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Mike McDermott remembers



Chris Carew-Jones was driving a BKS mini van down the slope between the Queen's Building and the Europa Building (now Terminal 2) when an empty can of petrol slid from the back of the van to behind the drivers seat where the battery was located. You can imagine what happened ....Yes the shorting of the battery caused the vapour in the can to be ignited and blew the lid of the can off with a bang! No serious damage to the van or Chris and he returned to the Traffic Office with a very surprised look on his face. 

Another incident involving a a mini van was me out on the November 47 aircraft stand trying to depart the early morning Britannia flight to Newcastle, I think it was BK440. It was very dark, wet and the area generally scattered with bits of equipment, including dozens of dollies that were used for transporting cargo containers. In the rush to get the flight out on time, I was driving from the traffic office (located by then at Alpha 3) to N47 and collided with one of these dollies. The van received a few dents. I received dented pride and a day's suspension with no pay!
One of the fun things about departing an early morning NCL flight was watching the startled faces of the passengers at the windows as the engines of the Britannia fired up. They nearly always had a wet start whereby the excess fuel in the exhaust of the engines would ignite and shoot a long flame to the rear of the aircraft. The regular fliers didn't take much notice but the newbies did and often asked the crew about this phenomenon.
Martin Smith & Derek Williams were a couple of characters that had a reputation with the ladies. As a young and somewhat naive chap who'd recently joined the traffic team, I often wondered why the two of them on entering the traffic office in the morning would tick off a little list by the office door. It wasn't long before I realised that this was a score card of the previous night's conquests! I didn't believe for a minute that it was humanly possible to have those sort of scores!
When I first joined BKS (1967) I was an Assistant Traffic Officer. Grand title but in reality this job involved looking for lost baggage or tracing the owner of found baggage. It also involved getting in the teas and stickies for the Ops Controllers. They would give me some money and off I'd go to the canteen, then located on the roof of the Europa Building I had an arrangement with the catering girls that I got fed and watered for nothing on the basis I had a bulk order from BKS. On returning to the office with the goodies everyone got their orders but no change ... I kept the odd pennies for doing the run.
Lost & Found Baggage was quite an interesting job, which took me all over the airport and allowed me to meet all sorts of interesting people. It gave me a great deal of freedom and I made good use of the time to learn about aircraft dispatching. Rocky Fernandez was my mentor and he was a brilliant dispatcher. Always patient, he fostered my interest until it became a passion with me. I still think of those early days where skill and sometimes sleight of hand was required to do a Viscount  turn-round in 10 minutes! No computers about in those days to help, all done with mental agility.
By the way, my first salary in early 1967 was 12-10s-0d. Within, a few months of starting I was promoted to Traffic Officer and my career in airlines was on its way.
Chris Kirby (BK10) left BKS and went to work for Japan Airlines in sales. Meanwhile we bought our first property between us in about 1972. It was a maisonette in Langley, just a few miles from the LHR. I sold my Triumph Spitfire to Ronnie Lindsay (BK14) to raise my share of the deposit and with what little money I had left bought a 1955 VW that ran on 3 cylinders. managed 50mph out of that old banger until it finally gave up the ghost in the airport tunnel on the way to work for a late shift. Police were not too happy with me for driving such a wreck and causing chaos in the tunnel. Cost me more than the value of the banger to get towed out of the tunnel. I then bought an old Rover 60 for 50 quid.... that's another story .........
 Both Chris and I had obtained our PPL's and did a bit of flying together. I never had great ambitions about flying the big stuff, but Chris Kirby had other ideas and decided to be a bit different ... he got himself a hot air balloon pilots licence. He then flew the JAL balloon at various meets to advertise the company and rapidly progressed to the status of a commercial pilot on balloons. Over the years lost contact with him as we went our separate ways etc. the last I heard of him he was involved with one of Branson's attempts across the Atlantic and saw a mention of him in a Readers Digest Magazine..

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