I Re­mem­ber When /

Garry House has spent a life­time mak­ing avi­a­tion and high-risk oc­cu­pa­tions safer.

Latitude Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS David Kil­lick

Garry House shares an in­sight into his work as an air­craft and avion­ics en­gi­neer

Air­craft and avion­ics en­gi­neer, New Zealand’s voice on in­ter­na­tional safety stan­dards, risk con­sul­tant, RSA leader, JP, motorcycli­st, and darts player – Garry House wears many hats.

At 70, he’s go­ing strong, with reg­u­lar com­mit­ments to travel around the world. Mod­est and unas­sum­ing, Garry is a vast store­house of in­for­ma­tion on tech­ni­cal mat­ters re­lated to avi­a­tion and high-risk fields, and is of­ten called on for his ex­per­tise. ‘I don’t feel like 70 be­cause I’m still rid­ing bikes and leap­ing around,’ he says with a grin. His bike is a beau­ti­fully main­tained Royal En­field Clas­sic 350 in a strik­ing blue. It looks like an old bike but has mod­ern disc brakes and elec­tronic ig­ni­tion for safety and ef­fi­ciency.

Garry has spent most of his life in Christchur­ch and lives with wife Linda in the same street in South New Brighton that his grand­par­ents used to live in. The cou­ple have two grown-up chil­dren, Lance and Re­becca. Garry loves the area and sense of com­mu­nity. It’s only a short drive or mo­tor­cy­cle ride away from the New Brighton RSA, where Garry is man­ager-sec­re­tary-trea­surer.

His wall is cov­ered with cer­tifi­cates and me­men­toes and his­toric posters and pho­to­graphs. There are also two wooden pro­pel­lers – one from a Tiger Pup and the other be­long­ing to a 1939 Air­speed Ox­ford bomber, the same air­craft his fa­ther, Cap­tain Ron House, flew dur­ing World War II.

Garry at­tributes his love of avi­a­tion to his fa­ther. As a flight lieu­tenant in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Ron House took part in the Bat­tle of Guadal­canal in 1942 – a ma­jor victory against the Ja­panese. He rose to the rank of squadron leader and flew Lock­heed Ven­tura and Hud­son light bombers; his ac­tual Hud­son is now on dis­play at the Wi­gram Air Force Mu­seum. Garry still has his fa­ther’s logbook from those per­ilous days, ev­ery page filled in metic­u­lously and neatly by hand.

Garry’s fa­ther con­tin­ued fly­ing after the war and be­came chief pi­lot for Civil Avi­a­tion and helped set up the Na­tional Air­ways Cor­po­ra­tion (NAC, which merged with Air New Zealand in 1978).

Garry grew up on the east side of Christchur­ch, and at­tended Cathe­dral Gram­mar, Christ’s Col­lege and Ric­car­ton High School. As a lad he liked tin­ker­ing with crys­tal sets. ‘I wanted to do an ap­pren­tice­ship in elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing, and once I got qual­i­fied, I was then re­quested to trans­fer to air­craft engi­neer­ing. So I trans­ferred to avion­ics and worked on many air­craft.’

As an en­gi­neer, Garry took part in many test flights. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the main air­craft were DC3s, Fokker F27 Friend­ships and Vick­ers 807 Vis­counts, and then the 100-series Boe­ing 737s, New Zealand’s first jets. Garry worked on all of them. These were fol­lowed by 200- and 300-series Boe­ing 737s, as well as C-130 Her­cules and Air Force 727s, among oth­ers.

‘Some­times you might do mul­ti­ple test flights to get it right. The pi­lots steer and fly the plane very well, but they don’t nec­es­sar­ily know why it’s do­ing some­thing. I think all of the staff who have been in the air dur­ing test flights at some stage would have had in­ter­est­ing cir­cum­stances. No one, I think, was scared; we were pro­fes­sion­als, but I can re­mem­ber once do­ing seven flights in the same plane, a series-100 Boe­ing 737, in the day, to get it right and I started to get con­cerned when we couldn’t find what was in­cor­rect. We found the prob­lem; it was one of the flaps.’

Test flights can be dan­ger­ous. Garry lost a good friend, en­gi­neer Michael Giles, dur­ing an Air­bus test flight for Air New Zealand in France, in 2008.

To­day, soft­ware has be­come im­por­tant. ‘Back when I was young, a 20- to 23-year-old, we had to know a broad range of is­sues around the air­craft, but the avion­ics en­gi­neers nowa­days are very spe­cialised with the com­puter tech­nol­ogy.’

Air­craft were ex­otic and ex­cit­ing machines. ‘Oh yes, it was some­thing to be­hold – to fly in a Vis­count, I would say would be the pin­na­cle of my en­joy­ment. They’re beau­ti­ful air­craft to fly, very heavy; they were one of the first pres­surised air­lin­ers, not just a plane. They were com­fort­able, they could hold 66 to 70 peo­ple, they were warm, you could get a meal, they were very safe, with four en­gines. Dif­fi­cult to work on (typ­i­cal Bri­tish engi­neer­ing), but they han­dled and flew very well, and were much loved by crews and pas­sen­gers. I en­joyed work­ing on those planes.’

The Vis­count was the fore­run­ner to the Boe­ing 737 and served all the main routes: Dunedin, Christchur­ch, Palmer­ston North, Welling­ton and Auck­land. The flag­ship of the Na­tional Air­ways fleet was a Vis­count, ZK-BRF, which is now in the Fer­rymead Mu­seum.

‘The jets were dif­fer­ent. I was 18 years of age when I first saw a 737 and I was in­vited, that day, to go to Welling­ton on a flight for the Prime Min­is­ter [Keith Holyoake] to ac­cept it. It landed in Christchur­ch and then it went to Welling­ton so

I was quite ex­cited, as an 18-year-old, to have flown on ZKNAC, a 100-series Boe­ing. This was 20 Au­gust, 1968.

‘It was quite ex­cit­ing to work on them. I was green, I only had my elec­tri­cal knowl­edge and no train­ing. I was on loan as a young elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer, to help pro­vide power to the air­craft in the hangars, on the ground, and on the tar­mac. So when they of­fered me, a cou­ple of years later, to trans­fer per­ma­nently to avion­ics, I grabbed that up.’

His men­tor, Harold Sher­wood, en­cour­aged him. Garry was mainly based in Christchur­ch, but was sent to Eng­land, aged 21, to learn about sup­ply­ing ground power to air­craft and to pur­chase some gen­er­a­tors.

He did just un­der 40 years’ ser­vice with NAC and Air New Zealand, from 1967 to 2006, re­tir­ing as cor­po­rate safety man­ager and chief in­spec­tor. He is still con­tracted to Air Zealand and pro­vides the air­line with tech­ni­cal and le­gal as­sis­tance.

In 1975, the Viet­nam War was draw­ing to a close. Garry joined an Aus­tralian mate in South­east Asia where he helped out evac­u­at­ing civil­ians. He’s not au­tho­rised to go into de­tails, but ad­mits it was a tough job. ‘They had to ba­si­cally as­sist with mov­ing the Amer­i­can-bred chil­dren out of Viet­nam. I can’t say much more but I as­sisted my col­league help­ing evac­u­ate the chil­dren by air. I’m not sure if it was the right

Garry is a vast store­house of in­for­ma­tion on tech­ni­cal mat­ters re­lated to avi­a­tion and high-risk fields, and is of­ten called on for his ex­per­tise.

thing to do be­cause the chil­dren were evac­u­ated to Manila and most of them adopted into Amer­ica. I’m not sure what happened to their mums and par­ents – there’s been lots of dis­cus­sions – we had no in­put into that; we were push­ing them onto the air­craft as fast as we could.’

As an avion­ics tech­ni­cal lead hand, Garry was im­pacted by the 1979 Ere­bus dis­as­ter. The avion­ics team was in­volved in the in­ves­ti­ga­tions when an Air New Zealand DC-10 crashed in Antarc­tica, killing all 257 peo­ple aboard.

‘It was claimed that the com­put­ers and avion­ics had made a po­ten­tial mis­take. I have strong views on the re­spon­si­bil­ity and on the out­come of the Royal Com­mis­sion. [ Jus­tice

Ma­hon] said there was “a litany of lies”. I don’t think it was de­lib­er­ately, but I don’t think there was great as­sis­tance given. I, and many oth­ers, be­lieve that the re­spon­si­bil­ity lay with the cap­tain, fi­nally.

‘He didn’t have nec­es­sar­ily the cor­rect in­for­ma­tion, but he had the warn­ing that the in­for­ma­tion may not be cor­rect from the flight en­gi­neer and he didn’t, in my view, lis­ten.

‘I know that things through­out the world have been changed now, that a cap­tain now has to lis­ten to the other of­fi­cers on the flight deck and he can­not ig­nore them. It was very much in those days, the cap­tain is God, and he’ll do what he wants to do. That’s been changed sig­nif­i­cantly through­out the world. It’s very much a team ef­fort now.’

Garry is the New Zealand head del­e­gate con­venor for In­ter­na­tional Stan­dards for high risk, which in­cludes avi­a­tion; the con­venor/chair­man for the In­ter­na­tional Stan­dards Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ISO) for the tech­ni­cal com­mit­tees which looks after avi­a­tion; and the head del­e­gate for the New Zealand Govern­ment for IEC Haz­ardous Ar­eas, which is the In­ter­na­tional Elec­trotech­ni­cal Com­mis­sion in charge of elec­tri­cal stan­dards. He is also Haz­ardous Ar­eas chair­man for New Zealand and Aus­tralia. High-risk ar­eas in­clude avi­a­tion, ex­plo­sives, marine and min­ing.

‘I at­tend meet­ings as far away as Rus­sia, the Czech Repub­lic, Eng­land, Amer­ica, Aus­tralia, China and many other coun­tries on be­half of the New Zealand Govern­ment, and en­sure that our leg­is­la­tion is as closely aligned with in­ter­na­tional leg­is­la­tion as prac­ti­cally pos­si­ble. We need to do that to fa­cil­i­tate trade. If our stan­dards and our leg­is­la­tion and our reg­u­la­tions are too dif­fer­ent from in­ter­na­tional, then we can’t im­port prod­ucts and use them here, and we can’t ex­port things and sell them over­seas be­cause they say “This is un­safe” or “This doesn’t com­ply”.’

As del­e­gate for New Zealand min­ing stan­dards, Garry has been in­volved in the Pike River Mine dis­as­ter in­quiry. ‘I can’t say too much about that, but in my view as the del­e­gate for the com­mit­tee EL/23 for New Zealand, there was noth­ing wrong with the ac­tual leg­is­la­tion. In my view, it was that it wasn’t utilised and used cor­rectly on site.’

After Garry left Air New Zealand, he started up a reg­u­la­tory con­sul­tancy com­pany, En­vi­ro­light, to pro­vide ad­vice and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. ‘We do in­spec­tions of large, high­risk sites like flour mills, which can ex­plode. Peo­ple don’t re­alise that dust ex­plodes, so we give ad­vice.’

He is a li­censed in­spec­tor across many ar­eas such as fish­eries, elec­tri­cal, haz­ardous ar­eas and avi­a­tion.

Garry has been a mem­ber of the New Brighton RSA since 1973. ‘Although I at­tended oc­ca­sion­ally and had my

daugh­ter’s 21st there and my fa­ther’s fu­neral there, I only turned up once or twice a year. After the earth­quake they lost their build­ing en­tirely and they were in dire need of tech­ni­cal and busi­ness help. The com­mit­tee ap­proached me and said can you help us, so we called an emer­gency meet­ing and I was voted in as man­ager-sec­re­tary-trea­surer and I im­me­di­ately took ac­tion.

‘We now are very strong, we’re fi­nan­cially well, and we now share the build­ing equally with the New Brighton Bowl­ing Club. Many bowls club mem­bers are mem­bers of the RSA and many RSA mem­bers are mem­bers of the bowls club, and the bowls club mem­bers are very quick to as­sist us on AN­ZAC Day and Poppy Day. I love this area of New Brighton. It’s very much a com­mu­nity.’

Garry has been pleased to see a big in­ter­est in the RSA from young peo­ple. ‘I think that’s demon­strated es­pe­cially with the schools, the Scouts and the Girl Guides in at­ten­dance on AN­ZAC Day. New Brighton RSA has a pa­rade of cadets from the Air Force, Navy and Army. The young girls and boys love do­ing that and they stand at the ceno­taph.’

Last year, over 3,000 at­tended the cer­e­mony at the beach. He says he be­lieves it’s im­por­tant for young peo­ple to get in­volved. ‘They need to un­der­stand how many peo­ple gave them the life they’ve got now, sac­ri­ficed their lives so that these chil­dren can go to school, can have med­i­cal care, and can turn up on AN­ZAC Day with rel­a­tive safety and see.’

So, does Garry ever slow down? ‘I like a beer at the RSA ev­ery now and again. Club night at the RSA is Thurs­day night, and some of my friends from Air New Zealand and some of the neigh­bours come here on a Fri­day night when

I’m home, be­cause I travel a lot, and we have a few beers and we play darts – we’ve been play­ing darts for 40 years.’

Gary is a li­censed in­spec­tor across many ar­eas such as fish­eries, elec­tri­cal, haz­ardous

ar­eas and avi­a­tion.

Garry House leafs through his fa­ther’s old logbook. His fa­ther, Cap­tain Ron House, served in the RNZAF and later helped found the NAC (Na­tional Air­ways Cor­po­ra­tion). Garry has spent a life­time as an air­craft and avi­a­tion en­gi­neer and still keeps ac­tive as a New Zealand rep­re­sen­ta­tive on safety stan­dards.

ABOVE / Garry's fa­ther, Sqn. Ldr Ron House, on the left, as the pi­lot of a Lock­heed Hud­son light bomber in World War II.

TOP / Garry is a keen motorcycli­st and en­joys a spin on his Royal En­field 350 – ‘a real Bri­tish bike’.

ABOVE / RNZAF spe­cial­ist en­gi­neers Keith Gar­land, left, and Den­nis Street with Garry, at rear, on­board an RNZAF Fokker F27 surveillan­ce air­craft equipped with radar and surveillan­ce equip­ment fit­ted out by the Na­tional Air­ways Cor­po­ra­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.