endorsement at Boeing, had analogue engine instruments on the pilots’ centre panel. The CRTs came later.

I do not know of the 737 dispute to which you refer. That is not to say it did not happen. However, in 1967 TAA had all its DC9s grounded in a dispute with the AFAP for 39 days during which time it is rumoured to have lost about $1 million. Ansett kept its aircraft operating by carrying a third pilot in the jump seat. The dispute was typical of the argy-bargy that was part of the dynamic associated with the introduction of a new aircraft and goes back to the DC6 when TAA’s LAMEs won over TAA the right to sit in its 3rd seat. More on that next time.

And yes, Abeles founded Alltrans which merged with TNT, and was subsequently headed by himself.
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Old 13th Dec 2013, 09:33
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And yes, Abeles founded Alltrans which merged with TNT, and was subsequently headed by himself.
Wingnuts,
Along with George Rocky, and they were anything but penniless.
Every "three man B767 " that was delivered could be converted to the two man configuration in hours, including the amendments to the AFM.
If the Ansettt conversions took so long, somebody had previously removed the looms to which you refer.
Tootle pip!!
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Old 15th Dec 2013, 00:20
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NOW THIS IS A FE PANEL!

For 360-degree panorama of the flight engineer's station on a B-36: six reciprocating R-4360s and four J-47 jets go here:

http://www.nmusafvirtualtour.com/media/062/B-36J%20Engineer.html




Note: The four J-47 engines were added on the D and later versions of the B-36; they are not shown below.





And the Concord

For 360 view go here:
http://www.kenmcbride.com/concorde/index.html



Concord FE interview:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dyNEPRHyxg



Antonov 225:



225 Cockpit



Bristol Brabazon

And the 12 engine Dornier DoX




747 FE Panel during engine start:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPp5E55y0rQ


AAF Training Film "The B-29 Flight Engineer" WW2 (full)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5D1f_1XU8w


P-3 Flight Engineer Recruitment Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuYPtOwGYjY

Last edited by onehunglong; 1st Nov 2015 at 03:02.
 

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