In my last days in the frontier country of the North West things were pretty laid back as far as air travel went. Remember this was well before airlines started amalgamating so there was no competition. The region was served by McRobinson Miller Airlines although served is probably overstating the case because with no competition you had to “like it or lump it”.
On one flight the door to the Twin Otter flew open and the stowed luggage was strewn over the Hammersley Ranges. On arrival at the Tom Price air strip the answer to the question of “Where is my luggage?” was greeted with a friendly wave of the hand and “Somewhere out there, Mate.” Of course this was accompanied by a huge smile too. No reimbursement was offered and it was generally considered by the airline staff to be a very amusing incident.
This was par for the course and the airline was regarded as an amateur outfit when it came to service levels. No wonder they were known as Mickey Mouse Airlines.
It was reported that one day a time check was called by one of their pilots into Perth Airport.
The ATC replied with “Who are you?”
Pilot “What difference does it make?”
ATC “Well if your Qantas it’s 1600 hours, and if you are TAA it’s 4 pm. And if you are MMA Mickey’s big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 4”.
I have no idea if its a true exchange but I hope so.
The MMA fleet had an interesting mix of old and new. When I first arrived the Fokker Friendship was in service which had excellent views because the passenger cabin was slung under the wings. Then the Fokker Fellowship took over. A jet powered unit that could really move and had an impressive climb rate. On landing the pilot had to apply reverse thrust pretty promptly to stay on the runway proper.
After a while Tom Price airstrip became the junior partner to Paraburdoo and we were flying in the old Twin Otter over to Do Land (Do F all was how that name evolved) to pick up the main service.
The Twin Otter itself is a magnificent flying experience if you like “seat of the pants” flying. It reacts to thermal currents dramatically and there were plenty of those over the mountains of Iron Ore baking in the hot sun. You could see the terrain between the pilots and it felt like you were in the jump seat.
On one especially notable flight, the huge German Supervisor of the town’s powerhouse and his equally huge wife were on board. The tiny little rows of 3 seats were well and truly covered by their posterior’s and naturally they had to seat one on each side of the plane to maintain some balance in the aircraft. It was a very rough flight and the little brown paper bags were getting a pounding. I was handling it well so I ended up holding a woman’s baby because, aside from the aircrew, I was the only one capable.
Not all my flights were handled so expertly. When I completed my apprenticeship and headed back to Victoria, I went for a last drinkies at the Paraburdoo pub. As a 2 pot screamer, this was not my smartest decision and to make matters even more ridiculous I managed to win the raffle of a half D of Emu which I thought I should not waste.
I was crook before during and after my shower and a few times walking to the bus departure point. Crook on the bus too and by the time we were half way to Perth the air hostess asked if I was going to be okay. To this day I am convinced that things go better with coke as long as you take it slowly and cease medication after one can. The upshot of my trip home was laying in a bed in a hotel room in Perth for 2 days recovering.
From there it was onto the Indian Pacific for the delightful 3 day train trip home and an unknown future.