A LITTLE FLIGHT READING
THE FLYING KANGAROO Jim Eames
(Allen & Unwin, $29.99)
If you still call Australia, still call Australia, still call Australia home, this one’s for you. The cover of The Flying
Kangaroo promises “great untold stories of Qantas … the heroic, the hilarious and the sometimes just plain strange”. Author Jim Eames, a former director of public affairs for the airline, delivers in spades. He doesn’t set out to record a history of Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services from its formative days in the early 1920s. Rather, he tells yarns about an airline that “took a baby-boomer generation to the world and home again”.
Buckle up for tales of derring-do, public duty (in the aftermath of Darwin’s devastation by Cyclone Tracy in 1974, for example) and fun. Eames recounts the story of chief pilot Alan Terrell flying prime minister Gough Whitlam across the Pacific. The flight plan included an early-morning refuelling stop at Honolulu, upset by a last-minute request from the city’s mayor to meet the esteemed Australian. Whitlam asked the pilot what dress attire he should assume. “At five in the morning in Honolulu … they’ll be in shorts, Hawaiian shirts and long socks,” Terrell predicted. Gough duly dressed in bright sports shirt and light slacks. As they approached the terminal, Terrell “was aghast to see a conga line of officials, all dressed in lounge suits and ties”. Whitlam never again took the pilot’s sartorial advice. There’s also a cloak-and-dagger tale about the then Diana Spencer being smuggled out of Sydney on the eve of her engagement to Prince Charles, with the world’s press in pursuit. Picture the future princess hopping into the back seat of a Toyota Corona (with two others) on a suburban street corner, and being whisked to the safety of QF1 to London. Eames’s story stops short of modern times. It’s a warm recollection, as he puts it, of “the good years”.