The Flight Deck Reunion 1977 - 2015 Remembered
by Ken Honey
Possibly the final Flight Deck/Cabin Crew Reunion was held on Friday 25th September 2015 and as expected it turned out to be a very enjoyable occasion. A little sad as it was maybe the last meeting but the BCAL spirit is still alive.
The FD reunions have kept a large number of people in contact over the years and I would like to think remembered as a very, very small part of the British Caledonian story.
The reunion was started quite by chance after a 1-11 captain landed very late at Gatwick early in 1977. He landed just before the airport closed on a cold black night when most of the staff had gone home, even in flight - despatch there was only one person. Shortly afterwards he drove home and so ended thirty plus years of flying as this was his last trip.
When he told me this story I thought that it was a terrible ending to a career and decided to do something about it for future retirees. A friend of mine had retired from British Airways two years earlier so I based my plan for BCAL on his experience.
A pilot’s final flight should be planned to arrive at midday and the Fleet Manager or his deputy should meet the aircraft. (I tried for years to get this to happen in BCAL but failed).
An annual retirement party to be held, wives invited where each retiree is presented with an engraved tankard. Another very important move was that retired pilots could come to the reunion meet old friends and tell the same stories each year just as we have all done in BCAL for some time.
Armed with this plan I went to see Captain Mackenzie the Operations Director hoping for approval He said “Good idea Fix It”. I suggested that some funds would help but there were none to be had.
First a small committee of three, Watty Tyler, Timber Willis and myself as chairman. This trio worked very well although sometimes we each thought that there were two too many! At that time there was some money known as the slush fund that had been accrued by flying overtime on the 707 fleet. The company and BALPA could not agree on what to do with the few thousand pounds.
Reg Banks was our BALPA chairman so we used his considerable powers of persuasion in our favour and we received a very useful sum to form the “British Caledonian Flight Deck Mutual Fund”. The Mutual Fund allowed us to stay clear of the Tax Man although our solicitor always maintained that all we had set up was a tax free beer fund for pilots. Looking back we invested wisely as the interest covered future retirement parties also the money allowed us quickly reduce the proposed subscription fees to a token amount. Later in 1977 we held the first retirement party when eight members received engraved tankards as the photo shows.
And here we have the very first Flight Deck Retirement Party - 1977 - and tankards in hand for those leaving
Later we welcomed the flight engineers into our little organisation and later still the stewardesses. When I retired in 1986 Gordon Knight became the chairman and when Gordon retired Denis McQuoid became chairman. A great deal of credit is due to Dennis and his team who have kept the reunion functioning for so many years.
By Ken Honey