British Caledonian / Austrian Airlines Wet Lease
31st March to 7th September 1975
Peter was one of the Engineers involved during this lease and here follows his recollection of the lease and the operations carried out during the summer of 1975. My thanks to him for such a detailed account and for providing the account for us to all see.
Routes flown daily were
VIE-LHR-VIE 1st flight/day
VIE-BEG-VIE 2nd flight/day
VIE-FRA-VIE 3rd flight /day
or we flew VIE-LHR-VIE
A tow bar and minimum equipment spares were loaded at LGW and the Aircraft positioned to Vienna on the 31 March 1975 on a wet lease operation to fly Routes as determined by Austrian Airlines. All Engineers and some Pilots were on board.
At Vienna, aircrew were whisked away to a down town hotel, leaving engineers to deal with spares and preparation for the following days flying. We were then ensconced in a small family hotel in the village of Schwecat (From whence the Airport gets its name). The arrangement worked well, as we could get to the Airport in about 10 minutes instead of 45/60 minutes if we had been based downtown.
We elected to have two Engineers on duty per day, covering a 24 hour period from 06:00 one day until 06:00 the following day with the other two off duty. The last flight back to Vienna was around 23:00 hrs. Any defects were cleared and routine maintenance performed. With luck, we could be finished soon after. Should a major problem keep the duty crew up all night, a fresh team would be available to take over and provide continuity from 06:00.
Owing to production problems at the factory Douglas could not honour the contract with Austrian Airlines, to provide DC9 Aircraft for Austrian Airlines to operate their published 1975 summer flying schedule. British Caledonian provided a BAC 1-11, on a wet lease basis, to make up the short fall.
Aircraft : G-AZMF
Engineers: Jim Hughes - A&C, Bill Clarke - A&C, Jim Bull - A&C and Pete Buckland - Avionic
Pilots : Capt Shirvell, Capt Earlam, Capt Kirwan, F/O Woods, F/O Bewly. This is a part list of Pilots, there were a few more
As far as I can recall, we were the first flight out in the morning to LHR and one of the last flights back to VIE in the evening. Either from LHR or FRA. Austrian Airlines provided a vehicle for use on and off the Airport. However, it was only available to the duty crew so the off duty crew were somewhat stranded at the Hotel as it was way off the beaten track at the wrong side of the village for public transport. One of the Austrian engineering managers had a VW Beetle for sale. We collectively bought it for our private use. At the end of the contract we sold it to the Hotel owners son and got back what we had paid for it.
We needed to leave the hotel at 05:30 in order to arrive at Austrian Airlines maintenance base in time to position the Aircraft, from the base to the terminal, pre-flight and fuel it for the first service.
We usually flew 6 sectors per day with an occasional 4 sector day averaging 8 to 6 flying hours/day. Total flying hours for the duration was 1,152hrs 42mins. Total sectors 750. Total block time 13:30hrs 07mins (Approx. as we did not record block times until 22 July) Apart from the five AOGs (Aircraft On Ground) noted below, all other flights were on time with no delays.
Owing to the lack of technical knowledge of the BAC 1-11 around the Austrian network, it was a requirement of the operation for a BCal engineer to accompany each flight. We took turns flying shot gun.
On 01 April 75 we did one trip to LHR. On 02 April 75 we did a double LHR. But on the 03 April 75 we were AOG for the first LHR flight of the day. No1 “Q” feel pitot heat failed. (a component associated with elevator flying control system) The spare was positioned to LHR from LGW and came to VIE on board the Austrian DC9 that did the service we should have operated. The “Q” feel pitot head was replaced. We were then serviceable in time to operate to Belgrade from Vienna.
Apart from the usual defects and maintenance requirements the operation was going well and on time. However, on the 18 April 75 we were again AOG. This time at LHR with a double ILS failure. (Instrument Landing System) Spares were sent up from LGW and both ILS antennas were replaced. But we still managed a double LHR that day.
Again, all went well until the 17 June 75 when No2 CSDS (Constant Speed Drive and Start unit) drive sheared on start-up (meaning we could not start No2 engine) for the first LHR trip. No2 CSDS was replaced making it possible to operate the FRA evening flight. The LHR and BEG flights for the day were not operated by us.
The next incident of note was going into Belgrade on the 12 July 75. Capt Kirwan was in command with Eric Woods F/O. It was my turn to fly on the jump seat. Flying conditions could be described as a “White out”. In other words; once airborne instrument flying thereafter. Despite being a day time flight, there were no external visual references, owing to low cloud, haze and glare.
As we flew nearer to Belgrade I heard Radar give a heading that when executed turned us into a CB (Cumulonimbus storm cloud). The ride from then on was extremely exciting, heavy rain, severe hail and major turbulence. Eric selected both engine Igniters to “On” and we all tightened our seat straps. The noise of the hail hitting the Aircraft was deafening and being in the centre of storm activity, the colour of the sky an unusual heavy yellow/grey. It was quite frightening. For a while we appeared to be at the mercy of the weather, finally emerging below the activity just above the Danube between two hills. Normal Radio Navigation, from our location, was not available but selecting an NDB (Non Directional Beacon) gave a direction to fly back into the Belgrade airport area. From then on normal radio navigation aids were available and a successful approach and landing, into Belgrade was accomplished.
Later, flight data read out recorded minus .5g to plus 2.5g had been encountered. I cannot remember the duration, but it seemed to go on for a very long time.