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A Lifetime in Longhaul — The Bigger Picture

A Lifetime in Longhaul — The Bigger Picture

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A Lifetime in Longhaul — The Bigger Picture

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Lançado em:
Mar 30, 2014


‘A Lifetime in Longhaul — The Bigger Picture’ is an opportunity to look into the fascinating world of longhaul aviation.

In this latest book, ‘A Lifetime in Longhaul — The Bigger Picture’ Bill Anderson includes the stories from seven senior Qantas Captains and four long serving senior ground staff from the operational departments of Engineering, Flight Dispatch and Ops Control.

These are all ‘hands on’ people and their stories allow you to experience the many day to day problems and decisions that occur in the running of a major world airline.
Lançado em:
Mar 30, 2014

Sobre o autor

BILL ANDERSON is a songwriter, country musician, longtime Grand Ole Opry member and performer, and inductee into the legendary Country Music Hall of Fame.

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A Lifetime in Longhaul — The Bigger Picture - Bill Anderson



This book was compiled in a similar manner to my first book ‘A Lifetime in Longhaul’, using a tape recorder while sitting with each individual for a couple of hours to capture their recollections from long careers with Qantas Airways.

There are many similarities to the first book. The eleven colleagues who agreed to be part of this book although hesitant at first, warmed to the task. Their background research and the notes they brought to the interviews were a great assistance to me – my thanks.

Aviation is an industry full of terminology, jargon and acronyms. Each interview highlighted this fact. I have included several appendices at the back of the book to provide a reference that explains these many words and phrases. My aim has been to produce something that is accurate, but also easy to read.

The Glossary has been expanded to include the many industry words that arose during the interviews. The pilots in this book are all graduates of the Qantas Cadet Pilot Training Scheme and I have included some details of the Scheme Administrators and Instructors in Appendix 4.

Globally, each and every airport has a specific three letter identifying code, with the airports mentioned in the stories being listed alphabetically in Appendix 6. I have tried to use these codes where the story relates to the airport and the city name in full where the reference is more general.

Two of the stories make mention of some historic aircraft, namely the Lockheed Constellation ‘Connie’ that is part of the HAR’s collection and the DC-3 ‘Hawdon’ that is based in Melbourne. There is some history about these wonderful aircraft in Appendix 1 and 2.

Appendix 3 is reprinted to explain briefly, the background to the oft mentioned words ‘Seniority’ and ‘Aircraft Endorsement’.

In this series of interviews, the subject of weather forecasts and the impact of ‘unforecast weather’ arose many times…this subject invariably aligns with fuel endurance and alternate airports. The whole topic is part of an airline’s ‘Fuel Policy’ and is a complex one. In Chapter 1, the recollections of Richard Cantor, I have included on page 5 a brief explanation that I trust allows a reasonable understanding of the matter.

This explanation and a few other comments throughout the book are in Italics to differentiate my words from the actual story.


My first book ‘A Lifetime in Longhaul’ was written with the simple goal of collating the recollections of my colleagues from 5 Course, where we began our pilot training. In the process, I wanted to acknowledge the existence of the Qantas Cadet Pilot Training Scheme and the contribution it made in training young men who have gone on to help consolidate the enviable aviation heritage of Qantas Airways.

There have been many requests for a sequel. I hope that this book satisfies those requests.

This book is a little different. The pilots are drawn from a variety of earlier and later Cadet Pilot Courses, to give a broader perspective. The other inclusions are from Qantas ground staff who play a crucial and hands on role in getting our aircraft airborne every day. I know all of them very well and was excited when they accepted my invitation to contribute to the book.

What is Qantas? To me Qantas is its people…hundreds of dedicated men and women of many nationalities, based around the world. I am privileged to have known and worked with many of them.

When I achieved the rank of Captain it was suggested to me that our department, Flight Operations, was a small cog in a very big wheel – this is correct – there are many facets to Qantas. So many departments and so many staff contribute to making the airline function.

Who is in the book and why? In all cases the ground staff are long serving ‘A Lifetime’ employees and they come from departments that have a close working relationship with the pilot group. Like me, a few are retired and the rest are still there doing what they do best.

From each area I made a list of names that fitted my criteria and then put those names in the proverbial hat. Some of these people may hold the title of manager, but that is largely as a result of ability and years of service – each and every one of them has, or still is, working at the coal face. Every Qantas flight has their finger prints on it. I hope that their stories give a greater insight, ‘the Bigger Picture’, into the day to day operation of the airline.

You as a passenger will never see most of them but they are there, day in day out, ensuring your safe journey. They are real people, great people and as I talked to each of them it re-enforced this view. They were, or are, at the top of their game.

This book is self published and the great majority of book sales are delivered by Australia Post, who charge by weight and book size. This places some constraints on book content. As a result, there is a limit to the number of contributors. To the multitude of colleagues whom I know as friends and work mates and the hundreds of other staff around the Qantas network, you are in this book in spirit. You are the U in Q.A.N.T.A.S.

Bill Anderson

retired 1st July, 2007

Richard Cantor

Qantas Duty Manager, Flight Dispatch

1976 to ____

Flight Dispatch prepares flight plans for our pilots, based on the Company Fuel Policy for all Qantas flights, taking into account any data that may have an impact on each specific flight. These plans are lodged with the appropriate Air Traffic Control (ATC) centres around the globe. After each flight’s departure, they maintain an active flight watch and provide inflight support.

Richard joined Qantas in 1976 and has spent 35 years at Flight Dispatch. The staff in this department have always been a positive, outgoing and friendly bunch – Richard fits that description. The present manager of Flight Dispatch is Steve Doyle and with him are six Duty Managers: Richard of course, Tracey Donohue, Tony Severino, Andy McKay, Glenn Shergold and Max Kairaitis. Most of these folk I know very well and we have shared many a flight plan and conversation. In fact, Andy was working the night shift as I flew back from San Francisco on my last flight – he uplinked a ‘best wishes’ message that I still have in safe keeping…thanks mate.

I wanted Richard to flesh out some of his personal background, but primarily to speak on behalf of his colleagues. His overview of the changes he has observed in these 35 years and how the office functions today. I was also aware that he had been on duty for one of the more dramatic events in aviation. Richard…

My childhood years were centred on North Balgowlah where I attended Balgowlah High School and completed year twelve, but in hindsight, recognize that I should have applied myself a lot more. A couple of my class mates, Laurie McCourt and Peter Black, who went on to join Qantas through the Cadet Pilot Training Scheme, graduated and became Captains in Qantas. There was the hint of an aviation background at this point in my life. My father had been an aircraft engineer with the RAF and during my high school years I did belong to the ATC cadets, attending various camps at Camden Airport and the RAAF Base, Fairbairn near Canberra. So there was a small glow about learning to fly, but my research and drive was a bit slack and I took the easier option to travel for a few years, enjoying parts of the UK, Europe and the US. On return to Sydney I worked for McWilliams wines and then Caltex. However the thought remained that I would like to be involved in aviation and particularly Qantas. I was fascinated with aircraft and the whole aviation scene.

I did apply for a cabin crew position in 1974 but was not selected. I found employment with an airfreight company for about two years, during which time I sent off a letter to Qantas each month. Finally the persistence paid off with a job offer in their cargo section. I met a few people there and have stayed in contact with them. One of these was Steve Anderson, who was learning to fly at the time. – this was 1976 and he introduced me to his flying school, the Royal Aero Club at Bankstown. Bill Lord was still the Chief Flying Instructor when I began my PPL training. Felicity Bush was an instructor there and I did most of my lessons with her. She was later employed by Ansett Airlines – the second female pilot in their ranks and after their collapse she moved to Holland to work with a subsidiary of the Dutch airline, KLM.

After eleven months in Cargo I saw a position advertised in the Flight Dispatch office and knew that it was meant for me – I was accepted.

A little later in this learning to fly period, I moved across to the flight school, AFTS and began my instrument rating. There was still a glimmer of hope that I could jump the counter at Flight Dispatch and get into the pilot ranks at Qantas but as time progressed, I married and we started a family. It was just all too hard and expensive. I did complete the instrument rating and I believe this flying background has been a wonderful help in relating to the pilots and dealing with some of the issues that arise at Flight Dispatch.

I have not flown now for about seven years but with some encouragement from my wife Katie and Capt. Ken Smithwell, I am slowly easing my way back into some refamil flying. Ken has a Jabiru and we flew down to Wollongong last week and had lunch – a lot of fun.

Flight Dispatch 1976 to Today: Communication…Flight Plans…Technology

My progression through Flight Dispatch was to begin as an Admin. Officer in 1976 and maintain what were called ‘flight logs’. Messages, which would come through from all our ports logging the arrival and departure of each service, were then entered into the log. At this period of time, communication with our aircraft was really non-existent once they left Sydney. We were the co-ordinating department at that time, (until this work was passed to Ops. Control in the early 80s), our call sign was ‘Qantas Sydney’ using a Very High Frequency (VHF) radio; we would communicate with the aircraft passing on their information to other appropriate departments as aircraft arrived and departed. This was a 24/7 role but from memory there was a planning officer on duty for just a few nights a week and all the plans in those days were done by hand. As one of the juniors, I was doing plans for the short legs to Melbourne and Brisbane, all pretty straight forward and basic stuff. It took a couple of years to be promoted to Flight Planner. This was a three month course involving the more intricate points of longer range flight plans. Computer technology was starting to appear but was quite limited. Any abnormal aircraft configurations meant a manually prepared plan, for instance on one occasion we had a mechanical problem and an Air Pacific B747 was planned to fly back from Fiji with the undercarriage down. Naturally this had a big effect on fuel usage, the speed and altitude the aircraft could achieve – a lengthy preparation for that plan.

Other communication tools that we used at the time were the teletype and a new gismo called a fax machine. Flight plans were sent to some ports this way, along with the navigation ‘deck logs’ – these were the pages that reflected the route the aircraft would fly and listed each reporting point in the journey; these pages were entirely separate to the flight plan. All this documentation would be handed over to the pilots when they arrived at the airport. Weather reports and forecasts that we used for overseas ports came from those stations and were prepared by the local Met office. The outstations sent them through to us in Sydney where they were posted onto a large board. The flight planners would consult these forecasts in the course of the preparation of the appropriate plan. The worldwide forecast upper level winds (20,000 to 40,000 feet) came from a company called Suitland, based in America – the whole process was labour intensive, very different from today.

I asked Richard about my recall of some ports where the local staff prepared the flight plan. I remembered my first flight through Delhi with the tech crew assembling in the airport terminal to be briefed by an Indian fellow who had prepared this immaculately handwritten flight plan

Yes, some ports had qualified planners from contracted airlines. In this period of the early B747s, we were operating from Bangkok to Athens and return. These were limiting sectors for the aircraft in terms of range and fuel, with wet takeoffs (water injection) used to provide additional thrust on takeoff. We actually stationed Qantas staff in Athens to prepare these manual plans – the plans and weights used had to be spot on.

One of the major changes is the better communications with our aircraft. The years of the B707 and the early models of the B747 were very difficult, with only VHF and HF available and so most of the info to and from the aircraft came from our ports when the aircraft passed through. The arrival of single side band High Frequency (HF) was a major step forward and allowed a much better line of communication with the crew in flight and on the ground. Now with Satcom, it is just amazing what can be achieved with excellent and reliable communication available anywhere in the world. We can also interrogate the Flight Management Computer (FMC) without the crew being involved and this gives us a huge amount of info when we need it; the fuel remaining and forward estimates of times at specific places being just one example. The introduction of Aircraft Communication and Addressing System (ACARS) was the other major leap forward. This equipment is fitted to all our aircraft and is a digital datalink communication system via satellite.

Throughout my time with Flight Dispatch I have a few observations. My time there has been wonderful and the next best job to actually being on the flight deck. I enjoy the rapport with the tech crew and we are always aware of the service we provide to the pilots – we try to set a high standard and you do get to know some of the pilots, along with their personal idiosyncrasies. In my earlier years I knew certain Captains had their ideas on how they wanted the flight plan ruled up. A few would come in quite early and really wanted to be involved with the preparation of their flight plan. Captains David Howells and David Long were two that come to mind – meticulous fellows and we endeavoured to accommodate their requests.


In the 60s and 70s, many of our Captains were ex WW2 pilots. They had no formal Crew Resource Management (CRM) training and had a background as officers in the RAF or RAAF. Although they were extremely competent, I found some of them to be quite intimidating and a few were just cranky bastards. However, for the most part they were really good and I have observed that the young and junior pilots from those years are the same blokes I have worked with throughout my career and who are now our senior Captains. There is a pretty common bond of mutual respect. There are many pilots in the area where I live and I see these blokes in the street or the shops – there is a very easy rapport. Captains Peter Boswell, Marty Hart and Stan Prout are good mates and fit this description. The satisfaction that I get from this job away from the professional aspect, is feedback from a very experienced Captain for example, who will take the time to call by and offer his thanks and appreciation for something we did on his last flight – this means the world to me and the other staff here.

Stan flew with one of my sons recently and made the comment…‘tell your Dad he cannot retire until I do; he has to stay there and keep looking after me’ – that sort of thing hits the spot. There has always been an approved ‘official’ company fuel policy and you would not be surprised to know that a few Captains had their own variants on how it should be implemented. Quite often I would be doing the plan for the same flight several days in a row, for instance the SYD to SIN sector and so you would observe the SIN Terminal Airport Forecasts (TAFORs) and plan accordingly, but also you became aware of what the actual weather did as the day rolled on. For instance thunderstorms may not have been on the forecast at the preflight stage (if they were it would be policy to add appropriate extra fuel), but when you see them appear on the actual weather later in the day, you take notice of that.

As the Captain and crew presented for their flight, I would include in the briefing what I had seen occur over the last few days and suggest that it may be wise, at the Captain’s discretion, to uplift some extra fuel to cover what is likely to occur later in the flight – 95% of the Captains would accept the rationale. The other 5% ran with their own ideas and basically stayed with the fuel policy, taking what is called minimum fuel. I recall one minimum fuel skipper who had the nickname of ‘vapours’ – he diverted twice in the one trip due to the destination weather deteriorating during the flight.

Flight Plans Today

The Fuel Policy is quite complex and has been changed over the years, but it is still pretty much a case of uplifting just the fuel required for the flight and the mandatory reserves, plus any extra for bad weather enroute or at the destination – there are many other contingencies that we look at, but a bit too lengthy to go into here. The major point to make is that, unlike your motor car, we do not just ‘fill her up’. Maybe I should clarify that. Fuel is of course weight and the heavier the aircraft, the more fuel the engines burn. There is a rough rule of thumb that says for each extra 1000kg of fuel, the engines will burn 20% of that 1000kg over say an 8 hour flight – it is a cost.

Nowadays the flight planners prepare their plans and stay with the fuel policy, but Flight Dispatch has grown and we have a qualified Meteorologist from the Bureau on duty each day. A Duty Manager position was created a few years ago and that is my present role. There are six of us and we cover that position seven days a week, twenty four hours a day. In the course of our shift we look at the weather and other issues that may impact on each of our flights on a port by port basis. We have a procedure that we call ‘OP Risk’ and in conjunction with the Meteorologist we can vary the fuel uplift for any specific flight and perceived weather risk. Other matters are also evaluated – for instance ATC holding is a big factor in our day to day operation.

In my early days at Flight Dispatch we were responsible for just our longhaul aircraft. With the merger of Qantas and TAA in 1992 and the commencement of Jetstar, we are now charged with the shorthaul operation as well. Naturally the number of Qantas aircraft has grown enormously as has the overall number of aircraft flying in the Australian airspace. ATC holding is a big issue in terms of fuel cost and running a scheduled operation. As an example we can see that at Sydney a weather forecast at some point in the day may reflect a strong wind change and that may well mean a change of runway. The worst case is where the change goes from using the two parallel runways to the single east/west runway. ATC will handle the re-sequencing of the immediate aircraft in their airspace but for a period, the holding times may jump out to perhaps forty-five minutes. We try to be proactive in ensuring our aircraft have the fuel to comply with the holding times that will be involved – we do not want diversions!

The department is now moving to a new and regrettably much less personal way of doing business. There will be no face to face briefings with the pilots and the flight plans will be delivered to an iPad that the crew will carry. They can always call us or if need be, we can leave a message for them to call us, but the bottom line is a more sterile and remote relationship – like so many other aspects of business practice today. That two-way feedback will go and we in the planning section will miss that a great deal – the pilots will, as well, I believe. This is the path chosen and I don’t think we can change it. The younger fellows coming through now work in a different environment devoid of interaction.

There are still some ‘old school’ flight planners. Two I would suggest are Pete Ashmore and John Priestland, who individually have better than forty years of service with Qantas. They maintain their traditional method of meticulous planning – looking at the charts, the significant weather, the computer selected plan, but with their vast experience they will look at better options. They will evaluate the issues and produce a plan that on paper may indicate an extra 1000kg of fuel is required but in reality, by being proactive at the preflight stage, it will allow the pilots to save fuel enroute by less dodging around weather or staying low under the jetstream, that sort of thing. These fellows know their work and have a degree of autonomy. If they are not on duty the plans are still run and as I indicated earlier there are checks made through the Ops Risk system.

On being Proactive

A large part of our charter at Flight Dispatch is to be proactive. If I am on a morning shift, I will arrive at around 0500 and there is a handover brief from the nightshift manager, after which I will look at all the TAFORs for the trouble maker airports – all of the problem children – Hong Kong, Manila, Jakarta, Singapore, Los Angeles, Dallas and Johannesburg. These are the places for which we know the forecasts are not always accurate, or are liable to change and of course we have watched them on a rolling basis for the past few days. This review will help build a picture of where more fuel may be a good idea at the preflight stage. Once the aircraft departs we have limited options!

With vastly better communication now available between ourselves and our aircraft and within the world wide ATC system, we can be very active in assisting the crews to achieve what we would call a direct flight, ie no enroute diversions.

It may help to understand Richard’s story here if I add a few ‘pilot’ words, albeit keeping this very complex matter simple, for you the reader and for me, who is trying to choose the words!! The very basis of the profitability of an airline operation is the revenue from passenger ticket sales and freight that is carried. Bottom line is the company wants to carry as much as possible of each of these and just the minimum legal amount of fuel. There is no suggestion of something wrong here, just that extra fuel on an aircraft does not make money.

Within the fuel policy that has been mentioned previously are many words about the Alternate Criteria for each and every airport we fly to, words about visibility, cloud base and so on. Keeping this very straightforward, we will just deal with an imaginary cloud base height at a particular airport, let’s say FRA – the cloud base is measured from the ground level at the airport. Assume the Alternate Criteria at FRA for cloud base is 500 feet and the policy states that if the actual cloud base is above 500 feet, then the Captain is only required to have the fuel to make his approach and land plus a small reserve. BUT if the actual cloud base is 500 feet or below, he has to have sufficient fuel to make that approach and hopefully see the runway and land. BUT if he cannot see the runway then he has to have the extra fuel to fly away and land at another airport – his alternate airport.

A good example of being proactive is the QF5 departing from Singapore to Frankfurt in the European winter. The trade off between freight uplift and fuel uplift begins and can mean loading just the minimum of reserve fuel. For many years we have carried a mandatory 2000kg of fuel over and above other reserves, just to meet the protracted arrival procedures into FRA. As with all our airports, we monitor the latest weather and frequently, in winter, FRA weather tends to deteriorate and may go below the Alternate Criteria whilst the aircraft is in the last few hours of the flight. If we see this we contact the ATC people at Rhine Radar and Frankfurt Control and try to get an assurance that they will give the aircraft a descent that is straight in with no delay and hence save the 2000kg. They are pretty co-operative and recognize that our very early morning landing into FRA is before the start of their peak hour. We naturally pass this approval on to the crew and if they are happy to work with this expectation of a minimum fuel descent, it may mean that they now have enough fuel to make an approach in FRA and still be able to divert to an alternate airport, if need be.

The case where this request is not approved would most likely mean that the aircraft would not be legal to make an approach at FRA, but instead would fly direct to another airport and load extra fuel for a return to FRA – expensive and a great inconvenience to all concerned.

Similar issues arise back here at Sydney. Let us use the QF108 returning from LAX to SYD. To stay with the cloud base example that Bill has used, the preflight forecast weather may have had a cloud base above the Alternate Criteria and so no diversion fuel would have been uplifted, quite possibly the aircraft would already be at its maximum weight and extra fuel was not an option anyway. Fifteen hours later and approaching the descent into SYD, we may see that the Met man is giving an actual cloud base just below the Alternate Criteria – we do not want the aircraft to be unable to make an approach. If the Met man stays with his low cloud base, the most likely outcome is an enroute diversion into BNE for extra fuel and thence to SYD.

We will not try to change the Met man’s overall views on the airport weather, but if it is a low cloud base for instance, we will certainly ask him to double check his observation and this may save a diversion. Fog is a very different case and we pretty much stay away from that. If the Met man says fog is on the forecast then we work to what he says.

This is a twenty four hour worldwide operation and because of this, on each shift the Duty Manager and his staff look at different flights and airport weathers. The staff on the night shift are focussed on the northbound flights from Asia to Europe, the inbound flights from the US and of course the domestic operation at airports where there is no curfew. The handover to the morning shift will be a briefing and as I said previously, a review of the Asian airport weathers and the flights scheduled for later that day. The afternoon team are looking at the night departures from the US to Australia.

The early morning arrivals of our flights from LAX and DFW are special cases. These are very longhaul flights and usually are not able to carry extra fuel over and above the determined legal amount. Once they are in Australian airspace we expect ATC to tactically handle them (ATC know that these flights are almost always fuel critical) and most times this is the case. This is an entirely different matter to the airport weather and the cloud base we spoke about before.

On most occasions ATC do their best to work in with us and since we can go direct – dispatcher to the controller – that keeps it fairly tight. We have pretty good communications with them on the whole.

On being Reactive

On any day and on any shift we need to have a situational awareness of all our aircraft and the likely problems that they may encounter, then in turn try to manufacture a plan to assist the crew. Sometimes it just does not work and we become reactive – an example is perhaps some of the recent volcanic eruptions.

On the 24th of June 1982 British Airways

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    Do you remember the " Quantas Never Crashed" comment from The Rainman Movie?This book answers the why!

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