An­tic­i­pat­ing the A380’s ar­rival, He­len Hutcheon re­calls the in­au­gu­ral Aus­tralian flight of the Boe­ing 747

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

ACOUNT­DOWN clock that Sin­ga­pore Air­lines has set up on the approach to Syd­ney in­ter­na­tional air­port is tick­ing away the days be­fore the ar­rival of the world’s first com­mer­cial Air­bus A380 su­per­jumbo flight on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 25.

The same ex­cite­ment was in the air 37 years ago when Pan Amer­i­can World Air­ways brought the Boe­ing 747 to Syd­ney for the first time. A gala re­cep­tion was held at the Syd­ney Town Hall to cel­e­brate that chap­ter in avi­a­tion his­tory, and a splen­did lunch was held the next day at Kings­ford Smith In­ter­na­tional Air­port be­fore the VIPs boarded the jumbo for the in­au­gu­ral flight to Los An­ge­les.

As a fea­ture writer on­Woman’s Day , I was for­tu­nate to be on this his­toric jour­ney with such lu­mi­nar­ies as for­mer Wal­laby cap­tain and then deputy lord mayor of Syd­ney, Ni­cholas She­hadie (the hus­band of NSW Gov­er­nor Marie Bashir), John (Golden Ton­sils) Laws, the flam­boy­ant Dita Cobb and my fu­ture boss (al­though I didn’t know it then), dec­o­rated World War II pilot and pub­lisher Peter Isaac­son.

At the time I had a stu­dent pilot’s li­cence and was learn­ing to fly a two-seat Cessna 150. I vividly re­mem­ber tight­en­ing my seat­belt on my first flight in the largest pas­sen­ger air­craft in the world at the time, won­der­ing if it would get off the ground as we rum­bled along the run­way for what seemed to be for­ever.

Sit­ting next to me was Gary O’Cal­laghan, a pi­o­neer of the break­fast ra­dio for­mat who ruled the roost, so to speak, on Syd­ney ra­dio sta­tion 2UE with a feath­ered side­kick called Sammy Spar­row.

O’Cal­laghan had moved from 2SM in 1956 and topped the rat­ings for decades with his cheer­ful mix of in­for­ma­tion and en­ter­tain- ment. Lis­ten­ers loved his con­ver­sa­tions with a make-be­lieve bird but I hadn’t re­alised his fame had spread so far un­til I no­ticed the smiles he was get­ting from the stew­ardesses serv­ing us bot­tom­less glasses of cham­pagne. And was that a wink from a par­tic­u­larly glam­orous Swede, or was she just test­ing the glue on her false eye­lashes?

Then the strangest thing hap­pened. The stew­ardesses who had been so at­ten­tive to O’Cal­laghan dur­ing the pre-din­ner drinks ser­vice com­pletely ig­nored him while they served ev­ery­one else the most de­li­cious meal.

O’Cal­laghan de­clined to press the call but­ton be­cause, he said, the cabin crew was busy. He in­sisted I start eat­ing. By the time I was ready for port and cheese he still had not been served.

Fed up, if you will par­don the pun, I sum­moned as­sis­tance. ‘‘ Oh, please don’t worry,’’ the Swedish ste­wardess said, still flut­ter­ing her fab­u­lous eye­lashes. ‘‘ We haven’t forgotten Mr O’Cal­laghan . . . we have a spe­cial treat just for him.’’

With that, an­other ste­wardess pulled up along­side us with a sil­ver food cover on her trol­ley. I could al­most hear a roll of drums as she lifted the heavy lid with ex­ag­ger­ated cer­e­mony. There, in front of the rav­en­ous ra­dio man was a bowl of bird seed and a glass of wa­ter for his al­ter ego, Sammy Spar­row.

The Sin­ga­pore Air­lines A380 in­au­gu­ral flight seat auc­tion started this week on eBay, fea­tur­ing seats on the Sin­ga­poreSyd­ney leg on Oc­to­ber 25 and re­turn on Oc­to­ber 26. Pro­ceeds will be split be­tween Sin­ga­pore’s Com­mu­nity Chest, the Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal at West­mead, Syd­ney, the Syd­ney Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal at Rand­wick and Medecins Sans Fron­tieres. More: www.sin­ga­pore­

Up, up and at play: The count­down has started for the A380’s ar­rival

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