Picture it, Sicily 1926. A small farm girl travels to the… wait! Wait! That’s Sophia from The Golden Girls! My story is about a little Fokker that I met around the time The Golden Girls was airing on television for the first time. As a boy who thought aeroplanes were the most beautiful things in the world, it won’t surprise you that I remember this day very well.
EW551 – Sydney to Maroochydore (SYD-MCY)
Fokker F28-4000 VH-EWD
Seat: Economy 13A
East-West Airlines were a regional player in the Australian aviation industry based in Tamworth in New South Wales. The airline was a leisure carrier flying to secondary destinations with a fleet of Fokker F27 Friendships and F28 Fellowships. My family decided to go on a trip to Noosa on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and to get there we would have to fly. Excellent! The tickets arrived from the travel agent and I pored over them relentlessly before we left. All the details such as flight number, ticket number, where the names were written and so on were burned into my mind.
The Big Day Arrives
Bubbling with excitement, the big day arrived and we proceeded to Sydney airport on a windy grey late Autumn day. At check-in we received our seat assignments. I loved the little purple stickers with black printing that had been attached to our ticket. The printing read 13A, 13B, 14A and 14B. A purple bag tag stub was also stapled to the ticket reading MCY. Or was it a yellow one? We had a different coloured one in each direction.
The boarding gate was on ground level and I could look out the large windows at our Fokker F28 patiently waiting for boarding. It looked quite large and I noted the fact the door had the stairs in it. Eventually it was time for boarding and we had to walk across the tarmac in the strongest wind I have ever experienced! We were almost blown away – the wind was so strong!
A stewardess wearing an elegant maroon coloured uniform welcomed us at the top of the steps. Our seats were down at the back and you could see the engines close by if you looked backwards. I explored the seat pocket and soon found the safety card, which I really wanted to take home. The emergency procedures were fascinating to me with their little drawings. Mum wouldn’t let me take it with me which I still regret!
Flight on a Fokker
I was glued to the window as we started moving and eventually we stopped at the end of the runway. The engines revved to full power and I looked wide-eyed at my Mum with surprise at how noisy it was. I turned and looked out the window just as the brakes released and I was thrown backwards in my seat. The next seconds were spent gripping the left arm rest attempting to pull myself forward to see out the window! By the time I was strong enough to pull against the acceleration we were in the air!
Amazed and overjoyed, I looked down at Botany Bay as we climbed out. The beauty of the sky and the clouds as we flew through them was the start of a life long fascination with flight. The stewardess came through and gave us a meal. I remember the bright yellow napkins with East-West printed in green on them, the paper liner of the tray, the drink stirrer and the cup of juice with the foil pull off top. These were collected and we descended into Maroochydore after flying for over an hour and a half.
Throughout the approach I saw many new things. The flaps coming out of the wing was intriguing as was the sight of the ground getting closer and closer. A feather light touchdown and then the large spoilers all popping up out of the wing together to slow us down. Reverse thrust and that was it. We had arrived. I left the flight delighted and already anticipating my next flight which was to be 7 days later in the reverse direction on the same airline and the same aircraft. I was 9 years old and hooked for life!
Can you remember your first flight?