Getting older

The author, a long, long time ago. Nowadays it would be a bit more of a struggle to get up here.

Getting older is often seen as permanent decline into an age in which one is not worth anything anymore. Even more so, if there are no children and one lives alone. Just waiting that the switch will be turned off.

I find it interesting to see the ‘block’ some older people build up in even venture into anything anymore. Saw a recent program called “old people home for 4 years old” and was amazed how many times I heard from the older participants that they feel insecure, are not mobile anymore, would not do certain things, and so on.

Of course as we age, our bodies to more or lesser extend may not keep up with our minds anymore. And it seems that there is a corresponding effect, in that people than believe their minds are equally as limited as their bodies have become.

I don’t want to downplay the aches and pains an aging body may create and how much harder it may be to climb up a pair of stairs or worse.

But…and this is the chicken and the egg question. What is first. Declining body or declining mind. Is aging to some extend only a mindset question? Forget the look into the mirror. Look inside and observe what you see.

In many cases I believe people making themselves older, than they are. If I hear someone saying “I am to old for this” or “I am old”, I think they set the stage for being old, even if they actually are not.

Sure at times, one has to overcome the devil of aching limbs. But than, limbs which are being used, get stronger. The balance is better, climbing stairs is better, driving the car is easier and negotiating the challenges of modern life can be better achieved. More blood flow, improved your brain, your sight, your hearing, your appetite and with it the enjoyment in food.

But sitting in an armchair and watching life go past outdoors, will hasten the decline.

Our lives are to short than to waste them. While many of us may not have an opportunity to experience a social experiment with 4 year olds, we can do much for ourselves. Go out, watch people, talk to them. Have a hobby and go and share it. Write a blog.

I remember one lady saying that she loved to travel and saw, if I remember right, 68 countries, but this was now over. Actually why? Unless cash is the limiting factor, there is no rteason not to travel. Just not up Mount Everest.

Being old does not mean having to be immobile. You have had many experiences in your life, share them. Talk about what life was in your youth. What you have gained in experience, talk about good and not so good experiences. Meet with other older people. I think almost every council area has activity for older people. And if you feel young enough, join younger groups. You may be surprised how they value your stories. Don’t be condescending, but share. They learn from you and you learn from them.

Get a job. A job with 60, 70, 80? Nobody will employ me. The cut off is at 50, 45.

Maybe if you are looking at it from the conventional way. Butmaybe some employers would like to have the experience of an older person. Maybe even for one or two days a week. Fow a few hours. But the law limits how they can advertise this. But the law does not limit you to take the first step. Maybe form a ‘collective’ of older people in your area, which can offer their skills to employers or communities.

I am running a business, which is greatly struggling from the fall-out of Covid19. But I would love to have an older person in the business, providing me with experience and expertise I do not have. Maybe helping the business going into different directions. Maybe even take on some management aspects. But ho do I find them? I

You may be surprised what is out there. Just try it. Don’t get stuck in the ‘too old’ rut. Maybe you grew up with the idea that at 65 you retirre and that’s it. But times have changed and opportunities have changed.

I like to hear what you think

Actually I did want to write about something else, but this just flowed. So the actual subject in the next chapter.

Anonymity in modern urban life

I grew up in Germany, in a country which is littered with apartment blocks. Big cities, like Hamburg, where I grew up always had apartment blocks. Only the smaller towns and villages, had more single or dual occupancy dwellings or small multi-family blocks of units.

I also remember that in the 1960’s and 70’s the German government promoted the building of two family houses, compared to the single family house, which until fairly recently, was commonplace in Australia.

Yes, I now live in Australia, in Sydney.

So I am familiar with apartment blocks and the fact, that you can live in such a building with 5 to 15 stories and not really know your neighbour, except through the bumping on walls, floors or ceiling if you were to noisy or caused the penetrating of boom-bass of your Hifi or played piano concertos in the middle of the night through paper-thin walls.

30+ years ago I moved to the north of Sydney, to a leavy, large block with one house on it, after having lived for 4 years in an apartment in Brighton-le-sands. Lived in an apartment block in which we only knew one other party.
It was so bad, that people, who met each other on the staircase would not even acknowledge each other or even greet. Now Brighton-le-sands is a middle class subburb, close to beaches and the airport.

So I was delighted to move into a street, where the neighbours came to introduce themselves.

A street, in which everyone knew everyone. Chats in the street or over the fence were common. All would celebrate Christmas on the blocked-off road. Of course with council permission.

Over time people moved and new ones came. The initially Australian born people or European imigrants were replaced by other nationalities. At the beginning the tradition of wellcoming the newcomers would be followed.

But slowly that changed. The ethnic mix changed and many of the new homeowners did not integrate in the old way. Language barriers, cultural differences, general indifference or simply not knowing, resulted that we know fewer and fewer of the neibours, who live in our street.
Maybe, the ‘old’ lot could have made more effort as well. Who knows.

But now Sydney is changing. Everywhere. Despite the wide open spaces Australia has, new apartment blocks are cramped into our suburbs.

Established houses are torn down by developers. One after the other. Apartment blocks spring up. Some of them so close to each other, that neighbours of apartments in the opposit building can see what the others have for breakfast or more.

Walking along these buildings, there is no life.

Hardly any pedestrians. Nobody talks. Cars enter to the underground garage. No talk, no acknowledgement to passerby, to the opposit, sometimes hostile stares, as if one has invaded the area, crossed an unseen boundary, despite walking on the public footpath.

It is strange. But I have seem the same in other countries. Japan, South Korea, Singapore. This type of isolation is absurd.

It can be different. Last week I went to a large property 150km west of Sydney. A 64 hectar garden. Lots of people around. People, who did never meet before, greeted each other. Had smiles, were chatting. Any nationality.

So what is happening in the cities? I find this development disturbing for several reasons. Humans are social creatures and we need communication and company.

Something already severely tested by Covid19 restrictions. But worse, we do not know what is going on in our neighbourhoods. We do not know if there is someone, who may need help; an elderly neighbour, who needs support; some criminal activity going on, something suspicious or even the breeding of extremist tendencies. Or abuse, rape, family violence.

It is sad to consider that humanity is confined to enclosed environments such apartments, cars, offices, etc.. That we communicate more with our devices, rather than with people face-to-face.

A Facebook talk, a TikTok video, a Zoom Meeting cannot replace the personal interaction. Cannot show the subtle body-language signs, can hide appearances.
We loose touch, with everyone and ourselves.

Government’s may like this. Councils even more due to increased revenue streams. Developer love it, if they can make millions from properties, which they bought for thousands. But humanity suffers, society suffers and in the end, we are all looser.

Lets do something. Go to the next person. Say “Hi, I am….” and start a conversation.

Bookstore or Online?

No doubt, Online is here to stay. But that bookstores are literally wiped out is something disconcerting.


I could talk about all the economic impact. How the value of the book itself as literature, as art, is diminished. How writers may feel lower valued, seeing their work being discounted. The environmental cost for deliveries and exchange returns. The loss of knowledgable staff, being replaced by semi-automated packers.

But this is only one part of the story. Going to a brick and mortar bookstore is something like an expedition. You don’t know what to expect. Don’t know what you may leave home with. The people you may meet there, in particular if the shop has a coffee shop.

You open the door and the scent of printed paper, ink, a slight mustiness travels up your nose. A symphony of colour to eyes. Rows of shelves, loaded with slim and wider backs of books. Small pocket sized, large, heavy, coffee table one. Some with small print and hundreds of pages, other with large pictures of you dream destination, your favorable artist, designer, painter. The shelves interrupted by islands of new editions, specials, special releases. Maybe a signing session by an author. All this expects you. And more.

You explore the rows. Pick a book. Read a few lines. Put it back. Explore another. Discover an author you never heard about. Get stuck and read on.

You venture through aisles of subjects, you may not even expect to find interesting. But a book catches your interest. You grab it. Flick through. Catch on and find yourself reading more than you expected. A new discovery.

A bookstore is a treasure trove of gems you did’t even know exist. All of this you miss if you buy online. Of course you may think along the line of an eBay slogan many years ago outside a shopping mall “have a look at ….. and buy it cheaper on eBay”. But eventually the retailer will disappear for good and there is nowhere to go exploring and find things you never expected.

A bookstore, any store gives you opportunities to see, to find, to experience. All of this you throw away if you buy online. And do not think, it doesn’t matter if I, because others will… they may not and it is you and your family, your children, nephews and nieces and your community will loose out if you let online replace your local store. The online only cares about profit. The brick and mortar store about you.

But if these stores disappear, what I will miss most is the smell of the real bookstore. The excitement of finding knowledge I never expected…

PS. I started my professional life in retail and I always, most of the time, enjoyed the interaction with my customers. From that perspective I would regret the loss of physical shops. Any shop. I am not paid by anyway to promote retail or work against online.

Lines…into the distance

BMW headquarters Munich
Old subway carriage Tokyo rail musem

In this short blog I like to draw your attention how lines direct your eyes. Magically the eyes follow the lines into the far distance. This effect is enhanced by working with wide angle lenses.

When you take pictures, just think about it and use this effect to make your images more interesting.

All images copyright NCAS_48.

Tokyo subway station
Temple in Tokyo
Mountain road in Chile

A new Camera. A tool to create art.

Waiting for eternity – Applied the new neural filters on Photoshop

A recent communication with a friend prompts me to write this story. She is thinking about buying a new camera in the future, to travel the world and to capture her impressions. That is, once free and easy travel is possible again.
But you don’t have to go far, your local surrounding also has many subjects, or as we say in German, ‘Motive’, to capture. Today I want to concentrate on your tool, the camera.

I have to admit that I am an ardent fan of Leica. Not only because I am German and Leica is the epitome of German engineering, precision and most important of all, photographic quality.

Of course there are other fine brands, some in the past and some right now. Starting with Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Hasselblad etc.. In the past other big brands, were Rollei, Voigtlaender, Carl Zeiss and more. I have used many of them. One of my early cameras was a Pentagon.

Weimar Germany Copyright: NCAS_48

But is the camera brand really that important? A pinhole camera can achieve great results. Of course a better lens, will render better results and I personally like the render of the Leica lenses, which are not only knife sharp, but have a great combination of slightly warm colours and a great, as we say nowadays, bokeh.

I told my friend that a camera is a tool. A tool which in the hand of an artisan can help the creation of great results.
I started out with the Leica M3 and the Leicaflex SL and SL2. I still have the latter one and the M3 was replaced by a M6, which I also still have.
Both cameras which incorporate a great heritage. But they are also very simple. Simple, compared to the far more complex cameras which came from Japan even in those early days.

Wharf worker in Thailand

But, what is important to me is, that they feel good in the hand. Like any good tool, they are designed to be loved by the hand. The feel of quality is what transfers into the hand and thus the mind of the user.

You feel the care and experience which has been put into the engineering, design and manufacturing. This wants you to make the best what you can do with the tool. I think.

Don’t get me wrong. Great photographs have been achieved with cheap cameras. It is ultimately the eye of the photographer who sees the potential in the subject and presses the shutter release at the right moment.

Equally may great works have been created with cheap tools.
But maybe with more effort. A tool which does not perform as well, which wobbles and bends, is much less fun to use.

A camera, which feels cheap in the hand, which has too many buttons and menus and is not ergonomically and just does not feel good, is not so much fun to use. You do not have the pride in it.

It is the pride, which transfers to the result and the reward is, when the final picture appears in print or the projected image on the wall and looks and feels as good as at the time of shooting.

So, when you select a new camera, choose both separately. The body. Does it feel right in your hand and every hand is different, small or big. Long or short fingers. Dry or sweaty. Can you reach all the controls easily.
Would you like to hold the camera and take it to bed, because you fall in love with it. Then it is right.
But what are the menus. Are they easy to understand. Trust me, most modern cameras have more features than you ever will use.
Go for simplicity, because when you need it, you do not have time to work through menus.

Then the lens. Do you like the handling, the feel, the quality. Get to see some enlarged images from the lens. Really big pictures. Do you like the result, the sharpness, the edges, the colour?

If you buy a small system camera. like a Leica TL2, CL, Panasonic, Sigma or a Fujifilm X series, you can select your own lenses. Don’t go for a kit. Make the right choice for what you think is best for you.

Put the lens on to the camera. How is the weight. The balance. Does the camera tilt forward, because the lens is heavy? Consider this. It is you, who will have to carry and hold it. If your wrist hurst after two minutes, it is too heavy for you. But may be right for someone else.

Capturing the spledor of the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney

I do not want to advise you which brand, which resolution, which feature to buy. I want to consider the idea that your camera, for snap shots or professional, is a tool, a tool you must love to use, because only then, you get the best results.

By the way, if you think your budget is to small, look at second hand. Take a newer camera body and an older lens, maybe. Most lenses can be easily refurbished.
I am using 50 year old lenses on a relatively new Leica CL body. Yes, they do not have autofocus or any other modern features. But they are sturdy, sharp and have a great colour rendition. And they can be much cheaper.

All of this I have written will be disputed by many. Many readers will say I write a plug for Leica. I am, just because I like their product. But I am not paid for it.

Finally one point to on-line purchase. Almost all products can be bought online, so can cameras. Often you get a good bargain there. But, I urge you to buy, if you can in a brick+mortar shop from experience people. I agree, there are not that may around anymore. I mean the ones which really know.

Take advantage of their knowledge and their understanding of the product. Once you selected what you want, buy it there. It may cost a little bit more, but….. But you can always go back, ask for advise, ask for help. These specialists need to be paid. They are not just there for show and tell.

you accept that, you will maintain an industry, which will be around to support you with your hobby or profession. You may even gain new friends.
I started in photographic retail many years ago. I am now in the AV industry, far away from retail. I have seen many good shops close and with it a great pool of knowledge got lost.
Is it really that important to save a few dollars for a tool which can give you, your family, your friends and may strangers much enjoyment? Just think about it.

Enjoy your photographic tool for the best results, regardless of brand or make.

Vertical or horizontal?

Sunset in Krabi, Thailand

One of the classic questions a photographer faces every day. Vertical or horizontal. A long time ago, in the analogue ages, most pictures would have been shot horizontally. This is how camera were held and it was a most convenient way of taking pictures.

One expeption I can think about, was the Olympus Pen camera, which split the standard 24x36mm format into 18x24mm, reating 72 pictures on a standard roll of film. This resulted in an almost automatic vertical picture taking.

Image from Wikipedia

But otherwise, you had to rotate the camera and this sometimes resulted in very ackward positioning, with one arm raised to snap a picture.

Old Indio women in Cusco, Peru

All this changed with the mobile phone, in particular smart phone. Due to the way, we tend to hold the phone, many more pictures are taken in a vertical or portrait format.

Now, that is not neccessarily a bad thing, except videos. I personally hate it, if the video takes up only 1/3rd of your computer ot TV screen, because the phone was not rotated.

But the essential question is, what is better, vertical or horizontal?

I think that vertical images give you a better dynamic and subject positioning. The ability to get to the essenence of the subject and to provide a different, or even provocative view of the subject, since vertical differs from the way we see the world.

Horizontal images give us the ability to show the surrounding, the landscape, the panorama. Often one can see horizontal images with the key subject just very small and unfortunately, placed right in the centre of the picture.

What about Portrait photography.

So can I take portraits in a horizontal format? Yes, but position your subject to the side. Let him or her face the centre of the picture, looking into the picture, facing slightly away from the camera. This not only adds a dynamic, but also leads the eye.

But ultimately, for all subjects, it is a matter of taste and creative vision. When I take pictures for audio visual programs, I tend to use horizontal. But if I want an extra dynamic or focus the view, I like to use Portrait.

With the emergence of high and very high resolution cameras, we often can make the final decision on the computer screen. Just take a horizontal picture, mask it to vertical, position the frame and you may find that a picture you would have deleted, suddently has a great appeal. Try it.

Norbert Schmiedeberg

As my mother told me

Introduction and part 1

A television program “Back in time for dinner”, produced and transmitted by the ABC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the non-commercial TV channel in Australia, triggered the idea to write this narrative with the help of my mother, which is luckily still alive in her low 90’s.

My family has their background in the Eastern Part of Germany, now Poland and in Hamburg.
My father did not talk much about his childhood and early family years, so I do not know very much and the pandemic and with it travel bans out of Australia, stopped me doing more ‘on location’ research.
But my mum wrote down much of her experience, in particular the time of WW2 and the postwar times. We read much about these times, but hearing it first hand, is another story.

Image from Wikipedia

In this series, I will infrequently and as time permits, feature some of her stories, translated from German. It may make interesting reading. By default, there are not many pictures from the pre-war period and from during the war.

My late father’s life started in Stolpmuende and Stettin, that is as much as I know. In fact, some years ago, when I researched my family name, I found that there are many people with this name in the United States.
One day, while in New York, I phoned one of the contacts I had found and ended up with a charming lady on the phone. Yes, her father had the same family name and he was also researching the name and any possible historical connections. As he was residing in Florida, the lady arranged him to ring me.
If you are not familiar with the USA phone system, and this was before the widespread use of mobile phones, it was common for people to phone you at a public phone.
I selected a bank of phones at the Hilton Hotel in Manhatten and at the pre-determined time, her father rang the phone box.
We had an interesting chat, I gave him some background information and weeks later he send me a ‘possible’ family tree to Australia. He needed more information, but unfortunately my dad could not provide them, so the research ended up in a stall. I am not sure, if the man is still alive now, as we lost contact so many years ago.
The WW2 has destroyed many records, but maybe one day, I can travel again and did into some of these old records. Often church archives, which were often spared destruction, may hide more information.

But back to the core story.

We will start in about 1943 and work our way through it, right until the time, my memory sets in and I can continue the narrative from my own position.

So lets start. As my mother told me:
1943, the war was in full swing and air raids on Hamburg, continued day and night.
Every day, when we went to work, we had a small suitcase with us in which we carried some of the few clothing, which you could get on your ration coupon, the free market had long ago collapsed and apart from the black market, every thing else one had to get with the ration coupons. If you were lucky, someone may even gifted you some.
The suitcase? When we left for work, we could never be sure that we had accomodation in the evening or if the apartment building would not have been bombed and destroyed during the day.

The supply of produce was getting worse and worse. Through the fighting, we lost more and more of the farming areas in the east of the ‘Reich” and much food was needed to support the soldiers.
Since products were scarce, we would not store much im the shop, where I worked. After every delivery, a colleague and I had to move much to an un-used garage for storage. All the time hoping that it would not be victim to the bombing. Due to lack of vehicles and difficulties with destroyed streets, we moved the packets with wheelbarrows. All the time being afraid, that a bombing alarm would go off. What to do with the goods? We had to get into the bunker, but what to do with the wheel barrow? Leaving it on the street could mean that everything would be stolen. Even that there was a death penalty on looting.
One day, it was a beautiful day, we were allowed to travel with our boss to Pattensen (near Hannover, about 160 km south of Hamburg), to store goods at a farm.
The farmers wife offered us a beautiful breakfast. I large slice of bread, thick with butter and ‘real’ honey. Honey was scarce and usually we had artificial honey (Kunsthonig) and a cup of chocolate. A real feast!
For the way home we were given a slice a bread with butter and sausage (cold meat). How delicious. These type of delicacies were already forgotten.
If I think, how careless people nowadays are with food. How much we throw away, just because the apple does not comply with the norm or there is a mark on the vegetable.
How much is just thrown into the rubbish, because the eye was hungrier than the belly, I have to think about these war times in which we were deprived of everything……..

Finding a denitst in highland Ecuador

Sydney. It had been raining here for 4 or 5 days, almost non stop. outside all wet and grey sky. Windscreen wiper blurring the view.

This reminded me of my home country, Germany. When I grew up, we had rain spells which would go for weeks, in particular in the northern city of Hamburg.

Apart from incessant rain, we have these really long winters, where the day starts at 8 am and finishes at 4 pm. Of course worse further up north.
But these long periods of doom and gloom, the constantly damp environment and the cold, wants you to immigrate, what I eventually did. Though now we circulate between years of draught and periods of flooding. But that is, how it goes.
Remembering Germany, I remembered one of my trips to South America. Strange how the mind plays sometimes.

So one December in the early 70’s came and our work would wind down, I took long holiday. 6 weeks was normal, since we were given 30+ days annual leave, plus overtime. So I tried to go to where it would be sunny and warm and, being young, exiting.

South America was a favourite destination in those times. I had some friends there and ……, but that is another story.

Altiplano sheep

With my photographer friends in Ecuador, we undertook a long trip from Quito in the North to Cuenca in the South, across the rugged mountains and hazardous roads. But exiting and of course scenic. Passing the vulcano Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

Cotopaxi behind cloudes

On the way back we decided to avoid the main highway and use the back roads. Often unmade, gravel tracks.
Our rented Honda Accord often struggled due to low oxygen in the high altitude, steep climbs, rough road and the load of four adults, plus gear. Struggled to the point that often the passengers had to walk, while the car just made it. Since I was the only one with a drivers licence, I had the pleasure to always be sitting in the car.
But the weather was clear, sunny and, being December, not to hot.


As it happened, the malady of toothache befell me. Now there is probably nothing worse, than being in the middle of nowhere and having severe toothache.

So what was the reason and how to fix it. The drive back to Quito was still a few days away and high up, as we were, there were only a few village with very small population around.

But my friends, which spoke fluently spanish and some of the local Quetchua soon found out that there was a dentist some 30-40 km away.

Indio girl of the highlands

So off we went and arrived just after dusk had settled. A small house, which we had to find with the help of some locals, accommodated the dentist.
Full of trepidation, I went in.
Now remember, we were 10,065 km away from Germany and on the highlands of Ecuador. So you would imaging my surprise in being greeted in Germany by a highly competent doctor, who solved the toothache in next to no time.
What had happened? In one of my fillings, to much sugar, was an air bubble. Being at the high altitude for a prolonged time, the air expanded and an infection had developed. So a quick drill, some antibiotica and a new filling, solved the problem.

But a German speaking dentist in this remote location?

As it turned out, he had studied dentistry in Hamburg, my home town and decided to go back to Ecuador to help the local population.
Their and my luck.

So travelling can be exiting and full of surprises. Unfortunately we often forget these small, but important incidents, but they add the colour and show us how fantastic our world can be. Sometimes, totally unexpected.

Desert flowers on the Ecuador altiplano
Desert Road at about 3000m altitude
Indios on the way.

On the Flight Deck

Privately build flight simulator (not by the author)

Since September 11, 2001 it has become increasingly difficult to enter the flight deck of an commercial airliner, even at the airport.

With regret I always look though the open door when boarding, knowing that it would be exceptional circumstances which would give me access now.

So with great fondness I do remember the instances I had been invited or in one case, just walked in.

My very first flight deck experience was on the venerable Viscount. It was on the return journey of my very first commercial flight. I boarded the aircraft in Hamburg to return to the now defunct Muenchen-Riem airport. It was a very cold, snowy January day. Our aircraft, a Lufthansa Vickers Viscount 900.

At this time business class had not been invented and I found myself in the first row of the cabin. Crew jump seats seem not to have been available, so the stewardess sat next to me.

Being young, it is always easy to strike up a conversation, in particular with a charming, young lady.
Sadly after we reached cruising altitude, she had to get to attend her duties.

The flight time to MUC at those times, and maybe hampered by the weather, was nearly 2 hours. Remind you, that Lufthansa could also not fly over the DDR (East Germany) and had to take a longer way around.
So well into the flight, somewhere above the middle of Germany, my charming flight attend came and asked if I would like to join on the flight deck?

Of course, no questions asked. Now the flight deck of the Viscount was rather restricted in size. (If you ever come to Melbourne, you can experience this on the Viscount on display at the National Aviation Museum, where, against usual policy, you have full access and can even sit in the pilot seat. If you fit in, that is.)
So I found myself squeezed in with an veteran captain and his co-pilot. The flight deck of the Viscount looks a real mess, compared to modern aircraft, with dials, switches and buttons everywhere. I was concerned to activate something unintentionally as I looked out onto the cloud cover below. I don’t remember any of the conversation, but it was a great experience, considering that it was the only time on a 4 engined prop-aircraft.
Unfortunately, policy did not allow me to stay during the landing, but I am forever greatful to that captain of giving me this experience.


Cockpit of a Boeing 707

My very first, very long international flight experience came just a few years later in 1971. It came just after I had moved in to a new apartment and spend lavishly on furniture, when a friend asked me if I would like to travel to Tahiti on a new route Airtours International has started. In youth exuberance and confidence I said yes, raided my bank account and off we went. More about this in another segment.

On the way from Tahiti (PPT) to Honolulu the crew left the cockpit door open. It was a charter flight after all. The aircraft a BOAC Boeing 707-400 series, the one with Rolls Royce engines.
So well into the flight, my friend and I sauntered into the cockpit to have a look around. It was a nice sunny day, clear shy and no turbulence in sight.

Varig Boeing 707 in Zuerich

The crew welcomed us and we engaged in some talk. Mind you, our English, as German speakers, was really only rudimentary, but enough to ask the questions any aviation buff would be able to ask.

But our stay came to a sudden stop, when my friend asked why one of the throttles was much further forward compared to the other three. Maybe something wrong with the engine.
A valid question, since we still had 4 hours over water flight ahead and the Pacific is not dotted with many airports able to handle a Boeing 707.
However the captain did not like this inquisitive question. So instead of explaining he just ordered us out of the flight deck and the door remained shut for the rest of the flight.

Condor Boeing 727

Cockpit Boeing 727 Condor Germany

In my job at Kodak, at that time, I was involved in a special promotion together with Condor, a than subsidiary of Lufthansa. It was a great experience and the first time I was allowed to roam on the tarmac. As part of the promotion was a photoshoot in Ibiza.

So we flew down to the island, spend a few sun-drenched days, and flew back.

On the return flight I was invited to the flight deck of the Boeing 727. It was a memorable experience. I don’t know if charter pilots have a different attitude to life or was it that at those times flying was more relaxed, but the atmosphere in the cockpit was just great. Much less tense, than on any commercial flight I experienced later. This does not mean less professional, just more relaxed.

It was a three man cockpit and maybe the pilots had less workload. So we overflew the alps and into southern Germany. Unfortunately obscured by clouds. But to top it off, I was allowed to stay during the landing with the provisor that I had to get to my seat before the doors would be opened. Easy task, since I had a front row seat anyway.

It is an amazing experience and has always been, seeing the first climps of the runway. Very far down and tiny. One can not really imagine how the pilot can land on this postage stamp. But gradually the concrete strip gets closer, the landing lights appear and the touch down with the slight bump. Full reverse (at those times noise abatement, etc. was only on the horizon) and we taxi to the parking position.

A great experience. I just loved it.

BAC 146
This is quickly told. I was on a Bangkok Airways flight from Loei to Bangkok. The aircraft a BAS 146, four engined aircraft, ideally suited for country airports, like Loei which are surrounded by mountains. The BAC 146 is a four engine aircraft, which was popular with Bangkok Airways and Thai.
Somehow, the flight attendent liked me and got me on to the flight deck. Standing room only. Not much was said, but I still remember this brief stay fondly.

For a short time I worked on projects with Qantas flight operation in Sydney. This was at the times of paper flight manuals and Jeppensen printed charts. The elctronic flight deck would come later, but we discussed already possibilities to project approach profiles and airport maps to the inside of the cockpit windows.

Anyway, as a result was allowed into the cockpit several times, pre-arranged by HQ.

On one flight, a Boeing 747-400 from SYD – SIN, we had just overflown the Australian northern coastline and passing over Indonesian airspace. The crew, which of course had flown this sector hundreds of times at the same time, knew everything was supposed to be in the air at those times.
So at one point my pilot indicated that the TACAM, anti collision system would come on any minute. An yes, it did not take long. A blip appeared on the radar screen.
This was a flight going into the opposite direction, they had seen many a times before. It would be several thousand feet below, but the system had already identified it.
Since it was a clear day, even that the sun was setting, the small dot of white, much below us, finally appeared in the cockpit window and passed to the rear of our plane.

A great feeling to know how technology protected us, provided the crew would follow the instructions, which sadly was not the case at the terrible mid-air collision between a russian airliner and a DHL plabe over Ueberlingen in Southern Germany.

On another Qantas Boeing 747 flight I have had the opportunity to be on the flight deck during a night landing in BKK. QF 1 flew at those times the SYD-SIN-BKK-LON route.
It is just a great view, getting closer to the large city and the lights sparkling below. Among the sea of light a white, blinking light, indicated the position of the airport. At those times it was the Don Muang airport, much closer to the city centre and years later the scene of a Qantad 747 crash, luckily without fatalities.
Gradeually we turn to the runway heading and suddenly the lights separate into city and runway lights.
An uneventful landing, but a great experience.

The final Qantas flight deck experience is one, which can never be repeated. In the 90’s Qantas had a great triangle routing, flown with a Boeing 767. SIN-BKK-HKG-SIN.
I was booked on BKK-HKG and had a business Class upgrade. Since it was a Saturday morning, only two passengers occupied Business Class. Another passenger and me.
While the other person was engrossed in a newspaper, I enjoyed looking out of the window as we overflew Vietnam. Thinking about the lines, the Lufthansa Captain Rudolf Braunburg [ insert book title] wrote, overflying Saigon during the Vietnam war.
Suddenly the purser came up and asked me, if I would like to join the cockpit crew.
What a question?
It was a very young crew and we have had some nice talk. Getting closer to Hong Kong, the weather became cloudy and thunderstorm were breeding. A diversion to fly around some of the cloud towers was denied by air traffic control. So we strapped in tightly, but in the end it was a no event.
In those years KaiTak airport was still active and we were assigned a northern checkerboard approach. Slowly we came out of the clouds, skirting along the mountains, below us Kowloon. The huge checkerboard, painted onto a mountain side was the guidance for the crew where to head and when to make the turn, getting us to the runway. Not so bad during good weather, but this, most difficult approach, which could only be flown by specially trained pilots, was treacherous in bad weather or hurricanes. More than one crash, runway overshoot or just harrwing landing prove of that. Aprtly documented on YouTube.
So we headed down to the checkerboard. The runway could not be seen from my position, but suddenly we banked to the right and there, right at the end of the sea of houses, was the airport. It appeared that we would almost de-roof the buildings.
Uneventful landing with a bright grin on the face of the co-pilot.

A fantastic experience, which can never be repeated, since the airport has been closed and moved.

Years later, before the airport closure, I would spend time on the top deck of the adjacent car-park, watching flights come in, including my Qantas flight back to Sydney. The airport was small and security not as time consuming, so there was plenty of time to watch the aircraft and still get to the gate.

Sadly, as I said before. Many youngsters will be denied the opportunity to get to the flightdeck now and in the future. But of course, there are at least simulators available. It is a great experience and makes you understand much more the great responsibility the men and women up front have.

Crossing the Andes with an Air France Boeing 707

The end of Qantas Boeing 747

Wednesday 22 of July 2020 an era at Qantas is coming to an end with the departure of the last Boeing 747 from the Qantas fleet.

Departure from Sydney to the graveyard in the USA – copyright NCAS_48

My own Qantas 747 experience started back in 1973. This was the time when most long distance flights were done on either Boeing 707, Douglas DC8, Coronados and VC10’s. Some aircraft types long forgotten by the general public.

1973 was difficult for traveldue to by the oil crisis and subsequent changes to flight schedules as I experienced on my December journey to Australia. Just in case, you don’t know, at those times my journeys started from Germany.

The initial trip was scheduled to be Stuttgart – Zuerich – Damascus- Calcutta – Singapore – Melbourne with Swissair, BOAC and Singapore airlines. This was, remember, the time before aviation alliances and one stop long distance travel. Flights and carriers were often mixed, as on this flight, the return was on Lufthansa.

But just prior to my departure the oil crisis struck with weekend driving prohibited in Germany and alternating numberplate driving days.

Subsequently on very short notice BOAC the carrier of my first long distance sector, decided to fly to Bangkok only instead of Singapore, on the argument that fuel was cheaper there. In Bangkok we would be transferred to a Japan Airlines DC8 which was on a stopover on the way to Singapore.
Of course, this would suddenly become a very tight affair with the Singapore transit.

The first part of the trip was uneventful. In early December Stuttgart and Zuerich were cold and snowy, so I looked forward with great anticipation to the warmer weeks on the opposite side of the world.

Alitalia DC-8

Leaving Zuerich on the VC10 of BOAC was another great experience. VC10’s were never used that much, though on my second trip to Australia in 1975, I still saw one example in Sydney. The VC10 was a very comfortable aircraft. Very quiet, since the engines were at the tail and smooth wings, which would ride out turbulences without the usual buffeting and rocketing experienced by the swinging engines in a 707 or DC8.

Though by modern standards the cabin was rather spartan with virtuallyno inflight entertainment compared to modern standard. But I think they screened a movie. For our younger readers, inflight screenings were a rather cumbersome affair. The projector was housed half inside the cabin ceiling. The light source was a hot lamp, which frequently burned holes into a jammed film. I think the film format must have been 16mm, but may even been 8mm. Prior to the screening, the stewardess, yes, we called them this in those days, not flight attendants as today, would pull down a projection screen in the front of the cabin.
The sound would literally piped through to the headphones and the sound quality was that of a medium quality hearing aid.
Not only did the film jam frequently, but the view of the screen was often restricted by the seat in front of you or the cigarette smoke.
Yes, those were the flights were smoking was not only permitted, but you could find yourself easily seated next to a smoker on a 10 hour long flight.

So we made our way to Damascus. We were not allowed to leave the aircraft, but the desert wind and flavours of the Orient came wavering through the open cabin doors since there were no airbridges.
I don’t remember much of the next sector, since I slept through it. Thankfully I was always able to sleep soundly during flights. Landing in Calcutta, again we were not allowed to leave the aircraft. The last sector was to Bangkok and I remember with wonder the sight of the tropical cloud towers, we weaved our way through and the flooded plains on the approach to Bangkok Don Muang International airport.

In Bangkok we had to leave the aircraft. The terminal was, what is nowadays a military building, open to the tarmac. Hot air entered freely and we could watch the activity unencumbered.

Our JAL flight arrived on time and everything seemed fine. But the gods of travel had different ideas. Once we were all seated, one passenger was missing. However his luggage stored in the belly of the plane and not, as it is today, in containers or Iglus, but loaded manually piece by piece.
The luggage had to be found and offloaded, since JAL was extremely safety conscious. This resulted in delay and subsequently the loss of my Singapore Airlines connection.

Being stranded in Singapore, just prior to Christmas had problems. Singapore in those times, was not the tourist stopover from today and hotels were more sparse.

The second problem, it was Christmas travel season and hotels and flights were full.

I teamed up with an Australian guy I met in Bangkok and against considerable resistance we managed to get JAL to pay for hotel, food and taxi. But now we were stuck. Calls to Singapore Airlines, and it was possible to get airline staff on the phone without waiting for hours, only resulted in “no seat available, sorry sir”.
This was no good, so we decided after a two days to drive to the airport. Singapore Airport was also very different in those times. Open to the airfield we could see which aircraft were standing around. I spotted an Air India flight and on the flight display said it was heading for Perth and Sydney.
At the SQ desk were again told that no seats were available until after Christmas and waiting lists were closed.
Our hotel stay would not be funded for such a long time, so we had to get out. I asked how about rebooking on to another airline.

“There is no flight”, we were told. But while I held my position at the SQ counter, when you are young, you are much more brash, my companion went to Air India to see if they had place. Yes, they had two seats, but the flight was closing.
Back at SQ we made some fuss and possibly more out of desperation to get rid of us, rather than goodwill, SQ rewrote our ticket and we found ourself on that AirIndia flight.

This part of the journey was not without issues either, but that is for another time.

Finally we arrived in Sydney. But my destination was Melbourne.

Again, how do I get there? On an international ticket, I could not get on to a domestic flight and just booking one was out of the question, due to the very high value of the Australian Dollar against the Deutschmark and the extremely high one-way airfare.
I don’t remember how, but ultimately I was given a seat on the afternoon Qantas Boeing 747 service to Melbourne and London.

While I don’t remember much of the flight itself. No wonder after a lengthy stop in Perth in the middle of the night and the early arrival in Sydney.
But the aircraft was a Qantas 747-200 in the ‘old’ livery, with the beige/orange cheat-line along the fuselage.

Since that time I have of course sampled many Qantas and non-Qantas Boeing 747 flights from the 200 and 300 series, right through to the latest -8 .

There will never again be a flight on a Qantas Boeing 747. Though, there is still the chance that I may catch rideon a Boeing 747-8 from Lufthansa.
In the mean time, there is still the first Qantas B747-400, the ‘Canberra’, which is parked at HARS at Albion Park Airport if I feel desperate for the 747 feeling. Actually the “Canberra” and I have some history together as well.

By the way, my luggage on this final leg from Sydney to Melbourne had been tagged wrong and went all the way back to London.

Thai Boeing 474 on departure from Sydney – copyright NCAS_48
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