Memories and Anecdotes

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Caa House
CAA Hse Picture
NATS Bletchley Park
Think if you have something to send
A Certain Personnel Manager had finished re-writing the Staff Manual section relating to Maternity leave. When she had finished, because she was so astounded at the complexity, for a joke, added in small print at the bottom "Go straight to jail. Do not pass go, Do not collect "£200" fully intending to remove it at proof reading stage. As is the way of all things, it was accidentally left in and published. John Lockwood, the Personnel Director (father of Victoria Lockwood, first wife of Princess Diana's brother, Champagne Charlie) was so incensed and irate when it was pointed out to him that he had all copies recalled to Personnel and the offending passage reprinted with the monopoly joke removed. Anyone manage to retain the original?

As a new recruit to the CAA, I stupidly asked what an acronym stood for. Then, as now, acronyms seem to be an industry in their own right. In those days though, no Internet, no desktop computers. My manager, an OO I, decided that he would write out a list of acronyms and it would be my task to find out what they mean and type out a listing so that I would have a ready reference and it could also be passed onto any other newbies. A couple of days later, he asked how I was getting on and I told him that I had finished them all apart from the last one. That last one I had spent hours on, asking others, looking up aviation books and the like. "Oh", he said. "Which one is that"? I pointed to the last entry on his list. "Ahh", he said, "that's just my little joke". The entry was UTCAA - If you haven't already guessed what it means, hover over the acronym to reveal the meaning of his "little joke". PS - I didn't think it was very funny. ~ Rich.

hs748 aircraft
dh104 aircraft
HS 125 aircraft
CAA Flying Unit
Those Tin Legs !
While I was working in the Press Office at CAA House, part-time Board member, the late Douglas Bader, had an office two or three doors away and I got to know him quite well. One day he sent for me and explained that he wanted to practise kneeling for the Queen at Buckingham Palace where he was due to receive his Knighthood. His secretary, Maureen, was also there to witness his efforts.

He placed a cushion on the floor in the middle of the room and, having stationed Maureen and I at opposite ends of the office, then forbade us to help him in any way whatsoever as he was determined to ’go it alone‘.

Well, he got down in a kneeling position on the cushion quite easily but that was when the trouble started! His legs locked and he couldn't get up again, no matter how hard he tried. Perhaps a bit unfairly Maureen and I both started laughing as he wriggled around on the cushion and the more we laughed, the crosser he got.

Eventually he yelled at us, using his usual highly colourful language, to get him up, whereupon we reminded him that he had forbidden us to get anywhere near him. Of course we gave in, eventually, and helped him back to his feet.

I never did find out if he kneeled to receive his K - but I have a feeling that the Queen would not have expected him to in the first place.
Anne Noonan
Great Dunn Fell

Great Dun Fell Radar Station. The highest Radar station in England. Also famous for being on the Pennine Way route. The Pennine way is a 250 mile walk from Edale in Derbyshire, to Kirk
Yetholm in Scotland. As a young CAA employee, I decided that I would walk the Pennine Way for my annual holiday. Three pals had also decided to come with me. At the point where we were about to reach Great Dun Fell, thirsty, with no water, I said to my friends, "Don't worry, we can get some water from here, it's belongs to the company I work for." Little did I know that the station commander had other ideas. "We don't just get water out of a tap", he said, "We have to pay for a tanker to bring water up here". "But I work for the CAA", I said. "Well I'll give you just one bottle full", he said. So from then on, to my friends, the CAA was for ever known as the UAA, the Uncivil Aviation Authority. But I guess I could see his point and it must have been annoying to get loads of Pennine Way walkers, all following their "Wainwright", calling in for water. Did not do the company cred any good though! Hover over the picture to see what Wainwright thought of Great Dun Fell Radar Station.

ATCEU from 1961

Ken Stevens recalls

Whilst Admin Manager at the Cheltenham publications unit in the early 70s, the newly constructed print wing was being formally opened. During Lord Boyd Carpenter’s speech, a Concorde on a test flight from Filton did a slow & noisy fly-by, framed stunningly in the picture window behind the noble Lord. The unit manager, Harry Hartland seized the moment by turning languidly towards the window and exclaiming "Many thanks, Brian" [.. Trubshaw, noted test pilot]

Bob Connolly recalls events from Aldergrove
A true story from Aldergrove quite a few years ago. The BEA Heathrow flight was departing and half way along the taxiway the aircraft stopped. After a few moments our tower controller asked the aircraft if it had a problem and it replied no, but there was a chap standing at the side of the taxiway thumbing a lift. The airport police were quickly despatched and removed the person and later passed us the following details. The man had escaped from a nearby mental home and wanted to go to London! Obviously he was not just as mental as they thought as he seemed to know which flight he wanted!

Bob Connolly recalls events from Prestwick
While I was stationed at Prestwick airport one afternoon I spotted a person walking towards the main runway and the airport police were tasked to intercept him. While watching the police car rapidly driving along the main road with its blue flashing light on to enter the airfield by another entrance I took another look at the intruder and he looked as if he was carrying something. Golfers would quite often cut their way through the fence along the side of the secondary runway and we thought maybe it was one who had decided to take a short cut to the golf course but on closer inspection through the binoculars the item looked more like a rifle or shotgun. It was decided that we should notify the police that the person seemed to be armed so that they could be prepared. A few moments later we noticed the police car turning around and heading in the direction it had come from and the airport police rang us to say that they were unable to attend as the car had to go urgently to Ayr! To be honest I cannot recall what eventually happened the intruder but the police were certainly not taking any chances!

Did you ever wonder why CAA House got that name?
Anne Noonan lets the cat out of the bag. Have you ever thought about the origin of the rather unimaginative name ’CAA House‘, the CAA’s headquarters in London? Originally called Space House, the then chairman, Sir Nigel Ffoulkes (it rhymes with jokes), decided that since the Authority had nothing to do with space travel it was time for a name change. He suggested a competition should be held in Airway, the Authority’s monthly newspaper, to ask the staff to suggest a name change, with a prize for the best name submitted. The competition was set-up, the paper was about to go to press when the axe fell and the competition was scrapped. It transpired that one of the directors had wandered into the Chairman’s office and suggested there was no need for a competition - "just call it ’The Old Folks Home‘" he jested. Not noted for his sense of humour the Chairman lost his temper and snapped that if people couldn’t take the name change seriously then he would chose the name. And hence CAA House was born.

Oh Dear! Fancy saying that.
From Norman Henderson, ex Liverpool ATCA
A Bristol Britannia of RAF Transport Command was sat at the start of runway 08 at Liverpool Airport awaiting take-off clearance. (It is essential to point out that the crew member operating the radio was female). The young trainee controller cleared the aircraft for take-off and the pilot wound up the four props to full power. The brakes were released and the aircraft began to build up speed, but as it approached the mid point of the runway, it began to brake hard and came to a sudden halt. Completely un-flusstered, the trainee controller uttered the famous words, " Rafair xxxx, what is the reason for your abortion? "

Is it Really True ?

Before LATCC opened in West Drayton, England was controlled from a relative small building on the Northern Perimeter Track. The electronic equipment was large & heavy, and it is rumoured that one day the equipment drawers on one bay were pulled out to far so the whole bay tippled. This pushed the next bay and so all fell over like a row of dominoes (or dominos). The rumour goes further that a tractor and long rope was used to return all to a vertical position. So is it really true? Will anyone admit to being there?

Dave Ring writes : The rumour about the domino effect bays at the old LATCC on the North Perimeter is in fact true. I wasn't responsible, but was based at TEE at the time and working at the site recovering CCTV equipment to be installed at West Drayton, and saw the toppled bays. Fortunately they had come to rest against the end wall. Rumour has it that not a single service was lost, but I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that.

Another rumor relates to Great Dun Fell Radio Station

The radio aerials are now on steel masts but in the past, like other radio stations, they were on wooden masts. It gets rather cold in winter and ice built up so the space between the four legs was solid ice. Experience had shown that the radio aerials were better protected if they were mounted inside the four legs.
The story goes that, during a period of bad weather, one of the engineers arrived on site and, as usual, spoke to the System Control staff at West Drayton and Prestwick to ask whether they had any problems with the radio channels at Dun Fell. Both replied in the negative, and the engineer was surprised, as he reported that one of the wooden masts had fallen over full of ice. It had fallen in a direction so the cables were still complete. So is it really true? If so, was anybody involved in the re-engineering of the problem?

Thanks to Ian Gelder for these two posers. So who knows if they are true ?

Ted Pillinger replies : I was not concerned with en-route radio at the time so there are many who could provide better information (previous members of HQ Comms2a, the field organisation or indeed TEE engineers). Yes a mast did fall and yes communication continued. I would suggest however that communications continued because the channels were being transmitted, in some cases from the alternate transmitters on other towers on the same site and, in every case from other radio stations in the multi-carrier system.

Ian Gelder sends news of a great ATC archive resource. Just search for atchistory and it should be the first result or ATC History

Memorial at Liverpool

Ian Catriona writes:

Earlier this year I spent a few days in a hotel (Crowne Plaza) at Liverpool Airport and the large part of it is the original Airport Terminal Building. The new part had to be built to replicate the old part. Adjacent buildings are also originals eg The sports centre next door was a hanger. None of this is new news. But talking to one of the staff one evening, I was told that a former employee at the airport had requested that his ashes be scattered near the terminal building. And in the small hotel garden there is a plaque recording the event. I only spent a few weeks working at the Northern Area Maintenance Unit on the edge of the airfield in the 1970s, but I'm not sure whether we (eg BOT/CAA/NATS) provided ATC at the airport or not. Does any one remember Walter Irvin Robinson (1925-2006)

Pailton Cricket Memories

Roger Myers writes:

When I joined the CAA (via the ’Board of Trade‘ as it was then) in August 1967, my grade was a TTO3 (later to become an Air Traffic Engineering (ATE) grade), and my first posting was to Pailton RMS, near Rugby. I lived in nearby Newbold-on-Avon with the Oxford canal and its towpath at the foot of my garden. It was a nice, quiet place to live and work.

Apart from providing a Telecommunications Test Equipment service and calibration centre for Tels engineering equipment, it also had a Field Strength monitoring and frequency checking facility (’RMS‘ standing for ’Radio Measuring Station‘).

The field strength monitoring took place in a wooden hut (no unnecessary metal to cause signal strength variations or other problems) which was some distance from the main building and was manned by non-ATE staff, whose grade now slips my memory.

The boss of Pailton RMS at that time was Mr. Cecil Page, an ex-RAF officer, blessed with a certain benevolence towards his staff. This meant that the staff could go out of the main building onto the large on-site field and, when the weather was fine, play cricket (two overs as batsman, one over at a time as a bowler) at lunch time. It transpired that, amongst us, we had a few big hitters!

The field strength hut was a reasonable distance from the cricket ’pitch‘ and the hut was manned during lunch time by a single occupant, who, during the hot summer days, was often seen, through the window, to doze a little in the hot sun.

One especially hot summers day in 1969 one of the batsmen struck the ball so hard and far that it flew towards the field strength hut, hit the nearby concrete path and, miraculously, flew through the half open window without touching the glass. However, it made a resounding ’thud‘ as it entered the hut and must have bounced off a few items therein. No damage was done, but a few moments later the occupant came rushing out, almost white and clearly frightened to death, in the belief that he was, somehow, being attacked. We shouldn‘t have laughed, but we did!

I don‘t know if they still play cricket there, and I believe the field strength facility no longer exists. Someone will know, but I retired in 1996 (from Swanwick) and have heard nothing of Pailton for years. Do any other members know any more?

What goes up might come down

Have a listen to this hilarious after dinner speech by David Gunson, an ex Birmingham ATCO. It’s about 50 minutes long but well worth a listen
You Tube - What goes up might come down

Bletchly Class B c. 1978

Bob "Pongo Bob" has supplied this shot of Class B at Bletchley Park circa 1978. If I get the time and the enthusiasm, I may try to repair it. Rich.


Bletchly Class B c. 1978

Well, here's my quick and dirty clean up. I think it's a bit better. Didn't want to spend too much time on it.